“In a world beset by fundamentalists of both believing and secular varieties, it must be possible to balance a rejection of religious faith with a selective reverence for religious rituals and concepts.” Alain de Botton
All of my adult life I have been what I would call a “Seeker”. By that I mean I have always felt there is a need for some sense of ‘spirituality’ in order to prevent chaos in the mind, body and spirit – not to mention society as a whole – and I have been searching for the elements of that spirituality for well over thirty years.
I was raised a Roman Catholic, growing up in Ireland one had more than a 90% chance of the coin falling on that side, and was a reasonably good practitioner for most of my first two decades. In my late teens the usual increase in rebelliousness didn’t turn me away from religion but towards a curiosity about other religions instead. What made our religion so absolutely right and every others so absolutely wrong? I have always had a problem with absolutes. This journey of curiosity took me through book after book, church, chapel, temple and meeting house. Every stop or dalliance along the way left me with something deposited in my spiritual bank account that wasn’t there before, but none of them converted into a believer.
However, while I don’t believe in the existence of God as an entity with a personality and plans for mankind, neither am I an atheist because I am open to proof of such an entity being discovered – empiric evidence without any reliance on belief or faith. My dilemma in this regard broadens considerably when I point out that I do ‘believe’ in karma, but only because I have seen it in action over half a century and too often to be dismissed as coincidence. Of course observable phenomena negates the need for belief, but since I can’t show evidence of this manifestation of karma, other than to recount the incidences, then I have to relegate it to the realm of ‘belief’.
In the interest of full disclosure I have to admit at this point that I have in many ways adopted and adapted elements of a number of belief systems to fulfil my spiritual and philosophical needs, but primarily I have found certain portions of Buddhist practices to ‘fit’ best with my understanding of spiritual and philosophical growth. Naturally I’m not talking about those parts of buddhism that require us to believe that the Buddha was a rabbit in a past life (or even that reincarnation exists), rather I feel a resonance with the concept of mindfulness and meditation that form a significant part of buddhist practice or Dharma. I hasten to add I am not a Buddhist and in reality have no desire to be one. Neither am I a Christian or Muslim or Jew or Druid, but I have learnt to respect all of them for certain things and be disappointed in them for others.
In a series of posts over the coming months (and probably years) I intend to explore each of the issues raised by my journey, not in any effort to convert or even encourage readers to change their current position, but in an effort to share what I’ve learnt along the way in the hope it might generate discussion and debate. Remember what Socrates once said “the unexamined life is not worth living”. You’re more than welcome to walk with me awhile and share our stories.