Spirituality is a subject that has been skin-deeply treated in self-help book literature at best and at worst there has been gross misinformation and the motives for that will be discussed in a later section. The following discussion is on some of the most important facts in relation to the subject of spirituality with the central objective of summarizing some major misconceptions.
The major blemish of the majority of self help writers is the need to communicate to as many readers as possible and such there is always a covert intent not to alienate readers by appearing to be negative towards their understanding on the subject. The motive is either to ensure high sales or to guarantee that their views are accepted as widely as possible. This need to guarantee wider acceptance almost always collides with the need to discuss spirituality with full honesty.
Self help gurus would be straight forward in almost all their advises that aren’t of spiritual nature but when it comes to spirituality they always choose to be less than straight about how they truly view the subject and the vast majority simply dodge the subject. There are other areas where evading takes place but the focus here will be only on spirituality as its impact on collective good is more potent.
In fact, even the meager discussion on the subject that you tend to encounter in self help books is included because it just won’t seem right to discuss self improvement without saying a few words on the matter of spirituality; no self help book would be complete without a discussion on spirituality, the subject can’t be ignored completely as readers do expect such an important angle on growth to be included in a book dedicated to self improvement. I would argue that, for most self help writers who include the subject, that inclusion is more imposed than it is of choice. The inadvertent consequence of discussing a subject mainly for public relation with the audience is being less than honest.
As it relates to the matter of honesty, dodging facing the subject head on is done by employing such words as higher intelligence, infinite power, special being, etc. to describe the idea of a creator, the word God is intentionally avoided as doing so would require naming the God in question. If one ventures to name a God and claim it to be the God, there is a true and present danger that a portion of the readers would be turned away. But for a self help writer, the subject of honesty has to be part of their monologue and as such it is a shame to be less the honest in any subject let alone such a critical area.
If one wishes to be honest and embark on a proper and true discussion on spirituality, beyond naming a God, they would have to discuss what this God expects of us and what can we expect in return. You will have to be detailed as to how he has communicated his expectations of us and what he has in store for us in terms of reward and punishments and so on. All this is risking making an otherwise modern scholar seem middle age -ish. And more importantly might endanger the acceptance of his/her other ideas that are sometimes of great value to humanity and it could also jeopardize publisher’s revenue expectations.
Discussing spirituality in the twenty first century with full frankness is a massive challenge as modernism views this subject negatively and considers the issue of God to be dogmatic. Presenting the idea that that we have been created and that there is a preordained way of life for us prescribed by a God is quite a hard sell to “modern” people, especially people who seek life advices from their fellow humans through self help books. Below is a taste of what you are likely to find on the subject from the best of self help writers. Often vague and truly hard to understand let alone to practice and incorporate into life activities.
“the unmanifest is made manifest.” In this state of pure consciousness, we have pure knowledge, perfect balance, invincibility, and bliss. When accessing the field, we experience our higher, pure selves, and are able to see the futility and waste of living through the ego”. By Deepak Chopra. If you don’t find that to be vague consider this story from Mr. Chopra’s book, The Way of the Wizard.
This is a conversation between King Arthur and his knight Kay. King Arthur once called his knight, Kay, to an old storage room. There King Arthur showed the young knight three objects – a straw doll, a broken slingshot, and a cracked mirror. “Do you see those?” King Arthur asked in a strange voice. Kay looked confused. “I see them, but they mean nothing to me”, he said. This doll is my first toy said Arthur, picking it up. “I must have been two when Merlin made it for me. This broken slingshot I made from deerskin and forked willow when I was eight. This cracked mirror I found in the woods when I was twelve. Do you know what they have in common?” Kay shook his head. “They were the most important things in my life, each at its own time, and now look at them.” “Worthless trash,” Kay muttered. “See Kay, when I was two I only wanted toys; when I was eight I wanted only to Hunt sparrows and squirrels; when I was twelve I only wanted to look in the mirror to see if girls will find me ugly or handsome. All these things I have put behind me, yet each one of them was a stepping-stone to this very moment. One day I shall put away the crown, although it is my sole wish and destiny today.” “Why would anyone throw away the crown?” Kay asked in bewilderment. “Because there will come a day when it is trivial as a doll, as useless as a broken sling, and vain as a mirror” Arthur replied. “Just as the child outgrows toys at a certain age, the desire for more and more will eventually lead a person into a natural phase where the desire for God becomes all important”. Only if we had the time!!
