”To know that a person is in some sense ’religious’ is not as important as to know the role religion plays in the economy of his life” (Allport & Ross, 1967)
I wanted to write down some thoughts on “spirituality”… What do I think about with that? What attracts me? I don’t think I’m really interested in the subject in general. Or the big subject of religion, for that matter. I’m not a religious scholar, a religious historian. I have no interest in reading books about such things, to “learn more”.
What interests me, however, is the special attitude that is often associated with religion and spirituality. That is, a reverence, wonder, a healthy “subordination” to existence. As I think (know) can be found both within modern spirituality and, for example, in Christianity.
The thought systems themselves are no guarantee that this feeling will arise, however. That the individual’s life experience should have this special “existential” quality. A degree of wonder, reverence for creation, or whatever you are to call it, seems to run along its own “axis”? Contrary to theology or philosophy. I would like to go so far as to say that if one allows wonder, a humbling sense of smallness, to be what defines “spirituality”, then it may as well be in an atheist. The atheist, the Christian, as well ar the contemporary holistic spiritual individual, can be united by something that separates them all from (in turn): the cocky atheist sceptic who ravages and provokes in online comments sections; the bespoke Christian for whom the solution and the answer to everything is “Have you received Jesus as your personal Savior?” and the “spiritual” person who is sure to have answers to – really, in detail – everything between heaven and earth. Spirituality or religion is not synonymous with wonder. (The theologian and developmental psychologist James W Fowler, with his research on the different stages of “faith”, has been important to me! It is summarized and published in Swedish in a wonderful little book, by Göran Bergstrand, called “From naivety to naivety”.)
I saw this interview a long time ago. I’ve hardly read anything by Dawkins, either before or after, but know that he often appeare as a rather affected atheist. I didn’t know about Daniel Dennett. But this is a very nice existential, “spiritual-like”? conversations that make an impression on me. (To get to the stuff I refer to, please play forward to 20:45.)
It’s such a big subject, that perhaps you shouldn’t even bother with. A mystery you just should leave behind? It easily gets into an emotional war of positions between for or against.
Yet! I wanted to try to gather my thoughts on the concept of God. The topic has also been raised in a couple of posts recently. Is God personal or impersonal? Neither or both? Is it a personal, living entity with whom one can have a relationship? Or merely “The Universe”, something och someone that is elevated above good and evil? A metaphysical operating system, merely a rounding mark out in kosmos, a connection station for one’s “karma” most? (In the interview study I did a few years ago, with people who had an alternative, new-age outlook on life — as I myself had for so long — it was this area that made me most puzzled, even sad.) I myself is most of all an agnostic, but a warm one, sort of, as I’ve explained before. I’m deeply interested in working God relations. Regardless of this being simple animations of existence that we make ourselves. Or if it’s real.
And in practice, psychologically, maybe it doesn’t matter that much?
(Illustration: “Cosmic Tailor” by Rodrick Howard)
“The acceptance or interest in things like reincarnation, omen, telepathy, communication with deceased relatives, etc., is big. While several of the beliefs and phenomena addressed in these surveys overlap with what is commonly called superstition and should have been able to coexist with the long-dominant religion, reincarnation is, for example, a comparatively exotic notion in a Christian cultural circle. In the studies mentioned above, the idea that the individual should be reborn in a new physical body is supported by about one in four respondents. Hammer (2004) writes that “in only forty years, reincarnation has gone from being a belief held by members of some Theosophical and occultist circles to becoming one of the most widely embraced religious conceptions of our time.”
This is something I’ve been amazed by for quite some time. Within New Age Spirituality, etc., being reborn into a new body is seen as self-evident. So, it’s not that the belief is so strong within these circles, that is remarkable, I think, because there it is needed, so that the thought system should be kept together. But by people in general? I tried to capture it in the intro to my degree project (above). With the quote by Olav Hammer. It has been twenty years since then. (I guess one count hippie culture, the late 60ies, early 70ies, as the starting point). It’s been a while since I’ve looked at surveys, but it’s hard to think the numbers have gone backwards. About 25% of people in the Western world, slightly higher in younger people, usually state that they believe or at least do not want to rule out rebirth, in a new body, in the physical ordinary world. Reincarnation, that is. (Here are some statistics that have 10-15 years on the neck.)
