All too often people forget that spirituality is essentially a way of life and that its measure does not consist of notions, theories, and ideas that have been stored in one’s head. Spirituality is what has been successfully actualized and translated into a sense of superiority which is experienced inside by the soul, and a noble demeanor, which is expressed in the body.
From this perspective it is possible to appreciate a discipline which, although it may concern the energies of the body, will not begin and end with them but will become instead the means to awakening a living and organic spirituality. This is the discipline of a superior inner character.”
In the modern world there are two factors that, more than any others, are responsible for hindering our realization of the spirituality that was known in the most ancient traditions: the first is the abstract character of our culture; the second is the glorification of a blind and frantic obsession with activity.
On one hand, there are people who identify the “spirit” with the erudition acquired in libraries and university classrooms, or with the intellectual games played by philosophers, or with literary or pseudomystical aestheticism. On the other hand, the new generations have turned athletic competition into a religion and appear to be unable to conceive anything beyond the excitement of training sessions, competitions, and physical achievements; they have truly turned accomplishment in sports into an end in itself and even into an obsession rather than as means to a higher end.
Some people regard this opposition of lifestyles as some kind of dilemma. In the so-called scholarly type, we often find an innate strong dislike for any kind of physical discipline; likewise, in many sports-practicing people, the sense of physical strength fosters contempt for those in “ivory towers” who confine themselves to books and to battles of words they view as harmless.
These two lifestyles should be regarded as misguided and as the fruits of modern decadence because they are both foreign to the heroic vision of the spirit that constituted the axis of the best Western classical traditions.”
First there was the Copernican system dethroning the earth as the center of the cosmos.
Second was the Darwinian revolution; the idea that far from being the climax of “intelligent design” we are merely neotonous apes that happen to be slightly cleverer than our cousins.
Third, the Freudian view that even though you claim to be “in charge” of your life, your behavior is in fact governed by a cauldron of drives and motives of which you are largely unconscious.
And fourth, the discovery of DNA and the genetic code with its implication (to quote James Watson) that “There are only molecules. Everything else is sociology”.
To this list we can now add the fifth, the “neuroscience revolution” and its corollary pointed out by Crick—the “astonishing hypothesis”—that even our loftiest thoughts and aspirations are mere byproducts of neural activity. We are nothing but a pack of neurons.
If all this seems dehumanizing, you haven’t seen anything yet.”
Scientific Determinism. Evolutionary Psychology. Meta-Ethical Nihilism. Friedrich Nietzsche. Arthur Schopenhauer. Emile Cioran. Thomas Ligotti. Roman Stoicism. Aristotle. Hermann Hesse. Abraham Maslow. … Sometimes I feel like I’m philosophically promiscuous.
Our brains evolved for an environment very different from the one we currently inhabit. As a result, we carry all kinds of biological baggage. Humans are still primed to detect threats and dangers that no longer exist—think of the cold sweat when you’re stressed about money, or the fight-or-flight response that kicks in when your boss yells at you. Our safety is not truly at risk here—there is little danger that we will starve or that violence will break out—though it certainly feels that way sometimes.
We have a choice about how we respond to this situation (or any situation, for that matter). We can be blindly led by these primal feelings or we can understand them and learn to filter them. Discipline in perception lets you clearly see the advantage and the proper course of action in every situation—without the pestilence of panic or fear.”