Can spirituality help science 3
Health: Spirituality without esotericism
Most recently I wrote about »Self-efficacy«: the chance to create a space of sovereignty and reflected self-perception in times of crisis. Without such a space, we find it difficult to keep the ground under our feet and feel at the mercy of the crisis. In fact, many people actively seek spaces of self-efficacy, be it through prayer, yoga, meditation, or exercise. Because being passively delivered - just like in lockdown - means stress, and we need the personal option to act, the "ability to do something" in order to reduce stress hormones and remain mentally stable.
Exercise and mindfulness help to cope with the internal alarm condition. And many are also turning to some form of spirituality, perhaps to their surprise. This can also be helpful, for example, in getting over periods of illness. Neurobiological research has long proven positive consequences for body and psyche through so-called equilibrium processes, which are the goal of many spiritual endeavors.
This article is featured in Spectrum Health, 4/2021
But one thing bothers me: Spirituality is often accompanied by a turn to esotericism. A real market has even formed here, which is aggressively promoting this trend. Spirituality has always been an attempt by humanity to break away from the unpleasantnesses of life. For a long time it was almost always backed by religious beliefs. As the importance of religion wanes, we see a shift towards a different type of spirituality. It expresses itself as a conscious search for a deeper understanding of ourselves and our environment - as a practical longing for meaning in a reality that not infrequently challenges us in a crisis. However, a spirituality understood in this way must necessarily be compatible with intellectual honesty: It must not go hand in hand with a departure from the rational and scientific view of the world and man.
Whether and how this can succeed is a question with which the philosopher Thomas Metzinger, for example, wrestles. He speaks of a "secular spirituality": a path that avoids religious and occult-esoteric views and practices. Because there lurk the dangers of psychological and material dependence, of belief in authority, the tendency to simple all-explanations and possibly the adherence to leadership figures. The human past speaks for itself. Personally, I have been meditating more and less regularly for many years and enjoy doing yoga. I just like the relaxing effect and don't need to talk about chakras and energy: My deep esoteric phase is long over.
Not all yoga is the same. There are an unbelievable number of variants, and after a cursory glance at the program of the yoga schools you soon don't know what you're talking about. I think it is important to distinguish between offers with and without a pronounced esoteric superstructure: Some variants are real door openers into the esoteric scene, others are actually primarily sports. The right measure is also the middle (by the way, this is also a yoga wisdom). The focus should be on appropriate physical exercise and relaxation techniques. In my opinion, the basic idea of bringing body and mind to a unity and thus achieving self-discovery fits very well with the concept of mankind of our time, in which we all have to constantly rediscover ourselves. "Higher insights", alias esotericism, are not required for this; the real world has just enough to find oneself - secular spirituality.
Even more than yoga, meditation may have a smell of the esoteric-occult-Far Eastern smell - it probably dates from the 1970s and 1980s, when some very special gurus really had very special offers for immersion in their programs. Even today there are forms of meditation that are based on assumptions that are clearly religious and esoteric from the outset. At the same time, they promise health benefits, which can be a direct route to the esoteric scene.
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