Friday, March 11, 2011

East and West . . . the 'Twains Must Meet!

If you do no more than visit your local bookstore and read the Introduction to Frances Vaughan's "Shadows of the Sacred," it will be well worth the effort - both for yourself and a world facing (or, rather, "not facing") immense challenges.

Never mind "sustainable development,"
we need to develop 'global sustainability.'
"Contemporary global culture is predominantly egocentric and materialistic," Vaughan notes, with the result that whole swaths of our society are "plagued by alienation and violence." And, so it seems, despite the much touted ideal of 'sustainable development,' little but lip service is being given even to this notion when, in truth, we should be putting all our efforts into 'developing sustainability.'

At times, Vaughn intimates, we all appear to be hypnotized by the same illusion: despite knowing that we live in a world with growing socioeconomic injustice and looming ecological disasters, we act as though these things will not impact us, or our loved ones.

(This attitude shows that our conceptions of 'love' may be much more restricted than we would like to profess. Of love for our fellow beings and our world, it seems we demonstrate a marked indifference.)

"Since the major threats to life on earth are caused by human behavior," Vaughan writes, "the need for changing consciousness is urgent." She continues:
"Global crises reflect values, beliefs and attitudes that seem to ignore our relationship to nature, Unexamined beliefs can be dangerous to ourselves, our children and the earth. Future generations will bear the burden of our addictions and illusions that promise salvation while threatening annihilation."
 Vaughan clearly advocates an informed religion that addresses our existential struggles in the modern world, rather than out-dated (perhaps dangerous) fundamentalist belief systems that do not reflect our modern 'realities.'
"Postmodern worldviews give scant support to the notion of a spiritual reality," Vaughan observes. "Yet a restless and persuasive hunger for living spiritually has led to widespread interest in new religions movements, ancient esoteric traditions and a variety of psychospiritual techniques that promise liberation or enlightenment. The spiritual quest is no longer the property of organized religion, nor is it a privilege of a few individuals who have made a formal commitment to religious life.
Consciousness: More than a byproduct of matter?
Yet, postmodern science, which places little credence on the potential that spirituality and higher consciousness might hold for a disaffected populace, continues to hold a nearly classical empirical view when it comes to the mind sciences. Meanwhile, much efforts has been spent in investigating in "debunking" viewpoints shaped by intuitive, subjective experience - viewpoints which are beyond the purview of science, as it is currently understood.

"The materialistic worldview that assumes consciousness is only a byproduct of randomnly generated matter is seldom questioned in secular society," much less by science, Vaughn notes. (A point made clear by Alan Wallace in a persuasive video urging that the Western mind sciences follow up on the research started by one of the deans of American psychology, William James, more than a centrury ago.) The inevitable result of this disparagement of the 'reality' of spiritual or religious experience is that religion "is presumed to be an opiate of the masses and spirituality no more than a palliative for those who cannot face the existential reality of our inevitable death," Vaughan observes.

But just as an aspirant on a spiritual quest "must traverse both the outer world of ego and the inner world of soul before reaching liberation," so 'outwardly-focused' Western science, which has afforded us a dubious 'mastery' of the physical world, must somehow synthesize the 'inwardly-focused' Eastern  knowledge about consciousness, psychologies and wisdom traditions that have been the subject of study for millennia, if we are to develop anything like "global sustainability." As Vaughan concludes:
"When we are willing to face our fears and make an effort to see through self-deception, a deeper awareness of the mystery of enlightenment leads us back to the practical task of nurturing spirituality as a source of healing and wholeness for ourselves and the earth."

No comments:

Post a Comment