June 5th, 2010
|02:05 am - Spiritual Basics|
I have recently seen a somewhat surprising upsurge in atheism & more particularly in materialism on my f-list, and that got me thinking about my own spiritual beliefs and what are my most basic and solid non-materialist beliefs. In some ways, the term atheist applies to me, since while I believe in gods and spirits and have encountered both, I'm not inclined to worship anything or anyone or to let anyone, deity or not determine my morality for me – to me the only meaning that my own life has is whatever meaning I choose to give it. I also don't believe in any sort of useful afterlife – I believe that some sort of spiritual essence remains, but clearly in the vast majority of cases, nothing more than a few fragments of memories remain from one life to the next, and thus whatever may come after me is in no sense me.
Instead, the heart of my spirituality comes down to two phenomena – communication and luck.
Communication: I've talked with all manner of beings, from ordinary physical people with one or more personalities to non-physical entities with equally distinct and real personalities to individuals who have been physical and no longer are or who were once non-physical and now have bodies (generally in the form of some sort of walk-in). In my experience, all of these individuals seem equally distinct and real and are thus worthy of both kindness and respect and so I implicitly believe in all of them. For me to do otherwise would seem disrespectful and would also make my own reality poorer and less enjoyable. So, my spirituality pretty much by definition includes a belief in spirits and non-physical entities of various sorts.
Luck: I firmly believe in luck. I've known people with consistently bad luck. Some of them also regularly make poor choices, but I've also known others who made choices that seemed as good as my own, but who regularly ended up the victim of all manner of negative chance events. Meanwhile, I have, on average, exceedingly good luck. I am well aware that many of the advantages I have are due to growing up with a remarkable amount of privilege, but I've also regularly found that there have been no shortage of unlikely chances that have come my way through no effort and no privilege of my own, often when I need them most. While bad things occasionally happen to me, they don't happen all that often. I've also known a number of other people who grew up with just as much privilege as me who have considerably worse luck.
I also firmly believe in magic, but ultimately, I see magic (or at least the magic that I can perform) as being about one of two things, either communicating with various entities or manipulating luck. I don't believe for a minute that I'll ever be able to use magic to light a candle or levitate a teacup (although being able to do either would be truly awesome), but I do believe that I can shape my already quite good luck in useful ways, and can, with more effort and somewhat less reliability give someone else a bit of directed good luck.
Current Mood: thoughtful
|Date:||June 5th, 2010 01:30 pm (UTC)|| |
Why do you find it surprising?
Because it isn't that I have new people on my f-list who are atheists, but that several people on my f-list who were not previously such have all in the last couple of months discussed recently becoming atheists. In all but one case, the answer is fairly obvious, in that (as seems to be increasingly common) progressives who are Christian are finding Christianity incompatible with their views and ethics and so are becoming atheists (which IME is almost always a response particular to ex-Christians). However, there does seem to be a fairly impressive trend on my f-list.
|Date:||June 6th, 2010 05:17 am (UTC)|| |
I was raised Catholic, but in retrospect, I think I was always a materialist atheist; I just didn't have the conceptual framework to articulate it properly. I think some people are wired for spirituality and some aren't. I'm one of the ones who isn't. I think people with the spirituality switch set to "off" are finally realizing it because the social climate permits it.
Most of the people on my f-list who have done this have been in their mid 30s to mid 40s, which seems surprisingly late for this sort of realization, but given that people still occasionally come out as gay or lesbian at this age, you might be right.
|Date:||June 5th, 2010 03:22 pm (UTC)|| |
I can only see the upswing of people who are able to say that they no longer cling to the idea that something outside of themselves is directing and judging their actions as to the ultimate good, and i think in the long game of societal evolution, it will help people understand and use the non-corporeal factors, even though they're not testable.
Of course, i could just be relieved that people who don't participate in religion aren't automatically seen as tehhheeevil.
