Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Relationship: A Model for Spiritual Development

Once questions begin they build on each other, providing a certain lift or push in the direction of discovery but no real map of where one is going. There can be a pondering of the future, but no directions laid out of easy left and right spring out of the void from which imagination pulls every other thought. When the term “God” is once determined as having no inherent substance, no central form that is distinct from human thought and intent, the once easy directive within religious fundamentalism is replaced with wary curiosity. From whence does such a concept come and why does it persist? There are as many answers to this as perhaps there are definitions of “God.” I hardly seek to answer definitively and frankly I find the question not quite legitimate anyway.

I’ve written before in “Answers To A Question: Yes, No, Maybe” concerning how the meaning of “God” is so often assumed rather than questioned from a position of skepticism or agnosticism. We are trapped in the social homogenization of an idea, suffocating in our lack of inquiry and drowning in the shallowness of our imagination. Rather than beginning with this social simplicity it is far better to immediately question what one means when using the term, embarking perhaps on a journey of rebelliousness but ultimately one of greater concern.

If the Muslim were to ponder the historical validity of jihad rather than unquestioningly accept the dictates of a singular imam, would there be less violence? If the Christian were to investigate the notion that their parents are merely parroting ideas they have never questioned and thus find themselves doing the same, would the unbroken line of familial authority be broken? If the believer in mystical energy suckling upon the media-hyped teat of all manner of ego-focused gurus peddling their wares were to engage in a more scientific questioning of data rather than blind acceptance, would we have less anxiety? I think the answer to these questions is a profound yes and the authoritative overreach of inbuilt cultural standards would largely crumble, no doubt this being a central reason why such behavior has yet to happen on a global scale. Rather than a resultant chaos though, I posit the occurrence of a greater appreciation for relationships rather than the structure of them, of shared phenomenology rather than forms of power.

By relationship it is meant the basic building block of all communication as communal union, a term denoting the flow of energy and its usual manifestation in the form of information (see Daniel Siegel’s work The Handbook to Interpersonal Neurobiology). Note that there is no form here assumed, only the flow, only the communal aspect of the human connection with the universe both in the immediate experience of basic physical sensation and in the broader existence provided by our imaginative potential and cognitive constructions. Many books have and continue to be written in an attempt to describe why the notion of “God” continues to exist, created as it was in a period of technological simplicity and ignorance. Like the phlogiston, should not “God” have disappeared as well, a dead idea in the face of the constant changing reality of a world of instantaneous communication and the full extent of knowledge at one’s fingertips? Certainly there is some truth to the notion of some definitions no longer serving us, of some ideas associated with divinity that have been supplanted by the growth of our understanding, though just what those definitions are I leave open for this entry for further discussion. However, underlying all the forms “God” takes, from the happily mystical to the condemning patriarch, there is at the center a relationship between humanity and existence being played out.

In Frank Herbert’s The Jesus Incident, there is a short dialogue between a poet and Ship where the poet is asked why there is a god, the poet answering with: “God is the source of information, not of decisions. Decisions are human. If God makes decisions, they are human decisions.” Here is the inspiration for the current entry, a declaration of humanity’s relation to movement, one where direction or decisions are predicated upon understanding or information and here then is where “God” still finds a pervasive hold upon us. There need not be a devolution into the supposed glory of ignorance for “God” to exist, this is only true if the intent is one of power and control, of patriarchal demands and hierarchical structure mandating purpose before thought. Rather, in the pregnant questions of a yearning for understanding there lies the potential birth of expanding knowledge and tentative constructs or narratives. Where “God” continues to pop up is precisely at the edges of our understanding, but rather than making a leap into the unknown it can provide an impetus to proceed further, to propel oneself on the firm ground of the inter-relational reality of our existence, a naturalized spirituality if you will.

We can, like many already do, ponder the origins of “God” and ask why it still exists but this assumes a particular definition that not only do I find suspect but is not required of me to take on for myself. There is undoubtedly great questions to be answered here and such academic inquiries I am all for, but this can often lend itself to a greater emphasis on form than is perhaps healthy. Back of form is idea and back of that is a fundamental union that we all are bubbling blips being manifested out of. If we begin here, in togetherness and shared humanity, we stand a greater chance of creating better forms of evolving grandeur rather than static controls. In the reality of relationships there is a model of spiritual development in which no one is left behind or shamed.