I was talking with someone recently who was telling me that they had seen Christianity work for many people. I asked him to elaborate on the specific nature of the religious practices (I forget specifically what I asked), and he said "Pure Jesus." I said, "No, no, specifically, what are they doing?" He said that they were praying.

And praying does help those who do it—or, at least, it's fair to say that praying does frequently help many of those who do it. I can't speak for all the different things that are called praying, but I know that a big subset of them are what might be called gratefulness rituals. To perform this ritual, you can just kneel or bow or in some way put your body into a position of humility, and then just think of all the many things that have helped you along your way, all the assistance of every kind you've ever received—realize that you would not be where you are without so many other people doing so many other things, both for you directly and for you as part of society. Try to count your blessings, remembering all the specifics. And also maybe think of the beauty of the sky and the stars and the earth and be grateful. And at the conclusion of such a ritual, you might meditate for a moment, let your mind go silent, and thereby demonstrate to yourself that you are being given the whole world, because you can literally do nothing and yet it still goes on.

I think if most people consistently practice that ritual (or many, many other things like it), they will see an improvement in overall well-being—and, mind you, I mean not only using some external evaluation of well-being but also and especially well-being as reported by themselves.

Religion is (or at least should be) a set of practices and perhaps frameworks that help a person stay wise, help them stay humble and stay present and stay loving (and so on). Religion is that which ligares (ties) a person re (back [toward the harbor of centeredness and presentness and lovingness]).

Buddhism began this way.

And more than that, if a metaphor about the origin of the universe—some notion of God or Brahman or the tao or lila and so on—does indeed verifiably help people get their cognitive shit together better; if some religio-psycho-geometric framework can act as a kind of firmware patch on the brain and change how certain aspects work globally (that is, throughout the whole brain and mind), then the study and contemplation of that metaphor might also be thought of as a ritual, as a religious practice—and by that, again, I mean a specific set and sequence of very specifically performed actions to be undertaken. A technique.

So when I say that I am a spiritual person, what I mean is that I engage in the contemplation of many classically "spiritual" concepts, and find that contemplating them offers me the most beautiful and deeply meaningful perspectives with which to perceive the universe. That I engage in them, and love engaging with them, that it feels natural and makes me feel, in an almost whole-being way (like, synaesthetically: bodily and perceptually and mentally and emotionally and even rationally), like part of—and in a very important way one and the same with—a vast and brilliant harmony. That I believe panpsychism makes all the sense and strong emergentism makes none.

Advertisements