I'm coming from a very similar place as pazi_ashfeather
, although I definitely find myself curious these days about how things like spirits and deities are viewed by different people, and how similar or different a non-materialist's experience of spirituality is from mine. (Or even if somehow I may be misinterpreting my own experiences).
I routinely pray to and converse with various spirits that I think of as deities, however I tend to view them as elements of my own subconscious mind rather than beings who could interact with not just me but other minds as well.
So what I wonder is... for people who do view them as more external, how have they convinced you that they exist independently of your own mind? I can imagine a few scenarios that, if they happened, might convince me of such a thing, however I've never had such scenarios happen. (For example, them carrying specific information back and forth between me and another person whom I could question and confirm things with.)
I would agree on the efficacy of magic in influencing luck. I saw a magazine article a few weeks ago on luck, and how recent scientific experiments have studied lucky people and unlucky people and found that their personalities and attitudes differ greatly. For example, lucky people tend to open their mind to opportunities more, while unlucky people tend to be blind to them. Luck is determined in large part by attitude and mindset.
Even with that accounted for I can think of two cases that basically stand out as "very weird" that way.
I look forward to experimenting more with stuff like this, in the hope that some day I'll have similar things happen. Whatever the interpretation, it sounds interesting.
This seems closely connected to the question of direct mental communication between people, rather than mediated through spirits, ie "psychic phenomena". I've often wondered why I don't ever seem to have experiences that even suggest there was something like that going on, while other people say they have them all the time. I guess the non-materialist explanation is that I just have low aptitude for psychic ability, or perhaps that I am not trying hard enough or that my worldview biases me in a direction that leaves me unable to experience it. The materialist explanation is that I'm just bad at interpreting social cues, facial expressions, and body language, and therefore oblivious to the "side channels" of communication you mention.
I must admit, I didn't follow most of this. I'm not sure what the term "Uncanny" means, I get the sense it means something fairly specific to you. And maybe it means something specific in the esoteric world that I haven't encountered yet in my as-yet amateurish explorations. I looked it up on Wikipedia and it seems that it's a Freudian term to describe when something seems familiar yet foreign at the same time, and therefore strange...http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Uncanny
If that's the definition of uncanny, I'd say it falls under psychology, and is a phenomenon similar to de ja vu.
But it sounds like what you may be talking about is something more like... an event that seems like an odd coincidence or correlation. In that case, I think it falls under statistics (within a material framework) or under synchronicity (within a more magickal framework).
I think the only non-supernatural explanation for synchronicity is that our minds are highly superstitious by nature, and tend to find patterns in any kind of random data, even if whatever pattern appears to be there was just incidental or accidental rather than significant or deliberately caused by something. The extreme example of this would be schizophrenia, although to some extent everyone does it.
Also, the sheer quantity of information that comes into our senses and is processed by our brain is hard to appreciate. When you have that many variables, and we're able to make associations and explore connections between so many combinations of them at once very quickly... the rate at which we'll discover very rare coincidences is higher than one might expect. This can lead to a lot of "false positives" when looking for patterns.
I have had instances where I have been struck by the sheer unlikelihood of something happening just at the right time and place, seeming just perfectly appropriate for the moment. And I do feel like there is something deflationary about looking at that in a strictly materialist way... it's a lot more satisfying to look at it in a way that seems more "meaningful" to us as humans... and I tend to do that whenever it seems harmless enough.
Sure, go ahead. (Sorry, somehow this message got lost in my inbox without me seeing it, and I happened to run across it just now.)
So what I wonder is... for people who do view them as more external, how have they convinced you that they exist independently of your own mind?
I don't have a lot of evidence, but one entity that I talked to appeared in someone else's dreams and discussed information that the person did not know, and I have encountered several cases of various people independently being able to see and describe several entities.
Interesting. I enjoy your writings about this: I come from a pretty hard-atheist perspective, but I also try very hard not to deny people's experiences. "The supernatural does not exist" is a very different proposition from "we can explain all of the things we currently perceive as supernatural." I think that a distressing number of atheists fall into a fallacious assumption that non-quantifiable statements about the world are all alike.