Happy Woden’s (Odin’s) Day.
Spirituality is a very broad term and even among those who believe you have to define what perspective is being used in regards to spirituality. Christian Spirituality, Pagan Spirituality, Islamic Spirituality, Hindu Spirituality, and Buddist Spirituality all have their various difference in how to approach the spiritual nature of humanity in relationship to the divine. But what of Atheist Spirituality. Without the supernatural in any form is spirituality possible? I believe the answer is yes and all these forms tap into something that is probably very human.
Sam Harris in the quote above is on to something when he gives a shortlist of 1) spiritual experience, 2) ethical behavior and 3) strong communities all leading to human happiness. I am going to lay the last two aside because for me these are found in following virtue which I discuss extensively and strong communities is a community discussion as far as I am concerned, What interests me is ‘what is the nature and function of spiritual experience as an atheist?
Time to Look Through the Eye:
“To see the truth, change one eye for another”
I agree that spiritual experience is a product of the human mind and a natural propensity to spiritualize consciousness. I believe it is an awareness of the world, people and society around us and represents our attempt using our consciousness to understand it all. It is this foundation of consciousness that I think is the root of spirituality and eventually paganism in its very early forms. We all start I think as pagans from a consciousness point of view until something comes along to change our viewpoint.
It is the product of some form of meditation, using this term in the broadest sense involving thinking and feeling at length about a subject, that change in our consciousness is achieved. Spiritual change is more about psychology than the supernatural. We change our ethics and perspective because we come to different conclusions as we meditate on issues and thoughts. This is spiritual in the sense it involves our psyche, but might not have anything to with powers and forces outside ourselves.
This is one area where there is a lot of mystery. Sure a lot has been discovered by science, but the social sciences, in my opinion, still lack that germ theory moment where a breakthrough happens that changes our understanding of the nature of the subject dramatically. Until then, the mystery is there but it isn’t an excuse but rather a motivation to open up our consciousness even more as we seek to understand it.
For me, the foundation of my spirituality is both pagan and atheist. It is the primitive attempt to understand the world around me using nothing more than my own sense fo consciousness. I, however, believe that this is the product of the human mind and imagination, not supernatural forces. It is this kernel of truth that survives that I used to surround with religion but now is my own godless and religionless mind.
I have thus no problem using any religious idea that I feel reflects this. Following the Nine Noble Virtues, for instance, is a good example of taking something like virtue and using it to provide a framework for philosophical thought while discarding actual belief in the gods of Norse mythology. I sense as I use religion for this purpose more universal truths will surface like this, but I don’t need to be religious or religiously spiritual to appreciate them and utilize them. So yes, atheist spirituality is a thing. It is spirituality focused on humanity and the world we live in rather than spirits or gods.
The Rabyd Skald – Wandering Soul, Bard, and Philosopher. The Grey Wayfarer.