“If one can only see things according to one’s own belief system, one is destined to become virtually deaf, dumb, and blind.” – Robert Anton Wilson, writer
“I don’t believe in Jesus, Allah, Yahweh, Shiva, any god!”
Nathan was retired…or as he put it in our first consult, re…tired, just in another way. He was a dentist by profession and had sold his practice, a few years earlier, to a colleague. Nathan, just turning sixty, seemed to take some measure of pride in being a pessimist, kind of the Eeyore of his forty acres of world influence.
Nathan was a stout guy with a goatee and full head of salty pepper hair. He was divorced from his second wife and had no children from either marriage. He was raised in one of the Protestant religions which he never actually named. But, he seemed to have fond memories of his childhood days attending church with his close family.
He said what brought him to my office was a spiritual crisis. When I asked about the nature of his spiritual crisis he said,
“I don’t believe in Jesus, Allah, Yahweh, Shiva, any god!”
“Why does not believing in a god present a problem for you, Nathan?” I asked.
“Well…It doesn’t really!” he paused. Then, he went on, “What bugs me is why so many of my friends and relatives do!”
“So, you really need to understand why other people believe in a god…is that your challenge?”
“Deism is the belief that nature and God are one and the same thing. If you study nature, you’re getting insights about God.” – Bruce Lipton, scientist
“… every human is biologically programmed to survive and reproduce,…”
“It just seems so silly given the knowledge we have today! I have stopped trying to convince people… it’s like trying to get a marshmallow through the eye of a needle.” he said, his frustration evident.
“Nathan, I bet by now, with your life experiences, you have figured out people believe what they need to believe to make sense of their past. Would that be true?”
“Yes, I figured that out from arguing with friends about which is the best hockey team…it is futile! If their family were Montreal Canadian fans, then it’s just a waste of time to try to convince them to consider the Toronto Maple Leafs. But why believe in a mythical person?” he asked, clearly befuddled.
“If you’re willing to learn how it happened, I can show you! Are you game?”
“Sure am! It’s been bugging me a lot lately. And, I think it is because I’m not sure what to believe in instead!” he said, revealing the underlying challenge in his life.
“OK! I can show you how it happened in a few easy leaps of human learning. Most of them you will already know. But, you may not have put them together this way before. The first one is every human is biologically programmed to survive and reproduce, like every species.”
“OK! Why is that so important to notice?” Nathan responded.
“I had therefore to remove knowledge, in order to make room for belief.”
– Immanuel Kant, philosopher
“Each one of us has been a scientist since birth.”
“Our fears, which we often downplay, motivate us to learn to survive. So, whatever we don’t understand could endanger us, so we seek to understand everything around us to ensure our safety.” I said.
“That explains why we are so curious about everything…why we research everything from garbage to grapes to galaxies, eh?” he added, insightfully.
“Exactly. Each one of us has been a scientist since birth. And, our natural world is constantly evolving so that species are constantly coming into and going out of existence. This means each species, including us, are smarter at survival than its predecessor.” I said.
“Are you saying we don’t get dumber, only smarter in some way?” he asked.
Yes, that’s what’s going on! So we had to develop new thinking strategies to deal with every challenge or danger. The big four of our early ancestors were: earth (earthquakes, landslides, volcanoes, wild animals, etc.); air (thunder, lightning, hurricanes, cyclones, etc.); fire (heat, drought, famines, etc.) and water (floods, droughts, drowning, etc.).”
“Aren’t earth, air, fire and water considered by the Ancient Greeks as the four basic elements of the earth?” Nathan asked, starting to link his new knowledge to his old.
“Belief is the death of intelligence.” – Robert Anton Wilson, author
“…we made them human like and called them gods.”
“Exactly Nathan! You can see we’ve been strategizing for a long time on how to survive this dangerous world we live in, eh? Let’s use fire as an example. We had to learn to get close to the fire to stay warm. But, never to touch the fire. This duality of approach/avoidance thinking, which is a basic law of nature, became one of the secrets of our survival.”
“Would you give me another example?”
“Sure! Perhaps one of the most important, we learned to approach or avoid people in our family, clan or tribe to build relationships with them for our safety.
“So, earth, air, fire and water could be beneficial or harmful. And trying to figure out which was which was essential for our future. Am I getting this right?” he asked.
“Yes you are! During this learning process, we were noticing this same duality stuff in our relationships. It was wise at times to approach a person, and other times, to avoid doing that. Each person was both approachable sometimes, and not approachable, at other times. We took this duality approach and applied it to nonhuman events as well.
“For example…?” he asked.
“Some times, it was wise to approach a fire, for example, when it was small. But, other times, it was wise to avoid a fire, like when it was big. We gave fire this human form of the duality law. We started treating natural events like fire, the sun, the moon, lightning and other natural phenomena as if they were human-like…we personified them…we made them human like, gave them special names, and called them deities or gods.” I added.
“That explains why some cultures, I think the Egyptians are one, viewed the sun as a god!” he suggested.
“Great example, Nathan! The Egyptian sun god was called ‘Ra.’ They believed the sun was a ‘persona’ who would protect them if they worshiped it. If they worshiped ‘Ra’ properly they would receive kindness in the form of a plentiful harvest. If they did not worship ‘Ra’ properly they would receive meanness in the form of a poor harvest. This is the same thinking process, the same personification process that most cultures have used to create their own gods.”
“Belief creates the actual fact.” – William James, philosopher
“…they are simply mind tools for our learning and survival…”
“Then, our beliefs, whether spiritual or otherwise, were intended to protect us from the dangers of our natural environment.”