Or has it become a straw man for me while the world around has moved on? That the numbers has in fact fallen? That in 2022 people on general believe more in an extinction, a finito, true death? (Faith in the Kingdom of Heaven, somewhere where you come and stay forever, i.e., I don’t think has grown?) Or has the belief become more Buddhist, “Nirvanian”, that you die and is sucked up or transformed into something bigger?
I tried to google the subject. In the US there is PEW Research wich does huge attitude surveys, including of what people believe in. This one is from 2021. Whether the result can be transferred to Sweden is perhaps unclear. Data on more traditional religiosity, faith in Heaven, God, how many people identify as religious, etc., is probably very different between our two countries. But perhaps a notion of reincarnation doesn’t differ so much between Americans and Swedes though?
How to understand this? That reincarnation is a fact, and when mainstream Christian theology has loosen its grip, secularization that is, then this idea of reincarnation comes to the surface, as something one always has deeply felts is true? Or is the change an effect of increased individualization, one’s personal project? That it would be so unthinkable, almost a mockery, if it all just ended? Or a mix? Or something else?
(Then there’s the possible clinical implication, of course. But it’s a completely different track… In some alternative psychological theories & therapies, it is thought that symptoms and disorders are in fact due to the traumas of such past existences, which must be sorted out.)
This is very thoughtful. I myself have great respect for Sigmund Freud, his thoughts on when religion can get problematic, but I do think Jones has an interesting point.
Why is it that so many people within “New Age spirituality” end up wrong & at odds with consensus on – in short – all the burning issues? 😳 First there was the climate change. Trump… Then came Covid. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
I have some hypotheses myself. The observation is correct, I know. But how to explain it all? I think there are several pieces in it… A rebellious, binary “you-understand-nothing! (so the truth must be the other way around)” type of attitude explains some of it, I think.
How do you manage to preserve this authority sceptical, youthful way of looking at the world. In part a guess it has to do with adopting a way of experiencing the world where you work with – and are dazzled by! – “absolute quantities” … Ordinary people are not. I.e., Absolute infallible knowledge, Absolute, pure love, an Absolutely paradise-like way of organizing a society, perfect leaders (A future loving “World Kingdom”), etc. Shades fading away and compromises are seen as something bad.
The US/NATO countries/West have been & are themselves involved in a lot of (imperfect) shady business. Well. Hasn’t the U.S. invaded themselves? Didn’t Sweden ravaged Ukraine 500 years ago, etc…
This philosophy of perfection makes it more difficult (and “easier”, of course, in some way, although the result get grossly simplistic & wrong) to navigate the world, both in time and space.
What does it mean to “be on the wrong side of history”? And what does it look like when you are? Is it the Left Party [former Communist party in Sweden] that does not want to agree to send weapons to Ukraine? Is it Putin & Co. who cannot accept that the surrounding world, the last thirty, forty, fifty? years have got a taste for things like freedom of opinion, reasonable democratic elections, “free movement”, etc.?
Is it they who advocate pacifism? Is it those who can come to no other conclusion than that Ukraine has every right to defend itself? I did unarmed service myself once. (The same winter-spring that Chernobyl exploded, by the way, and the debris swept in where we were & people couldn’t hunt and pick cloudberries.) I remember the interview before with a psychologist who tried to pressure me on how “peaceful” I really was. And I didn’t even have to lie. I just talk on from the new age spiritual world view, the ideals & the self-image I had at the time. (It was my late teens, and you’re the way you are. I was probably just a little more searching, idealistic, confused then most.)
But today I think such uncompromising pacifism is misguided. I don’t know if it’s “on the wrong side of history”, though? What “story”? The one you imagine will lead to a peaceful World Kingdom? And perhaps you want to imagine yourself as a kind of vanguard on the way there?
(Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who just spoke via link with the leaders of the European Union. He received a standing ovation.)
