Our spiritual lifeJanuary 19, 2014
This text started as a comment to the latest post of fellow blogger Jennifer Browdy de Hernandez (here), but despite my attempts to keep it simple it grew to a size which makes it unsuitable for a comment.
Throughout my life I was fascinated by the sacred texts of Asian cultures, the most eminent of them being the Tao De King (Dao De Jing), which I read in five English and two German translations. I also read many translations of Buddhist and Zen-Buddhist writings.
The translations which I read were clearly shaped by the personality of the translators, but this didn’t bother me because I thought, that someone who has spent a good part of her or his life to learn an ancient Asian language must in the process have also gained a deep understanding of ancient wisdom.
The Tao De King as well as the Buddhist texts are not meant to be critically analyzed and dissected, these are inspirational texts which reach us on a level beyond the computation that goes on in the Central Executive (or Working Memory) area of our prefrontal cortex.
Like many others I have been taught by life in often very harsh lessons, that our world is much too diverse and multifarious to be understood or even fully recognized in all its beauty or ugliness by our limited senses and our even more limited cognitive capabilities.
We see, hear, feel, smell only a tiny little bit of what is going on around us and we are not able to fully comprehend even that severely abridged and abstracted information. Most of the sensory signals are ignored, discounted, thrown away and our brain only processes what it can easily recognize, categorize, understand.
Generations of philosophers and scientists based their understanding of the world on the principle of causality and the causal chain which was then extended to multi-causality and many parallel causal chains which in the end was upgraded to the notion of an infinite (or nearly infinite) number of vectors, forces, movements interconnected with each other and influencing each other.
Well, that seems a fine and adequate speculative model of the world, it is the best what scientific thinking can master right now, it only has the disadvantage that we cannot really grasp it.
It doesn’t help that nature, as we found out (or at least believe that we have found out) is a nonlinear system with amplification curves that can be exponential, logarithmic, sinusoidal, hyperbolic, elliptic, or whatever.
Scientists seek refuge in statistical mathematics and probability theory, network theory, chaos theory, knowing that their provisional and tentative approaches are not the finite answer. We have seen, that the most sophisticated computer models running on the most powerful supercomputers may generate completely false results because a tiny and as insignificant considered factor was omitted.
No, we don’t have the finite answers to the mysteries of the universe and we maybe never will. Who can unhesitating and completely self-assured claim that she or he fully understands quantum mechanics?
Can spirituality transcend the boundaries of cognition?
Before I end this text with a full heartedly, enthusiastic “yes.” here in a few words my definition of spirituality:
The logical thinking in our Central Executive is not the most important and most powerful function of our brain, it is by far eclipsed by pattern recognition. Millions of synaptic connections are involved in a single process and any one of these synapses is a powerful and versatile operator which can function as a switch, an operational amplifier, a unit of boolean algebra, or a frequency filter. The synapses are channeling and transforming the flow of action potentials and they are controlled by dozens of excitatory or inhibitory neurotransmitters.
The complexity of these processes is truly mind-boggling and the achieved results are mind-boggling and stunning as well. Faintest similarities between the structures of incoming sensory signals and stored memory patterns can be recognized, vague structures, symmetries, repetitions, that our conscious mind never would be able to identify, can be detected.
Intuition, creativity, fantasy, vision, spirituality are all based on the magic of pattern recognition. Utilizing pattern recognition and combining it with meditation practices that increase control over the brain and the nervous system will make you a spiritual person.
True spirituality, undiluted by superstition or religion, can become a powerful force and the guiding light in ones life, true spirituality will open your eyes, let you look through the fog, will be the compass and the map. It will be Aladdin’s ring and Aladdin’s lamp, it will keep you unhurt and will help you to navigate the rough waters of life and avoid the deadly dangers lurking everywhere.
Follow your heart, it will lead you to the hidden gate that your conscious mind never would have found.