Realism and spirituality are sometimes thought of as opposite ends of the spectrum. This is particularly true with those who are more skeptically inclined.
· “Spiritual? Get real!”
· “You are delusional!”
· “I’m an empiricist. If you can’t see it or touch it, it ain’t real.”
Those with a spiritual bent are sometimes equally dismissive of action in the world. Many believe that introspection and being ‘as one’ via some non-ordinary state is what matters most.
· “Money and business are not spiritual. They are evil.”
· “The world is an illusion. Only spirit is real!”
· “I am a spiritual being having a human experience. I don’t need this stuff!”
· “Sexuality is best avoided.”
Most developed societies today are dominated by cultures and education systems which focus upon the physical world of money, markets and technology at the expense of the spiritual. This imbalance needs to be corrected.
Here I am going to state the case for spiritual realism.
Spiritual realism acknowledges the reality of the spiritual dimensions of mind and experience, but also finds value in actions and experience in the physical world.
Spiritual realism begins with the currently non-testable (although personally verifiable) assumption that human beings have both a physical body, and a spiritual consciousness. That spiritual component exists in conjunction with the physical body, but also transcends it. Put another way, the spirit survives the physical death of the body.
This does not mean that the physical body is not important. Spirit is expressed through the body and brain, including all its biological and evolutionary drives.
Spiritual realism finds business and capitalism to be neutral in themselves. In terms of positives, they present endless opportunities for individuals to take action and learn about their soul purposes, and their soul issues. The human collective can also learn from the market place. Capitalism is often driven by egotism, greed and lack of compassion and respect for human dignity. It tends to bring out some of the negative aspects of the human species – the shadow. Yet it is in seeing this dark side that these collective issues can be acknowledged and transcended. The market place is also a medium through which the reverse side of the coin can be seen: compassion, generosity, respect for fellow human beings. Actions taken in alignment with spirit trends to be respectful of the highest good of all.
Any action taken in the world is driven by inner processes. These can be biological and egocentric: the selfish gene in action. Such actions are essentially driven by the alienated mind – consciousness which lies in ignorance of its inner spiritual aspects. Alternatively, an individual can relax and enter a state of receptivity. In receptivity, actions can be driven by the wisdom of spirit.
Spiritual realism involves a deep commitment to the truth. My reading is that the current average level of commitment to truth is around 3%. In alternative spiritual movements it is around 5%. In mainstream western science it is around 7%. Both mainstream science and alternative spiritual movements remain largely at the whim of the ego, which is a trickster. Each has its common delusions, although they tend to occur at opposite ends of the philosophical spectrum.
I arrived at these percentage readings from doing a quick check, which is an intuitive tool taught to me in years gone by my spiritual teachers.
Those of a spiritual predilection might feel a little offended by my reading which suggests that mainstream science rates more highly than alternative spirituality in its commitment to truth. I was a little surprised by the reading myself. The reason is that there are just a whole lot of people of spiritual persuasion who are basically part-timers. They play around with the nicer parts of mystical/spiritual practice, but are not really committed to a genuine inner process. This drags the average consciousness level and commitment to truth down.
Having said this, a genuine commitment to truth in either science or spirituality can take a person well beyond the typical level of commitment to truth. In fact there is no need to separate these two domains.
A genuine science permits a full range of questions, a full range data to be acknowledged, and a full range of theory to be developed. Of course in practice, this is far from the case, as mainstream western science is still dominated by the mechanistic paradigm and western materialism in general. This has held western science back for the past century.
A fully embracing spirituality is also “empirical”, in the sense that it permits a full range of experience and data to be acknowledged and processed by the mind. In practice, however, the ego tends to dominate much spiritual and religious practice. A common result is that there is a large level of delusion in many spiritual practitioners. In fact, spiritual realism acknowledges this tendency towards self-deception, and is comfortable with being “wrong”. It asserts that the mind tends to create concepts and beliefs and attach to them, because they create a sense of certainty, of safety. In this sense the ideal attitude is one of relaxed observation of the mind and its games, witnessing the delusions as they surface.
The human ego is part of the deal in being a human being. In fact the human ego is a protective mechanism which emerges from our biology, to maximise the chances of survival of the physical body. You are not going to be getting rid of your ego anytime soon. The key then is to witness its machinations and develop the right relationship with it.
One of the best things about spiritual realism is that it permits a full expression of fun and playfulness. What’s the point of having a spiritual philosophy if you can’t have a good time with it? That’s not an excuse to become hedonistic. It’s an invitation to lighten up and enjoy having a body – dance, sing, eat, drink and express sexuality in moderation! (the expression of these will vary from person to person, and change throughout the lifespan).
Finally, in order to enact spiritual realism, the individual needs to be able to bring about a state of presence at will. For it is in presence, in living in the moment, that the mind becomes silent and still, and that the intuitive voices from within can be heard. Presence seeds receptivity.
The truth is that it is not easy to enact spiritual realism. It’s challenging. That’s what makes it so rewarding. It can be stressful if approached the wrong way, but it can be uplifting and a whole lot of fun if done the right way. What would be the point if it was all too easy!? The key is to relax with it. Throw away the spiritual robes and allow yourself to be authentically human!