Religion puzzles consciousness
Published: Wednesday, September 19, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, September 19, 2012 16:09
Most human beings try to make sense of the world by believing in a certain religion that set out to explain how we got to Earth and what purpose, if any, we have while living on this planet.
Growing up in a religious household and going through the process of confirmation within Catholicism, I saw firsthand how important faith is to one’s culture and one’s identity.
Organized religion lays down the foundation of ethics and personal morals by which people choose to live.
Author and neuroscientist Sam Harris suggests that “at the core of every religion lies an undeniable claim about the human condition — it is possible to have one’s experience of the world radically transformed.”
He goes on to say “What do we need to be happy?” In Western philosophy and monotheistic religions, like Christianity, Islam, and Judaism, everything people do in life can be seen as a response to this question.
Western religions look at human consciousness as a direct correlation between happiness.
In the way that it frequently connects the relationship between the mind and God — as opposed to a more Eastern spiritual perspective where the connection between the mind and consciousness — deeper truths are thought to be more fundamental than the physical world.
Various spiritual teachings from the East and West agree that there is more to happiness than conforming to a capitalist society and focusing on material-driven goals.
This is true particularly in Eastern spiritual traditions, which imply that people have the capacity to change their relationship to the contents of consciousness and transform their experience of the world.
Our spiritual possibilities will greatly depend on how we view ourselves. In physical terms we are in a continuing exchange of matter and energy with the larger system of the Earth.
The frontiers of the mental self are no easier to describe: taboos, linguistic conventions, prejudices, aesthetic biases and commercial jingles — the ideas that occupy the landscape of our minds are transferred from the world at large.
The contents of consciousness — sights, sounds, sensations, thoughts and moods— are only expressions of consciousness at the level of our experience.
Personal transformation from the illusion of one’s self seems too much to ask, due to our perception of dualism in the West.
Our view of mind and matter, on these religious terms, comes down to a good vs. evil conflict, making the duality hard to change or to personally refute.
Comparing the two faith-based canons, one will find surprising and startling contrasts showing how each region views human self-awareness in relation to beliefs about God.
Christianity, Judaism and Islam, all governed by the man-made laws of God, limit the expansion of consciousness only to what scriptures of these religions instruct people to do in order to feel fulfillment and happiness — to serve God and live in the will of God.
This excerpt is just a section of a longer teaching on the nature of mind that Christians, Muslims, or Jews would never encounter in their own belief systems.
There is no greater obstacle to a truly open-minded approach to spiritual experience or growth than our current beliefs about God.