On our spiritual architecture

by Dorian Minors

March 28, 2021

Analects  |  Newsletter

Excerpt

Our spiritual architecture is one organising principle around which to collect tools to focus on any value system if you believe what I believe. The path toward betterment is at its core a question of our place in the world: how to improve ourselves and those around us by our contributions to the world. But the systems of this world are too complex for our tools to measure. And thus, whether secular or spiritual, to determine the path to virtue is inevitably a journey of faith.

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Secular or godly, our spiritual architecture refers to our tools for connecting to the meaning in the world around us, so that we can find purpose.

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If I find in myself desires nothing in this world can satisfy….

The path toward betterment is at its core a question of our place in the world: how to improve ourselves and those around us by our contributions to the world. In times past and today, this journey has most often been intrinsically bound up in godliness. For many, only through spiritual maturity—an enduring connection with the sacred and the truth therein—might we discover growth, success, and gratification. In the more secular worlds of today, we turn instead to the comforts of philosophy and the scientific method for the same guidance.

In the secular world, we consider morality most often through the lens of consequentialism. Do the least harm and the most good. Under that lens, we have come to believe that morality can be quantified. We interpret questions of morality in terms of the biological capacity for wellbeing. To a stone one would act differently than to a tree, than to a dog, than to a child, than to an adult and so on. In such a conception, one could theoretically imagine a secular, objective morality based on a science of the mind—a given subject’s capacity for perception, and thus capacity for states of wellbeing.

Unfortunately, in a similar way to any deterministic claim about mind and behaviour, while this may be true, for all intents and purposes it is eventually unhelpful. The systems of this world are too complex for our tools to measure. And thus, whether secular or spiritual, to determine the path to virtue is inevitably a journey of faith.

But all faith lies on this fundamental core—whether through the guidance of the god(s) or through an understanding of some objective moral landscape—we seek to find our place within the systems within systems of this world.

The Rarámuri believe that each moving body part has a unique soul, from the joints of the fingers to the ‘heart’ and the ‘head’. These souls, or ariwi, must be cared for lest they become sick and the body begins to fail. Similar ideas pervade many health traditions. Today we would call these things organs, or cast our net wider perhaps and include other systems like the microflora of our bodies.

But the notion of these things as souls with agendas of their own highlights something important. At some level, we can and do view the body as an aggregate of disparate parts and each has a role to play that might help or hinder the role of the others.

This aggregate quality is reflected both within us and without. As our bodies are comprised of many souls, so too is the world comprised of many bodies. Any line of thinking that follows this path eventually notes that while we are us at the level we perceive the world, we are many different things at many different levels of perception.

Thus, we find ourselves in the territory of any mystical spiritual tradition—the pervasive notion that we are part of some unifying ‘oneness’. We are a part of both everything and nothing.

This finding should guide our search for morality. Thinking at scales bigger and smaller than ourselves provides perspective in our efforts to participate in the world. Whether we do this in a secular fashion or a spiritual fashion, we should hold close the faith that we can discover more.

Let’s discover more.


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