"As a spiritual atheist, I mean that I reject the supernatural but affirm the reality and value of what most people usually mean when they say 'the divine.'...[The divine is transcendent love, and] Transcendent love is valuing others’ interests above your own....Practicing respect, humility, compassion, and altruism, for example, is intensely gratifying....It is the divine -- the part of me that “transcends” my ego....Second, by “divine”, people also mean inner peace -- being unafraid of what is, has been, or will be....When I experience it, I am flooded with a sense of “all-right-ness” with myself and my circumstances. Although it is a sense of acceptance, it does not rid me of the desire to better myself and my circumstances....Awe is the final component of what people usually mean when they speak of the divine. Divine awe is a sense of utter astonishment and wonder at the mystery of existence...the degree of awe that can come from observing the mystery of existence....For thousands of years, humans have mapped out the divine and many have explained it in terms of the supernatural. With the advent of modernism, however, that language no longer makes sense. But that doesn’t mean that the divine isn’t real -- it only means we need a different vocabulary to describe the same reality. I call it spiritual atheism." (Walters' whole blog post: see here)Walters, too, videotaped himself offering his reflections:
Andre Comte-Sponville, the French philosopher I mentioned who authored The Little Book of Atheist Spirituality, speaks of a number of features of spirituality:
A freshness of experience:
“All at once, it is as if everything were new, singular and astonishing...beyond all forms of reason.”Spirituality is the feeling of plenitude, abundance:
“We spend most of our time running after things we do not possess, things we consider to be missing and wish to procure for ourselves. We are prisoners of lack….Yet there are occasional moments of grace, when we cease hoping for anything other than what is....Moments when nothing is missing.”We feel a deep simplicity of all things – the complication of judging separate things as good or bad for this or that purpose falls away, and things just are – and that’s very simple.
And language falls away into silence. We perceive that the world is not made of separate subjects that have various predicates. The inner monolog stops, the conceptual categories of words are set aside. All we can say is simply this, this, THIS – until even that one word, too, falls away.
“This is what I call silence. It is the absence, not of noise, but of words – not of sound, but of sense. The silence of the sea. The silence of the wind. The silence of wise people, even when they speak.”The normal experience of time leaves us, and each moment has a quality of the eternal in it: the eternal now.
With spiritual experience comes deep serenity and acceptance – not because all is well, but because all is.
“It is rare and marvelous to experience, at one and the same time, mystery and self-evidence, plenitude and simplicity, unity and eternity, silence and serenity, acceptance and interdependence. Such are the summits of human existence, which can be reached only very exceptionally,...Only rarely do we inhabit eternity – or rather, only rarely are we aware that we inhabit it.” (Comte-Sponville)
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This is part 2 of 6 of "Atheist Spirituality"
Next: Part 3: "Spirituality, Please, Hold the Religion"
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