I have been an atheist since eleven years of age, and I still am -- I do not believe in God, because there is not, as far as I am able to determine, a single shred of evidence to support such a notion.
But believing in God is not the only kind of spiritual belief, altho it is the only kind that most people are aware of. Indeed, the very term 'spiritual' makes this evident: Tho God and his subalterns such as angels, devils and souls are thought of as the only spirits, in fact the spiritual world -- if it exists -- does not depend on God's existence, but may exist quite happily without it.
With the above in mind, let me say that I DO believe in a spiritual world, where by 'believe' I do not mean 'with certainty', but rather that the existence of such a world -- or realm, or aspect of reality -- seems to me to be more probable than not. I do not say this on the basis of direct personal experience, as I have never had any such experience as far as I am aware, tho I may have had such without recognizing it. Rather I assert my belief in the spiritual on the same basis as I assert my belief in scientific laws -- the testimony of numerous others in whom I see no motive to lie, who support and reinforce one another in their view that there is a realm beyond that of the everyday world, and whose experiences are described in such detail and with such respect for rationality as to make the likelihood of lying or delusion unlikely. My point here is that the evidence supporting a 'belief' in science is no stronger than the evidence supporting a 'belief' in spirituality; and in fact spirituality has just as strong a claim to being called 'scientific' as science does. It is true, of course, that manifestations of spirituality have had difficulty in being reproduced in the laboratory, but this has apparently been as a result of the fact that the presence of hostile minds often make such reproduction impossible (the so-called 'sheep and goat' effect). But irrespective of this, there have been enuf laboratory reproductions of spiritual phenomena to leave no doubt that spirituality -- at least in a limited way -- can indeed be observed under laboratory conditions.
Before going further, it may be asked how one can differentiate between what might be called 'mechanical' phenomena which are (or appear) 'supernormal', eg, thought transference or prevision, and genuinely 'spiritual' phenomena which seem non-mechanical in the sense of involving willful (if disembodied) personalities, as one might experience in a seance. The answer is that we cannot now know whether such a distinction is possible, as 'mechanical' phenomena may in fact be mediated by 'disembodied personalities', or 'spiritual' phenomena may simply prove to be some kind of 'imprint' which, like a hectograph, can produce 'emanations' that seem to be the result of intelligence, but in fact are simply some kind of reflection or echo off the 'imprints' which remain after the passing of the being by whom the 'imprints' were made. Indeed, it may be possible that both explanations are true, if we posit that 'intelligence' and 'personality' are the result of mechanism, as I did in my Systems Theory. But even if this explanation is more satisfying to the mechanistic-oriented scientist, it may not be the most convenient theory, any more than it is a convenient theory to imagine human beings to be 'nothing but' machines, albeit biological ones.
In the present context I should make plain that my belief in spirituality does not depend on laboratory observations, but rather on what scientists hostile to spiritual belief call 'anecdotal evidence'. As it happens, however, this phrase is merely a smear term intended to make third parties disbelieve in spiritual phenomena, when all that is meant is simply the testimony of first-hand observers, albeit under non-laboratory conditions. Such testimony is of course perfectly acceptable in all other contexts for establishing the truth or falsity of assertions -- as in a court of law, or by historians -- and there is not the least reason to abandon it in the case of spirituality. It may be true that 'anecdotal evidence' relies on the testimony of untrained observers in contexts where illusion may take place or where irrational beliefs or improper expectations may hold sway, but this is equally true of court testimony or the statements relied upon by historians, and their fallibility can be elucidated in exactly the same way, namely, by scrutinizing the logical coherence of the testimony and by making appropriate comparisons between statements of others who observed the same or similar phenomena. Using these tests, 'anecdotal evidence' is quite as reliable as scientific testimony, which itself is notoriously biased against spirituality and heavily influenced by the grants or institutions under which it is produced.
Having evolved from a hard-nosed tough-minded scientifically-oriented person who did not even believe in parapsychological phenomena into one who remains hard-nosed, tough-minded and scientifically-oriented, but who has come to believe in a spiritual world, my view is that not only is it unscientific to reject the available evidence for spirituality, but that those who do are themselves suffering from a delusion. To be sure, belief in spirituality has its dangers in the sense that it opens the careless mind to believing in unsupported claims and charlatanry; and for this reason it is important for any believer to make certain his beliefs are subject to adequately rigorous criteria, or at least adequate suspension of belief until empirically confirmed. Thus by accepting the truth of spirituality, one does not automatically accept all the religious and superstitious nonsense which has gone about under its rubric, and one may still feel free to make fun of whatever is foolish without fear or favor. Furthermore, one needs to realize that spirituality, like athletic prowess, is not able to be manifested in a mechanical way, but may often be unrealized without ceasing to be real.
