“The map is not the territory”. ~ Alfred Korzybski

As we begin putting the pieces of what we have come to believe is “true” about life and the universe together, these mental formations come together in what we might consider to be our “mental map of life”.  Most times we don’t even realize that we have such a map, it’s simply a set of “givens” about how the universe is assembled and works.

Our mental maps sit invisibly in the background of our consciousness and they guide what we choose to look at in life and how we choose to interpret it.  These “belief structures” move us towards where we live, who our friends are, what we read and study, what we believe politically, and what motivates us in most areas of our lives.

These “maps” are not really real, they are simply internal mental ideas that we have gathered as a shortcut on understanding the “meaning of life and my place in it”. They help us to navigate life quickly and efficiently without having to think about things.  But on the flip side, they can limit us from seeing and experiencing the vastness and the complexity of the world in which we live.  There is also a great vulnerability when I have become so attached to my map (again, my collections of “what is true about life”) that it closes me off to growth and new learning.

Let’s look at some simple snapshots of some common mental maps.

First, many people have sought and found meaning in traditional religions.  You may be one of these people.  Your mental map of the world may contain such features as an external judging God who sits in some remote place called “heaven” who awaits to decision whether to allow you into heaven after your time on earth. You may see that you were placed on earth with some type of imperfection as a human and the only way to overcome your imperfection is to accept the beliefs of your religion and follow a certain human code of conduct.  If you do these things, after leaving your life, God will admit you to this special place of heaven. This is generally considered the “traditional viewpoint”.

If this or some similar variation is your mental map, then you have created your beliefs based on your life experiences which allowed you to piece together the things you think are true.  It now guides you and motivates you.  You may find deep meaning in it.  You may find that it limits you as well.

A second common map is where someone has discarded finding truth in traditional religions and seeks truths in the findings of science.  You may be one of these people. Your mental map of the world may contain such features as seeing the world only as physical matter, that there is no guiding God or Spirit that created this universe, that our truths can be obtained by measurement and validation and logic.  As these scientific truths are gathered together, they can improve the quality of our physical lives.  Meaning behind it all can be a bit more vague to you other than to learn, to grow in our manipulation of the physical universe and to gather together material wealth. This is generally considered the “modern viewpoint”.

If this or some similar variation is your mental map, then you have created your beliefs based on your life experiences which allowed you to piece together the things you think are true.  It now guides you and motivates you.  You may find deep meaning in it.  You may find that it limits you as well.

Another common map in our current times is one created by people who discard the teachings of traditional religions and push back against the materialistic inequities and excesses of the modern viewpoint.  These people generally seek to find equity for all humans, seek to protect the earth and its resources and seek meaning in their own created spiritual paths.  This mindset is usually termed the “spiritual but not religious” or post-modern perspective.  This may be you.  But it, too has its limitations.

The spiritual ideas that are outlined in this series may sound at first blush like this last mental map, but they are much more.  The perspective I want you consider in these posts integrates the best of each map and combines them in a way that hopefully provides the most meaning to you.  It borrows from religion, from philosophy, from science, from various spiritual paths and traditions….and is seeks to weave them together to forge a new and hopefully “more improved” mental map.  However, each of you readers gets to be the judge of that for you and your life.

Ok, so to summarize….whether you are aware of it or not, you are walking around with some internal sense of what you believe about how the universe is organized and what your place in it is.  This map guides your motivations as to what you think in life is important.  It serves as a touchstone for what you believe is morally right and wrong.  It helps you clarify your purpose in life.  It offers you ideas on what happens to you after your life.

You might have a good idea of what that mental map is….or not. If you don’t, I would suggest that you think about it and try to put some words to what you think is the “true reality”. What I am going to do now is shift gears in the upcoming articles and begin to give you a picture of my mental map. The rest of this series is based on what I “believe is true”. This worldview has been crafted in my consciousness over many years by the sum total of my personal life experiences, by my research and studies into many topics and areas of human/spiritual concern and by my role as a spiritual teacher.  Know that although I believe what is here to be “true”, I know that this is not a static viewpoint.  There is always room for what I know to evolve as I grow and evolve.

Although I hope you find something of value in my offering you my thoughts, I have no attachment to whether or not you accept it as true.  I would prefer that it simply be something to consider as you create and evolve your own map of truth. 

NOTE:  This article is a part of our Spiritual Philosophy Series.  THIS ARTICLE describes the series’ intention. To view the entire series, CLICK HERE.