How we can use spiritual narratives to explore the nature and purpose of existence (quotes)

.

In today’s world, we need a sense of meaning more than ever

.

As human beings, we have a deep need for a sense of purpose and meaning  

  • Human life is a search for meaning. Dr Keith Suter
  • It seems to me, however, that human beings need meaning as much as they need food and shelter … perhaps more so? Tim Freke
  • It is not peace we seek but meaning. Lawrence Durrell
  • As far as we can discern, the sole purpose of human existence is to kindle a light of meaning in the darkness of mere being. Carl Jung
  • There is an immense, painful longing for a broader, more flexible, fuller, more coherent, more comprehensive account of what we human beings are, who we are and what this life is for. Saul Bellow
  • Man – a being in search of meaning. Plato
  • One needs something to believe in, something for which one can have whole-hearted enthusiasm. One needs to feel that one’s life has meaning, that one is needed in this world. Hannah Senesh
  • Human beings given hope by meaning can face the inevitability of death. Tim Freke
  • Man cannot endure his own littleness unless he can translate it into meaningfulness on the largest possible level. Ernest BeckerF
  • He who has the why to live can bear with almost any how.  Friedrich Nietzsche
.

We are hungry to know if there is a transcendent purpose for existence and our lives and if so, what it is

  • Is there an intelligence behind the origin of the Universe? Is there a purpose for its existence, and for our individual lives’? Or is the Universe simply an accident, something that emerged out of nothing’? Bernard Haisch
  • Is there more to our existence than what basically amounts to a fortuitous cosmic accident? Bernard Haisch
  • It doesn’t seem to me that this fantastically marvelous universe, this tremendous range of time and space and different kinds of animals, and all the different planets, and all these atoms with all their motions, and so on, all this complicated thing can merely be a stage so that God can watch human beings struggle for good and evil — which is the view that religion has. The stage is too big for the drama. Richard Feynman
  • Out of curiosity arise the basic existential questions: Who are we? Where did we come from? Where do we go? These are basically the questions of identity as well as of the purpose and meaning of life itself. Thus began the basic surge for a primordial truth by which to contextualize life and extract meaning, significance, and value. David Hawkins
.

The meaning we assign can have a profound impact on our lives

  • You see, it’s never the environment; it’s never the events of our lives, but the meaning we attach to the events – how we interpret them – that shapes who we are today and who we’ll become tomorrow. Tony Robbins
  • How we define things sets a framework for life to unfold. Roz & Ben Zander
  • It is not the experiences of your life that determine your outcome. It is the meaning you attach to each experience. Jim Hartness
.

We live in a modern world starved for meaning

  • Our culture has filled our heads but emptied our hearts, stuffed our wallets but starved our wonder. It has fed our thirst for facts but not for meaning or mystery. It produces “nice” people, not heroes.  Peter Kreeft
  • We are so busy making things happen that we have little time left to think about the value of what is happening. We urgently need people who concentrate on the meaning of life rather than simply the speed.  Joan Chittister
  • We don’t think too deeply about life because the more we think about things the bleaker it gets.  So we distract ourselves with consumerism we’ve embraced materialism … both as a metaphysical position and as a lifestyle choice.  Our existential emptiness demands we create a new narrative to live by.  Tim Freke
  • Modern life consists of a constant pursuit of power within a universe devoid of meaning. Modern culture is the most powerful in history, and it is ceaselessly researching, inventing, discovering and growing. At the same time, it is plagued by more existential angst than any previous culture.  Yuval Noah Harari
.

Some of this has to do with our materialist paradigm of the world…

  • Specialised meaninglessness has come to be regarded, in certain circles, as a kind of hall-mark of true science.  Aldous Huxley
  • On their way toward modern science human beings have discarded meaning. The concept is replaced by the formula, the cause by rules and probability. Theodor W. Adorno
  • It would be possible to describe everything scientifically, but it would make no sense; it would be without meaning, as if you described a Beethoven symphony as a variation of wave pressure.  Albert Einstein
.

