Today we begin to look at spiritual practices through an imaginary conversation.

Why should I even read an imaginary conversation about spiritual practices?

Good question. I suspect anybody who’s read this far is having a variation on one of two thoughts… either “I already have a spiritual practice so I don’t need to read this” or “my life’s already too busy and I don’t see any reason to add a spiritual practice into it, besides it really won’t do any good, it’s a bunch of superstitious bunk”. But what I hope for you to see is that having a spiritual practice… whether you currently have one or not… is an essential piece to your personal evolution; and as you evolve in a positive direction, so does the planet and humanity.

Evolution? Isn’t that just about how physical organisms change through natural selection, apes into man, that sort of thing?

Physical evolution is just one piece of the evolutionary story. Most of us have learned the scientific story of the Big Bang, the beginnings of stars and planets, the formation of the Earth and all the life upon it. The story we all heard focuses upon the evolution of physical matter. What’s frequently left out of the story is how other things are evolving as well. Although it’s generally not described in evolutionary terms, we have been told how our technology has advanced as well as how our cultures and their organizational structures have grown. More recently, there has been greater dialogue about how our consciousness has evolved. People are also beginning to see that religions and spirituality and our idea of what God is are evolving as well.

What do you mean by consciousness is evolving? I either have consciousness or I don’t. A rock doesn’t have consciousness, humans do, at least as long as they are alive and awake.

Well it depends on what you mean by the word consciousness. There are a lot of different opinions as to what consciousness is, why it is, and where it comes from. The predominate belief in our current materialistic science is that the consciousness we experience as humans is a byproduct of the evolution of our brains. As animals evolved into higher levels of complexity, so did their brains. Many scientists believe that the evolution of consciousness is simply the evolution of brains to the point where we have this conscious awareness. Many who hold this belief might say there is no further evolution of consciousness. Many would also agree that consciousness is either on or off (you’re either conscious or unconscious), and that consciousness does not exist below the level of humans (although some believe certain animals have consciousness). When I use the word consciousness, it has a different meaning. Consciousness is an intelligence that is embedded in everything. It is that intelligence that holds an atom together, that keeps a cell together and guides its action to maintain itself and to reproduce, that binds our organs together and directs their specialized action, and so forth. In this view of consciousness, we can see that it exists in a simple format in smaller entities and grows in complexity as we move up the chain of being from atoms to molecules to simple organisms to more complex organisms to social systems and beyond. Seeing consciousness embedded in everything and growing in complexity as it “builds up” in higher forms allows us to see consciousness evolving in a different manner. Interestingly, there is a relationship between what someone thinks consciousness is and their personal worldview… and that worldview is also part of an evolutionary process.

What do you mean by a worldview and how are our viewpoints evolving?

A worldview is sort of like a structure that sits around our thinking and guides how we look at things without us knowing it. We all have some underlying viewpoint about why we are here, the meaning of life, how everything fits together. A lot of this is subconscious. It’s like a package of beliefs we that we assume and don’t question, and these beliefs guide how we look at life. One of the predominate worldviews in our current culture is frequently labeled as the modern or rational viewpoint. It looks at life and sees nothing but physical matter which can be understood via the scientific empirical methods and rational thought. It’s easy to see why such a viewpoint would consider consciousness as only a byproduct of the brain. There were several earlier worldviews in the evolution of humanity, the most recent being the traditional worldview which gave rise to our predominate world religions. The modern or rational worldview began its great growth during the time of the Enlightenment. It has given us great gifts such as democracy and science. Hundreds of years ago, in order to free itself from the dogma of the Church, science focused its efforts upon the material world and left the spiritual inner world to the church and religion. Hence science has tended to deny that there is an inner reality in spite of the irony that it is in this inner reality where rational thought is occurring and empirical data is being considered. In recent times, new worldviews have sprung up. They have “evolved out of” the modern worldview. These include the postmodern and integral viewpoints where there is greater growth in the melding of science and spirituality. Here we recognize the limitations of science denying the validity of an inner world. And with this viewpoint comes the possibility that maybe there has been an inner consciousness all along… even in earlier stages of evolution….hence the idea that consciousness is in everything.

Okay, so you’re saying everything is evolving, I’ll go with that for the moment. But what’s that got to do with spiritual practices?

[Ah, we finally get to the issue of “spiritual practices”……link to Part 2!]

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Check out all of Mark Gilbert’s books—available at Amazon. Click here to visit his Author Page. This includes his recent one Our Spiritual Rights and Responsibilities. In this book, he offers what he suggests are the 5 basic rights we all possess by virtue of our being these spiritual beings on planet Earth — and our 2 responsibilities we all hold in relation to one another! Check it out!