Re: Is There A Need for Transhuman Spirituality?

Paul Hughes (
Thu, 25 Feb 1999 02:07:56 -0800

Thanks Natasha for having the courage to bring up a topic that usually generates an allergic reaction for so many in this community. I think such reactions are either due to lack of experience in these areas or mistaking the map for the territory.

Natasha Vita-More wrote:

> Transhuman Mailing List
> Is there a need for an extropic transhuman spirituality? I'm not referring
> to Theology with gods or Gods, or Paganism, nor by spirituality am I
> referring to mystical acceptance of spirits in a hereafter, and the reward
> of such. What I am referring to is a sense of one's essence in connection
> to life, will and the universe.

I think the answer is yes. We all seem to agree the word 'spirituality' has been used and abused so much since the 1960's that it's become almost entirely diluted. Even still, the word has as many definitions as there are people to define it. Perhaps it's that diversity of definition that still makes it useful. Defining it too precisely narrows for me what is potentially infinite in scope. Besides, last I checked the map was not the territory.

In regards to a theology of gods or Gods, they are not entirely without use. If I find that a belief in a particular God or set of gods is useful to my overall development, how is this a bad thing? Internally believing in anything "as if true" has its uses, no matter how absurd the belief. The question becomes, is this belief helping me to increase my own personal extropy or hinder it? In the past I found that oscillating between fervent belief and disbelief was a useful exercise in finding the limits of belief and their effects on my own brain. For those who haven't done this, I highly recommend this metabelief exercise - especially those who have remained within one or two highly confined belief systems - athiest/theist or otherwise.

> This reference is in keeping with how culture changes over time, and
> influence of the New Agers (1980s) who has created a renewed spirituality.
> I found this somewhat of a healthy step in moving further from traditional
> religions. Its affiliation with Zen Buddhism was appealing in asserting
> that enlightenment can be attained through meditation, self-contemplation,
> and intuition rather than through faith and devotion. But, nonetheless the
> New Age spin on spirituality went in a direction I did not want to follow
> as it padded its cell with crystals, spirits, astrology and channeling.
> Such alternatives seemed to lack the encouragement of knowledge, but to
> keep people childlike. What I did like from this mindset was the caring,
> warmth, empathy and desire to improve oneself, although limited indeed.

I completely agree that the 'New Age' renaissance was fabulous during its beginnings. It had its roots primarily in Eastern historical methods of self-development and self-discovery where all things are possible and human potential can be developed without end.

The crystal, astrology, channeling thing had its ambiguities and ambivalences. Operating in the *metabelief mode* again, playing with crystals, tarot and astrology was quite fun and useful for awhile. My own experiments in giving public Tarot readings while on small 'doses' proved most illuminating and opened up areas of my brain previously inaccessible. Yet I was careful never to take any dramatic insights as being the TRUTH. The question remains, were these insights and methods useful in increasing my overall psychological flexibility and personal extropy? The answer is yes, for me at least.

> Perhaps because New Age spirituality became so offensive, those of us who
> could have taken it into a more extropic sensibility lost interest. I know
> this was the case for me.

I completely agree with this. The entire New Age movement became totally absurd, offensive and commercial in the end. The current barrage of "Get 10 Free Minutes of Psychic Reading" makes me mute the sound every time.

> This is not a new subject, and often we adjacently discuss rational ethics
> which it can leave one cold and dry, wanting for some sense of a softer
> approach to the inner workings of our consciousness.

Yes. Yes. Yes! Off and on, I've been saying exactly that for years on this list. The only person who respond favorable to my initial posts back in 1995 was Romana Machado.

> Over the past year I have been rethinking my sense of being and connection
> with other transhumans, humans and the universe. It has been a complicated
> and entangled reflections, but worth every bit of time and energy.

My own life has taken a subtle turn inwards over the last 6 months. It has been a most rewarding and enriching time. It has culminating in my wife's and I decision to purchase our own Isolation Tank from our friends Lee and Glenn Perry who own and operate the Samadhi Tank Company.

> However, obtaining enlightenment is worth the challenge. Thus, over the
> years, I had eliminated religions from my life and replaced it with
> psychology.

Yes again. My current mix of things is a cross between practical psychology and applied theology - I plan on being a god myself one day.

> I realize that when people talk about "heart" they mean empathy, and
> empathy is an admirable quality.

Yes. As our love, compassion, and achieving bliss in oneself and stimulating it in others.

> In our transhumanist community, whether here on the Internet and the
> Extropian list, or in various other transhumanist circles not on the
> Internet, there is a tendency to be critical and factual. I like this.

As do I. Who said the path to godhood meant becoming stupid morons? :-)

> Yet, how often do we recognize the kindness in one another?

The strong tendency within this community to criticize first and seek out kindredness later has always bothered me. On the other hand, it's a refreshing change from the blind faith and stupidity rampant almost everywhere else we turn. Perhaps it's that fact, that drives the current dichotomizing tendency to be so critical when we could all be such good friends under other circumstances.

> There is a need for some form of emotional/intellectual synthesis which
> brings out the integrity in our being. There is something, some sort of
> synergy, some element that I sense is not discussed. Anders, in a separate
> post states, "One might imagine a gradual ascent into embodying something
> regarded as positive, a kind of slow apotheosis as the personality and
> ability develops."

Yes, I have tried on numerous occasions, both directly and obliquely, to point out that "synergy" as you call it. I've always liked Anders ability to play all sides of the transhumanist fence. He can be the most ruthlessly logical person at times, yet I've seen him say the most poetic and amazing things that pin all these "softer" issues right on the head.

> Perhaps this is a returning point for me as I realize that what I need is
> not only intellectual and creative stimulation, but also a stimulation of
> the essence of my being. I don't want a placebo, I do want a continued
> understanding that the essence of my being is continuously becoming
> enlightened and balanced - more conscious.

I couldn't have summed up my own sentiments about the last 6 months of my life better than that. :-)

Paul Hughes