Saturday, September 12, 2009

Spirituality: If you want to ride the carousel, go to the circus

God's carousel could be fun, but it is not the way to grow up as a mature human being.

All who read this blog must know that I take spirituality very seriously.

And then there is, as a friend writes, "I saw Jesus in my spaghetti ... or was it Mother Theresa in a cinnamon bun?" He is referring to this story, "Pictured: Haunting face crying a river of tears as glacier melts into the sea" by Alex Millson for UK's Daily Mail (03 September 2009).

These people aren't alone, of course. Some have seen Darwin in a tree trunk and others have seen Kemal Ataturk in a hillside shadow. Or the Virgin Mary in a piece of toast.

We can see anything we really want to. Sometimes we will see double, other times, stars. Is this any way to acquire wisdom?

Mario Beauregard and I pointed out in The Spiritual Brain that traditional spiritual advisers have strongly warned against making a big deal out of visions where you see sights and hear voices, and dream dreams:
Walter Hilton, writing in the early fifteenth century, advised the mystic who experiences any type of vision to “refuse it and assent not thereto.”46 John of the Cross later offered the same advice, explaining, “That which properly and generally comes from God is a purely spiritual communication.”47 Stace* follows this up, noting that “a genuine mystical experience is nonsensuous. It is formless, shapeless, colorless, odorless, soundless.”48 (p. 194)

*W. T. Stace was speaking for traditions other than the Christian one, but his observations are consistent with it.
Basically, it is easy to fool oneself and - contrary to popular lore, Freud did not discover this fact; it was well known to spiritual directors for centuries, if not millennia.

If our spirituality is making us better people, we should pursue it. If it is making us look for strange events instead, well ...