Spirituality and Intellectual Honesty
- June 4, 2018
- Posted by: kec_admin
- Category: Spirituality Video
What is spirituality? And what is intellectual honesty?
This is a presentation given by Thomas Metzinger at the KFA May Gathering in 2017. He asks if the opposite of religion is not science but spirituality, and if, in the purest form, the scientific and the spiritual stance actually emerge from the same value, from the same normative idea.
You can watch the full talk above. Excerpts from the presentation:
Spirituality is noncognitive. It has nothing to do with high-level symbolic thoughts or concepts… So, it’s defined as something that you cannot communicate through language.
What it is is a specific form of self-knowledge. But not just any form of self-knowledge. It seems to be an existential kind of self-knowledge that the spiritual person seeks, and it also has a normative component of becoming whole, becoming complete.
By the standards of academic philosophy, this is almost no definition of spirituality. We know very little about it, and we only know what it is not.
It is completely unclear whether something like a method of the spiritual stance exists as well. As you know, this is a debate that’s been going on for many centuries. There are practices, paths, masters. And there are other people who say it is none of these; there’s nothing that can be practiced, nothing that can be transmitted, nothing that can be taught; it can only happen in an instant; it’s not a question of time; the first step is the last step. And, maybe, these are even both true at the same time.
Reason and Love
There is a more interesting look at spirituality from Krishnamurti:
For I maintain, that the only spirituality is the incorruptibility of the self which is eternal, is the harmony between reason and love.
This is the notion I’m interested in today. This is a truly interesting and philosophical notion of what spirituality could be: the harmony between reason and love.
What Is Intellectual Honesty?
I think most of you have thought about spirituality a lot in your lives, and maybe intellectual honesty is a new word for you. Let’s start with a very simple working definition: to refuse to lie to yourself, no matter what happens, on the level of thinking, on the level of intellectual activity.
So, intellectual honesty is an ethical stance. It has to do with the ethics of the inner life because it relates to inner actions, towards what one thinks. Probably most of you have thought about what ethical action is –eating meat or not, etc.– but could there be an ethics for what you do with your mind as well? Is there an ethical point there about what to believe and what not to believe?
So, intellectual honesty is about seeking a specific form of moral integrity, but not on the level of outer actions, but on the level of your own mind.
An idealist is dishonest. The man who follows a principle is a dishonest man. When a man is practising something which he is not, then he is dishonest. But when he acknowledges what he is, then he is very honest.
How do you go about what you will believe and what you will not believe in your life? Will you accept only rational arguments and evidence, for instance? But intellectual honesty also aims at making what you know and what you believe coherent.
Normal ethics have an ideal of moral integrity, where you try to make sure your actions are coherent with your values. That’s the normal idea of moral integrity. In regards to intellectual honesty, we would think that you basically shouldn’t believe anything that you don’t know, and what you know is very little.
So intellectual honesty has to do with having only evidence-based “beliefs.” And, most of all, that the process of inquiry, the process of thinking logically, the process of investigating, does not serve your emotional needs. You do not do all of these things because you want to achieve a form of emotional security, for instance, or positive feelings. Intellectual honesty has nothing to do with that.
Out of suffering is born the urge to seek truth; in suffering lies the cause of the insistent inquiry, the search for truth. Yet when you suffer – as every one does suffer – you seek an immediate remedy and comfort. When you feel momentary physical pain, you obtain a palliative at the nearest drug store to lessen your suffering. So also, when you experience momentary mental or emotional anguish, you seek consolation, and you imagine that trying to find relief from pain is the search for truth. In that way you are continually seeking a compensation for your pains, a compensation for the effort you are thus forced to make. You evade the main cause of suffering and thereby live an illusory life.
So those people who are always proclaiming that they are searching for truth are in reality missing it. They have found their lives to be insufficient, incomplete, lacking in love, and think that by trying to seek truth they will find satisfaction and comfort. If you frankly say to yourself that you are seeking only consolation and compensation for the difficulties of life, you will be able to grapple with the problem intelligently.
