Sunday, September 23, 2007
I recently got into a online conversation about my spiritual beliefs.
I often experience some difficulty when I get into these types of conversations, because there are so many “hair-trigger” words that seem set people off into assumptions about what they think about these words, rather than listening to, or asking about, what I might think about the words I’m using.
If, for example, I use the word “metaphysical”, a lot of people assume that I am just a woo-woo nutcase, incapable of rational thought, and probably burning incense to keep the bad juju away. (Come to think of it, I do burn incense to keep the bad juju away, but let’s just gloss past that for the moment. I promise that I will explain the scientific basis for my burning of incense at some point.)
I’ve experienced, too, that when I enter into conversation about my spiritual beliefs with people who say that they are atheist or agnostic, they often assume that I’m trying to convert them to my way of thinking or something. I don’t find this surprising, and I can hardly blame them for having a certain “spiritual gag reflex” -- since most public dialogue about spirituality (at least in the good old USofA) comes from organized religions that place heavy emphasis on the concept that they have the “right” answers, and strong, if not obsessive, tendencies toward proselytization.
However, precisely because of the spiritual beliefs that I hold, in my spiritual structure, proselytizing would be one of the few things that could even remotely parallel the concept of “sin” that exists in most traditional religions (I don’t really believe in the concept of “sin” as they express it). I may, or may not, expound on that as I continue, but I want to be clear that one of the foundational aspects of my own spiritual approach is that, not only is every being completely entitled to their own view of “what is so” about the universe and reality they inhabit/experience, but their unique exploration and understanding of that view is critical to the evolutionary nature of the universe and reality that I inhabit/experience.
So, if you hear me using the word “metaphysics”, what I mean is this: Metaphysics is exactly that – the “meta” version of the garden-variety physics we humans are still struggling to understand from a purely physic-al (chemical) level.
I’m strongly convinced that the concept “As Above, So Below – As Within, So Without” is valid – and not because I think some bearded dude in the sky has got it all planned out for me. I do believe in a divine unifying consciousness (what some people refer to as “god”, I guess) -- some thread that runs through this entire puzzle -- but I think it would be sheer arrogance to say that I understood the totality of that consciousness.
I have some very clear beliefs, a lot of questions, and a strong spiritual framework that works for me.
Get that last phrase? It works for me. I don’t need it to work for anyone else, cause it works for me. If it works for you, too, I’m glad to share.
Those of you who have hung around with me at Shakesville’s virtual pub on Fridays know that I cut out around to “teach” – this is what I teach about:
How to create a spiritual life that works for you, and that you will actually put into practice in your physical/chemical existence.
I would say that I’ve tended toward the Seeker end of the spiritual spectrum ever since I was a youngster – I was raised with strict Lutheran doctrine, but my critical thinking skills kicked in early, and at the tender age of 6, I was known to plague my pastor with completely logical questions that frustrated him greatly and showed him up as the “baa, baa” type of Christian that he was (and that I was to become all too familiar with over the years).
Once I figured out that my status as a big old lesbo consigned me to eternal hellfire in the eyes of my Religion-Of-Origin (ROO, rhymes with FOO -- family-of-origin), I did a fuck of a lot of seeking. I studied archaeology and anthropology and sociology and history, I learned Latin and Hebrew to understand more about what the hell had happened with the Bible and Christianity. I know the Tarot inside and out. I’ve plumbed books on quantum physics, gematria, genetics, astrology, astronomy, philosophy, esoteric and practical geometry, Daoism, Buddhism, Sufism, Muslism, Bahaism, Shamanism, and Christianism (if I left anyone’s theology out, just ask – I’ve probably read about or practiced it at one time). I’ve sat to yoga, chanted mantras, attended sweats, cast the circle, jumped the fire, sung to the water drum, and studied with teachers from many, many disciplines and perspectives.
You might say that I was seeking my own personal “Theory of Everything” long before that phrase entered the common lexicon.
In many of the traditions, religions, and disciplines that I’ve directly practiced, my major complaint was that a lot of people who say that they are seeking spirituality are really just trying to get a whole bunch of their life, thought, and experience into the “DONE” box.
Let me explain what I mean by that. The “DONE” box is the box where you put things that are troubling and paradoxical so that you don’t have to think about them any more. Big F Fundamentalist Christianity is particularly useful is you want to fill up your “DONE” box – it tells you precisely what to think about certain troubling things, like the fact that your child is gay and you are not gay and this troubles you, because you’ve been given all sorts of different ideas and opinions about why people are gay, and you’re not sure whether it is something you did or didn’t do, and what the fuck do you do now with this kid who you thought you knew and what will everyone in the congregation think and oh fuck, oh fuck, oh fuck! -- in situations like this, BigFundieC [tm] tells you precisely what to do:
I don’t want to get my life into the DONE box. I want to keep questioning.
I do keep questioning, and actually, I’ve come to some realizations that, to me, look like they might be pretty solid answers. Answers that inevitably lead to more questions (the best kind).
My answers come from disparate sources, some of which might be called “scientific”, some of which might be called “philosophical” or “metaphysical”, and some of which might be called “anecdotal”. For me, the key to finding a real answer is when the scientific (and I’m not talking diet studies funded by the makers of Dexatrim), the philosophical, the metaphysical, and the anecdotal all seem to align.
