I’ve avoided writing this letter for quite some time.
I’ve never felt “ready,” and I still don’t, but I know that writing about it will help clarify my thoughts.
I hope those thoughts can be beneficial to you.
Religion is like politics in the sense that when people disagree with your views, they have an unconscious emotional reaction where they spew pre-programmed words that they’ve been fed since birth.
What’s worse is that religion and politics bring certainty to an uncertain future. From a psychological lens, that’s why people outsource their free thinking to those ideological structures; to order their minds and prevent a decline into chaos.
When one’s views are threatened, they have a physical survival response like that of a mouse in the grips of a snake.
So, they reinforce their identity as they always have, close themselves off to truth (which is ironic), and never open their mind beyond the pre-rational stage of development.
I would encourage you to keep an open mind when reading this letter, and if you can’t, please unsubscribe. I’m not asking you to adopt my beliefs, I’m asking you to challenge your own.
I was raised a Latter-Day Saint, some people know this ideology as “Mormonism.”
Every Sunday, I would dress up in black slacks, a pure white shirt, and my favorite tie that my dad gave me.
It started in Sunday school, where kids under the age of 12 would sing hymns like “I Am A Child Of God” and go into a lesson from the Bible or Book Of Mormon.
At age 12, the boys became deacons. At 14, teachers. At 16, priests. All with increasing responsibilities in the priesthood.
We went on temple trips, performed baptisms for the dead, and attended “seminary;” a one-hour block of religious schooling before getting dropped off at public school.
I had great experiences in the church, like boy scouts and the week-long multi-season adventures associated with it. There are some incredible people that subscribe to the belief system, but I was always skeptical.
The teachings failed to make logical, scientific, or realistic sense when you questioned them without getting scared of what you might find.
During my time in the church, I was blessed to have the internet available to me.
I let my curiosity pull me down rabbits of Christian, Catholic, Muslim, and even atheist ideologies so I could learn what they were all about.
I went with my high school friends to their respective churches on Sunday, kept an open mind, observed, and questioned.
I was able to note patterns, but they still lacked sense-making. At the time, I was not okay with the same blanket answer to every philosophical question I asked:
“Just have faith.”
Somehow I knew that holding the same beliefs for the entirety of my life would not serve me well.
And over the past 10 years observing my former churchmates (thanks Facebook), I was correct.
Ego Development & The Pre-Trans Fallacy
The difference between a theist, atheist, and spiritualist, in that order, is self-development.
Consider the “self” and “ego” synonymous for the rest of this letter.
You don’t get rid of your ego, you develop it to the point or being at one with reality.
You don’t develop your ego by trying to answer the impossible question of “who am I?” but instead, asking the question “who am I not?” until you are left with nothing but pure consciousness.
In my quest for meaning, I came across three incredible resources:
- The 9 Stages Of Ego Development by Susan Cook Greuter, summarized by Actualized.Org (link)
- The AQAL Model of human consciousness evolution by Ken Wilber
- The Spiral Dynamics evolutionary model of individuals, organizations, and societies
These are all models for mapping individual and collective psyche development.
There is way too much to distill in one letter, so I encourage you to explore them in your own time.
But, one model from Ken Wilber helps explain the stages of spiritual development.
It is called the Pre-Trans Fallacy.
In short, think of it like the bell curve meme that was popular last year:
If you are struggling to find direction in your search for meaning, understanding, and God, this model can help.
The Pre-Trans Fallacy does not only apply to religion. It applies to development in any domain.
It states that people often mistake the pre-rational stage of development for being post-rational because neither represents the rational stage.
We are using religion as an example, and the easiest way to illustrate this concept is the belief in God.
A biblical Christian’s notion of God is vastly different from a mystic’s notion of God.
From the outside looking in, they look like they are saying the same thing because they are not atheistic.
They are not the same, let’s break down why:
The Pre-Rational Stage
For this letter, we will be using Christianity as an example, because that is what I have experience with in the most extreme form.
But, this can be applied to any ideology, religious or not.