Imagine you are a politician and you have to lie to thousands of people all of the time. We human beings are very good lie detectors because we lie to each other all the time. So, when this politician gives a talk and thousands of people watch him, everybody’s looking for body language, for subtle signs that this guy is a fraud. The only thing that works is if a speaker, a demagogue, a religious leader, goes into a full state of delusion while he speaks. Because, then, he will give off no signs –no subliminal signs– and it would be really convincing. That’s one of the ideas.
Robert Trivers says, “the conventional view that natural selection favors nervous systems which produce ever more accurate images of the world must be a very naive view of mental evolution.” Mental evolution created self-deception. The simplest example is: if you measure it, all parents directly perceive their own children as more intelligent and cute than other children. It’s built into our hardware.
New research shows that, in many cases, there was an evolution of systematically, falsely representing reality, which is clearly an evolution of self-deception. Animals have that too, for instance, in courtship behavior and in threatening each other. And we found that, in many cases, positive illusions, mechanisms of denial and repression, and delusional models of reality enhanced the reproductive success of our ancestors.
Delusional Systems and Emotional Profit
I would argue that religion is a cultivation of a delusional system. There is this technical concept of fideism in theology and philosophy, which is the point of view of pure faith. If you’re a fideist, you reserve the right to believe whatever you want to believe in the face of contradicting evidence. One could argue that actually all forms of religion are fundamentalist in this sense. Spirituality is just the opposite. It aims at insight and not at delusion.
Religion maximizes emotional profit. It’s about feeling good. It’s about stabilizing your self-esteem in the face of a horrible discovery: that you will die. Spirituality searches for direct experiences but not for emotional profit. Nobody ever said that self-discovery of the spiritual kind leads to emotionally attractive results. I know that some people in California like to make people believe it is, but would you also be interested in self-discovery if the emotional results were very unattractive?
So, religion sacrifices rationality for making the self-model in your brain coherent. You self-deceive. You delete rational argument. You sacrifice your own rationality for good feelings. Spirituality, on the other hand, is a process in which the self ends. Maybe it’s not even a process; maybe it’s something that cannot be a process because it can only be at this instant.
What do we mean by religion? As we know it, it is organized belief, dogma, action according to a particular pattern, is it not? Organized belief is the experience of someone else arranged according to a pattern of yesterday, and you are conditioned by that belief. Is that religion? The pattern may be of the left, of the right, or of the centre; or it may be a so-called divine plan – there is not much difference between them; all have their ideals, all have their Utopia or heaven, so all may be called religion, each perpetuating exploitation. Now, is that religion? Obviously, belief, with its authority and dogmas, with its pageantry and sensation, is not religion. So, what is religion? That is our question.
Dogmatism is a philosophical thesis that you are entitled to believe, to hold on to a belief for the sole reason that you already have it. It’s an old human way of looking at things, and that’s intellectually dishonest, whereas spirituality subscribes more to the ideal of truthfulness.
Dogmatic movements organize themselves. Typically, spirituality is a radically individual thing. It starts with the insight that you’re completely alone and that nobody really can help you. There may be signposts, but it starts with the insight that this whole teacher-disciple relationship is itself part of the problem.
Dogmatic people evangelize. Spiritual people are typically quiet.
We create such distinctions between the physical and superphysical because the physical is so intolerable, so ugly. We want to run away, and anyone that can lead you to the superphysical, you follow, and you call that spiritual; but it is nothing else but another form of real, gross materialism. Whereas, true spirituality consists in living harmoniously, with perfect unity in your heart and mind, because there is understanding, and in that understanding, there is the delight of living.
DON’T MISS OUT
Get updates on new articles, videos, and online events
Author: “Dogmatic people evangelize. Spiritual people are typically quiet.”
OMG. Uncountable number of talks, lectures, conversations, etc.; uncountable number of written books, articles etc. All that intensively made within many decades of being active in the public around the world; translated in most of known languages…
Human history hardly knows a person, claiming to be spiritual, who has done that arduous labour. Most productive biblical writers and apostles had not nearly made the same. Tipitaka looks like a tiny pip against that.
So, can we consider Krishnamurti as a spiritual person, after all?
And besides, since you are using plural, how many ‘spiritual people’ in the human history or your private life you know in accordance with that type of spirituality that you have described right here?
