Now, if you believe in the spiritual realm (as I do), this can become a tricky topic if you’re not looking to offend anyone because it involves people’s beliefs, but I think people should allow their beliefs to be shaken a bit from time to time, to see how deep their roots really are, and to see how strong the actual belief system really is.
So without complicating things too much, here’s the problem: Trust.
If you’ve read a book or heard someone speak about spiritual guidance, whether from a psychic medium, an Imam, a pastor, or simply a friend offering some help via (deeper) self-help books, then the issue will come up; how do you trust the source of the guidance offered.
Recently a friend offered/suggested a book written by a woman who wrote because she said she was inspired by “a voice” and said it was like she wasn’t writing the book at all, but rather simply writing whatever the voice told her to write. Later she claimed (believed) that the voice belonged to Jesus. The problem is that some of what she wrote (the voice said) is not Biblical. This is a problem, not just for me (a Christian) but for anyone interested.
This Spiritism I find to be common among (or is the center of) the New Age Religions, along the lines of Eckhart Tolle and even those behind the still fairly recent book ‘The Secret’. Another method is the all-encompassing route of embracing all religions and beliefs as being essentially the same thing – all religions lead to God, they’re just different strokes for different folks (pluralism). But that’s an overlapping issue. Spiritism is a bit more direct. How do we know that the author of the book mentioned earlier (by Helen Schucman, 1948-2013) is on the right path?
For a Christian this is simpler because whatever disagrees with the Bible, is false, since the Bible is Truth, the Word of God being the Way, the Truth and the Life… so anything inconsistent with it, is Not the truth. I'm aware that to some this seems a bit narrow-minded, but you wouldn't call a passenger narrow-minded for insisting that only a qualified pilot should fly the plane. And that's essentially what this is about, qualifying forms of Spiritism.
But what about non-Christians? Specifically Non-Christians who also happen to believe in some form of Spirituality and seek guidance through similar books, or a spiritual realm, the afterlife, ancestors, spirit-guides, a higher consciousness, self-help meditation etc.? How would you trust the word of a psychic?
This by the way is also one of the reasons why I am not a Muslim. I believe Muhammad had a profound spiritual experience in that cave, but how do I trust one man’s word, a man who himself said that what he was told did NOT come from Allah directly, but from an angel/messenger?
People like to compare the Quran to the Bible, but that’s not accurate. It would be more apt to compare the Quran (1 book comprising the teachings of Muhammad) to other books like the Book of Isaiah or Jeremiah, or all the Epistles of Apostle Paul (his writings contained within the Bible). This comparison would be more reasonable. This leads to why the books of Isaiah and Jeremiah and the New Testament Gospels and Epistles etc, are joined and included into a singular collection of books: the Bible. Individually, they are all forms of spiritual books and can be bracketed as ‘Spiritism’, the 66 books in the Bible, after generations of deep scrutiny (written over a period of 1500 yrs) are found to be consistent with one another in thought content and purpose - lending it divine credentials like no other book - hence it being the most attacked book in human history.
But for Non-Christians, I’m curios to learn; what are your criteria for discerning spiritual integrity?
If we all believe that there is a spiritual realm, and if that spiritual realm resembles in some small way, the essential dynamics of this world, in terms of the ‘invisible’ qualities like intellect, morality, consciousness etc. – more so if we assume that passed souls (ancestors) are now a part of this metaphysical/spiritual realm… then its logical to assume that since good and evil are evident in this natural world, then it would be quite presumptuous to think good and evil are not prevalent in the spiritual world as well.
This is especially true if you acknowledge that these elements, the natural world and the spiritual, interact with one another; that those in this life will pass on to the next in some form. Are we willing to gamble and assume that good and evil do not exist in the spiritual realm?
And with that knowledge, when one attempts to interact with the spiritual, how do you then discern if whatever you’re interacting with is good or bad?
The truth is divisive, simply because it is exclusive – there is one narrow way, the right way… and many people find themselves on the wrong side or outside of it, this is why doing the good or the right thing, is so often difficult. This is why it can be said that truth is sometimes offensive because by its nature it says that certain positions are wrong/false, hence Truth excludes some people, so many will not like it, no matter how well coated it may be in sincerity. And taking the stance of Truth may also at times sound arrogant, hence the further potential for division. Having faced my own crisis of faith and been in a position of deep doubt, I can at least attest to it not being a very good place to be; but still I had to get to go even deeper to a place where I was willing to accept if there was an error in my beliefs, and to put truth to the test, or whatever test I could come up with, and then to be willing to deal with the consequences of whatever I found on the other side, whether I liked the answers I found or not. [This is also why New Age pluralism is so popular, because then there is no wrong answer, so it fits many people's desires]. All this is naturally related to the quandary: 'Is there a God? and if there is, then who is he and how do we get to know him/it... and did this creator reveal himself to the human race in some way?'
So often in this world, which we’ve made so very complicated, we seek guidance and sometimes that ‘guidance’ comes in forms that seem welcoming at first, but scratch at the surface and it may reveal some inconveniences that many are simply not willing to confront.
To use a common saying which also happens to be from the Bible, “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” (Matt 7:13)
I understand the desire for spiritual guidance, but what are our criteria for deciphering this thing (spirituality) which by its very nature is alien to us? It is something we are unqualified to deal with, hence our methods for interacting with it cannot come from us. So, do we not need some sort of barometer to judge all spiritual matters… if not, then what? We are quick though to create our own way when wading into spiritual waters to fit our own spiritual desires and perspectives.
How do you discern or judge Spiritism?
My advice is to earnestly seek the Truth . . .
As to "what is truth?" as a friend asked me recently, well that's firmly entering epistemology.
But since it is such a tricky subject to define, perhaps the best starting point is to clarify what it is NOT. And its at this foundation where we find the issue of relativism and absolutism. Is Truth Absolute/fixed/objective, or is it relative?
"What then is truth? A mobile army of metaphors, metonyms, and anthropomorphisms -- in short, a sum of human relations, which have been enhanced, transposed, and embellished poetically and rhetorically, and which after long use seem firm, canonical, and obligatory to a people: truths are illusions about which one has forgotten that is what they are..."
--- Frederich Nietzsche, 'On truth and lie in an extra-moral sense,' The Viking Portable p. 46-7
"The philosophy of relativism says that all truth is relative and that there is no such thing as absolute truth. But one has to ask: is the claim “all truth is relative” a relative truth or an absolute truth? If it is a relative truth, then it really is meaningless; how do we know when and where it applies? If it is an absolute truth, then absolute truth exists. Moreover, the relativist betrays his own position when he states that the position of the absolutist is wrong – why can’t those who say absolute truth exists be correct too? In essence, when the relativist says, “There is no truth,” he is asking you not to believe him, and the best thing to do is follow his advice."
--- from What is truth? on - gotquestions.org