I see these patterns reflect in business as well.
Like how pockets of the internet believe in the “best” outreach, content, or branding strategies without room for improvement.
In reality, the most developed individuals take the principles, move through the stages, and create their own methods to see the desired end result that any domain points at. For business it’s money, for religion it’s meaning, for health it’s health.
Without questioning your own beliefs, you close yourself off to novel discoveries, innovations, and the things that will bring true progress to your life and the world.
The individuals, organizations, and societies in this pre-rational stage are best described as “bible thumpers.”
The spirituality of this stage is highly material.
They think heaven and hell are literal places where “you” (which is a concept, the self) are blessed with virgins or tortured with fire.
Any form of feedback is taken as a threat.
They lash out with the same words they’ve been parroting since they were indoctrinated into that belief system.
The real problem is that the people in this stage close their minds to higher stages of development.
They can’t view and interpret reality for what it is.
Note: I do not aim to paint any religious ideology as bad. There are deep truths that can be found through study. The problem is the belief that these truths are limited to one lens of understanding these truths.
The Rational Stage
The rational stage is one that I know well.
It is the stereotypical atheist that rejects any and all notion of a higher power.
They lean on scientific discoveries to prove what is real from what’s not. If it can’t be scientifically proven, it is not true, according to this stage.
This is the stage where false skepticism begins to take over.
Atheists “question everything,” as they should, but fail to question their own beliefs. Instead, they horde debate-worthy information that disproves the existence of God.
They can see through the blatant flaws of the pre-rational stage, but have not opened their mind to the flaws of their own. They think they have, and that’s what prevents them from going deeper.
One thing to understand here is that most people go through all 3 stages of development.
If you are in the rational or pre-rational stage, you won’t make an immediate leap to the next stage. It requires time and ego development.
The Trans Rational Stage
In the trans-rational stage, belief in God returns, but not the static image of a man in the sky.
This is where eastern philosophy, mysticism, and the labels associated with spirituality come into play.
I do not want to do this stage injustice, as it is difficult to explain to those that lack the mental capacity for higher-level understanding (this isn’t meant to be an insult, nor do I believe that people in this stage are “above” others in the context of status, this isn’t about status).
Instead, I will attempt to point a finger at God. I would encourage you to use this as a way for you to notice and understand this higher power in your everyday life.
How To Find God
He who knows himself knows God. – Clement Of Alexandria
First, let’s make a distinction between “concept” and “reality.”
A concept is a label for an aspect of reality that we hold as static in our minds.
They are useful, but not law. Reality flows like a river, a concept is a snapshot of that river.
This introduces the Buddhist principle of impermanence.
That is, nothing can be isolated and held static by the mind. A thought, idea, concept, ideology, person, item, community, emotion, and anything else that we process with our mind and expect to stay the same.
As an example, how we interpret what we see is determined by our perspective at the time, and our perspective is influenced by our state of mind.
The ego perpetuates this issue. It doesn’t want to change.
If I am angry and have little experience with business, and I see a post from a billionaire about money… you can guess the outcome.
I will form a concept of who that billionaire is in my mind (after reading one of their posts) and solidify that concept with my beliefs.
“He had rich parents.”
“He got lucky, I could never do that.”
“Why doesn’t he give his money to charity? Doesn’t he have enough?”
Even if you don’t say these things, your ego does.
The ego creates barriers, limitations, and fabricated stories that veil reality. It prevents you from seeing things as they are by filling in the blanks of the static image your ego is attempting to construct.
In reality, you formed your entire opinion of another human being on a post that composes 0.0000000000001% of their contributions in life.
Everyone has the desire to be free, and that’s important.
Some would say it’s the inner voice of a higher power.
All that freedom is when pertaining to the mind, is the dissolution of barriers that comes from adopting a higher perspective.
When you adopt a higher perspective, you can start to see things for what they are.
This is the lesson of all spiritual teachings.
Patterns Of God
Teotl, Brahman, Infinity, Source, The Universe, and more are all perspectives of God.
