It is the nature of the human spirit to seek the divine, the sublime.
As individuals, we tend to seek spiritual awareness and enlightenment.
We attempt to transcend daily activity by striking bold and noble gestures, by forging visionary goals or ideals, or by simply accepting the pleasures of everyday thoughts and acts.
There are even those who abandon family and career in pursuit of a deeper inner experience.
Spirituality is an instinct, a human drive.
Spirituality is a heightened state of emotion caused by various stimuli, both real and imagined.
It is different from other emotional states such as joy, anger, fear, or anxiety. It tends to be characterized by an increase in transcendent pleasure, accompanied by a decrease in internal tensions.
Spirituality is not just a good feeling, or feeling good. It is a deep contentment resulting from simplicity and complexity which combine to form a powerful and integrated experience.
Spirituality may be triggered by a spontaneous event such as a religious experience, by long-term sensitivity to deep human concerns such as birth, death, morality, or war, and especially by our own mortality.
Artist Ron Wallace has suggested that the human drive toward spirituality is a response to our cognitive state of self-consciousness. He maintains that as a species, spirituality provides us with a survival advantage. Balancing hope and faith against the fears and anxieties caused by our awareness of self and our mortality provide a sense of long-term stability and social harmony.
Most of us have known moments of deep self-consciousness, when we experience ourselves as completely connected to the present.
We have had enlightened moments when events which appear to be disconnected are perceived as coherent or unified.
We have all known moments of discovery or creativity.
Or we have experienced resonant behavior within ourselves, while interacting with another person, or within a group. This is an example of behavior in which we experience the whole as greater than the sum of its parts, such as heightened love or sex, or even a great tennis match.
After 5 million years of evolution, our species has advanced to higher forms of order, including art, science, social morality, and religion.
Since the beginning of recorded history, we have engaged in formal and informal religious practices and myths.
For thousands of years and in great numbers, humans have experienced the pleasures of spiritual conversion and self-surrender.
Sociobiologist E. O. Wilson suggests that the highest forms of religion provide an evolutionary advantage to the species as a whole. ‘Religions help to strengthen our identity, provide membership in a powerful group, and maintain a shared purpose in life compatible with self-interest.’
Wilson also maintains that human society as a whole does not share a singular purpose. Although we are all confronted with the evolutionary strategies of reproduction and survival, as individuals we must invent our own purpose in life. This not only results in differences among individuals, but leads to a culturally diverse society, for good or evil.
In a daring statement, the Dali Lama has proclaimed that the shared purpose of life is the simple desire for happiness.
The revolutionary social experiment that we know as American Democracy claims that the ‘pursuit of happiness’ is a given right awarded to all people under its protection. The substance of this remarkable statement is the first of its kind to be marked in recorded history.
The enjoyment of fine art in its most expressive forms, the height of romantic love, the gift of birth and the personal tragedy of death are human experiences which have the power to overwhelm our emotions. As we experience these events for the first time, it is our nature to question their deep meaning.
Under this powerful influence we may call upon a form of spiritual guidance. We may embrace God, or religion.
I believe that we do this because it is difficult to understand or process powerful emotional events as they are unfolding. It is easier to assign our emotions to an all-knowing God-like figure who will assume the responsibility of their weight on a grand scale. It means that God can intermediate higher knowledge for us, while we focus on the necessities of everyday living.
As long as most of us do not have access to the information and knowledge associated with the deepest questions that humans ponder, this strategy works well, and has proved enduring throughout human history.
However, as we approach the next millennium, we have both the opportunity and the capacity to fully investigate the deepest concerns of humankind. Because of highly developed methods of technological and human advancement, we are able to map the human genome, to explore the functions of the brain including consciousness, emotions, intellect, sleep and dreaming. We are able to examine when and how cells behave in living organisms. We can observe the details of mass and energy at its most fundamental level. We are exploring the nature of space, time, light and sound, and we have mapped the large scale structure of the universe, as well as our place within it.
These are areas of human concern which, after many centuries, have become accessible to us as modern explorers of the deepest regions of knowledge and understanding.
I propose that God, broadly defined as the inclusive Nature of all things, the highest form of spirituality, is equivalent to all knowledge and understanding, which I shall call Integral Knowledge.
Further I suggest that as our ability to understand the whole of Nature increases, our spiritual awareness increases proportionally.
It follows that we embrace a spiritual guide which integrates us with knowledge and understanding. Nature has provided us with the Integral Knowledge needed to sustain a global culture, advance a strong moral society, and heighten our spiritual awareness as individuals.