Welcome: An Introduction

Sharing the insights I discover as I explore and experience the mystery that is our reality. Join me in my journey and share yours.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Turning Point: Embracing Skepticism


One needs only to scroll down the titles and peruse the content of my recent posts to know that I have been really struggling to make sense of things lately. Battling between mind and heart and trying to find clarity amidst two different paths that seem to call me both to them with nearly equal strength.

The following I wrote a few days ago in my online journal. I believe I have  been really battling with my skepticism  for some time now. It has been an aid for me for sure in the past. It has helped slough off layers of misconceptions that clouded my perception of things and was key in bringing me into awareness of the attachments that I needed to let go of at the time in order to pursue the truth more rationally. But then I believe it kept taking off layers that were perhaps just as necessary to remove as the previous ones but the difference being with these was that I started to feel uncomfortable when they were threatening to come off. So I found myself struggling mightily to resist skepticism and maintain that which preserved my sense of security. Now, after considerable reading and reflection and angst, I am deciding to embrace my skepticism and endure what is hopefully temporary discomfort in order to pursue the truth less tethered by illusions.

Well, I don't want to write too much because I believe my entry will speak for itself. I just want to note beforehand that I hope none of my readers are offended at some of the conclusions I have been coming too. It is not my intention to offend but to be genuinely honest in revealing, stage by stage, what I am encountering and experiencing in my search for the truth into the nature of reality.


It started to occur to me  lately that I have potentially been caught up in a futile endeavor.  I've been looking only into the areas of spirituality and religion in my pursuit for truth into the nature of reality. Thinking that within ancient texts, within the teachings of saints and yogis, there can be precious jewels of realization into the Absolute to be found. In exclusively looking to those sources  I contradicted my own rule of not using presuppositions while digging for the truth. It was like at the beginning of my journey I set off knowing whereabouts my destination would be-in the region of the Divine somewhere.  I presupposed that wherever my journey would take me it would lead me closer to God, whatever or whoever He is. That even if He wasn't personal that there were  transcendental realities that existed. I also naturally assumed from the very start that within every living being there was an eternal essence which came from something Divine, that is something that I have always maintained.

All of my presuppositions could very well be true and for sure there are seemingly intuitive moments of clarity where they most definitely seem true. But, what I'm coming to find is that really nothing into the transcendental nature of things can truly be known with any substantial certainty and the plain fact is that they could also be false. It doesn't mean that there aren't realities that we cannot perceive that do exist. Certainly there's lots of things that we have not been able to detect  in the past that we can now-like radio waves, waves of light, etc.  via new technology. And we are sure to discover more as time goes on. But when it comes to  questions of whether or not there is a soul, maybe there is no real point in asking such questions because there's no real way of finding an answer. Or, maybe before considering such questions and looking for religion/spirituality to provide an answer, we should first look at what can be known and after that re-assess the question and see if it still  has merit.

I'm finding that religions and spiritual philosophies fall exceedingly short if not impede greatly in any potential glimpse or experience one can have of what really Is. When I really think about things objectively I am finding myself agreeing  with many philosophers and great thinkers that I have come across in their conclusion that religion and even God are artificial constructs. Simple as that.

Even though reality in its entirety seems nearly inconceivable to ever truly "know", there are things that we can know and discover. We might not be able to "know" the nature of things in their entirety but we can come to know a lot and in the process come to realize and appreciate reality in a deeper way than we wouldn't have otherwise  because we are coming to understand different and very real facets of it, rather than ascribing to  speculations and conjectures towards it.

So, I guess the theme of this stream of consciousness entry is that I'm starting to wonder what the point is of chasing after what really can never be known with any measure of certainty when one can discover what can be known?...Is the former merely akin to chasing a mirage while the latter can be perceived as plunging into the roaring ocean's tide , tasting and feeling, truly experiencing, a tiny fraction  of its greatness for oneself? Yes, we might not be able to canvass the whole ocean for example (yet), knowing intimately its depths. But we can learn to understand as much as we can, and find ourselves in a reverent sense of awe while doing so, digesting the fact that  there are even more untold treasures teeming beneath its waves. So, true, of reality as a whole and all the mysteries it holds.

Your thoughts are always welcome. Please consider leaving them in the comments section. Thank you!

Monday, May 6, 2013

The Human Problem (Excerpt from The Wisdom of Insecurity)

My last post delved into describing the current state of skepticism I have now found myself in, yet again. Though there is a spiritual path  within the Vedas that I have investigated and have been pursuing for some time now I have realized that skepticism is part of my nature and I must step back and assess my motives for pursuing the path that seems to call out to me. Might I return to it? I very well might. It's a beautiful path that promises hope and peace and certainly elicits positive changes in one's life. However, I have also realized that the heart can be misleading at times and I have to allow my intellect more latitude. For it will not rest, it seems, until every stone is unturned.

