Am I religious?

Someone asked me recently if I am religious and I struggled to answer them.

“Spiritual but not religious?” they offered.

But I don’t want to be a walking cliche either, and what does SBNR mean anyway?

From the perspective of an irreligious person I guess I am religious. From the perspective of a religious person I’m not.

Transcending religion

The problem is that I’ve read too much into multiple religions and tried to see the world through their eyes.

Like learning a new language, I know that people have different names for the same things, but they also have names for things that other languages don’t have.

They cut up reality in slightly different ways.

And so do religions. They talk about this one transcendent experience in different ways and translate it into different forms.

People get fixated on whether Buddhists believe in God or not; but people also get stuck on whether Christians from the same denomination worship the same God if they differ in their fundamental conception of Him.

Why not just say that Buddhism and Christianity both contain something transcendent, and they try to describe it in their own particular ways?

Wheat and chaff

But I’m making my own assertion here: that what is of value in any and every religion is the transcendent and otherworldly aspect of it. Not the afterlife so much as the new life, the qualitatively different experience of life in this world.

I have zero interest or time for a religion that is merely a set of rules unless those rules promise to deliver a tangibly improved relationship with reality.

It’s worth bearing that in mind, because to some people outward adherence to a creed or membership of a community is more important than some kind of obscure or, worse yet, esoteric experience of transcendence and joy that some people get and others don’t.

Some people don’t want religion to be universal unless it’s all under the one creed.

But my experience is that we are all operating on a personal creed, whether we admit it or not. And mine has evolved through familiarity with the thought of a half-dozen religious streams.

I don’t have the common ground of fellow-believers who sit together in their churches or mosques and provide a range of social reinforcements to their faith, but I probably don’t need it either. If I wanted to belong I probably wouldn’t have such a strong desire to explore and push past the boundaries of other people’s conventions and comfort-zones.

I can say for sure that life is meant to be enjoyed, and though i know that rubs some people the wrong way I have less and less concern about that.

Perhaps in writing this I’m letting myself have less concern about religion too; letting go of my awareness of all the varied and intricate issues within and around religious practice and belief.

Does it matter what I call myself or what others call me? Religious or not, the label doesn’t change anything for me apart from how I think others see me. And how I think others see me is…probably the least important question that could occupy my mind.

Feel good all day 11

Up til now I’ve practiced feeling good about things in my life and it’s improved my baseline mood to the point where I can feel good all day.

Reaching a new stage like “feeling good all day” naturally raises my expectations and desire for more. Contrast helps me focus on what I want, higher levels of feeling good.

Without planning or trying I’ve started to address thoughts and feelings closer to home and my own self and identity.

These are thoughts about my self-worth and how I carry myself in the world; and it’s exciting and gratifying to feel that all my focus on feeling better is now transforming the bedrock of my daily life.

It feels good to feel good. This tautology applies as much to my thoughts about myself as to thoughts about the world.

I don’t worry about world events anymore because it feels good to trust that everything is unfolding according to a higher plan.

And in the same way I can feel proud of myself for all I have accomplished. The feeling of pride and appreciation is accessible right now, and no action is required (or able) to justify or earn it.

The old patterns of thought I created were to protect me from painful emotions. I don’t need them anymore because the answer to painful emotions is not defensiveness or protection but a deliberate practice of finding better-feeling thoughts instead.

Do you create your own reality?

Remember the Law of Attraction?

It became popular in 2006 thanks to the book and film “The Secret”, but the idea has been around for a while as part of the New Thought movement.

The Law of Attraction always bothered me because it seemed incomplete. The promise of changing reality simply by changing our thoughts seemed too good to be true, or to be the complete truth.

On the one hand, I’ve seen in my own life that perceptions can, for all intents and purposes, blind me to possibilities and realities that are outside my experience or my expectations.

Likewise, there is plenty of psychological evidence to support the claim that we create – if not our reality – then our fully immersive interpretation of reality, through cognitive and perceptual biases.