… that promotes the view that we live in a mechanistic world created by a kind of random accident

  • Many of our scientists, philosophers and other intellectuals would agree that this is the ‘truth’ of the human predicament. Many modern scientists believe that life evolved accidentally, that human beings are nothing more than gene machines, that everything we think or feel is just the buzzing around of our brain cells and that there is no ‘soul’ or ‘spirit’ inside us which will survive the death of the body. This is the ‘enlightened’ view of the world that science has given us.  Steve Taylor
  • Mechanistic science in itself gives no reason to suppose that there is any point in life, or purpose in humanity, or that progress is inevitable. Instead it asserts that the universe is ultimately purposeless, and so is human life. Rupert Sheldrake
  • The grand religious narratives that gave us meaning in the past have crumbled under sceptical scrutiny, so we put our faith in science, which uses reason to describe a universe which exists without a reason. Science offers us power not purpose. Despite its impressive ability to explain the ‘how’ of life, it can say nothing about ‘why’.  Tim Freke
  • I feel we urgently need an alternative to the soul-destroying understanding of science that has become dominant in our culture over the last few decades … I call this philosophy ‘scientific objectivism’, because it regards only the objective world as real for scientific objectivists the world of my imagination, from which these words are pouring right now, is just a by-product of a piece of meat called the ‘brain’, because only the world that can be measured and mapped really exists.  Tim Freke
  • Enthusiastic presenters of science documentaries bring the objectivist gospel to the people, inspiring us with a vision of the wonders of nature, which are truly astonishing yet there is a dark side to their vision which goes unmentioned, so they inadvertently lead us into a cold, futile, mechanical world. Tim Freke
  • Scientific objectivism has played the positive role of challenging dogmatic religious ideas and creating a secular society … but the hubris of objectivists, like that of the priests before them, is to believe they’ve arrived at a final understanding of reality.  Tim Freke
  • In my experience scientific objectivists can display a sort of macho intellectualism, which delights in reducing all that humans most value to just this or just that.  Tim Freke
  • Our sunsets have been reduced to wavelengths and frequencies. The complexities of the universe have been shredded into mathematical equations. Even our self-worth as human beings has been destroyed.  Dan Brown
  • Modern culture rejects this belief in a great cosmic plan. We are not actors in any larger-than-life drama. Life has no script, no playwright, no director, no producer – and no meaning. To the best of our scientific understanding, the universe is a blind and purposeless process, full of sound and fury but signifying nothing. During our infinitesimally brief stay on our tiny speck of a planet, we fret and strut this way and that, and then are heard of no more. Since there is no script, and since humans fulfil no role in any great drama, terrible things might befall us and no power will come to save us or give meaning to our suffering. There won’t be a happy ending, or a bad ending, or any ending at all. Things just happen, one after the other. The modern world does not believe in purpose, only in cause. If modernity has a motto, it is ‘shit happens’. Yuval Noah Harari
  • Modern science is one major cause of the current crisis of meaning. Scientists tell us that existence, which emerged from a random interplay of chemicals and gases, does have meaning, but it’s of a rather bleak, relentless and narrow sort: for humans – as for all other living things (like amoeba) – the meaning of life is survival and the propagation of one’s genetic material. It sounds very true and at the same time, distinctly futile and melancholy. Alain de Botton
.

That the universe is a random accident and we are seperate, isolated beings is the prevalent narrative of our culture…

  • The prevailing and most widely accepted narrative of our culture tells a story of us as separate and isolated beings, living in a random and insentient universe made of matter, which is interacting chaotically, and from this random and lifeless universe of inert matter, through an accidental and improbable process of evolution, life emerged. Joseph P. Kauffman
.

…a narrative that encourages competition and conflict

  • When we change the basic belief structures on which our worldviews are standing, we can change the very world that we live in. Right now, our cultural narratives suggest we live in a world in which our individual lives are of little significance. They promote a worldview in which our survival is dependent upon competition and a struggle to gain resources at any cost. Our cultural narratives have created a world in which we fight against each other, and fight against the natural world of which we are intricately bound in order to survive, and so, we have created a world in which we are rapidly destroying ourselves in a deluded attempt to save ourselves. Joseph P. Kauffman
.

In our modern scientific age, many of our old religious and spiritual narratives have collapsed

  • Our postmodern age, in many ways, can be defined as the collapse of grand narratives that had traditionally shaped our culture. Dr Neil Ramsey
.

The truth is there is much mystery that science, with its focus on the material world, cannot explain …

  • The day science begins to study non-physical phenomena, it will make more progress in one decade than in all the previous centuries of its existence.  Nikola Tesla
  • We have learnt that nothing is simple and rational except what we ourselves have invented; that God thinks in terms neither of Euclid nor of Riemann; that science has “explained” nothing; that the more we know the more fantastic the world becomes and the profounder the surrounding darkness. Aldous Huxley
  • Man is manifestly not the measure of all things. This universe is shot through with mystery. The very fact of its being, and of our own, is a mystery absolute, and the only miracle worthy of the name.   Sam Harris
  • Science does not reveal anything beyond this life.  Pierre Forestier
  • With all your science can you tell how it is, and whence it is, that light comes into the soul? Henry David Thoreau
  • Whence come I and whither go I? That is the great unfathomable question. Science has no answer to it. Erwin Schrodinger
.