There are several sources of information which have been pivotal in my spiritual awakening. One of these has been the numerous episodes of the TV program Sightings, which investigates many supernormal phenomena, tho not always those which would be called spiritual. I do not know whether this program is still in production, tho I believe episodes still appear on the SciFi Channel. Beyond these are several books, including Michael Talbott's The Holographic Universe, Max Freedom Long's The Secret Science Behind Miracles, and May Sewall's Neither Dead Nor Sleeping. The books of Lyall Watson, including Supernature, Beyond Supernature and The Dreams of Dragons are also important, and there are undoubtedly many others which could be cited. One book of special importance which I know only from a summary is Extra-Sensory Perception of Quarks by Stephen Phillips, an absolutely astonishing psychic exploration by Theosophist Annie Besant of the physical properties of atoms (an article on this appears on my website (www.thebirdman.org) in 'Articles of Others' under Science). I should add that the mind must be open to properly appreciate these books; and the fact that I have spent much time trying to satisfy myself that psi phenomena are real has helped considerably in this regard, as have books on unusual (ie, Fortean or 'anomalous') but not-necessarily-spiritual-or-psychic phenomena, including those by Ivan Sanderson, William Corliss, and a number of other authors.
In looking at history, the persistence of religion is striking. While I thought at one time that this was due to reinforcement of superstition which has been so ably explained by BF Skinner in his investigation of what he called 'the development of superstition' in pigeons, I now believe it is also due to a recognition of the reality of psychic phenomena and other aspects of spirituality, even tho overt manifestations of such phenomena are usually restricted to a relatively small number of people. But what is also striking is that there has historically been a notable cleavage between organized religion on the one hand, which has been relatively divorced from psychic and similar phenomena, and on the other hand what might be called 'disorganized religion', or 'individual spirituality', which is manifest in psychic phenomena and other evidences of the spiritual realm.
One of the most interesting things about the above-noted cleavage is organized religion's hostility to individual spirituality, and even its reluctance to incorporate individual spirituality into organized religion when its practitioners see it as such. This has been manifest in the intense persecution of witches, and the equating of witches to demons and devils and their practices to 'evil'. This, of course, is quite absurd, but the explanation seems clear: The Organization wants to control spirituality, since men love power and the benefits which stem from that power. Individual spirituality, then, represents competition -- not only does it reduce the power of the Organization, but it challenges the Organization's dogmas with its own truths. And of course witch-hunting was great fun for sadists and puritans, as they could torture their enemies unmercifully and involve themselves in forbidden sexuality, all under color of canon law. And while witchcraft and its close relatives continue to be denounced -- witness the anathemas of the Birchers and other religious fundamentalists against Theosophy, Luciferianism, Masonry, Aleister Crowley, the Illuminati, the Harry Potter novels, and the like -- 'magick' continues to prosper and be practiced, as demonstrated by its acceptance by many powerful figures from Adolf Hitler and the nazis of the Thule Society to Ronald Reagan and his astrologically-oriented wife. (An interesting book on the former subject is Hitler: Black Magician by Gerald Suster). Indeed, the satanism and other genuinely evil practices -- particularly child sexual abuse -- described by Cathy O'Brien (The Trance-Formation of America), John DeCamp (The Franklin Coverup), Jon Rappoport and other authors, are likely outgrowths of non-Organizational spiritualism; and in view of this it seems unsurprising that the center of much of this practice, as described by DeCamp, is in Boys' Town, which is an institution run by spiritual men (Catholic priests) who are in some sense 'outsiders' to the Organization because of their notorious proclivity for homosexuality and pedophilia.
In speaking of the persecution of witchcraft, it is appropriate to mention the role of the Jews. According to Nesta Webster (Secret Societies and Subversive Movements (1924): 80),
"If ignorant superstition is found on the side of the persecutors, still more amazing superstition is found on the side of the persecuted. Demonology in Europe was essentially a Jewish science, for although a belief in evil spirits existed from the earliest times and has always continued to exist amongst primitive races, and also amongst the ignorant classes in civilized countries, it was mainly through the Jews that these dark superstitions were imported to the West, where they persisted not merely amongst the lower strata of the Jewish population, but formed an essential part of Jewish tradition."
