Modern culture is defined by the experience of the 5-sense world. Things that we can physically quantify and measure set our parameters of reality. There are phenomena that can be observed and proven with the 5 senses and there are things and concepts in this world that are objective. But, that does not necessarily mean that everyone shares one uniform consensus reality.
There is a vast world beyond our five senses. Despite a lack of understanding of what this world beyond the five senses is composed of, there is a mountain of evidence that proves it exists. It is best for everyone to personally interpret what lies beyond the five senses and respect the interpretations of others, instead of fighting over something that will not likely be proven in our lifetime.
When pursuing a spiritual path, even if an individual’s intuition isn’t “real” or “true” in the quantifiable sense, the experience they are having and the information they bring back from their journey, even if it is simply a journey into the deepest reaches of their own mind, can still provide value and facilitate positive growth in this world.
That being said, it seems that the most logical spiritual path to take would be an agnostic one. Before we go forward, it is important to define some of these terms, especially “spirituality” and “agnosticism.”
Spirituality can be defined as:
“An individual’s personal set of beliefs about the great mysteries of life and the world beyond the five senses.”
Traditionally, the idea of spirituality has been attached to the concept of religion. However, “Spirituality” and “Religion” actually represent two entirely different philosophies. A religion is a one-size-fits-all-worldview with a hierarchy, a set of rules and oftentimes a priest class to enforce it all. Spirituality is a free and personal interpretation or connection with a spirit realm or higher power or whatever that person wants to call it. Spirituality is a practice that brings an individual closer to their essence, where essence means a set of attributes that make an object what it is.
To use a comparison, Anarchy is to Statism, as Spirituality is to Religion. Anarchy is the physical manifestation of freedom and spirituality is a mental manifestation of freedom. In contrast, Statism is control in the physical sense, and religion is control in the mental or spiritual sense.
The organized religions of the world have created untold suffering and manipulate wars. They have spread propaganda, instigated genocide and justified slavery. These facts cannot be ignored. However, that does not mean that these institutions have nothing to teach us. All of the world’s religious teachings, from those that border on historical fact to those that are obviously myths, contain a wealth of knowledge that should be considered.
As Aristotle said,
“It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.”
Different cultures have different belief structures based on the lessons taught in their particular region of the Earth. Yet every religion tells basically the same story, using different words to accommodate whichever culture the book is coming from.
In the following chapters, we delve into the history of specific religions and their root in anti-authoritarian teachings. We are not advocating these religions, nor are we excusing the political organizations that represent them. We also do not seek to judge anyone who participates in these religions. In fact, we hope to communicate that all religions are rooted in the same spirit of anti-authoritarianism and that they can all coexist peacefully.
We hold the perspective that religious organizations have taken legitimate ancient spiritual teachings and corrupted them with their own political ideologies. This is why many religions seem to have the same basic truths, but also much of the same poison and disinformation. A positive spiritual philosophy usually turns into a violent control mechanism when it is corrupted by a figure of authority. It is at this point when everything changes– the goals are no longer to discover powerful truths, but to fear the future and cling to the past in order to serve some master.
At our current stage of evolution we have about the same chance of understanding the spirit realm as a goldfish has of understanding quantum physics, so it’s absolutely insane for us to be killing each other in the name of god. At the heart of this ignorance is fear– fear that has been stirred up and manipulated by our oppressors for many generations. They have preyed upon our natural fears of the unknown, of change and of death, while only giving us fractions of information about our existence.
We can now look back throughout history and see that most wars and crusades in the name of religion were actually wars over land, resources and empire expansion. The Rulers of the time used their subjects’ deep fear of god to manipulate them into going on crusades, just as our rulers today use fear tactics to con us into fighting and dying in wars. Like pawns on a chessboard, men and women are sent out to war by an almighty sovereign, who believes they are expendable. This kind of senseless carnage is still taking place without much questioning from the public. Insignificant differences among common people of all nations are still used by those in power for the sake of conquest. Whether those differences are religion, race, economic status or culture, they are used as justifications to commit atrocities.
Technically speaking, Agnosticism is the perspective that supernatural matters cannot be proven or disproven. Agnosticism is traditionally defined as:
the view that any ultimate reality (as God) is unknown and probably unknowable; broadly :
one who is not committed to believing in either the existence or the nonexistence of God or a god
Historically, agnostics have chosen to stay away from supernatural topics altogether. The position advocated in this book takes a more hands-on approach. We believe there is wisdom and self-discovery to be gained from seeking to understand and participate in the world beyond the five senses.
Explorative Agnosticism is strongly different from atheism because there is no claim of truth beyond the five senses and there is no expectation as to what other people believe. While atheism claims to be a non-religion, some of its loudest advocates seem as concerned with evangelism as bornagain Christians. Militant atheists are very intent on changing people’s minds about whether anything lies beyond the five senses and will often form their opinions of others based on whether they believe in a higher power. The same can be said of fundamentalists of any faith and this, of course, does not apply to all atheists. A fundamentalist of any religion will claim that their perception is superior, so this is surely a view held by some atheists.
