“Materialist Spirituality”

I have ventured to make a number of comments associated with the following TED talk, which I rated “beautiful” and “unconvincing.”

Here is one of my comments:

As an evolutionary psychologist and scientific materialist with nontrivial experience in “spiritual practice” over the decades, since my mid-teens (I’m now 59), which I appreciate more than I can say, I still use the word spirituality quite frequently. But for me, spiritual practice has come to entail intrapsychic exercises and verifiable self-knowledge (i.e., via application of objectifying influences from evolutionary psychology and neuroscience) that can reshape our nervous systems to function not quite as they were designed to by natural selection. To be brief, for me, where the rubber hits the road vis-a’-vis human spiritual potential is to build intrapsychic “muscles” allowing us occasionally arrange to have greater freedom to know, feel, and sense more in a given moment than our inborn, physical, naturally-selected intrapsychic regulatory mechanisms would allow by default. Richer less regulated conscious experiences – more objective ones. We have, I’m convinced, an unknown potential to process any impression more thoroughly than is wholly “natural” for us. I think only humans can undertake this great spiritual struggle, which occurs completely on a physical level, but which is still potentially “miraculously” transformative.

When we bring in immaterial ideas and language, and we assume that immaterial forces are operative, then there are no limits as to the assumptions we can make about what’s really going on. It feels really good, but it allows imagination to run wild. I think that this hinders and short-circuits the real work I allude to above.

Kind regards, PJW

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