Dear reader

Why do I write about pitfalls of spirituality?

My purpose with this blog is to crystallize and share my thoughts and experiences, in the hope that you and I may benefit from them. From 1993-2005 I practiced a so-called spiritual method (Sahaj Marg). Ultimately I realized that this method - and especially the organization around it (Shri Ram Chandra Mission or SRCM)- was contrary to some deep spiritual layer in myself. I came to some clear conclusions, and also to some still developing insights.

One still developing insight is that almost everybody is looking for some form of spirituality in their life. Therefore there are many spiritual methods and movements, often with similar pitfalls to the ones I experienced.

Many people follow a well-trodden path which is defined by the group in their immediate vicinity. Others are prompted by their heart and/or head to look for spirituality that makes sense on a personal level. Spirituality gives fulfillment -humanity as one, universal love growing, one with the buddha- as well as direction through life's tough questions.

I write about the pitfalls of spirituality because so many others seem to write mostly about the bliss of their own approach to spirituality. This bliss to me actually seems a pitfall.

Understanding the pitfalls I deem essential to gain more spiritual insight. For me this actually translates into a lighter and more loving heart. I do not believe that understanding is the key issue in spirituality. But I do believe that misunderstanding can block key issues (although to which degree probably varies with each person).

Please bear with my frequent use of I feel, seems to me, in my not so humble opinion and so on. It is to emphasize that I do not consider any of my opinions to be more than that. I cannot bring you universal truth. In my not so humble opinion [imnsho] universal truth is a major pitfall in spirituality.

Dear reader, I hope you find something worthwhile on these pages. Friendly reactions, which may be as critical as you like, are always welcome.

Tips how to read this blog

* Please start with the closing remarks (click on the link), they should provide a balanced perspective on this blog.

* There is a list of 20 pitfalls in the sidebar. Clicking on a pitfall will provide a number of posts in which that pitfall is discussed to some extent.

* If you have time, consider starting with the oldest post, and simply going through to each next post. This probably gives the most faithful ;-) reading...

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Fear and temptation: what are our motives?

In writing this blog, a certain question persists:

Why do we do what we do? What drives us, what are our motives?

In my not so humble opinion, we all build up a sort of `belief system' in the course of our life. A part of this belief system may come to us through our family, another part through other groups that we are part of for some time, and maybe we have some individual say in what we believe in too. Our experiences are bound to play some role in the whole thing too.

I don't think that what we do derives 100% from this belief system. I would even go so far as to think that quite a bit of our belief system comes from what we are used to doing. In other words, we are creatures of instinct and habit, and it seems likely to me that we choose what to believe in at least partly also to accommodate these instincts and habits.

In spirituality, it seems to me that what we believe in also accommodates our longing for a better world (whatever `better' may be). And assuages our fear of dying, our fear of senselessness, our fear of the unknown, our fear of being insignificant pawns in a cruel grand scheme of things.

One can only blame our (limited) human intelligence for these fears and questions. As far as I know, there are no other animals who pray, meditate, or practice some other form of spirituality / religion. I feel that we need certain beliefs, in order to maintain a positive outlook on our existence. Without certain safeguards, our positive outlook on our existence might be vanquished by fears, doubts, traumatic experiences, and rational questions.


Religions and religious practices have -I believe- evolved with humanity's growing understanding of the world in which we find ourselves. But still in essence they can be characterized as driven by a combination of `fear' and `temptation'.

Where our early ancestors were terrified of thunder and lightning, they invented appropriate gods. By making these gods rather human, one could pray to them, barter with them, appease them with a suitable sacrifice. In this way, `primitive' religion reduced anxiety, gave direction, and offered the temptation of an afterlife in the form of `everlasting hunting grounds' or similar stuff. [I'm skipping over the more subtle aspects, I know. It's not my objective here to be complete, sorry.]

Somewhere in our history however, I speculate, the idea of several very humanlike gods running around somewhere close -yet never really tangibly, provably- became obsolete. It simply made no sense, actually, if one applied some science and scepsis and a lot of free thinking. So what were the romans supposed to do, for instance, when confronted with monotheistic religions like judaism and christianity?

The idea of one, mysterious, unknowable, all-powerful god or divine force or ...(whatever these concept may mean) is harder for the intellect to dismiss. Not in the least because our intellect has never given a satisfactory rational answer to our existential questions either.


Many people claim to feel the presence of something/someone divine. This `divine' experience strengthens them in their spiritual belief system - quite logically I would say, although to me the qualification `divine' cannot be rational (more on this later). But the belief in rationality as the `best' or `most objective' way of understanding the world, is also just a belief, I believe ;-).


In this whole fabric of belief systems, this post is about fear & temptation as a pitfall. For fear & temptation to become a pitfall, they must be hampering me in how I want to be, how I want to live, to love, to give,...something like that.

Since [imnsho of course] I do have personal experience with fear and temptation hampering me, in a spiritual way, I feel it might be of benefit to write some analysis on this blog.

[to be continued]

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