But New Thought wants to go much further than that, claiming that reality itself is dependent on the content or tone of our thoughts, with some going so far as to claim that reality exists in order to mirror back to us the contents of our own thoughts.

I wrote some time ago about the paradox at the heart of the law of attraction, but lately I’ve been reflecting on another, deeper paradox, and I think we can now reconcile the two.

While the law of attraction people were encouraging us to write imaginary cheques or bank statements to help us feel rich, or build scrapbooks of our dream home or dream car, dream partner or dream career, what they failed to clarify was that the you who wants to create a more satisfying reality is as much a creation of your thoughts as anything else.

Your thoughts create reality, but on what side of the equation does your sense of self and your many desires fall? Do you create or control your thoughts? Or are you yourself a product of your thoughts and impressions?

It may be true that your thoughts create your reality, but that doesn’t mean you can willfully control your thoughts or your reality.

That’s because your sense of self is as much a construct and creation as anything else in your experience. It has more in common with the objects of sensation than with the subject – consciousness – at the very heart of it.

So let’s revise the law of attraction thinking: your thoughts create your reality, including your own self and identity. This self or identity is a product of your thoughts, not the origin or producer.

That’s why all the encouragement to focus on and think about your desires should be viewed with ambivalence, because it implicitly reinforces an illusory sense of control, the idea that you can have whatever you want if you just want it with enough effort and focus.

Your thoughts create your reality, including the sense of a self who has control over its own thoughts.

That probably wouldn’t sell as many books as promising people all the wealth and success they think they need, deserve, or desire, but it does explain why those promises fell short.

Incidentally, this is why New Age and New Thought sources often invoke the concept of your true self or higher self. It is in part a valid attempt to depreciate your self-centred desires and illusion of control. It’s an attempt to talk directly to the ‘self’ behind the curtain, the real source of your thoughts and impressions.

The higher/true self idea can be found in the far older Upanishads, which describe the self as two birds sitting on a tree.

Some have argued that the same idea is echoed in St Paul’s depiction of the Inner and Outer man.

This is why mysticism contains the theme of enlightenment as remembering who you really are, or realising the source of all your thoughts and impressions as something mysterious, hidden, and divine.  Likewise it is the outer self, the illusory self that must die or be denied – be recognised as a product, a construct, a creation, rather than the creator.

As the commentary on the “two birds” analogy put it:

We are drowned, submerged, in the deadly ocean of samsara, of continual birth, death, pain and pleasure. Sankara points out that the individual self is overwhelmed with confusion because it cannot understand what is really happening to it, and why. Just like a piece of driftwood on the heaving sea, it is lifted up and down, thrown onto the shore and then pulled out to sea again. So it grieves at its helplessness and hopelessness.

All is changed, though, when the individual sees, right in the core of his being, the very God he has been hitherto worshipping as separate from himself. Experiencing within his own being the presence and the glory of God–and thereby realizing that glory as his own–the individual becomes liberated from sorrow.

This doesn’t mean – can never mean – that the deluded, flawed, illusory sense of self is God. But it points to the Imago Dei of the inner man, the “Christ born in us”, the participation of the individual being in the divine Being of our creator.

‘White’ identity in a multicultural world

My latest piece on Mercatornet.com examines the bizarre claim that we are living through a period of ‘white genocide’ under the guise of multiculturalism and diversity. If I may paraphrase Pastor Niemöller “First they came for the entitled Anglo-Irish majority, and I did not speak out- Because they were clearly overreacting…”

White Australians are generally in the privileged position of being able only to imagine the kind of persecution, suffering, and violence that a select few religious and ethnic groups have endured for real. It’s as though they’ve looked around at the steady stream of migrants and wondered ‘maybe this is that genocide thing we’ve heard so much about?’ What these ‘pro-White’ activists lack in moral seriousness, they make up for with a bizarre, depressingly sincere global persecution complex, an anthropologically untenable racial category of ‘White’, and a seemingly limitless sympathy for their own imagined plight.

http://www.mercatornet.com/articles/view/white_identity_in_a_multicultural_world