While the story strongly suggests that there is a definite purpose to life that is bigger than merely living, never will you get from Mr. Chopra straight forward answers as to who is God and what his prescription for our lives is. This is not meant to pick on Mr. Chopra who has done a great job in helping millions of people around the world and he is not the only one who doesn’t face the discussion head on, he is merely used as an example.
Spirituality doesn’t have to be preceded by maturity
While it is true that many people tend to turn to God or to become spiritual later on in life, it need not be concluded that spirituality is a factor of maturity. Young people are by nature more attracted to life and its possibilities and the initial appearance that is a never ending gift and yes older people are more likely to seek spiritual pursuits but there is no proven relationship between maturity (usually coexist with old age) and spirituality and that spirituality must be preceded by maturity.
Because most of self help writers have themselves lived through serious psycho emotional challenges, they tend to agree on a fact that is not necessarily a fact; that spirituality is a byproduct of maturity and psycho emotional growth. In other words, one has to go through the process of growth and suggestively go through extensive suffering before they can incorporate spirituality into their lives. This tendency is given most eloquently by the great writer Marriane Williamson: “A certain amount of desperation is usually necessary before we’re ready for God. When it came to spiritual surrender, I didn’t get serious, not really, until I was down on my knees completely”.
Consequently, on the one hand, you have a people dedicated to self help books who can’t be fully honest in their definition of spirituality and on the other hand even when they discuss it, they almost unanimously agree that spirituality is a byproduct of life experiences we go through and as a result something to be expected late in life; the suggestion is more like suggesting that true romance must come at the end of love.
Quite to the contrary, shortcut to personal growth is spirituality. The truth is that to truly mature and enjoy the cream of personal growth most efficiently and effectively one need to take the spiritual path as a central Endeavour early on then maturity will follow. While Spirituality tends to coincide with maturity, it is not a byproduct of maturity but maturity always is a byproduct of spirituality. What is maturity but understanding the true purpose of our lives. The best and most efficient mean to understanding and living the purposes of our lives is to be guided by the creator. Yes, God has to be in any equation that speaks of spirituality. Anything else is a lie.
Instead of waiting to go through psychological and emotional upheavals and all sorts of suffering to ourselves and those we love, we should employ the spiritual path in order to avoid it. That spirituality is a byproduct of life experiences, especially suffering, has another incidental conclusion; that spirituality can never be employed to avoid suffering since it is a consequence of suffering. If we consider the potential spirituality has in avoiding suffering, propagating that it has to be a result of living is truly an unforgivable sin. Spirituality has the potential to set out the purpose of life and be its guiding compass and that is exactly what needs to be taught. Some people simply have a very short time to lead rightful lives, and more often than not, we sadly wither away before embarking on the rightful direction; before getting through the suffering many die. This narrative could amount to an educational crime perpetrated by most self improvement educators.
There are two reasons for denying God, either out of ignorance or due to arrogance. When we go against the idea unknowingly we are doing so out of ignorance but when we refuse God knowing well all the signs point to him, there is some level of arrogance involved. If we look more keenly, arrogance is however but another form of ignorance, a more severe form of ignorance and whose consequences are also severe. Arrogance against humanity could be simply ignorance but arrogance against the creator amounts to madness.
