By Andrée (Dee) Cuenod
How do we see ourselves and all in existence, as material, separate and mortal or as spirit, One and eternal? Our various belief systems answer that question differently, and in that fact lie the major differences in our ways of approaching life, our worldviews.
SPIRITUALITY VS. MATERIALISM
Those who say we are separate material beings dominate our Western culture and have brought about deplorable world conditions. Those systems that say we are eternal spirit beings existed before Christianity did its best to eradicate them, and now hold keys to renewed ways of living and resolving our world problems. These differences, I believe, constitute the most crucial issue today, one we must address before we can create a better world.
The old materialist worldview provided a backdrop for wonderful growth experiences and was completely appropriate for our needs throughout the previous millennia. Now, though, it no longer works well for us.
Materialism is self-centered and says that everything is separate and fighting to survive, so features self-interest, competition and conflict. Advocating that humanity is the pinnacle of life on Earth, it allows humans to abuse other Earthly inhabitants rather than ensure the well-being of all life. Materialists say matter is all that is natural and this current single physical life is the only reality; we all, everything on Earth, began life here, with no prior existence, and many add: no after-death existence. This view is held by atheistic scientists, certainly, but also by most fundamentalists of Judaism, Christianity and Islam.
Spirituality says God consciousness is all there is, and everything is spirit, energy; matter isn’t real, only seemingly so. Nothing is separate at the consciousness level; all is interrelated, interdependent and holistic: the One. This in one form or another was part of the esoteric teachings of all ancient traditions and spiritual philosophies. It is held today by Eastern traditions, aborigines worldwide, and spiritual metaphysical teachers, and it has been proved true by quantum and noetic sciences. Seeing all life as a single unit, with each of us as an aspect of the One, spirituality emphasizes unconditional love, harmony and well-being for all. Spirituality knows that what affects one affects all in some way. It puts our heart on equal footing with reason.
GOD IS ONE
Religious traditions worldwide have, at their esoteric core, taught that “God is One.” But, different teachings understand it differently. Fundamentalists of the Abrahamic religions take it to mean there is one separate, supreme Being who is God (monotheism). The more spiritual of most other traditions—ancient and modern, Eastern and Western, sophisticated and primitive—while often treating the sun, elements, animals and their heroes as embodiments of deity, know there is only One. Everything is that One. If they have many deities, they see them as expressions of the One. That One is not a being but is the “ground of being”: the basis of everything. The One is God (monism).
This seems to be the defining difference in beliefs worldwide; and a huge difference it is! Abrahamic fundamentalists would probably agree with a Hindu proverb of Bhakti yoga that puts it: “I don’t want to be sugar, I only want to taste sugar.” They don’t want to be God, they only want to worship God.
Jimmy Davis and Harry Poe, give a beautiful explanation of these two differing perspectives in Designer Universe:
We may think of the artistic expression of the potter who fashions a lump of clay into a beautiful vessel in which the mind of the artist skillfully takes shape in physical form. We may also think of the creative expression of the dancer whose body moves gracefully into a thousand different shapes before the dance is done. The monotheism of Judaism, Islam, and Christianity involves faith in the potter, while the monism of Hinduism involves faith in the dancer. The pot and the potter are separate, but the dance and the dancer are inseparable.
Hinduism here can be seen to represent spirituality generally.