Even though I no longer believe in God, I'm attracted to non-religious Buddhism. So even though I don't engage in any sort of formal Buddhist practice, I like the idea of being enlightened.
Just seems better than being endarkened.
Though I can't say with any certainty that the intuitive flash that coursed through my consciousness as I was heading to bed last night was a sign of a mini-enlightenment (I'm way too humble to claim a maxi-enlightenment), I like the idea that it was.
So I'll go with that.
I was heading down the stairs that lead to the bedroom where I sleep when an unbidden realization hit me. This wasn't a thought, or an emotion. It was an instant knowing.
What I knew at that moment surprised me, given my usual tendency to see myself more positively than I'm sure I deserve.
It was: You're just an ordinary person. Nothing special. Nothing really to be proud of.
While this didn't feel like an emotion, the after-effect of the knowing was pleasant. I felt like a weight had been lifted from me, the burden of trying to appear more competent and accomplished than I actually was.
It was sort of akin to the sensation I had decades ago when, after believing that I could figure out a way to actively manage the investments my wife and I have and beat the market, I concluded after considerable reading and research that investing in index funds was the way to go.
Meaning, I'd just try to be average, as I wrote about in a 2008 post, "Profitable spiritual investing."
As the world financial crisis deepens, conversations tend to turn toward money rather than other subjects. Last night I was with a group of people who discussed the ins and outs (not to mention the ups and downs) of investing in tough times like these.
I didn't have a whole lot to say.
Briefly I held forth on the Buddha-like nature of index fund investing, where you don't try to beat the market through some clever scheme but rather rest content with rising and falling in concert with the overall financial tide.
I told my friends, "If the world and national economy go to hell, so will our investments. If things improve, so will our portfolio. It's a humble way to invest, since you're happy to be average."
This is pretty much the same way I feel about my spiritual investing strategy now.
For many years I thought I could beat the system. That is, find a way to salvation, God-realization, enlightenment, or whatever, that would lead to a better result than others would enjoy who weren't privy to the inside knowledge I possessed.
I've written about my shift from "active" to "passive" spiritual investing in previous posts:
"Running so fast to become motionless"
"Spiritual diversification, a sound investment strategy"
"Spiritual investing takes nothing"
Here's an excerpt from "Why atheists are more "spiritual" than religious believers," a 2014 post that echoes some of what I experienced in last night's mini-enlightenment.
Maybe this statement seems paradoxical to you: I feel more genuinely spiritual now that I've stopped believing in God. But it makes good sense to me. Here's the main reason why.
I no longer feel special.
Virtually every religion and spiritual path considers that its adherents have a special relationship with God or whatever other supernatural entity they believe in.
There are so many chosen people on Earth, they vastly outnumber the unchosen, the non-special group I'm pleased to be a part of.
I understand that feeling special has its own delights.
In my case, I was a member of an India-based spiritual organization which taught that those approved for initiation by the guru had been "marked" to return to God/heaven after a karma-cleansing meditation process.
For about 35 years I embraced the enjoyable belief that, out of all the billions of people on this planet, I was one of a relative few who were the special beloveds of the supreme being.
Of course, devout Christians, Jews, and Muslims feel the same way, along with countless believers in other theological belief systems.
Eventually I started to realize that all the talk I was hearing about being "humble servants of the Lord and the guru" was, to put it bluntly, a crock of shit. Genuine humility wasn't much to be seen among devotees of my spiritual organization.
Since members of this group were told over and over that they've been singled out by a higher power to learn cosmic truths and experience realms of reality not available to other human beings, naturally a pervading sense of "tribal" pride was evident throughout the organization.
We were the cool kids in the spiritual lunch room. Other faiths were inferior, since they didn't have the direct connection to God we did.
I'm happy that this form of egotism has been discarded.
Sure, I've still got lots of other self-centered tendencies rattling around in my psyche, as we all do. But to get rid of The Big One, a belief that God had chosen me to be his best buddy for eternity, whereas my infidel wife wasn't going to get the same afterlife prize -- this increased my humility quotient by a lot.
Now I don't expect that I'm going to have any different sort of afterlife anyone else does. Namely, I strongly suspect, none at all.
I also don't expect that there is any power guiding my life which isn't also directing the lives of every other entity on Earth.
Thus I've embraced a sort of "index fund" approach to spirituality.
Meaning, I don't try to beat the market. I don't assume that I have any special knowledge, any special talent, any special relationship with reality. Whatever laws of nature apply to everybody else, I'm content with.