Who are we? Where did we come from? Where are we going? Why are we here? What’s life all about??? For lack of a better term, these questions and their ilk are among the “core questions of humanity”. They are an inherent part of our nature. We are innately compelled to seek understanding of our place in the universe.
Being curious about the world around us is an innate trait but we should note these inquiries are taken a lot more seriously than other inquiries. It could be argued we would naturally be even more curious about things that applied to our existence, but even then we can see these core questions have a deeper grasp on humanity than even particularly intriguing trivia. Knowledge pertaining to our existence and relation to the universe touches the depths of our beings. It’s far more than intellectual musings over awe inspiring and wonderful things found in the universe. Those inquiries involve something deep within us. That we feel sensations reverberate throughout our beings when we touch upon such things only provides a hint of how deeply involved our understandings are with the rest of our beings. The phenomenon of epiphany provides another glimpse as to how some conscious considerations impact far more of our beings than consciousness. Consciousness is only marginally involved with this, most of what’s going on there involves subconsciousness.
The answers we gain mean more to us than we may presume. We process virtually everything we are and do through them.
It is fairly evident our ‘core questions’ originate within subconsciousness given the innate origins of such curiosities. What is less event to us is what we do with those answers. Being compelled to understand our relation to universe is familiar enough to us, however, we don’t have conscious engagement with the next step in that process anymore than our consciousness is involved with compelling us to research our relationship to everything in first place. It stands to reason the ultimate relevance of those questions could be obscure. What happens is those answers go straight back to subconsciousness where they effectively serve as foundation from which we largely derive our identities, philosophies, moralities, world views, ways of being, approach to existence… So much of what and how we are can be traced back to what we believe. This may seem to be a rather curious conclusion until you take an honest look at humanity, at which point all there is to find is overwhelming evidence. Take the religiously devout for instance, they are effectively literal manifestations of their belief structure in a profusion of ways. Atheists are no different; the way they engage existence is a direct result of what they make of it. We all look into the universe to gain understanding of our relationship to it, then we live through what we find; our process of growing includes working that in. This is how humanity operates. Families turning their backs on their own members for acting contrary to their beliefs stands as testament to how strong of a force belief structure is. Dissenters within more strict environments face being murdered by their own parents; it happens all the time, and the only “good” reason for any of it exists in the rhetoric of belief structure. As we shall see on this site, the more we investigate it the more proof of this dynamic we find: we don’t just form belief structures we operate through them, that so much of what we are and do is established by them.
The architecture of human psyche means even greater significance for our world views.
Fair to say most of us are familiar with the properties of consciousness, after all we dwell there all the time. Subconsciousness, however, mostly escapes us so it might be worthy to review some its properties. First of all, the neocortex part of the brain is the pride of humanity; it amounts to our upper and frontal lobes which are responsible for many of our most treasured traits: advanced, abstract, rational, analytical thought, planning, language, and so much more that makes us what we are and enables what we have. Deeper within are the limbic regions of the brain, which are responsible for our feelings, emotionalism, behavior, decision making, loyalty, and other things. Those regions and functions more or less draw the line between consciousness and subconsciousness. It implies we mostly do our thinking in consciousness, but mostly act from subconsciousness –which is precisely what works coming out of neuroscience, cognition, and related fields amount to. Leaders in neuroscience Jonathan Haidt (-his outline of how psyche is akin of a man riding an elephant) and Michael Gazzaniga (-his work on “interpreter module” of the brain) describe exactly that, while leadership consultant Simon Sinek’s “Golden Circle” is derived from the insight. Mostly operating from a place that has no capacity for language is an exceptionally pertinent dynamic; its impact on our world is hard to understate.
“The first principal is that you must not fool yourself, and you are the easiest person to fool” -Feynman
That Feynman quote does not apply to eminent physicists alone. In fact, it’s likely to apply to us here and now, and understanding why is profoundly significant to our world. The reason it applies is the above ultimately adds up to spirituality is a genuine, sincere, fundamental trait of humanity. Defined: spirituality is the predisposition to understand and identify oneself with their origin and relation to the universe. Spirituality is about relationship, and that’s how it occurs to humanity, we know it mostly through our conscious relationship to it. Thus, when we ask humanity what spirituality is we should expect to see the answers converge as they do upon a relation to their deity, relation to universe, relation to family/ancestors, a sense of morality/philosophy, alignment with a greater thing/purpose… The type of relationship described is often multifaceted and is rather profound, addressing the very nature of their beings, the nature of the universe, the nature of our relationship to universe, as well as how it informs them to be worthy of their place… Arguably, the definition offered above well captures both what humanity has been trying to express all along, irrespective of faith, as well as properly identifying it to be a legitimate demonstrable trait of humanity. Unfortunately, it seems the vast majority of humanity thinks spirituality is the exclusive domain of religion. Atheists tend to see spirituality as purely a construct of religion (independent of, and completely irrelevant to them), while the religious tend to think there’s virtually no distinction between religious faith and spirituality. However, the properties of humanity rather definitively declare it to be something entirely different. Putting all of the above together reveals spirituality to be a fundamental human trait alone. This of course demotes religion to merely a form of “spiritual path” -a collection of answers and considerations meant to fulfill the requirements spirituality places upon us. The truth is the religious are no more *spiritual* than atheists are; atheists may balk at the term and notion, but they too have looked into the universe to find their place in it, and then have used that information to inform them of their nature and ways of being, as all spiritual beings do; whether or not deity is involved with one’s spirituality is excessively inconsequential to its presence. Feynman also mentioned how clever ‘mother nature’ is, often more clever than we are. Let’s hope we’re exceptionally clever today because we may need to outsmart ourselves.