A book that I found really illuminating during a past state of spiritual transition, The Wisdom of Insecurity, I have returned to once again in hopes of perhaps extracting new gems of insights from its pages. I want to be actively challenged right now in testing the way in which reality should properly be perceived. I want to see things as they are. To try to find a direction in which to orient my compass that, though it might bring me off this plateau of indecision and into dark forests that seem perilous with snares, will lead me closer to the truth. Might the needle turn me around to retrace my prior steps back towards the beautiful sense of spirituality I had discovered? It very well might. Might it instead lead me in another direction, towards the more unknown and unchartered waters of agnosticism in which I dipped my toes in, in the past, and after doing so decided the water was too cold and unruly and headed for the safety of the shore? It very well might. Time will tell I suppose.

I'd like to share an excerpt from the book I'm reading. I emphasized some parts that I found particularly thought provoking and most likely will take some of them individually and write separate posts on them. I hope you enjoy it even if you don't agree with it.

I welcome your thoughts in the comments section. Thank you!

This, then, is the human problem: there is a price to be paid in every increase of consciousness. We cannot be more sensitive to pleasure without being more sensitive to pain. By remembering the past we can plan for the future. But the ability to plan for pleasure is offset by the "ability" to dread pain and to fear the unknown. Furthermore, the growth of an acute sense of past and the future gives us a correspondingly dim sense of the present. In other words, we seem to reach a point where the advantages of being conscious are outweighed by its disadvantages, where extreme sensitivity makes us unadaptable.

Under these circumstances we feel in conflict with our own bodies and the world around them, and it is consoling to be able to think that in this contradictory world we are but "strangers and pilgrims." For if our desires are out of accord with anything that the finite world can offer, it might seem that our nature is not of this world, but for infinity. The discontent of our souls would appear to be the sign and seal of their divinity.

But does the desire for something prove that the thing exists?  We know that it does not necessarily do so at all. It may be consoling to think that we are citizens of another world than this, and that after our exile upon earth we may return to the true home of our heart's desire. But if we are citizens of this world , and if there can be no final satisfaction of the soul's discontent, has not nature, in bringing forth man, made a serious mistake?

For it would seem that, in man, life is hopeless conflict with itself. To be happy, we must have what we cannot have. In man, nature has conceived desires which it is impossible to satisfy. To drink more fully of the fountain of pleasure, it has brought forth capacities which make man the more susceptible to pain. It has given us the power to control the future but a little- the price of which is the frustration of knowing that we must at last go down in defeat. If we find this absurd, this is only to say that nature has conceived intelligence in us to berate itself for absurdity. Consciousness seems to be nature's ingenious mode of self-torture.

Of course we do not want to think that this is true. But it would be easy to show that most reasoning to the contrary is but wishful thinking-nature's method of putting off suicide so that the idiocy can continue. Reasoning, then, is not enough. We must go deeper. We must look into this life, this nature, which has become aware within us, and find out whether it is really in conflict with itself, whether it actually desires the security and the painlessness which its individual forms can never enjoy.

~ Alan Watts, The Wisdom of Insecurity, p. 36-38

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Skepticism's Spiral

My soul awoke parched and longing this morning. An emptiness calling out to be filled emanated from deep within me. Words rang hollow in Smith's book, further deepening my perceived drought, and all the sources I have cherished for so long seem tasteless and dull to my interior's palate.

I feel naked this morning, stripped of belief, stripped of the hope of ever knowing anything. I feel like an agnostic, or even worse, maybe an atheist, and that leaves an emptiness so vast it is like a bottomless abyss.

 Where is this fresh feeling of being alive with wonder? Of thinking anything is possible? And if all that there is , is all that there is, why does the thought of that leave me with such a feeling of despair? Is there some credibility to the transcendental in that my heart rejects the idea of reality as being almost like a mechanical web, of constantly shifting and interrelated parts, (though my mind draws me towards that idea), and instead craves for more depth, more meaning, a nourishment that is lost to me this morning? Or is this longing more some kind of deficiency in my sense of reason? Some weakness on my part of conjuring up artificial constructs in the guise of spirituality, which seem so real sometimes, and yet in a moment of lucidity seem so created: self-induced delusions?