Who are they, those quiet ‘typical’ ones?
Here is something from my personal experience.
The story happened a little longer than 15 years ago.
Living in Europe, I decided to take a personal contact to people interesting in spiritual matters. I wrote to administration of a Krishnamurti retreat in Switzerland and received strait away a most friendly invitation.
I new already, the Krishnamurti teaching had been spread in the wide world and there were many appropriate establishments like centres, retreats, groups and schools all around.
Being encouraged by friendly responses I was keeping the written contact with members of retreat.
Everything was running smoothly until I came up with a question: ‘Can I meet people there who really understand Krishnamurti?’
My logic suggested to me: since such a big activity is going on in the world: there are schools and teaching, there must be also students, (indeed, what are schools without students good for?) and, if students, there have to be graduates.
From that on, no response I have ever received on my letters.
Since there, there is a total silence from those people in retreat until now.
Maybe, that’s the same true silent spirituality that you are talking about?
Later on, when I meet a person in Genève that had had relation to that retreat, she told me frankly: you know, I’m just working there, it’s just my job.
So, I’m still holding in my mind until now this question about true spirituality of people, who officially represent the establishments of Krishnamurti.
…And yes, I agree: organized religions are merely spiritual businesses and have a little to do with true spirituality.
And, yet, the question about it is still actual, isn’t it?
Disappointing indeed if some people representing K’s establishments consider it as a simple job, not related to spirituality. Not all of them, hopefully.
As I read this article, saw the endless cycle never stopping to any direct answer, just more questions. And that is because there are none and it seems to be that all thought/ideas/beliefs/perceptions of another are just that. We all seem to be searching for who and what we are and trying to separate ourselves from this way to that. It is all illusion, there is no separation from religion, spirituality and science or from our consciousness which contains all our existence as one, all is connected. All is one. Each aspect of existence is like a piece of a puzzle and when seen as one, the whole picture unfolds.
True belief is experienced within self which leads to faith in self. you cannot have one without the other. One can have all the knowledge in the world and if not experienced it remains just knowledge without value.
” If you frankly say to yourself that you are seeking only consolation and compensation for the difficulties of life, you will be able to grapple with the problem intelligently. ”
And I wonder if Krishnamurti would have done well if he had not made such a sentence?
The software is not designed for making quotes, so I have to improve and repeat my corrupted message.
I ask administration to delete the previous one. Thank you.
Nicole: “All is one. Each aspect of existence is like a piece of a puzzle and when seen as one, the whole picture unfolds.
True belief is experienced within self which leads to faith in self.”
That’s exactly the point which the author of the article has missed trying to take an approach to ‘true spirituality’.
Oneness of all is not a sum of ‘each aspect of existence’ and has nothing to do with separated pieces ‘like a puzzle’ that make a ‘whole picture’.
Oneness, immeasurable has entirely specific, unknowable by humans, nature.
It’s not a subject of making assumptions, speculations, seeking of wise verbal definitions or any sort of comparisons and analogies.
Sorry to say, you are making a glaring mistake, hence, the same glorifying of the old infamous ‘faith’ and ‘belief’ embellished with the attractive adjective ‘true’.
Hello Victor, I can only judge what is experienced in my own consciousness and your judgement is based on your own experiences or beliefs which is actually in your consciousness . When one says I am right and your are wrong is this called judgement and really should we judge our brothers and sisters?
I believe that with these experiences in myself, I love all even though we may think or look different, every being has a right to express themselves as they choose. I share and do not judge and even though I am not perfected in this direction of my heart, I am aware that “spiritually” that is not acceptable of myself in my consciousness (soul). I have never run into two human the same in my 66 years of existence and I am still learning who and what I am and learning the true meaning of love. When I look at humanity as a whole not looking at individuality, I see wonder and love.
Why do we have wars, “You are wrong and I am right”. Who its right – you are, who is right, I am.
I love you Victor and anyone who reads this.
You ask “Why do we have wars?” and respond to your question: “You are wrong and I am right”. And then you ask: “Who is right” and again you respond by setting everybody “right”.
Let me ask you: Why do we drink? Do we drink because we are thirsty? Or do we drink because our metabolism, a basic physical function of the body, requires water and, in our thirst, alerts us to the necessary intake?