… especially the profound mystery and wonders of our own consciousness

  • Consciousness, unprovable by scientific standards, is forever, then, the impossible phantom in the predictable biologic machine, and your every thought a genuine supernatural event. Your every thought is a ghost, dancing.  Alan Moore
  • Science cannot solve the ultimate mystery of nature. And that is because, in the last analysis, we ourselves are a part of the mystery that we are trying to solve.  Max Planck
  • Science will never be able to reduce the value of a sunset to arithmetic. Nor can it reduce friendship to formula. Laughter and love, pain and loneliness, the challenge of beauty and truth: these will always surpass the scientific mastery of nature.   Louis Orr
  • It would be possible to describe everything scientifically, but it would make no sense; it would be without meaning, as if you described a Beethoven symphony as a variation of wave pressure.   Albert Einstein
  • That’s the whole problem with science. You’ve got a bunch of empiricists trying to describe things of unimaginable wonder. Bill Watterson
.

Science is very effective at answering “how” but not good at answering “why”

  • It seems to me that physics has done a marvellous job describing the physical universe, which is the medium through which the story of life is being told. But we’re still left needing to understand the story. Tim Freke
  • Science is wonderfully equipped to answer the question “How?” but it gets terribly confused when you ask the question “Why?   Erwin Chargaff
  • Even if there is only one possible unified theory, it is just a set of rules and equations. What is it that breathes fire into the equations and makes a universe for them to describe? The usual approach of science of constructing a mathematical model cannot answer the questions of why there should be a universe for the model to describe. Why does the universe go to all the bother of existing?  Stephen Hawking  
  • Gravity explains the motions of the planets, but it cannot explain who sets the planets in motion.  Isaac Newton
  • Science cannot answer the deepest questions.  As soon as you ask why there is something instead of nothing, you have gone beyond science.  Allan R. Sandage
  • It seems to me that physics has done a marvellous job describing the physical universe, which is the medium through which the story of life is being told. But we’re still left needing to understand the story. Science can tell us about the medium through which the story of life is being told, but it can’t help us navigate the dramatic narrative of our individual lives. It can reduce life to mathematical equations, but it can’t tell us how to live. It can inform us about how the universe works, but it can’t reveal what life means. To find meaning in life we need to appreciate the story. Tim Freke
  • It seems to me that when confronted with the marvels of life and the universe, one must ask why and not just how. The only possible answers are religious. Arthur L. Schawlow
  • Knowing the plumbing of the universe, intricate and awe-inspiring though that plumbing might be, is a far cry from discovering its purpose. Gerald L. Schroeder
.

We need new and better spiritual and cultural narratives to live by…

  • Our existential emptiness demands we create a new narrative to live by. Tim Freke
  • Nothing will see us through the age we’re entering but high consciousness, and that comes hard. We don’t have a good, modern myth yet, and we need one. Robert Johnson
.

…rational narratives that are in line with modern scientific observations

  • An effective narrative should satisfy the logic of the rational mind while also inspiring the imagination.  Anthony Lambert
    Science has freed us from irrational religion … and that has cleared the way for a vibrant new form of rational spirituality … which complements the discoveries of science, but offers an alternative to bleak objectivism.  Tim Freke
    We need a kind of rational spirituality. Bernard Haisch
.

A narrative, in this context, is particular way of explaining or understanding events

  • A particular way of explaining or understanding events. Cambridge Dictionary
  • A way of presenting or understanding a situation or series of events that reflects and promotes a particular point of view or set of values. Merriam Webster
  • A way of explaining events to illustrate a set of aims or values. Oxford Dictionary
.

Spirituality has a role to play in conveying meaning through narratives, parables and myths

.

