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I use the name bobby which is pretty close to my actual name.  I am a 77year old retired college instructor who has studied and taught about religions (among other things).  As a kid, i had an interest in spirituality although i don't know why because none of the experiences i had with religion encouraged anything approximating what i would call spirituality.  As i became part of the secular, modern, academic, intellectual world, this interest was buried behind a more scientific attitude.  I still have a somewhat scientific and skeptical attitude, but i am once again on a spiritual quest.  About a year and a half ago i came across a Live Journal spiritual journal that was tremendously helpful to me (though the author expressed herself in terminology and apparently held beliefs which were quite alien to me personally).  I decided to start my own journal to track and share my spiritual path.

In the past year and a half i have made some friends who seem to share some of my concerns and have joined several communities.  One, called contemplatives is similar to this one in many ways.  It is like this one, in particular, because very few people post to it and those posts are few and far between.  It is nice to read the "members page" but usually people are not posting about their spiritual thoughts, practices, and concerns.  I also belong to some communities focused on Mahayana Buddhism and Philosophical Taoism.  I have joined this community so i can read what others write and also make my own contribution if i can.  But i feel that  my spiritual journey is not "going anywhere" meaning that i am still the same selfish son-of-bitch i was a year and a half ago.  I talk a good talk, but i do not walk the walk.

A friend and i are considering starting a "spiritual practice" community based on the 12 step programs (The 12 Steps for Everyone who wants to use Them.)  Both of us were in al-anon in the 1980s (she in Maryland, i in Idaho) and feel that we benefited from that program tremendously,  We both began  our spiritual paths (at least in terms of actual practice) in "those rooms."  Anyone who finds this idea fascinating or urgent is invited to contact reginaterrae 
If there is joy, enjoy!
The story goes like this.

The apologetic had a religious experience. An intimate, honest, intensive experience. Most probably, this experience happened in a certain context - at a church or a mosque, alone in a cave at sunrise, with her bible in her hand alone at home... and probably, the apologetic had a specific, probably religious upbringing.

So, given the situation, it was just the obvious choice to interpret her experience in the terms of a certain religion. The words other members of this faith use, the words from a holy book, the words from the tradition of that faith.

From that moment on, the apologetic most certainly had lots of similar experiences. And of course, she interpreted those in the framework she got used to, as well. That's not bad. That's not a fallacy. That's just the way we human beings operate - an interpretation has worked in the past, why not use it from now on?

So... our happy apologetic meets our happy skeptic.

The skeptic, of course, has made his own experiences, and he has formed an opinion about what he believes is the apologetic's creed. Either he was once a believer himself, and has gotten skeptical because the words of this faith failed to convince him, or he has read the holy books without being a member of said faith.

So. The two meet, perhaps at some outreach. The start talking.

And almost by necessity, the apologetic will use the words of the holy book to convince the skeptic. She thinks those words are convincing - after all, they seem to match her experience perfectly! So she cannot grasp why the skeptic won't believe her.

The skeptic, on the other hand, will use the same holy scripture, pointing out logical flaws and inconsistencies, to show that this cannot be a good, qualified basis for a religious faith.

Well, it isn't. And it needn't be. The holy book consists of the experiences of other people, long dead, who were equally trying to express an experience that is, by definition, impossible to put into words.

But both our heroes fail to see that. They're talking about a whole lot of interesting, challenging intellectual questions - but they're not communicating about the one and only thing that can really create or destroy faith: personal experience.

They're like an old married couple who quarrels about whether that ship in her honeymoon was yellow or blue. They have talked about it for ages, never agreeing, never able to agree, and completely missing the point, namely how they loved each other then and love each other still.

It's kind of amusing, really, in a very, very sad way.

[xposted a bit]
I always find it weird - and on the other hand, pretty delightful - how things get complicated when we start including the meta level into our thinking: when we start to talk about exclusive vs inclusive spiritualities, instead of talking about one religious content vs the other.

I have often wondered about the possibility of a truly inclusive spirituality. Such a spirituality, to me, would include the acceptance of those paths that are exclusive: the realization that some people's stance of their way being The Only True Way (TM) is just another way of acknowledging the universe - not stupid or undeveloped, just different from my position, and maybe even different in a delightful, enriching way.