Agnostics, on the other hand, feel that it doesn’t really matter what people believe about anything that goes on beyond the five senses because none of it can be proven. There is no expectation of what others should believe and there is no personal investment in philosophical conversations. While mainstream religions and even modern atheist philosophies rely on the masses for validation, agnostics’ personal connection with nature, the universe or god(s) is validated only by their own intuition, and doesn’t depend upon the approval of others. Following that same standard, there is no need to take a role in validating or judging others, as long as they commit no physical transgressions. Agnostic-atheists may have their own atheistic beliefs, but also understand that their beliefs are just as fallible as an ancient myth.
We find agnosticism to be the most logical position to hold. However, this does not mean that the realm of the supernatural is not worth exploring.
This is why the term “Explorative Agnosticism” is so important to this discussion. While supernatural phenomena cannot be measured or proven, exploration of these realms is a worthwhile quest and necessary for the advancement of our species on this planet.
Of course, we cannot define what supernatural realms look or feel like, or how an individual should interpret them. We are simply advocating an open-minded approach to the information presented in this book. While we understand and value rational thinking and logic, we also understand that sometimes humans are better served by intuition and imagination. In fact, humans are best served when there is a balance of these two polarities.
It is in the world of imagination, creation, self-reflection and deep connection to the non-physical that rational thinking often proves insufficient. You might experience a transcendental state of meditation leading to insight about your path, but the rational side of your brain may tell you to disregard gnosis gained from such states of “incoherence.”
Perhaps you participate in a sweat lodge and drumming ceremony and find yourself carried away on a cloud to a distant location to communicate with animal spirits. Logic may tell you to disregard these experiences as nothing more than irrelevant dreams or outright fabrications.
We, however, believe it is not up to the collective to decide what is “real” and valuable for another person in their experience on their path. In his essay “Seeing is Believing: The Four Worlds of Shamanism”, Polynesian Shaman, Serge King, Ph.D, discusses the four worlds, or experiences, that “everyone moves in and out of spontaneously and usually unconsciously.”
King breaks the human experience down into four worlds: Ike Papakahi, The Objective (Ordinary) World; Ike Papalua, The Subjective (Psychic) World; Ike Papakolu, The Symbolic (Dream) World; and Ike Papaha, The Holistic World (World of Being). He describes the experience of standing in a meadow from each of these different worlds.
In the Objective World, you might notice the physical aspects of the scene– the colors of the plants, soil and sky, the square footage, the variety of plant life and so on. In this world, the fundamental belief or assumption is that Everything is Separate. You might perceive that everything has a beginning and an end and every effect has a cause.
Ike Papalua, the Subjective world, provides an understanding of the interdependence of the natural world and the mutually supportive roles played by all its elements and creatures. This Subjective World is a deeper experience than the Objective world, where you may be able to commune with plants and animals. The fundamental assumption in this world is that Everything is Connected.
Looking at the meadow in Ike Papakolu, The Symbolic World, you are now seeing nature as a representation of yourself. The open meadow is your openness to life and you may feel called to express yourself artistically with this symbolic perspective. You come to know that “everything is a part of a pattern and exists in relationship to something else”, and that “everything means what you decide it means.” In this world you know that Everything is Symbolic.
Finally, in Ike Papaha, The Holistic World, you have transcended from standing in front of the meadow and observing it to becoming one with the meadow. Now the sunlight is shining on your leaves and being turned into your energy. The bees are gathering your pollen as you experience the moment as a flower. You feel the sensation of drinking the nectar as the bee. The fundamental assumption in this realm is that Everything is One.
Some might call this “cosmic consciousness”, which, as King notes, is
“a woefully inadequate attempt to describe a sense of being one with the universe, which is essentially indescribable because words and language simply cannot contain the experience.”
King says that each individual experience is valid, regardless of the world in which it takes place. Further, what rings true and factual in the Objective World will not be so for those experiencing life from one of the other realms. Someone stuck in a strictly rational, materialist, reductionist mindset will not understand the reality experienced by someone operating in a more intuitive state.
Lastly, King makes an extremely important point on which we will elaborate later. He believes the biggest obstacle to successfully moving between these worlds (and thus improving our ability to communicate with a wide range of people) is “interference of critical analysis from other levels.” This is the frontal lobe, the analytical part of you that is difficult to quiet during meditation. This is the part of you that will likely doubt the legitimacy of self-reflection and might tell you “this silly hippy stuff isn’t going to do anything for you! You should stop reading now!”
In order to gain a better understanding of ourselves, our world and what it means to be a free human being, we must practice removing our assumptions and doubts. King recommends remembering this when moving between worlds, whether physical or ethereal. From this standpoint we believe Explorative Agnosticism to be a beneficial position. As free people, our beliefs about the world should not be limited or controlled by the collective. And as such we do not care if others doubt or deny our beliefs because we make no effort to doubt or demean their beliefs about the spiritual, non-physical world. Quite simply, our interpretations of the world beyond the five senses are not dependent on any one person, institution, or book.
If we are to know ourselves as spiritually liberated beings we must open our hearts and minds to the possibilities that wait outside the quantifiable world.