This suggests that there were two schools of Jewish religious thought, one being the traditional school of Talmud and Torah, and the other being a non-Yahweh religion centering around the Kabala. This second school, then, and the influence it had according to Webster, might point to an early discovery of spirituality outside the Yahweh-oriented mainstream, as does witchcraft for Christianity; and indeed, it could be argued in light of the Webster quote that the Jews were responsible for the discovery -- or at least the promulgation -- of this spirituality. As the Webster quote indicates, this tradition is still being denounced by Organization types, as the traditional Christian Webster was; and stories still persist about Jews killing young gentiles to obtain their blood for Passover matzoh and other Satanic-type rituals. What is striking about this is that it parallels so closely the allegations of Satanism which have been made by DeCamp, and suggests that both Jews and gentiles have been trying to 'tap into' some kind of strange spiritual power which is outside the religious mainstream. We can only wonder whether Jews have been successful, and whether this might have had an influence on their dominance in the modern world. Indeed, with the superior IQ attributed to Jews, we might suppose that they would be the first to appreciate the power of the paranormal, and to pursue it in spite of persecution.
In some ways my life has been empty by having failed to discover spirituality until so late in life, and indeed has caused me great difficulty in attempting to find a purpose and orientation. After much philosophical effort I did manage to find a salve (if not quite salvation) for my 'spiritual emptiness', but spirituality has given me an important boost in making me realize that there is much in this life that I do not fully understand, but which is nevertheless important, and which makes me see that my life may well have importance beyond the grave. I do not say this as dogma -- only as a reasonable hypothesis -- but the possiblity that there is something to existence beyond this mortal coil, even if not Heaven or Hell -- cannot help but order one's existence in a totally different way, as it has done mine. And while I cannot say that I have resolved the logical difficulties inherent in the mind-body duality which I discuss extensively in my Systems Theory and Scientific Philosophy, I am convinced that this resolution is merely one more element of this world which I am unable to understand in my present state of human unenlightenment, and which I must accept along with the many other conundra that seem to render the universe physically impossible and/or contrary to logic, such as the fact of our existence, the existence of the very non-physical realm of ideas, or the ability of psychic phenomena to co-exist with ordinary physical existence.
At least one book I have read on the subject of spirituality asserted that the spiritual world contains spirits both good and bad, altho it has seemed from other books that good spirits predominate. But whether there are both good and bad, or only good, and whether God exists or not, the imperative which the spirit world has with respect to an afterlife seems to be the same as it has for this one: To act rightly, and by so doing, to reap the rewards and avoid the consequences of bad behavior. The imperative is even stronger because our lives may well continue beyond the grave in some fashion; and thus one is impelled to act with attention to the consequences of the long term, and perhaps of the very long term.
Because of religion's universality, I have always wondered whether religion was an epiphenomenon grafted onto civilization by a peculiar weakness of the human mind -- a sort of mental appendix that could be removed at any time without any consequence -- or whether instead it was an essential ingredient of the human psyche which functioned as a sort of sine qua non without which the success and continuation of human life would simply not be possible. It is easy to see how animals could get religion; and indeed I am sure that my pigeons regard me as God for feeding and sheltering them, and may even secretly worship me and pray to me. But does this mean, then, as Voltaire asserted, that if God did not exist, man would have to invent him? What I am driving at is, as Western civilization has become increasingly divorced from spirituality, it has begun to implode, with the creators and inheritors of that civilization not only ceasing to have children, but also becoming increasingly oblivious to the destructive political and social policies of their leaders which have set the West on the road to rapid ruin. How can the offspring of an entire generation fail to recognize their obligation to preserve and add to that magnificent creation which has been their birthright, and which was wrought from the bare earth at the cost of thousands of years of blood, sweat, toil and tears? Perhaps it is time for a new Great Awakening -- a time to discover for ourselves the Great White Spirit of our ancestors -- and so save their superlative creation from the barbarians that are not only at our gates, but already inside them.
It has been related in many newspaper accounts that the reason for the fearlessness and magnificent fighting ability of the Islamic soldiers is their belief that they will enter paradise if they are killed in battle. Such attitudes are scoffed at by sophisticated Westerners as products of a benighted religious fundamentalism; but the question of what makes Islamic fighters so formidable is just a repetition of the question of why the West is imploding. Surely it is true, as Louis L'amour once said, that whatever is worth dying for is also worth living for; but it equally remains a fact that without the courage to die, one does not have the courage to live -- a thought so well expressed by that cry of the American Revolution, and the motto of New Hampshire today, "Live free or die." But is this not simply a secular expression of the belief in the Spirit of Freedom, a sort of re-rendering of the Biblical psalm "Yea tho I walk thru the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for Thou art with me"? We may scoff at the Islamics, but they seem to know in their bones what we have collectively forgotten with our minds.
Blaise Pascal, the famous mathematician, believed in God by taking what he termed a 'leap of faith', because he thought the consequences of not believing and being wrong in this disbelief were too severe. With our knowledge today, it does not take a Pascalian leap of faith to believe in the spiritual -- it only requires that one open his eyes.
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