As humans, we have a hunger for stories, narratives and myths that convey meaning…

  • When people explain what makes their lives meaningful, they describe connecting to and bonding with other people in positive ways. They discuss finding something worthwhile to do with their time. They mention creating narratives that help them understand themselves and the world. They talk about mystical experiences of self-loss. Will Durant
  • We are meaning-seeking creatures. Dogs, as far as we know, do not agonise about the canine condition, worry about the plight of dogs in other parts of the world, or try to see their lives from a different perspective. But human beings fall easily into despair, and from the very beginning we invented stories that enabled us to place our lives in a larger setting, that revealed an underlying pattern, and gave us a sense that, against all the depressing and chaotic evidence to the contrary, life had meaning and value.  Karen Armstrong
  • What does it mean to say that life is good or not? How might one live differently based on how one answers that question? It is interesting to observe that the way humans tend to answer these big questions is through stories. Humans are profoundly storied creatures. For generations, humans gathered around hearth and fire to tell and retell stories. Much of cultural transmission was in the form of storytelling. Today, people are more likely to gather around the cool glow of the television, but we are no less storied. William Grassie
  • There are no stories without meaning. And I am one of those men who can find it even when others fail to see it. Afterwards the story becomes the book of the living, like a blaring trumpet that raises from the tomb those who have been dust for centuries. Umberto Eco
  • Myths are stories that express meaning, morality or motivation. Michael Shermer
    Things separate from their stories have no meaning. They are only shapes. Cormac McCarthy
  • Myths are stories for our search through the ages for truth, for meaning, for significance. We all need to tell our story and to understand our story. We all need to understand death and to cope with death, and we all need help in our passages from birth to live and then to death. We need for life to signify, to touch the eternal, to understand the mysterious, to find out who we are. Joseph Campbell
  • A story is a way to say something that can’t be said any other way, and it takes every word in the story to say what the meaning is.
  • You tell a story because a statement would be inadequate. The meaning… is not abstract meaning but experienced meaning. Flannery O’Connor
  • No story is devoid of meaning … If you know how to look for it. Daniel Quinn
  • A myth is a way of making sense in a senseless world. Myths are narrative patterns that give significance to our existence. Whether the meaning of existence is only what we put into life by our own individual fortitude, as Sartre would hold, or whether there is a meaning we need to discover, as Kierkegaard would state, the result is the same: myths are our way of finding this meaning and significance.  Rollo May
  • We live in a narrative culture. It’s through stories that we shape meaning. The most powerful story wins. Maureen Freely
  • Narratives are the primary way in which we make sense of our lives, as opposed to, for example schema, cognition, beliefs, constructs. Definition of narrative include the important element of giving meaning to events and experiences over time by connecting them as a developing, continuing story. Jacqui Stedmon
.

… and order

  • Narrative identity takes part in the story’s movement, in the dialectic between order and disorder. Paul Ricoeur
  • We impose order and narrative on everything in order to understand it. Otherwise, there’s nothing but chaos.  Julianne Moore
  • All narratives, even the confusing, are implicitly hopeful; they speak of a world that can be ordered, and thus understood.  Lucy Grealy
  • Narrative becomes the way you make sense of chaos. That’s how you focus the world. It’s the only reason you should ever try this writing job. Dennis Lehane
  • The narrative fallacy addresses our limited ability to look at sequences of facts without weaving an explanation into them, or, equivalently, forcing a logical link, an arrow of relationship, upon them. Explanations bind facts together. They make them all the more easily remembered; they help them make more sense. Where this propensity can go wrong is when it increases our impression of understanding. Nassim Nicholas Taleb
  • We tell ourselves stories in order to live…We look for the sermon in the suicide, for the social or moral lesson in the murder of five. We interpret what we see, select the most workable of the multiple choices. We live entirely, especially if we are writers, by the imposition of a narrative line upon disparate images, by the “ideas” with which we have learned to freeze the shifting phantasmagoria which is our actual experience.  Joan Didion
  • Wherever a story comes from, whether it is a familiar myth or a private memory, the retelling exemplifies the making of a connection from one pattern to another: a potential translation in which narrative becomes parable and the once upon a time comes to stand for some renascent truth… Our species thinks in metaphors and learns through stories. Mary Catherine Bateson
  • Cognitive psychology has shown that the mind best understands facts when they are woven into a conceptual fabric, such as a narrative, mental map, or intuitive theory. Disconnected facts in the mind are like unlinked pages on the Web: They might as well not exist. Steven Pinker
.