Teotl in Aztec Philosophy is defined as, “a single, vivifying, eternally self-generating and self-regenerating sacred power, energy, or force.”
In short, this is “spirit.”
Brahman in Buddhism is defined as, “the ultimate reality underlying all phenomena… Brahman is formless but is the birthplace of all forms in visible reality.”
Infinity or Source are other common lenses used by those that choose to understand God in that way.
They are all pointing toward the same thing, and that thing can’t be captured and isolated as a religious ideology.
I mean… it can and has been, but as minds have slowly started to open over the last century, these constructs have been questioned, and for good reason.
My favorite way of illustrating this formless power is through the lens of The Universe.
Universe = uni-verse = one-song.
An infinite song that has highs, lows, harmonies of multiple instruments, rising actions, climaxes, falling actions, and a chorus.
This pattern reflects in human sense-making.
Humans make sense of the world via stories, and we become obsessed with games because they are stories with interactive challenges that narrow our attention.
The problem is that we try to make sense of a note, lyric, instrument, or musician on it’s own without regard for the big picture.
If you isolate a part of the story, especially a negative one, you’re going to have a bad time. Unless you zoom out to see the story unfolding before your eyes.
Let’s run through a story of the self-generation and self-regeneration of rain:
Imagine the ocean or a large body of water. The heat from the sun evaporates that water, dividing it into many microscopic droplets.
Those droplets rise and reunify as clouds. These clouds grow in size and unify as larger clouds.
Soon, droplets unify in the clouds until they are heavy enough to rain back down to Earth.
Rain creates puddles, fills streams, and works it’s way through other ecological processes.
Eventually, the rain makes its way back to the ocean with time and the process is repeated.
This is not a localized phenomenon of division and unity.
It is infinite.
The ideas in your mind divide and reunite, we call this creativity.
Throughout human history, races have divided and are now reunifying.
From a universal perspective, your opinions do not matter about this, nor do mine.
The barriers of race have been questioned and fought against until people were able to mate with whomever they please. This, of course, is not the driving force behind all of this.
In some time from now, all of our skin may be the same slight shade of what humans perceive as brown, and race as a concept will collapse into one.
What about the chapters of your life? You’ve gone through highs and lows. You’ve gained friends and lost friends. You’ve changed, even if you’re mind has attached to an image of yourself from the past.
I would encourage you to notice these pattern wherever you can, even when making your breakfast, writing a book, or using the bathroom.
This is how you find God in your everyday life. By seeing beyond the surface and appreciating the depth behind your mechanical pre-programmed actions (and yes, those mechanical actions can be praising a surface-level image of God, which seems against the point).
Notice the parts, wholes, and how they dance together across the physical globe and ripple through the collective consciousness.
The Practicality Of God
You are probably asking, “How in the world is this practical to my life?”
One, because this isn’t “your” life.
This isn’t about your selfish narrow perspective. You are meant to open your mind beyond that.
Two, does this not fascinate you? The depth behind what you perceive as mundane, “normal,” actions?
There is more beyond the surface of material, status, and words.
You are a part of something much bigger, and that can only be seen through spirit.
By doing this, it reveals that the concepts, beliefs, and ideals we hold so dear are not static.
When we identify with these mentally constructed entities and regard them as unchanging, we are in for a world of emotional trouble that prevents personal and collective progress.
The open-minded flow with the Universe, the closed-minded force the Universe to flow with them.
If the closed-minded are the barriers to true progress, then the open-minded have an obligation to raise them up.
One of the most beneficial habits you can adopt is playing with mental legos.
Sit with an idea, thought, or problem and follow the connections that present themselves.
Stay vigilant of egoic distractions.
This is how you practice creativity, mindfulness, and deep thinking without any external tools or guides.
The big problem on the cultural, social, and personal planes of existence is identification with ideology.
Humans group ideas into what is supposed to be indivisible unity of ideas.
We leave no room for division and reunification. We leave no room for God.
– Dan Koe
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