Spirituality and rationality

As stated on the introduction page, putting rationality before emotionality does not mean that here rationality, the real world, replaces the emotional world. What is meant is that it should go above emotionality when one starts to think about how this world should be organized. The reason for this approach is that the emotional or spiritual side has so far contributed little to the advancement of the well-being of mankind. This doesn’t mean to say that there has been no contribution, but that this contribution is small relative to the efforts that have gone into it. This is especially the case for the more popular forms of religion, and the more when they are more institutionalized. Often these religious institutions have followed and been an instrument in the hand of the rulers, sometimes even the most repulsive ones. In religious handbooks like the bible one finds unequivocal commands on how to treat the weak, and on the value of the purely material things. Nevertheless, present-day politicians that call themselves Christians break these commands on a daily basis. And there is nobody who draws attention to this, or seems to notice otherwise.

These remarks do not mean to say that the emotional and spiritual side of life doesn’t have any value, on the contrary. One of the intentions here is that by resolving existing problems of society by methods of the rational mind, one will create the opportunities to make our live a more spiritual one. It is a well-known truth that he who worries about his daily bread, is less apt to care about all kinds of spiritual matters, for example the empathising with his children. On the larger scale of society as a whole, something similar might apply.

But just as for the material problems of society, for its spiritual problems it isn’t necessary to get into lots of complications either. Most of its aspects are known for a long time, often for centuries, given to us by teachings from spiritual leaders from all over the world. He who looks at the more simple lessons of life as depicted in Das Narrenschiff , published 1494 (excerpt will follow later), wonders how little has changed in the spiritual world in five hundred years.

One can assume that most of the things needed for an emotionally and spiritually satisfactory life are already known. Then the question is why so many people lead a more or less unsatisfactory and unhappy life. The most remarkable about this is that the feeling of satisfaction and happiness does not differ greatly between countries of which the material wealth does differ greatly, and that within these countries the rich are not very much more happy and content than the poor.

An important pointer towards solving this puzzle is given by the experiences in the former communist countries of Eastern-Europe. After the fall\of the communist governments, the material wealth ion these countries has grown considerably, for a part of the population anyway; the weak have in general been worse off. But most of those concerned agree that the spiritual life in these countries has gotten worse. Not only in the deterioration of cultural activities like literature, theatre, etc., but most of all it is the deterioration of the attention and interest for other people that is lamented by those who notice it.

This spiritual phenomenon has two main aspects that can be summarized as The animal of prey versus the group animal, and The seduction by affluence. These terms should be enough as a description, but a short exposition may be useful.

The parable of the animal of prey and the group animal is a human analogy of two ways nature has developed to deal with the interaction between individuals. The preying animal provides in his life essentials, his food, at the cost of the lives of other animals. The group animal usually does not. This can be formulated in a more abstract fashion as the individualistic versus the collectivistic attitude towards the world. And it is abundantly clear that, whatever they may be called otherwise, the communistic governments of Eastern-Europe were much more collectivistic than the present ones. In fact, the less collectivistic nature of the present ones is presented in the West as one of their major advantages, while pointing out to the greater individualistic freedom this has led.

However, the method of the preying animal also has a number of negative sides. Indeed his individual freedom is greater, but this means that the animal usually lives a solitary life, only to seek each others company during the time for reproduction. The explanation is simple: while hunting for his prey, animals of prey are also competitors, and because of the weapons they have, also dangerous for each other. There are of course exceptions to this rule, but these are probably caused by further specialization and natural selection: if it is no longer possible to catch a prey on your own, you are forced to cooperate in order to survive. A single lion has no chance of survival. But that the cooperation of lions within their den has not led to a higher spiritual level can be deduced from the fact that lions actively search for the young of their competing species, the cheetah, in order to kill them.

The spirit of the animal of prey is dominated by the fact that it cannot have consideration for the individuality of his victim, let alone its character or personality. The animal of prey has an inborn lack of empathy. A single look into the eyes of an animal of prey should be enough as a last step to complete the proof of this. Those in human society that propose the purely individualistic way of life can be similarly identified: just look into their eyes.

The second parable, The seduction by affluence, should in principle as clear as the first one. Here too it easy to find a natural origin to the phenomenon. For large parts of its existence, humans have had to struggle to satisfy their material needs. Only in the most recent times, there a considerable comfort in this respect. In societies like Dutch or Danish ones, even people that are out of work do not have to worry about their primary needs like food and housing; their main problems are that they no longer can join in the living pattern of the rest of society.

Modern Western man can get material goods in affluence. And he gets them in affluence. Everything that can be begotten is begotten in abundance. There are many examples of this, probably the most illustrative being the growing number of persons that are too fat and overweight. Everybody, even themselves, knows that being overweight is a serious problem. Yet they cannot stop consuming. And what applies to fat persons in the specific, applies to Western society in the general. And it applies too almost all consumer goods. It even applies to more things, with the most visible example being the traffic jams in our highways. Because everybody knows or should know that there is not a shortage of roads, but an abundance of traffic. Every improved road only helps in reaching the next bottleneck more quickly, with as the final point the place where the car must be parked.

It is all these forms of overconsumption that have been summarized in the expression The seduction of affluence. It is this seduction that causes people to neglect their spiritual needs, in favour of their material wealth. And even the latter is often untrue, as the example of the fat people shows.

So an important part of the dissatisfaction and unhappiness in society can be traced back to the old sin of immoderation. The bible has given a final treatment of this sin in the story of the dance around the golden calf. The lesson cannot be misunderstood in any shape or form. Yet it is broken in our so-called Christian society on a daily and gargantuan basis. It is even the case that our affluence is used as an argument to praise its system, while everybody knows that if the devil tries to seduce humanity; it is not with acid and brimstone, but with sweets and honey.

Where as spiritual downfall as expressed The animal of prey applies mainly to the upper layers of society, The seduction applies to all of them. Together the two form a self-amplifying combination, since the hideous behaviour of the upper echelons leads to the affluence that is used to seduce and compromise the rest of society.

So spiritual arguments lead to the same conclusion as the more rational ones in the rest of this website: the upper echelons of our Western society consist largely of degraded persons, who drag the rest of society down by playing on their weaknesses.

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