It is in providing stories, narratives and myths to answer the question “why?” that spirituality and religion has a role to play

  • Science can tell us about the medium through which the story of life is being told, but it can’t help us navigate the dramatic narrative of our individual lives. It can reduce life to mathematical equations, but it can’t tell us how to live. It can inform us about how the universe works, but it can’t reveal what life means. To find meaning in life we need to appreciate the story. Tim Freke
  • Science is clearly one of the most profound methods that humans have yet devised for discovering truth, while religion remains the single greatest force for generating meaning.  Ken Wilber
  • The key distinction between science and religion might well be the character of the questions they choose to ask. … Religion asks “why,” in the sense of the presumption of an underlying purpose, whereas science asks “how.”   Lisa Randal
  • Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind. Albert Einstein
  • Science investigates; religion interprets. Science gives man knowledge, which is power; religion gives man wisdom, which is control.   Martin Luther King Jr.
  • Science cannot answer the deepest questions.  As soon as you ask why there is something instead of nothing, you have gone beyond science.  I find it quite improbable that such order came out of chaos.  There has to be some organizing principle. God to me is the explanation for the miracle of existence –why there is something instead of nothing.   Allan R. Sandage
  • Science and spirituality offer us very different stories about life, but I want to suggest they are paralogically complementary, so we can embrace both. Science helps us explore the objective mysteries of life. Spirituality helps us explore the subjective mysteries of life. Science is essentially a collective enterprise through which we come to understand how the universe works. Spirituality is essentially an individual enterprise though which we come to understand the meaning of life. Tim Freke
  • It seems to me that when confronted with the marvels of life and the universe, one must ask why and not just how. Arthur L. Schawlow
.

The role of spirituality, religion and philosophy is to provide narratives that point to the nature, purpose and meaning of existence

  • I see philosophers as storytellers who create narratives to help us understand life with greater depth.  Tim Freke
  • We tell ourselves stories in order to live. … We live entirely … by the imposition of a narrative line upon disparate images. Joan Didion
  • Somebody once asked me if I have anything like faith, and I said I have faith in the narrative. I have a belief in a narrative that is bigger than me, that is alive and I trust will work itself out. Joss Whedon
  • Stories about self and society are how humans construct the “horizons of meaning” that form the critical background for social relations and life choices. Narratives always represent a kind of movement in moral space. They are our way of constructing coherence and continuity in our lives. Charles Taylor
  • Stories always have normative content, describing what is important, what is unimportant, what is better, what is worse, what is good, and what is bad. Our sense of meaning and purpose and our values and motivations are based on these narratives. William Grassie
  • Superficial stories lead to superficial lives. Deep ideas allow deep experiences. Philosophy is about finding the best story possible. Tim Freke
  • The fact that religions through the ages have spoken in images, parables, and paradoxes means simply that there are no other ways of grasping the reality to which they refer. But that does not mean that it is not a genuine reality. Niels Bohr
  • Religion deals with the big questions of life. Among these questions are: Why was I created? Why am I here? What happens to me after I die? Dr Keith Suter
.

Spirituality and religion uses parables, metaphors and myths because there are no other ways of grasping the reality to which they refer

  • We ought to remember that religion uses language in quite a different way from science. The language of religion is more closely related to the language of poetry than to the language of science. True, we are inclined to think that science deals with information about objective facts, and poetry with subjective feelings. Hence we conclude that if religion does indeed deal with objective truths, it ought to adopt the same criteria of truth as science. But I myself find the division of the world into an objective and a subjective side much too arbitrary. The fact that religions through the ages have spoken in images, parables, and paradoxes means simply that there are no other ways of grasping the reality to which they refer. But that does not mean that it is not a genuine reality. And splitting this reality into an objective and a subjective side won’t get us very far. Niels Bohr
.

In the spiritual realm, absolute truth is a direct experience beyond mental concepts

.

A sense of a benevolent higher power is at the heart of all spirituality

  • The sense of the Presence of a higher and friendly Power seems to be the fundamental feature in the spiritual life.  William James
  • When I use the word spirituality, I don’t necessarily mean religion; I mean whatever it is that helps you feel connected to something that is larger than yourself.  Dean Ornish
  • The most important decision we make is whether we believe we live in a friendly or hostile universe. Albert Einstein
  • Every day people are straying away from the church and going back to God.  Lenny Bruce
  • Everyone who is seriously involved in the pursuit of science becomes convinced that a spirit is manifest in the laws of the universe – a spirit vastly superior to that of man.’ Albert Einstein
.