In the first case the reason of drinking lies in the superficial feeling. Each beverage then is right and drinking is a way to prevent becoming thirsty or to wipe thirst out of the sense.
In the second case drinking follows a deeper lying need. And drinking of a beverage has to be harmonized with the need of metabolism and the need of metabolism has to be kept in mind.
Nicole: “I can only judge what is experienced in my own consciousness and your judgement is based on your own experiences or beliefs which is actually in your consciousness”.
No, Nicole, I never do that what you say. My mentality is not based on believing and judging.
Nicole: “When one says I am right and your are wrong is this called judgement and really should we judge our brothers and sisters?”
I understand what you say, Nicole. You, most likely, refer to the Bible e.g.: ‘Don’t judge and you wouldn’t be judged…’
Yet, when I say: ‘You are wrong’, it’s not an appeal to believe me, not at all. It’s invitation from my part to have an attentive look at the issue together and also attempt to find out a common point of view.
Look up, there is neither belief nor judgement in that.
People believe in the Bible for millenniums by now, they repeat all the time: ‘Don’t judge’, ‘Don’t kill’ etc., but look into the wide world, what happens around among the Christians? Are they unanimous, at least, inside themselves? I don’t see, they are.
Does the belief which is based on different conditioning of all people, ever stops us from killing, torturing, robbing each other?
Nicole: “I believe that with these experiences in myself, I love all even though we may think or look different…”
Again, I see what you are talking about.
But here, by Krishnamurti teaching, we are talking about entirely different kind of love that has nothing to do with believes.
This love is not a tolerance; it’s Oneness.
Can you see the difference?
Again, not believed Oneness, but factual one – immediate being in the state of Oneness, beyond all believes, experiences, imaginations and other products of human mind. This Oneness is also the same Truth and Love.
Nicole: “I have never run into two human the same in my 66 years of existence and I am still learning who and what I am and learning the true meaning of love.”
That’s great attitude, in my vision, Nicole. Really great, but I deliberately take a risk right know to instigate your resistance again by trying to attract your attention.
I dare to say again, any belief you’re holding on, being a prejudice, puts an obstacle between you and immediate unconditional love.
Nicole: “When I look at humanity as a whole not looking at individuality, I see wonder and love.”
Maybe that’s just because you have limited your consciousness to the scopes of your beliefs?
Do you really claim having abilities to see over the whole humanity with your limited human mind?
And if you take a closer look to what’s going on in this world in fact? Does all that bloody mess around produce positive sentimental feelings in your inner world?
Don’t go to e.g. Middle East or East of Ukraine, it would be too dangerous for you; it would be enough to get some world news from media. And then again, don’t believe everything they say. ‘Who has eyes to watch, they will see…’ among all that heaps of lie and hypocrisy a glimpse of reality… I hope.
Maybe, you would be even able to see a total global crisis looming over the poor planet?
Nicole: I look at humanity as a whole not looking at individuality
And that’s exactly the limitation you’ve set up for yourself; limitations destroy the Oneness.
Nicole: “Why do we have wars, “You are wrong and I am right”. Who its right – you are, who is right, I am.”
Good observation of yours: that’s the source of every conflict in the world.
But look at that: isn’t it exactly the nature of belief is playing up tricking us humans around?
Yet, it’s always personal or collective belief that says who is ‘right’ and who is ‘wrong’, isn’t it?
But any belief, however true or holy it might seem, it is always conditioned by personal life-experience of people. Hence, everyone believes in different things and there are always collisions. There is never truth in them, whatever those believers say.
We all have to see this fact with the same eyes and understand it. Only then we have a chance to stop that misery which is going on inside of us and in our outer world.
As for me, instead to believe in something, I prefer to watch and see with my own consciousness what’s going on around and myself in there. This brings up understanding which is the only possible approach to Truth and Love.
If we are attentive enough, we can easily see the destructive nature of any belief and belief-systems. They inevitably bring up divisions and conflicts into individual human mind as well societies.
I love you Victor and anyone who reads this.
I love you, too, Nicole, take care.
