My initial thoughts about this course included serious consideration on our emerging understanding of the nature of cognition and self. I was also motivated by a desire to provide interesting conversations, i.e. human interaction, to LIFE members during the Covid-19 pandemic. As our conversations developed, meditation and mindfulness were seen by class members as more interesting and relevant than conclusions drawn from cognitive science.

I have never felt a pull towards meditation, and certainly not meditation founded on supernatural entities. But our last conversation encourages me to look. Wikipedia has a number of interesting entries (partial list): Secular Spirituality, Secular Buddhism, Christian Atheism and Jewish Secularism

It would seem that people are drawn to the spirituality and community that can be found in many organized religions, but increasingly have difficulty with the supernatural beliefs that are a part of most organized religions. I personally have difficulty with accepting the word authority that does not offer evidence based proof of its word's correctness.

One way to begin our understanding of secular spirituality is with Sam Harris’s Waking Up: A Guide To Spirituality Without Religion (excerpt). As it happens, Sam Harris made a 7 minute video on “Secular Atheist Spirituality” in which he explains how an atheist can be spiritual without subscribing to any established religion, (but with careful attention to Buddhist and Zen practices).

To round out our brief foray into spirituality, I recommend brief excepts from three books:

    • A Path With Heart: a guide through ... spiritual life by Jack Kornfield (excerpt)
    • Eastern Wisdom by Alan Watts (excerpt) &
    • The Buddha: a very short introduction by Michael Carrithers (excerpt)

I recognize the potential value of a deeply engaging lived experience. But for me, select musical experiences play that role. Specifically, the second movement of Beethoven’s 7th Symphony is an experience that takes me to a deep place of meaning. A recent YouTube video of the Vienna Philharmonic performing that movement (16 minute) is recommended. I would also point to Glenn Gould’s version of Bach’s Art of Fugue. The YouTube video almost shows you what Gould is experiencing when he played the beginning (7 minutes) of that composition.

Where do you look for meaning?

How do you look for meaning?

I would be happy to distribute any material that you would like to share with other members of the class. Send me your material or links to that material and I’ll pass it on.

End Note

The dozen slides I prepared as a Survey of Coverage (of the course) are available as a download (pdf file).