Spiritual Critiques

Understanding a spiritual teacher, a spiritual philosophy or a popular spiritual idea can be difficult.  It helps to understand the tradition the teacher or idea develops from as well as the underlying assumptions about the nature of reality.   These essays try to put spiritual teachers and ideas in their context as well as evaluate them.

I have spent the last thirty five years following my spiritual path.  One thing I have learnt in those years is the necessity of getting it right. If you get a divine intuition, you had better follow it. If you are offered an opportunity by a significant connection or are called to your next significant activity, you have to do it well. Otherwise you can wander off your spiritual path and end up lost, wondering where you have gone wrong. It is even more critical for our society to get it right as otherwise we could all end up in an environmental disaster.

In the last twenty or so years, alternative spirituality has become popular. Atheists and skeptics usually just outrightly dismiss these spiritual teachings.  On the other hand, New Agers often seem to accept all spiritual teachings as equally wonderful.  That does not seem a good strategy. Although many teachers claim that all their teachings are based on pure experience that does not seem to be true (for example, see the critique of Eckhart Tolle). Spiritual teachings are almost always based partially on a person’s worldview and some worldviews are better than others as they help us to live more spiritually and will help our civilization survive.

I have found that critical reflection has helped me to live more spiritually as it helps to separate what is true from my wishes and desires. When I read many spiritual teachings from popular teachers, I see an inability to separate real spiritual experiences from things people want to be true or think are true because they have heard them often. Even worse, the non-traditional spiritual community fosters this lack of discernment because it often encourages an atmosphere that disdains critical reflection and questioning. The community says that if something feels true, it is true or it is true for that person.

Trying to be spiritual is a serious matter, both for ourselves and our civilization. We have to get it right. That means we have to separate our real spiritual experiences from wishful thinking and our worldview has to be consistent. I have no desire to belittle real spiritual experiences as they are wonderful things. What I do want to do in this site is to try to separate real spiritual experiences from the things added on to them that mislead people from living in a spiritual way. The goal is to help people so that they can live more spiritually in the modern world and more easily discuss their spiritual life with other people. This approach assumes that using our minds and our critical abilities is not harmful to being spiritual, but can actually help people live more spiritually.

 

 

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