“You got it! In a way, our beliefs give us more time to figure out nature and how it works. One current example, once we figured out how lightning works, we used that information over time to build the cell phone in your pocket. So, our beliefs have been useful learning tools for our survival…they have motivated us to seek and to understand our environment.”
“So, they’re not bad, really?” he asked.
“They are neither bad or good, they are simply mind tools for our learning and survival…to be respected, valued and set aside for the new ones that emerge next.”
“Ken, let me see if I can paraphrase what we’ve discussed. We live in a dangerous environment. To survive it we needed to understand it. To understand it we had to figure out its rules or laws, which we all did, and still do, as kind of individual scientists.
“Right on!” I said encouragingly.
He continued, “One natural law is the law of duality which we notice in each other. We learn to negotiate with family, friends, tribe, clan to stay safe. We then tried to also negotiate with other things in nature for safety like the sun, the moon, lightning and so on. It seemed at the time to help us survive in that moment. And, we are still doing the same thing today, just in different forms.”
“That’s a great summary, Nathan! Our fear of death has motivated us to learn about our natural environment and value our life. Believing in various gods has been one of the ways we’ve used it to help us survive. You have probably heard it said that ‘money’ or ‘progress’ or ‘health’ are some of the new gods of modern society. This is the same thinking process, continuing in a different form.” I added.
“The radical novelty of modern science lies precisely in the rejection of the belief… that the forces which move the stars and atoms are contingent upon the preferences of the human heart.” – Walter Lippmann, journalist
“… the more I have found the duality of my past, the more I will have learned how nature works…”
“That brings me back to my initial concern, Ken. What am I supposed to believe instead?”
“It will depend on your own personal past dealings with your natural environment. It will depend on what you have learned from those experiences. And, it will depend on how often you have been able to uncover the law of duality in your life.” I replied.
“Are you saying the more I have found the duality of my past, the more I will have learned how nature works and how to survive more effectively? Is that what you mean?”
“Yes! I think it is easiest to see in our elders. The people who have been alive the longest often have greater awareness of this natural law in their lives and the lives of others.” I suggested.
“I bet you have lots of examples…” Nathan said.
“I met a 78 year old, small, elderly woman named Lily. It was a while back, at the airport in Houston. She came, as a war bride, to Canada in 1945. She was now a widow. She had two children, one of whom had died from a leukaemia at ten years of age. Her other son was married and lived in Toronto, but she had no grandchildren.”
“What was she doing in Houston?” he interrupted.
“Her last sibling, a sister, lived there and she spent three months a year with her to keep the connection. I asked Lily, how she would sum up her entire life. I remember vividly how she responded. Let me give you the short version.”
“I think that our fundamental belief is that for us growth is a way of life and we have to grow at all times.” – Mukesh Ambani, businessman
“… ‘I’ve had the perfect life for me! I wouldn’t change one bit of it!”
“She said, ‘Ken, no one has ever asked me that before. But, thinking about it now, I’ve had some terrible tragedies like losing my husband, my child, my four siblings, and getting through World War II. But, at the same time, I’ve had some wonderful, magic moments like coming to Canada, my marriage, having two wonderful children and the friends I’ve made.’ She paused, then added, ‘I’ve had the perfect life for me! I wouldn’t change one bit of it! It’s my life!”
“Wow!” Nathan exclaimed. “She sounds like a wise woman to me!”
“But, in my experience, she is not unusual among elders of our species! What did she learn from her life experiences that has left her with this attitude of gratitude after all those years?” I added.
“The way you described her answers to your questions…she seemed so appreciative of her life as it was, and is,…instead of embittered. So what did she learn from her life?” he asked.
“Nathan, what if she just took the time to find the duality to every significant event in her life? What if she proved to herself there were no mistakes, only dualities of pleasure and pain at every second?” I asked him.
“Do you think she did and that is what created that attitude of gratitude, Ken?”
“In my personal and professional experience that’s the way it happens. The other place you will see it surface faster is in people who are driven by a crisis toward it, like in a palliative care facility.”
“Are you suggesting anyone can learn it any time they are willing?” he asked.
“That’s the work I do in my practice, Nathan. Do you want to do that work?”
“I really admire Lily’s attitude and I want to develop it…so yes, I want to value my life here and now!” he said emphatically.
“Then, let’s get at it!” I said.
“The mark of your ignorance is the depth of your belief in injustice and tragedy. What the caterpillar calls the end of the world, the Master calls the butterfly.” – Richard Bach, writer
Until Next time…
Now you know what your spirituality is really about. Now you know it is a learning tool for your survival. Personifying natural events helped us learn to understand nature and deal with its challenges more effectively. So, your spirituality will be based on how many one sided memories you have uncovered in your past. The more memories you have found the symmetry to, the more appreciation you have for the perfection, the duality of your life, and of life itself. You become wiser and filled with gratitude for the privilege of your life as it is…perfect for you!
Encourage others to subscribe to our FREE Newsletter and ebook, “Finding Balance in Your Life” at And, please like us on Facebook or Twitter.
Our next seminar is entitled, “How to Bring balance to Life and Purpose to Work!” It will be on Saturday, January 28th, 2017. Details are available at ww.kenpiercepsychologist.com
Send us your feedback and topic suggestions…we love to hear from you! If you have a specific question or wish to schedule a consultation, feel free to contact me.
Namaste, (I salute the grandly organized design of the universe, manifested in you!)
Further information: www.kenpiercepsychologist.com