One of the central questions of Krishnamurti revolves around the question about the relationship thought has to the problems it is about to solve. He does not ask about technical problems, but about problems that arise from our psychological relationship to reality, problems that arise on the line of fear – desire, violence – success, and the associated suffering. And this question leads to the thesis that the structure within thought moves, implies these problems, produces them constantly. The movement of thought itself is the generator of a structure of relation to reality (time), which implies exactly what thought itself is about to resolve. Thus, thought and its value is even questioned. This problems do not depend on the particular content of thought, but on its movement at all in general.
But this now presents thought with a great challenge, since its movement is the movement of the content. Therefore, thought can not cope with this challenge, and therefore it seeks evasion in ever new content, on content at various levels of relationship to reality, generates such levels. So we have to do with psychology, brain research, spirituality and transcendence, religious belief, etc. The binding the mind to all such content corrupts the real question of the dissolution of the structure, from which the ever-same problems on extended graduated ladder are constantly being asked again. I think that this is the background to the question of honesty or corruptibility of the mind.
If one lives his life hollistically he lives it materialy and spiritualy I mean the nature`s hidden part of the life. Science only enquires.
As I read all these comments and all the perceptions of what I am and not, what I should do and not do, what I mean, I am wrong, what my problems are, where I get my perceptions (Bible) acting like you know me, etc. This reminds of a hornets nest. I am leaving this site, will not comment on these comments and I will not explain or defend who or what I am nor do I have any interest in these conversations, that is not the subject of this site.
Why do we have wars? Look within yourselves.
Nicole: “…acting like you know me.”
If we know ourselves, we know all the people… the only problem is: we mostly don’t.
Nicole: “Why do we have wars? Look within yourselves.”
That’s exactly what we are doing here
Those ‘hornets’ are only agitated, restless and dangerous if our glorified ego puts a stick into their nest.
If it’s quiet, they are quiet, too.
Goodbye, dear Nicole, see you soon. Take your break in peace.
If you understand what you are saying, you might also understand that we humans cannot get far away from each other.
I just saw a presentation on PBS last night about the huge problem of sexual harassment of female science students and faculty at academic establishments. Regardless of the scientific method, ego is rife, like everywhere else, in the hallowed halls of science. Ego has created the world we have and will recreate it over and over wherever it is present. And, even though science has some very honest things to say about the condition of our world, ego will deny it and do nothing about it though it will proclaim its attention to identified problems like climate change, etc. True attention requires an attack on the foundations ego is built upon and the addictive comforts of ego’s established lifestyle. The more it changes, the more it stays the same.
So, I doubt science will save us and spirituality is the most sullied and defiled word in the vocabulary. There can be no “spiritual” connection as long as the ego is present.
Dear Mr. Robert Steele,
In your post, you find a contrast of ego and science. And it suggests that science might have a significant role in the transformation of reality if it were not for the ego to play a dominant role. So there is suggested, that there can be a “spiritual” connection if “ego” is absent.
Mr. Metzinger did not talk about science. He asked about “intellectual honesty”. And this question he asked together with the question of Mr. Krishnamurti about the “harmony of reason and love”. And with this question he suggested, that there can be not such a harmony if there is no “intellectual honesty”. Reason is combined with the intellectual activity of mind in respect of understanding. And therefore the question of Mr. Metzinger is about the quality of mind to bring about the “harmony of reason and love”. In this context Mr. Krishnamurti spoke about seriousness and discipline, about denial of any kind of authority, to be totally independent from what any other once said, not to follow anybody. This are formal, outward descriptions in respect to the quality of mind there can be “harmony of reason and love”, but with this there is not descripted the substantial activity through which this outward form is realized. Without reflection of the implied problem that comes from the difference of outward description and substantial activity, there must be a dogmatic application which leads to a fetishistic relation to the demanded descripted elements of mind, out of which opens up another field for what you may call “the modified continuity of the ego”. And this is a very problem in the reception of what Mr. Krishnamurti said, which tends to become a process of autosuggestive self-delusion. So there can be no true understanding. What is understood as understanding is merely an affirmative positioning based on the outward description of the superficial – which falls together with the position of science.
Leave a Reply Cancel reply
This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.