Generations of the past refused the idea of God because they did not want to part with the way of their forefathers due to ignorance. To them what they found their ancestors worshipping, they had to inherit; they invoked their forefathers in a sense. When Abraham came up with a new idea of God, it was a hard sell. He found his people, including his father, worshipping the moon in the night and then they started worshipping the sun during the day because it was bigger. He mocked them and told them how you can worship a God that disappears some of the time! They also worshipped three statutes and one night Abraham broke one of them to pieces and in the morning when his people saw one of their Gods in that state they knew it had to be Abraham. When they summoned him, he told them that it wasn’t I and if you don’t believe me just ask the bigger God (statute) if it can talk back. They got really furious and wanted to burn him on stake for humiliating the Gods inherited from their ancestors. Those people were adamant to preserve the status quo, what they inherited from their ancestors.
Presently, people are growing more atheists due to arrogance and as such are doing the opposite; current generations have progressively grown resistant of the ways of the forefathers. Belief in Abraham, Jesus, Moses, Mohammad appears increasingly primitive to conventional understanding. Most of those who are not pure atheist are somewhere in the borderline; and borderline is just transit area for destination atheism. We refuse the idea of a God because we don’t want the ways of our forefathers; we simply think that we have out-matured their ways; Abraham managed to change thinking from following forefathers into monotheism but since the time of Abraham, we have gone a full circle as it relates to God, Abrahams ideas don’t interest us anymore.
Be it as it may, God does exist and true spirituality is only by following what he has prescribed. My objective at this point is not to lure anyone towards any doctrine but to communicate a fact that spirituality and God can’t be separated; they are one and the same. That there is a higher power, God, to which we ascribe; the only appropriate way as I see it is to do it the old fashioned way. The following bullet points should be sufficient to get that point across:
- The most fundamental idea is that the universe is too perfect to have been accidentally created and the perfect synchronization of its billions of bodies must have a power that guides it or controls it, GOD.
- Scientists can explain everything but their ability to explain should not be the pretext to denying that there is someone who has made it; a MASTER engineer. Scientists, who spearhead the refusal of God’s existence have not created anything, they are mere observers who have no power over the universe’s movements and maintenance.
- The idea of evolution too is truly mad if you think with some level of seriousness. Just think of the complexity which is yourself with keen-ness and you will definitely discard evolutionary thought but if that doesn’t suffice, think of this- Evolutionists claim that organism transform in order to adapt to new environmental challenges so they can survive but at the same time they say that about 20,000 years of evolutionary changes is equivalent to one second of evolution. If that is the case, how then do we explain the survival that takes place during the period when the adaptive change is taking place if we consider that the life span of any animal is less than that evolutionary second?
- Simple things like farming which we have no control over, we simply place a seed and basically the rest is done by nature, who gave nature that ability? You and I were some invisible dirty smelly water, who made it? Evolution!!!!
- Our senses with which we enjoy taste, noise, touch, smell, sex, etc; blessings of the oceans, the sky, the rivers, the beautiful scenery; blessings of feeling of belonging unto a family bond; the brain with which we could enjoy all the blessings;
- If there is a God, which there is, would he leave his creation to its own whims? Marcus Aurelius puts this question very eloquently: “As For what task, then, were you yourself created? For pleasure? Can such a thought be tolerated?”
- The sixth element, to the tune of the sixth sense, is an element of miraculous things happening in our lives that we have no control over nor input in; the near misses, the blessings we have not had inputs into, the brain which comes up with seemingly out-of-this-world ideas, such as those of Newton and Einstein. I am confident in your own self and life you can think of many things that defy science and logic
I conclude with a story that should remind us of what we need to do, to go back to the ways of our forefathers. An African man who managed to kill three different lions with his bare hands in three different occasions was asked how he managed to achieve such an impossible undertaking. His answer was: “every time I am faced with danger or difficult task, I invoke my forefathers from the past and they always come to my aid”. Perhaps, when it comes to spirituality we need to remember that what our forefathers held dear, God, is the only exit for our many disastrous.
To end the segments I quote words with rare straightforwardness about God in self help books: “That which each can do best, none but his Maker can teach him … Where is the master who could have instructed Franklin, or Washington, or Bacon, or Newton? … Do that which is assigned to you, and you cannot hope too much or dare too much.” Ralph Waldo Emerson.