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Ethical spirituality considers the complexity of human existence and emphasizes engagement with the changing times. It involves being considerate of how our spiritual beliefs and practices impact others and accommodating the diverse realities of human experience. It is not about moral righteousness but rather about context, nuance, and flexibility. Read this post to understand how ethical spirituality invites collaboration and personal reflection.
Ethical spirituality takes the whole human into consideration. And humans are complex (though my bf would disagree, he thinks humans are just monkeys with advanced tools).
Life is complicated, man. Relationships are hard. People evolve. Circumstances change. TIMES CHANGE.
How can we expect to adapt and evolve with the times, if we don’t actually engage with the times?
Ethical spirituality is closely linked with engaged spirituality, which is something else I’m deeply passionate about.
Engaged spirituality is the practical application of nondual teachings to our life + work, where the highest spiritual goal is interdependence. Not everyone has to share that goal btw and I’m totally okay with that. Ethical spirituality is not authoritarian. But if you’re in this community, I’m assuming that you value interdependence as much as I do.
Thich Nhat Hanh talks about engaged spirituality in his book Interbeing: Fourteen Guidelines for Engaged Buddhism. The concept is simple: it reminds us of the inter-existence of all things. Everything depends on everything else to manifest. This Truth is straightforward.
Putting this Truth into practice is much harder. It requires us to care about social change. Not just personal transformation. Not just personal liberation. Not just personal responsibility. But also social transformation, collective liberation, and social responsibility.
Being ethical with your spirituality means that you’re considerate about how your spirituality (including your spiritual practices & beliefs) impacts others–directly or indirectly, consciously or unconsciously.
Does your spirituality translate across the complexities and nuances of human life–not just YOUR human life....but the life of your fellow humans?
Does your spirituality accommodate the range of possibilities for the human experience, beyond yours?
Does your spirituality include the diverse and multifaceted realities of the human condition (especially the condition of suffering)?
If not, then it’s probably not ethical.
Ethical spirituality is not moral righteousness. In fact, the word ‘morality’ gives me the heebie jeebies. It’s a little too religious for my taste.
While morality and ethics are often used interchangeably, I see them as distinct systems for guiding behavior… (though I’m willing to be challenged on that).
To me, morality is about ‘good v.s. bad’, ‘right v.s. wrong.’ This often leads to rigid, black & white thinking and religious dogma.
I lean towards the nondual philosophy that the dualities of ‘good/bad’ , ‘right/wrong’ don’t exist in a metaphysical sense. Metaphysically, things just are, as they are.
However, new-age spirituality has invented its own dogma around this. While it’s true that in the nondual sense, principles around ‘right/wrong’ don’t exist… this doctrine is not very practical for living and functioning in a society, which is very much bound by the world of duality. There’s no escaping that. And when you try to escape the world of duality, you end up bypassing.
Spiritual bypassing happens when a spiritual doctrine (like nonduality) is interpreted dogmatically. Dogmatic interpretations don’t translate across the complexities and nuances of life.
Hence what makes it unethical.
I’ll put this into context in Part 2 of my newsletter when I talk about victim mentality v.s. victimhood v.s. victim status.
Why I love ethical spirituality
It’s very difficult to cover the basis for morality and ethics in a single email. These are massive areas of philosophical study that are beyond my comprehension. Just because I’m passionate about ethics, doesn’t mean I comprehend it. But I’ll break it down in a way that our simple monkey brains can understand.
Religious dogma says: it’s wrong to steal. You should never steal. Stealing is bad.
New-age dogma says: There’s no such thing as ‘right’ or ‘wrong.’ The only reason stealing is ‘bad’ is because society imposes rules on our behavior. So, better not to steal because you’ll get in trouble if you get caught.
Ethics says: Wait, hold on. Why would a person be motivated to steal in the first place? Are they stealing out of need or greed? And what did they steal? What’s the current value of the stolen thing? What’s the cost of their theft on society? What’s the benefit of their theft to their life? And if we choose to punish them, does the punishment fit the crime?
Context. Nuance. Discernment. These things matter.
The reason why I love ethics so much is precisely because it leaves so much room for possibility, paradox, dilemma, and discernment. It’s true to life because there are not always clear cut answers. It moves with the times–it has to. Because what was ethical 10 years ago might not be ethical today. Therefore it’s not fixed by rigid rules and dogma. It’s fluid, flexible, and forgiving to the messiness of being human. Ethics accommodates BOTH our existential AND our practical problems.
Ethical spirituality invites us to keep our eyes, ears, hearts, and minds open to the range of possibilities and experiences of our flawed, human condition.
And the beautiful thing about ethics is that it’s truly a collaborative process. No one owns the ‘rules’–we make them based on what is meaningful to us at the time that we are making them…in consideration to what is sensible, reasonable, and within reach.
Ethical spirituality represents our evolution of thinking and being, on both a personal and collective level. Which is what the spiritual transformation process is all about..I think.
So today I want to leave you with these 7 ethical words to meditate on as you move through your day. I hope you enjoy this practice :)
The way to meditate on words is to slow down and pronounce each syllable in your head as you read each word. You can start slowing down your reading now.
Soften your gaze, relax your shoulders, unclench your jaw, release the air out of your lungs, and send your breath deep into your belly.
As you read the words, sense and feel into how the words are landing in your body. How do they make you feel?
Flexible. Adaptable. Accommodating. Not rigid. Fluid. Forgiving. Engaged.
After you’ve finished reading the words, take a deep inhale and exhale….
Now, remove your head. Yes, get rid of your head. Just put it to the side for a second. What’s left now is just your body and your breath.
As you float your gaze back to the words, see them through your heart. You can place a hand on your heart if you wish. This time, pay attention the spaces between the words, the shape of the letters, how the words stand individually and also ‘hang’ together. Again, sensing and feeling into how the words land in your body. Allow any images, emotions, sensations and thoughts to pass through as you keep your breath steady into your belly. Pause there for a brief moment, then come back to the end of the email.
I hope you enjoyed this meditation. Thank you for reading, participating, learning, and growing with me!
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Conscious Revolution is a thought leadership newsletter & podcast about the intersection of cults, cons, and capitalism. How do we define ourselves outside of exploitative social systems, mainstream cults, internet echo-chambers, and authoritarian agendas? How do we navigate the collective struggle to discern reality from illusion? Conscious Revolution is a critical exploration of this and so much more! Get in, loser: We're starting a Conscious Revolution!