More and more, for me spirituality comes down to two basics: “What are the chances?” and “The odds are pretty good.” The first question points me toward humble skepticism, the second toward energetic inquiry. Here’s what I mean:
What are the chances…?
--That my chosen religion or philosophy, out of the thousands of religions in the world, just happens to be the one that is right about God, while the others are wrong.
--That any religion or philosophy, mine or another, possesses the complete truth about ultimate reality.
--That once I’ve settled on a spiritual direction for my life, there will no need for course corrections along the way
--That the nature of whatever power or law rests at the root of the cosmos can be described in words by a human being.
On the other hand:
The odds are pretty good…
--That during the thousands of years mankind has been searching for the truth about God, some persuasive hypotheses have been generated.
--That the faculties of my everyday human consciousness are less than what I am capable of, leaving open the possibility of finding new avenues for truth-seeking.
--That no matter what the nature of ultimate reality may actually be, and no matter whether it is possible to fully understand it, progress can be made in its direction.
--That given how the physical laws of the universe seem to lead back to a primal unity, whatever spiritual realities may exist are likely to be reflected in us as well as the cosmos.
In short, I’ve come to look upon spirituality through a gambler’s eyes. I’m more realistic about what I know and what I don’t know. My goal is to clearly see which cards are lying face up on the spiritual knowledge table and which are facing down. I want to end up a winner in this Game of Life, not a loser.
I’ve only watched the game show “Deal or No Deal” once. What I saw, though, helped to confirm my belief that most people are prone to ego-centered magical thinking, whether it be about their religion or about how much money they’re likely to win on a game show that is basically a lottery.
The contestants I watched were prone to disregard the evident low chance of winning a lot of money. Even when they had several hundred thousand dollars in hand, and they faced two out of three odds of going almost completely broke compared to winning a million dollars, they’d “go for broke.” And, that’s just what happened. They went broke.
The Banker on this show has a blog. A recent April 3 entry says about a current contestant: “I don't want to come off as negative, but I can tell it's going to be the same old story with her: nice person comes on show, pushes her luck too far, and gets eaten by the Bank. I can just see it in her eyes... GREED. I love it. She's mine!”
Similarly, most people are way too confident about how lucky they are to possess their current religion or belief system. They are gambling everything on an assumption that it is correct, just as I saw contestants on “Deal or No Deal” roll the dice based on flimsy intuitions such as “I feel in my heart that this is the right thing to do” or “Grandma’s birthday was on the 23rd, so I’m going to pick briefcase 23.”
When it comes to knowing God or ultimate reality we’ve got to think clearly. Understand, as Kenny Rogers advised, when it’s time to fold ‘em or hold ‘em.
You got to know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em,
Know when to walk away and know when to run.
…Now ev’ry gambler knows that the secret to survivin’
Is knowin’ what to throw away and knowing what to keep.
Superstition and conceptual dogma: throw away
Reality and direct experience: keep