Spirituality is primarily a subconscious phenomenon. It originates in subconsciousness, compels consciousness to do some research on the universe/world around us for some info on it and our place within. Then subconsciousness takes our research and incorporates those understandings into our beings such that we operate through them by default, often without further consideration. In fact, further consideration is often unwelcome. Once we’ve settled on some understandings it becomes part of us, part of our being, and we’re not usually keen on having our beings challenged. Reviewing where certain aspects of our being lie provides some insight as to why that is. World view/belief structure/spiritual path is born of subconscious urging so it ultimately residing subconsciousness is perfectly reasonable; however, there are consequences to that: it places world view/belief structure/spiritual path in close proximity to our feelings, emotionalism, behavior, decision making, and loyalty while making those understandings distant from language, logic, advanced, abstract, rational, analytical thought. The implications of those consequences more or less define humanity, and our world -more on that later. But first, about being clever: do we have consensus here? Do you find yourself agreeing with this assessment? If not, why not? Could it be a matter brevity? Fortunately, this site endeavors to cover the depth and breadth of spirituality and its implications; spirituality, how it interacts with human psyche, and how they contribute to the state of our world are fully explained here. So that is an issue that is easily overcome. However, there may be other factors hindering consensus, and they have everything to do with the properties of world view.
What “spirituality” is to you is necessarily tied to your spirituality (as explained here), and this content is in contrast to how most of humanity understands the universe/world/ourselves to be. It follows difference of opinion is going to amount to distinctions within world view, the domain of spirituality. And again, these understandings reside in our subconscious minds, essentially a place that has no capacity for language nor is concerned with rational analytics, yet drives emotionalism, loyalty, behavior, decision making, among other things. Not surprising the way psyche usually deals with conflict to world view is to deem the conflict to our own understandings outright wrong then simply brush them off with zero sincere consideration. It doesn’t occur to us in that manner, however; consciously we know the conflict is just plain wrong, the depths of our beings know it to be so… our consciousness may not fully understand it but our subconscious somehow has it figured out and simply knows better. We probably should dig deeper into what our beings are settled on, however. It’s not entirely uncommon for our beings to convinced of things that have negligible support and justification (it can range into the utterly ridiculous at times, fact checking is the job of other areas of our being). In fact, with some awareness of this dynamic, it shouldn’t be too hard to recognize subconsciousness defending its own beliefs in our daily lives, even when faced with a stronger stance, utilizing the tools it has: emotionalism, loyalty, behavior… It’s pretty keen on doing what it has to do to protect itself, leaving consciousness to rationalize it as best as it can, which is the precise function of the “interpreter module of the brain”(as described by Michael Gazzaniga, one of the leading researchers in cognitive neuroscience) -roughly, to make what goes on in our subconsciousness comprehensible and justified to our consciousness. It is the nature of humanity to behave this way. This is the sentient creature’s version of instinct, and we are subject to it just as other creatures are subject to their instinct. It would be reasonable to assume something akin to our consciousness is somehow hardwired to our beings while spirituality gets processed through some type of interface, but this is not the case at all; spirituality is hardwired to our beings, while our consciousness operates on an interface.
[Please note: “spiritual” is taken only to mean “of or pertaining to spirituality”, as defined above. There are no other connotations. Cartesian dualism, for instance, never had any direct association with spirituality. As we now know, spirituality is a fundamental human trait, exclusively. Dualist realms, gods, and all other answers gained through/inspired by spirituality amount to a spiritual path or tenets thereof.]
The forest isn’t exactly distinct from the trees.
Having some awareness of spirituality and how humanity interacts with it is complete investigation unto itself, however it can also be a foundation. The rest of that story involves all the answers humanity gets, and subsequently operates through. It turns out history has done a fine job of summarizing that story for us because the world view of humanity has been dominated by Abrahamic religion (Judaism, Christianity, Islam) for thousands of years; this becomes particularly clear and robust when considering colonialism, the industrial revolution, how global systems remain westernized… Eastern Traditions are indeed a significant influence on the whole of humanity but it’s still fair to say most of modern civilization’s growth, development, and prevailing character have been dominated by sub cultures that have been dominated by the Abrahamic spiritual path. -more on that later; for now we should note there are some rather visible side-effects of that circumstance embedded within our global social and economic systems, provided we understand how the environment operates and know what we’re looking for. In fact, with a robust understanding of spirituality we can come to know how our world works fairly well. The perspective that makes all the difference is being aware of how we interact with our world views. Within conventional understanding of spirituality it might be fair to say the significance of one’s world view/belief structure/spiritual path (defined as only being a collection of ‘answers’ our core questions have inspired) is not exceptionally significant. They’re known to give a sense of purpose, meaning, and guidance to individuals but it still seems conventional understanding places ultimate significance of world view more among mere intellectual considerations than anything else. The properties of humanity don’t support that conclusion, however; and the way our world works most certainly does not support that conclusion. We’ve already seen how the properties of humanity converge on world views (and by extension, spirituality) having much greater significance to our lives than usually given credit for. Now we can see how it has a much greater impact upon our world than usually given credit for, and the only thing it takes is for us to keep in mind that “subconsciousness takes our research and incorporates those understandings into our beings such that we operate through them by default, often without further consideration”. …that world view, once adopted, becomes how we process information…it becomes a directive of sorts, a modus operandi. With that in mind, our world becomes readily comprehensible.