Example: The beautiful portly body that is now typing this post began as a single cell. (The beautiful body that you are now sitting in, either reading or listening to this post also began as a single cell.) That single cell very quickly either “underwent” or “practiced” mitosis (depending on your views about spiritual causality), and differentiated itself into anywhere from 10 – 100 trillion cells (depending on your sources for human cell counts), most of which specialized to become various parts of my current physical form, some of which (stem cells) still remain in an undifferentiated state to “fill in the blanks” in case of emergencies such as tissue damage, etc..
Somehow, these cells, all originally deriving from a single cell that formed more than 51 years ago (with contributions from mom and dad – thanks folks!) – and some say that the current cells in my body have all been regenerated within the last seven years or less – somehow all these cells are, right now, conspiring to obey my command to type: “Yippee!”
And I don’t think of that as a huge, big miracle (unless I’m having a particularly conscious day). I take it entirely for granted. Even though 10 trillion cells (conservatively) are participating to keep me upright in the chair, process the beer I just drank, and parse the complexities of the English language -- meaning, syntax, grammar – not to mention the astounding act of typing approximately 90 words per minute. While slightly drunk.
How is that possible?
Here’s where the scientific, philosophical, metaphysical and anecdotal align for me on this one: For some strange reason, these variable parts have decided to cooperate to be ME. Scientific evidence points me to an understanding that my cells will pass on my DNA signature to the cells that replace them, or which derive from their mitotic activity. Philosophical evidence points me to an understanding that my concept of myself as a cohesive “I” will also tend to attempt to replicate and imprint itself, attempting to pass the “genome” of my particular personality on, even in my writing here. Metaphysical evidence points me to the an understanding that, while I am an individualized cell in a larger body (“I” am a part of the human species, “I” am a part of the planet Earth, “I” am a part of this solar system, galaxy, universe, and who-knows-what-beyond-that, etc.), I participate with these larger organizing structure according to the rules of those structures, just as my cells participate with me and my “rules”. (I’m glad to take particular questions about this if you want to ask, but I’ll gravely oversimplify by giving the example that “I” and all my participating cells are subject to Earth’s gravitational field and that laws of aerodynamics while within Earth’s gravitational field). My own anecdotal evidence points me to the understanding that I can observe how I am affected by these various levels of what I call “Enfolding Organizations” all the time.
So, when I look at the dizzying possibilities of interactions with all these levels, I find myself searching for a common thread, and I find this:
My physical body arose out of a single thing and became a complex thing, although certain tiny parts of myself are always standing by in a undifferentiated state that is less complex, waiting to become more complex, if necessary. I am also part of several levels of more complex structure, each of which quite possibly may have risen from a single thing. It’s possible that I’m just a stem cell in those structures, or that I’ve already differentiated into a specialized bit.
Two areas of what some call “empirical research” or “real science” have been very, very helpful to me in my seeking: Quantum Physics, and Oncology.
Of all the “scientists” I have known, read, and interacted with, theoretical Quantum Physicists and practicing Oncologists have been the most willing to admit: “We don’t know how that works, but we see that it does work, and we are interested in asking more questions about it and finding out.”
I’ll probably write more in the future about the various connective tissues that I see between these two types of scientists, but for now, I want to write about what in the fuck any of this has to do with my usual Portly Dyke blog-spew.
So here’s my temporary wrap-up to this portion of my spirituality revelation:
To me, when I hear someone say something like: “I’m an atheist because I only believe what can be physically explained using the existing data,” I don’t see this as much (if any) different from someone saying “I believe that homosexuality is an aberration because most of the people I know are heterosexual.”
That said, I’m perfectly willing to allow other people to have whatever opinions they want to have, as long as they don’t insist that I have them too, and attempt to legislate so that I have to live according to their opinions.
In 51 years, I’ve seen too much that I cannot explain using the existing data – not stuff I’ve read about in newspapers – stuff that I’ve experienced directly.
In 1676, Antonie van Leeuwenhoek, the “father of microbiology” had a very “strained” relationship with the Royal Society (the main recognized “scientific” society at that time – think present-day National Academy of Science, or CDC, etc.), because he had reported his first observations of single-celled organisms under the microscope. Even though he’d already been an accepted member of this august assembly, it was only after the Society sent a vicar, some judges, and some doctors to verify his claims was he finally vindicated for his “radical” proposals in 1680.
Think about that. This man spent four years of his life trying to convince the scientific powers-that-be (not even the general populace) that something existed beyond the currently-accepted world-view – something that we now take for granted as “scientific fact” – microbes exist, and they affect our physical bodies. Without his observations, and his insistence that he had observed what he observed, Louis Pasteur might never have been.
If I took a four-year tissue-slice of American history – let’s say from the years 2003 to 2007, and attempted to make an analysis of “what is so” about the
If I took a four-year tissue-slice of scientific observation from 1676 to 1680 as opposed to 2003 to 2007 – same thing.
So, my spiritual stance arises, not from some biblical training about what is “right” and “wrong” – not from the currently-accepted view of what is “real” and “not real”, but from an amalgam of: First – what I have directly and personally observed and experienced, Second – what others (scientists included) have observed and how their unbiased reporting of what they have observed meshes with what I have observed, and Third – how this might align with the body of information about previous observations.
I’ll probably keep blogging about this from time to time, and include a few more details about what exactly I believe and don’t believe, but that is a huge fucking mouthful as it is, so I’ll stop now.
(ps -- this series is especially for Nik.E.Poo and Burning Prairie ;), who asked for it. )
Posted byPortlyDyke at 11:45 PM