I sat and thought about something. Because of things I’m reading too, of course. How fair, ethical is it to diagnose presidents from afar? And to what extent is it useful? Attempts are of course made by psychiatrists and others (Trump suffers from severe narcissism, he has such a disorder, while Putin’s behavior can possibly be partly explained by Asperger’s/Autism).
But that’s not really what I wanted to write about. It was something about conflicts, difficult encounters and relationships… A basic wisdom, huh, is that “it’s not only one person who is wrong, if two persons argue”? Often the way forward becomes to realize that you – after all – have some part in the difficult. At least there is a key to being able to improve the relationship or thaw a conflict. To take the first step, apologize, admit your own shortcomings and errors, to invite to compromises, to try to make amends, etc. And usually that works. We know this because we are normal people and we are surrounded by such people.
Yes, this is generally true, but not absolute true. There are relationship problems and conflicts where this simply doesn’t apply. Between the thumb and forefinger 1 in 50 (or maybe it’s 1 in 500, it matters less) of all strained relationships lack such a common, “human” solution. That’s how I experiece it, anyway.
And without trying to remotely analyze either Putin or Trump, in depth, I actually think both belong to this latter, more difficult category. A sad minority. On fractions and locks that occur in relation to them, it is not possible to use ordinary intuition or gut feeling. An outstretched hand does not make an impression, it is at most experienced as useful.
It sad, but true, I think.
Putin has attacked Ukraine, with the goal, as it seems, of taking over the country. For nationalist-nostalgic reasons. And, of course, strategic as well. There is speculation about his mental balance and reality adjustment (possibly further affected by a long self-imposed, severe corona quarantine). One can think about how this will affect the people of Ukraine in the first place. When I hear about parents, and children, who are currently seeking refuge from flight alarms and bombs in Kiev and other cities, it hurts.
But I also sit and think of us “Swedes”. Those of us who have not had experience with this for at least a few generations. That is not the most pressing or burning issue. But, anyway. What will it do to us psychologically? To have a war so close to our borders. Which in ways that are difficult to predict will of course have a physical impact as well. But how will it affect our feelings for humanity, the world, life here on earth?
At this point, it is as if we are, to some extent anyway, being incorporated into a situation that is actually normal for a large part of humanity. Has been all the time. For the many thousands who have come to us, in waves, because of the war and uncertainty they have experienced in their home countries. Refugees, asylum seekers, first and second generation immigrants. For the millions who live with such worry as part of their everyday lives. Far from Europe and Ukraine. But where life has to go on anyway.
Scattered thoughts and feelings this morning…
“We are delighted to share with you Watkins’ 2022 list of the 100 Most Spiritually Influential Living People – spiritual teachers, activists, authors and thinkers that change the world.”
Now it has arrived. Watkin’s Top 100. Pope Francis tops as usual. Swedish Greta Thunberg has received an honorable third place. And actress Gwyneth Paltrow on 9th? (Funny, we saw her in a movie earlier this week, and wondered where she had gone 🙂 )
Today 17/2 it’s 100 years since the State Institute for Racial Biology, in Uppsala, Sweden, was founded, they say on TV.
What did the Western Esoterical (“New Age”) stage looked like at that time? 1922 … Jiddu Krishnamurti, “the Golden Child” of the Theosophical movement, get “enlightened”. (The Danish mystic Martinus Thomsen had had a similar life-changing experience the year before.)
It will not be until 1929 before Krishnamurti turns his back on the theosophists. Theosophy with its doctrine of “root races”, the evolution of souls and cultures, and our rise towards light & sovereignty, peaks the years until then, as I have understood it. They attracts huge masses, thousands and thousands again, of educated people. This world view seems to have fitted well with the Zeitgeist of the time.
Hitler takes full control of the Nazi party in 1922, too, I google.
I don’t know exactly what I’m looking for here…. That the world has changed more than this type of spirituality has, perhaps?
(My take on the subject is rather emotional, personal, superficial when it comes to facts. I recommend you to check out English philosopher Jules Evans. He’s working on something around Western Esotericism, elitism, übermench thoughts, eugenics, and more, I’ve noticed. I. Ex.: This)