Comparing the following two statements:
  • "I am the way, the truth and the life" (exclusive)
  • "All instruction is but a finger pointing to the moon." (inclusive)
quite regardless of my greater sympathy for the latter stance, I wonder if there can be a point of view that is ABOVE both of them, including and extending both, in a way that proponents of both the exclusive and the inclusive way can accept.

xposted: allpaths, spiritualities, vijeno
Our own human experience suggests that infallibility is at odds with the way our lives work. So, for example, in approaching the Bible and its many authors, I see its various histories and evolving insights as the sincere attempt of ordinary people (possibly with the influence of religious communities in places) to "make sense" of profound encounters, but to do so from within the constraints and in some cases prejudices of their own times. I hope that this approach - which avoids 'idealising' the Bible with a mantle of infallibility - may actually afford it greater dignity and respect, and perhaps in the process inspire greater respect from a secular world sometimes alienated by fundamentalism or those parts of the Bible that are in conflict with the world as we actually know it today.

(from Encounters with Godde)

Written from a christian perspective, this pretty much seems to sum up what I'm aiming at.
So... sometimes, people claim objective truths about metaphysical questions. Like, "god exists", "jesus is the saviour", or "the universe is conscious".

I can connect to some of those, and not to others. If I just hold up one, and deny the other, conflict arises, because objective, universal truths can not all be true at the same time. Plus, since they're metaphysical, they're neither verifiable not falsifiable, so no one can prove anything to the other person.

Because of this (among other reasons), for a very long time, I have favoured a concept of truth that is more subjective. Where it is my truth, or your truth.

Of course (and this is not especially new either), I cannot but claim this as an objective truth. So the conflict just changes levels: Instead of fighting over whether god exists, I fought over whether there are objective, universal truths or not.

The fact that over time, I came to the buddhist-y view that metaphysical truths cannot really be conceptualized, didn't help a lot in that respect (it helped in many others, though, and it simply feels true to me). Whenever I'm talking, I'm conceptualizing, and when I'm conceptualizing, I tend to generalize and create abstractions which sound an awful lot like claims to objective truth.

I tried to only talk about personal experiences. That didn't help either, because it didn't take long until I found myself generalizing again. It's just the way the mind seems to work - my mind, at any rate.

But is this really so important? Is it a problem to state objective truths that aren't objective at all? I could dive joyfully into the paradox, or just shut up. (Okay, I couldn't actually do the latter, I'm afraid.)

Whenever I was able to be in the Now and empathize with the person in front of me, those problems simply didn't arise. So currently, I really think the only thing that can bridge the gap is empathy.
I could rant on and on about why literal meanings are not to be had, why they never were, etc., and thus, why the historicity of biblical events and other metaphysical claims is virtually impossible to establish.

But that's beside the point.

The point is that I want to wholly distinguish the question of "what actually happened" from the questions of beauty, personal relevance, and other interesting questions.

IOW, there are different aspects to any revelatory text, and you can treat them as interdependent - but there is no need to. It's simply your own choice. Answers in the realm of one of those aspects do not, by virtue of any of their intrinsic qualities, interfere with an answer in any other realm.

So, which aspects can we find?

- The historical aspect
- The aesthetic aspect
- The ethical aspect
Axiom 1: Consciousness is self-referential. I am conscious of a thing if, and only if, I am also conscious of being conscious of that thing.

Axiom 2: Some instance is active in that it chooses the focus of consciousness.

If both are true, then the active instance can choose to focus on its own choices, or not. Moreover, it is really not free NOT to choose. It takes that choice all the time. Of course, if it chooses not to focus on its own responsibility of choice, it can forget (for some time) about that responsibility.

a) If the active instance is seperate from consciousness, it is unconscious, and that would lead to the paradoxical conclusion that consciousness is driven by unconsciousness, and therefore not conscious.

b) If the active instance is a part of consciousness, then how can it take the decisions of, or on behalf of, the whole?

If a) and b) are wrong, the active instance is identical to consciousness: Self-referential consciousness decides about its own focus. Then, consciousness itself decides to remain unconscious about certain things.

Then the question is: How in the bloody hell does it achieve that?
If I manifest my reality, then how come the Law of Attraction is a universal law of exactly that reality?
Just a thought.

Mainstream exoteric christianity *), like all major exoteric religions, is a huge attempt at changing people's attitudes. In other words, their inner states. At the same time, christianity does not recognize that inner states can and should be changed in a methodical, consistent way that is in accord with the benefit of the individual as well as the people around them.

Christians are forced to believe that they SHOULD love god, while at the same time, god can willfully open and close/harden their hearts, like he often did in the bible. That's what I call one hell of a disempowering double-bind!

If we sincerely want to love god, let's change our beliefs and take full responsibility for that change!

*) Yeah, this is a very, very superficial way of wording it. Can we find a more precise one?