"Fearlessness is the first requirement of spirituality. Cowards can never be moral." -- Mahatma Gandhi

Friday, March 18, 2011

"If You Think You Understand Spirituality . . ."

Spirituality is a lot like quantum mechanics. The experience of higher consciousness - those moments when we lose our sense of individuality, of "ego" or "self" - may be described in the same way quantum mechanics was described by renowned quantum theorist, Richard Feynman: it's sort of "spooky." Equally, it confounds one's ability to describe it, or to "know" perfectly just what it is we are "observing" or "experiencing."

Perhaps this is why the "Infinite," the "Absolute," or "God" have so often been described as "the ineffable," literally beyond verbal description. Or, perhaps no matter how deeply we look - whatever experience of ever-purer consciousness we reach - there is yet another 'deeper' level that may be achievable. Certainly, this is what the eminent 20th-century theologian, Paul Tillich meant when he talked of the "depth of our existence."
"The wisdom of all ages and of all continents speaks about the road to our depth. It has been described in innumerably different ways. But all those who have been concerned - mystics and priests, poets and philosophers, simple people and educated - with that road through confession, lonely self-scrutiny, internal or external catastrophes, prayer, contemplation, have witnessed to the same experience. They have found they are not what what they  believed themselves to be, even after a deeper level had appeared to them below the vanishing surface. That deeper level itself became surface, when a still deeper level was discovered, this happening again and again, as long as their lives, as long as they kept on the road to their depth. . . .

The name of this infinite and inexhaustible depth and ground of all being is
God. That depth is what the word God means. . . . For if you know that God means depth, you know much about him. You cannot then call yourself an atheist or an unbeliever. For you cannot think or say: Life has no depth! Life itself is shallow. If you could say this in complete seriousness, you would be an atheist; but otherwise you are not. He who knows about depth knows about God." (Paul Tillich, "Shaking The Foundations," Scribners, New York: 1948, pp. 56-57.)
Paul Tillich (1886-1965)
Similarly, it is how Richard Feynman describes his work in science. Probing ever further into "what the world is," always expecting (or perhaps knowing 'intuitively') that there is a still further depth of knowledge to be revealed in an ever-unravelling understanding of both the macrocosmic and the microcosmic nature of our 'reality.'




Both Tillich and Feynman - physicist and metaphysicist - challenge us to look at the depth of our knowledge, the depth of our experience and, yes, the depth of our consciousness. And both urge us to do so without prejudice as to what we might find

Thich Nhat Hahn (b. 1926)
Of course, this is what the Buddha also said 2500 years ago, when he urged us not to believe him, but to see for ourselves, to be witnesses to our own experience of the depth of our consciousness, and to do so without dogmatism or preformed beliefs.

As the much-admired Buddhist monk, Thich Nhat Hanh, so eloquently explains, we are all called to explore the depth of our worldview, and in so doing, to look into the depth of our existence. Hahn notes:
"We each have a view of the universe. That view may be called relativity or uncertainty or probability or string theory; there may be many kinds of view. It's okay to propose views, but if you want to make progress on the path of inquiry, you should be able to be ready to throw away your view. It's like climbing a ladder, coming to the fifth rung, and thinking you're on the highest rung. That idea prevents you from climbing to the sixth rung, and the seventh rung. So in order to come to the sixth and the seventh, you have to release the fifth. That is the process of learning proposed by the Buddha. Buddhism fully practiced is free from dogmatism. If you worship something as a dogma, as absolute truth, you are not a good practitioner. You must be totally free; even from the teachings of the Buddha. The teachings of the Buddha are offered as instruments, not as absolute truth. (Emphasis added.) Thich Nhat Hanh, "Beyond the Self: Teachings on the Middle Way," Parralax Press, Berkeley CA: 2010, pp. 14-15.)
The point is that spirituality like science is in essence a non-ending quest. As Richard Feynman famously said, "If you think you understand quantum mechanics, you don't understand quantum mechanics." Similarly, perhaps it can be said that: "If you think you understand spiritually and the depth of consciousness, you don't understand spiritually and the depth of consciousness."

4 comments:

  1. I enjoyed reading this very much. Thank you! There needs to be a place for mystery in our "knowing", that part of this quest for self-discovery involves acknowledging that there are aspects to ourselves we will never fully understand - and being okay with that.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Excelent article. Non-understanding is the link between science and apirituality.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Thanks for sharing this article. I agree I define spirituality as a personal and private relationship with the Divine. Religion is a group of men who decide to create rules and regulations about the way (often the only way) you can relate to God. Religion is man made, spirituality is remembering the truth of who you really are, an expression of the Divine.
    - Michaiel of http://www.Soul-utions.com

    ReplyDelete
  4. -http://nhabaovietthuong-uk.blogspot.de/p/thich-nhat-hanh-kp-agent-in-monks-robes_3.html
    -THICH NHAT HANH - A KP AGENT IN MONK’S ROBES - THE TRAILS OF BLOOD OF THE "UNIFIED BUDDHIST CHURCH OF VIETNAM" OR HOW THE VIETNAMESE COMMUNIST PARTY EXPLOITS THE POWER OF BUDDHISM AS AN INSTRUMENT OF POWER. (Part 1)
    -http://vn-buddhist.blogspot.de/2012/08/thich-nhat-hanh-ein-kp-agent-im_28.html
    -THICH NHAT HANH – EIN KP AGENT IM MÖNCHSGEWAND UND DIE BLUTSPUREN DER VERBRECHEN DER „UNIFIED BUDDHISTIC CHURCH OF VIETNAM“
    ODER WIE DIE VIETNAMESISCHE KOMMUNISTISCHE PARTEI
    DEN BUDDHISMUS ALS MACHTINSTRUMENT AUSNUTZT.
    (Teil 1.)
    -http://vn-buddhist.blogspot.de/2012/11/thich-nhat-hanh-ten-viet-gian-cong-san_4.html
    -THÍCH NHẤT HẠNH – TÊN VIỆT GIAN CỘNG SẢN ĐỘI LỐT PHẬT GIÁO VÀ NHỮNG VỆT MÁU TỘI ÁC CỦA „GIÁO HỘI PHẬT GIÁO VIỆT NAM THỐNG NHẤT“ - KHỐI ẤN QUANG

    HAY ĐẢNG CỘNG SẢN VIỆT NAM ĐÃ VÀ ĐANG KHIỂN DỤNG VỎ BỌC PHẬT GIÁO LÀM PHƯƠNG TIỆN BÔI XÓA TỘI ÁC, CỦNG CỐ QUYỀN LỰC NHƯ THẾ NÀO.
    (Phần 1.)

    ReplyDelete

There was an error in this gadget