It seems to me that I spend much of my waking life in a neurotic trance. My experiences in meditation suggest that there is an alternative to this, however. It is possible to stand free of the juggernaut of self, if only for a moment.
But the fact that human consciousness allows for remarkable experiences does not make the worldview of Sayed Qutb, or of Islam, or of revealed religion generally, any less divisive or ridiculous. The intellectual and moral stains of the world’s religions—the misogyny, otherworldliness, narcissism, and illogic—are so ugly and indelible as to render all religious language suspect. And I share the concern, expressed by many atheists, that terms like “spiritual” and “mystical” are often used to make claims, not merely about the quality of certain experiences, but about the nature of the cosmos. The fact that one can lose one’s sense of self in an ocean of tranquility does not mean that one’s consciousness is immaterial or that it presided over the birth of the universe.
But, as I argue in The Moral Landscape, a maturing science of the mind should help us to understand and access the heights of human well-being. To do this, however, we must first acknowledge that these heights exist.
To experiment with these levels, meditation is a good start. But things get trickier if you want to experiment with prayer. That’s where the lines blur.
Now if all religions acknowledged they were only about taking us to higher levels of the mind (without coming with the caveat that they mandatorily answer questions about the universe and our existence in ways we have no way of knowing, let alone answering), the debate on religion would become moot. Religions could then become a healthy and safe alternative to drugs. That in itself is a great thing!
Link via The Daily Beast.