Everywhere we look we're being programmed to not think freely, and this programming is unexpectedly embedded in the increasingly predominant spiritual narrative that stigmatizes the ego, mind and thought, inspiring self-censorship, shaming and dulling of our intellect, as well as eroding our critical thinking skills. Diana Alstead and Joel Kramer point out in The Passionate Mind Revisted:
"These meta-programs, actually thought programs, which are supposed to help free people from thought and its' mechanical aspects, are mechanical forms of thought that instead condition the mind with negative thoughts about thought."
As I've come to see it...
Learning to think differently and more freely plays a crucial role in bringing out the best of humanity, not simply thinking less, and certainly not stopping thinking altogether. The call we need to answer is for a new spiritual narrative that encourages thinking in new non-binary ways, drawing from a wider, expanded, world-centric perspective that opens the aperture to draw in information from a greater universal context, evolving towards less polarized, both/and thinking, and out of outdated either/or thought paradigms and modes of perception!
For this we cannot destroy, dampen, or dissolve our egos, but to awaken them to become conscious rather than unconscious, egos that are conscious of being a part of the greater whole of what we are, that are conscious of more. We need fully intact, expanded egos that can challenge and evolve (not simply replace with silence!) their own narrow-minded perspectives and limiting automatic thinking habits.
We desperately need guidance in how to think better, not what to think, or not to think, both of which spirituality with a negative attitude towards the thinking mind programs into us. Spiritual indoctrination to see the ego/mind as the villainous sole source of our and the world's problems is a toxic shame.
I think that the most wisest and most evolving spiritual leaders are not those teaching us to stifle our critical thinking abilities, but to expand and sharpen our minds, encouraging us to use thought in new creative and healing ways, and making the heart and head into a team, cultivating a balance between compassion and discernment while those who continue to undermine our freedom of thought are doing us and our society a tragic disservice, making us increasingly susceptible to things like authoritarian control, apathy and righteous indifference. Wise leaders realize that stifling the thoughts of those with the most wide angle perception leaves society's future in the hands of those with the most narrow lens!
We have university classrooms where the teachers views and agendas cannot be questioned without punishment and shame, and too much of our mainstream spiritual learning environments has followed suit. Now in addition to peoples' political alarm systems being triggered, we have spiritual correctness alarms triggered by any strong opinions (except for the opinion that strong opinions are unspiritual!) in others, and most frighteningly within ourselves.
Ego-shunning spirituality that shames self-interest and personal expression, could be seen as even worse than the authoritarian thought police of universities and cancel culture, since in addition to canceling specific thoughts and opinions, it cancels/shames all thought, so that virtue signaling spiritual correctness means remaining silent and impartial, with the most virtuous being the most silent.
We do not need to free ourselves from thought, but we need to free thought from both the shackles of limiting habitual thought patterns, and the confines of ego-shaming, mind-dulling spiritual conditioning.
Here's to forging new spiritual narratives that value, inspire and celebrate expanding and freely evolving thinking, not downgrading, stifling or extinguishing it! Thought is after all, the most emergent way that the universe gets to interact with itself.
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