Back in my churched days, I believed that being spiritual meant going beyond the physical. So I meditated countless hours with eyes shut and ears closed off from the material world.
In other words, the world.
The only world.
Many would disagree with those italicized emphases, of course. Heck, I would have disagreed with myself not many years ago.
They, which included me for about thirty-five years, believe that God, or whatever divine entity undergirds existence, is only loosely connected with physical reality.
Some religions view this world as maya, illusion. Others, as a temporary way station that we pass through on our journey back to heaven. Still others, as a trap for the ethereal soul from which we must escape in order to be the free spirit that is our true nature.
Well, as I like to say, maybe. But "maybe" and two dollars will get you a Grande Pike Place at Starbucks. So will just two dollars, of course. Maybe is utterly unnecessary for living.
Over on my other blog, yesterday I mused about how nature shows that perceptions are more lively than ideas. This unoriginal notion was inspired by some reading of philosopher David Hume.
This morning I read onward in Hume's "An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding." I like how he reminds us that ideas about God, or ideas about anything for that matter, are feeble in comparison to the direct physical impressions or sensations those ideas are based on.
Ideas naturally also are physical, being the result of brain processes.
However, ideas strike us as being more ethereal than supposedly crude emotions, perceptions, and the like. We forget that physicality is the mother (and father) of everything we call "spiritual."
...All our ideas or more feeble perceptions are copies of our impressions or more lively ones.
...When we analyze our thoughts or ideas, however compounded or sublime, we always find that they resolve themselves into such simple ideas as were copied from a precedent feeling or sentiment. Even those ideas which, at first view, seem most wide of this origin, are found, upon a nearer scrutiny, to be derived from it.
The idea of God, as meaning an infinitely intelligent, wise, and good Being, arises from reflecting on the operations of our own mind, and augmenting, without limit, those qualities of goodness and wisdom.
We may prosecute this enquiry to what length we please; where we shall always find, that every idea which we examine is copied from a similar impression.
In other words, all our notions about divinity, spirituality, the supernatural, soul, spirit, angels, and such derive from our experience as physical beings in a physical world.
If someone has a vision of God, that vision was processed through a physical brain and body. If someone writes a holy book, that writing was produced by a physical brain and body. If someone speaks about what lies beyond the material world, their speaking came from a physical brain and body.
Religious people are physical beings pretending to have a spiritual experience. Wisdom lies in seeing through this pretension. Genuine "spirituality" is achieved by being honestly physical.
Though Zen often strikes me as annoyingly Buddhist'y and preachy, I like how Zen masters are always saying to their students stuff like, "Show me your mind!" "What is your original face?" "Is there Buddha-nature in this sack of rice?" (or piece of shit)
Get real, is the message. Which, if I've learned anything in my churchless evolution, is the essence of my faithless faith.
I still meditate every morning. Usually by focusing on my breathing in some fashion, and on other bodily sensations. I also meditate during much of the rest of the day -- by going about my life in as lively a way as posssible.
As Hume said, by paying less attention to ideas inside my head, and more attention to sensations, perceptions, emotions, feelings, and other direct communications between my body/brain and the rest of the world.
To those who would view me as having departed from a so-called "spiritual path," I fire up my Zen master persona and say to them...
Show me your freaking spiritual path! Place before me, or anyone else, evidence that you have journeyed in a realm beyond the physical!
Whatever feeble, lifeless responses I might receive would be, of course, reflections of their physical experiences. As noted before, the only way we know about supernatural claims is through the utterances of people with physical bodies/brains.
So let's flip around De Chardin's quotation and make it true:
We are not spiritual beings having a human experience; we are human beings having a spiritual experience.