Am I unable to face reality fully? A reality that might entirely be devoid of anything transcendental? I'd make a crappy atheist as I am always seeking for spiritual depth, yet I am hopeless as any kind of believer as I am continually doubting, questioning, and turning away from every ideology that seems, at least for a time, to call me to it. At the end of the day, even if there are transcendental realities, perhaps the fact is that our human minds and hearts haven't a clue as to their scope or form and any attempts at conceiving them are  but grasps in the dark, futile reaching for  revelations which will always be partial at best.

I find myself in a situation I've never been in before and it almost leaves me in somewhat of a mild panic. I can't find anything satisfying to read! Spiritual texts no longer resonate, more academic texts seem dry and lifeless. I am in a quandary. It is like the needle in my internal compass is broken.  I felt I was on a path that was right for me, I was finding inspiration and resonance in the Vedas, but I just haven't had any inclination to read them the last few days. Perhaps I will re-investigate the Tao to Ching, or Buddhism, which seem mostly atheistic but afford some sort of spiritual depth to the practitioner. Perhaps I should bypass spirituality altogether for some time and immerse myself in the wonder of the natural world-of what science has and is discovering. For sure there is an infinite material available for doing that. But can that bring about a sense of fulfillment, of nourishment, that I am craving right now? I'm not sure. If it would at least distract me from this aching and hollow despair that is creeping in, it would prove helpful and no doubt illuminating as I would learn new things. But I still don't think it would fill this emptiness that I feel. I have to ask myself, why not?

Is it because my consciousness perceives my soul and knows there is something more to things, or is it because I am inherently biased, perhaps sentimentally attached, to the idea of there being transcendental realities and truths?

Should I embrace my apparent attachment to spirituality or attempt to understand why I have it and move beyond it? To embrace it right now seems impossible. For when I try to cling to one particular path and grow roots in it, like a tree on the side of a cliff my doubts, in the form of rain and wind, sweep my newly formed foundation away, uprooting me and causing me to fall.  I keep trying to attach my roots once again but it proves a cyclical reaction, repeating itself over and over to no avail.

Will I ever feel conviction? Is that possible for someone so infected with skepticism? I seem to recoil inwardly from the side of me that presents itself as a skeptic, yet that side rises up and conquers anytime I feel like any sort of belief is settling in. It's as if I get caught up in skepticism's spiral...I'm not sure if it is leading me upwards or downwards. It's as if that part of my nature seeks to cleanse me from any ambiguities keeping me from seeing clearly...and yet I am seeing nothing at all right now but uncertainty. Thanks a lot skepticism, you have served me well, digging me a pathway to seemingly nowhere at all but a dark bottomless void. Is there hope to be found, meaning, peace, fulfillment, without a sense of conviction? If there is, I haven't found it yet.

The one thing that I can say is that if this is all there is...If this is our one chance at a life and we no longer continue to exist in any autonomous way after our heart ceases to beat and we breathe our last, then for sure it makes this one life that we are living all that more precious and to be revered. That's the only positive thought that I can squeeze out of any sort of atheistic view of things.

There is a series by Dawkins where he explores sex, ,the meaning of life, ,etc. from an atheistic perspective. In it, he gives an account of one man who went from being a believer to entering into an agnostic state, a stage of deep doubt and disbelief. Feeling such despair over what he was discovering he reverted back to religion. It was like the other side, the side of uncertainty, of doubt, of what really  might be the truth, was too much for him and he went into a contemplative monastic order to live out his days in religious fervor. I found myself understanding why he would do that. Religion, belief in something, provides a salve for our aching soul that seems to break open and threatens to die without some kind of intervention-some kind of hope, some kind of dogma to bind it and allow it to be whole. But while binding our souls with such a  poultice are we perhaps restricting the flow of truth to enter into our consciousness? Could injecting religion to satisfy our hunger and our desperate thirst for answers more be likened to administering a tourniquet on a damaged limb ,cutting off the blood supply, allowing the tissues and that part of the body to eventually become lifeless? Perhaps clinging to religion or a spiritual path could potentially be a way of forever subverting oneself from experiencing and knowing some real truths that, if really taken in and digested, have the power to breathe life into one's spirit, so to speak, to allow one to see life in a new and enlivened way.

I know I just wrote a lot about feeling despair and I do feel a sense of that today as I contemplate the direction I am heading spiritually. I don't want to sound too negative though for running concurrently alongside such despair is an underlying sense of hope. I know that any truth worth comprehending requires critical thinking and discernment and that sometimes we have to cross the desert to come to the oasis.

Thoughts? I'd  love to hear them. Please leave them in the comments section! Thank you!