However, the concept of “God” has become empty of meaning to many …

  • How important the concept of God is, and how instead of valuing what has been given us, we with light hearts spurn it because of absurdities that have been attached to it.  Leo Tolstoy  
  • The word God has become empty of meaning through thousands of years of misuse. I use it sometimes, but I do so sparingly. By misuse, I mean that people who have never even glimpsed at the realm of the sacred, the infinite vastness behind that word, use it with great conviction, as if they knew what they are talking about. Or, they argue against it, as if they knew what it is that they are denying. This misuse gives rise to absurd beliefs, assertions, and egoic delusions, such as “My or our God is the only true God, and your God is false,” or Neitzche’s famous statement “God is dead.”  Eckhart Tolle
  • The world is not a prison house but a kind of spiritual kindergarten where millions of bewildered infants are trying to spell God with the wrong blocks. Edwin Arlington Robinson
  • No term of common discourse is so vague and elusive in meaning as the term ‘God.’  A. Eustace Haydon  
  • Man Made ‘God’ in his own image. The eternal, the infinite, the unnameable was reduced to a mental idol that you had to believe in and worship as ‘my god’ or ‘our god’.  Eckhart Tolle  
  • The word god with all its tradition, its memory, its intellectual and sentimental connotations – all this is not god. The word is not the real. So can the mind be free of the word?  Jiddu Krishnamurti
.

… tarnished by the bad behaviour of religion …

  • The more I study religions the more I am convinced that man never worshipped anything but himself. Richard Burton  
  • Religion is a monumental chapter in the history of human egotism. William James  
  • I believe in God; I just don’t trust anyone who works for him.  
  • God save us from religion.  David Eddings  
  • I’ve never understood how God could expect his creatures to pick the one true religion by faith — it strikes me as a sloppy way to run a universe.  Robert A. Heinlein  
  • Some people become lost in religion and, as a result, it becomes God to them. Stevan Thayer
  • Religion. It’s given people hope in a world torn apart by religion.  Jon Stewart
  • God should be executed for crimes against humanity. Carl Sagan
.

… so clearly a projection of the human mind

  • I cannot imagine a God who rewards and punishes the objects of his creation, whose purposes are modeled after our own –  a God, in short, who is but a reflection of human frailty.  Albert Einstein
  • The traditional God is a patriarchal, controlling authority figure, an often angry man who you should live in fear of, as the Old Testament suggests. This God is a projection of the human mind.  Eckhart Tolle  
  • You can safely assume you’ve created God in your own image when it turns out that God hates all the same people you do. Anne Lamott  
  • Man created God in his image: intolerant, sexist, homophobic and violent.  Marie de France  
  • There is a very good saying that if triangles invented a god, they would make him three- sided.  Charles De Montesquieu
  • If God created us in his own image, we have more than reciprocated.  Voltaire
  • Man creates both his god and his devil in his own image. His god is himself at his best, and his devil himself at his worst. Elbert Hubbard  
  • Gods always behave like the people who make them.  Zora Neale Hurston  
  • On the sixth day God created man. On the seventh day, man returned the favor.  
.

In the rush of religion to define and lay claim to God, we have forgotten that the essence of God is pure mystery …

  • It’s a mystery. That’s the first thing that interests me about the idea of God.  Stephen King
  • I believe God is a name we give to the mystery of the world that is beyond our capacity to understand. Robert Jensen
  • The mind of God is a mystery and none can understand it. Rae Carson
  • Until we accept the fact that life itself is founded in mystery, we shall learn nothing.  Henry Miller
  • I would rather have a mind opened by wonder than one closed by belief.  Gerry Spence
  • We wake, if ever at all, to mystery. Annie Dillard
  • The finest emotion of which we are capable is the mystic emotion. Albert Einstein
  • If you try and penetrate with your limited means the secrets of nature, you will find that, behind all the discernible concatenations, there remains something subtle, intangible and inexplicable. Veneration for this force beyond anything that we can comprehend is my religion. To that extent I am, in point of fact, religious.’ Albert Einstein
.

… beyond conception and understanding …

  • God is a metaphor for that which transcends all levels of intellectual thought. It’s as simple as that.  Joseph Campbell
  • God is not what you imagine or what you think you understand.  If you understand you have failed.  Saint Augustine
  • God is that, than which nothing greater can be conceived. St. Anselm
  • Surely it is a vanity of the human mind to think it can confine The Infinite within the limitations of words and concepts. Anthony Lambert
  • God transcends all conceptuality.  Leland Lewis
  • If you understood him, it would not be God.  Augustine of Hippo
  • To sense that behind anything that can be experienced there is a something that our mind cannot grasp and whose beauty and sublimity reaches us only indirectly and as a feeble reflection, this is religiousness. Albert Einstein
  • A God that can be understood is no God. Who can explain the Infinite in words? W. Somerset Maugham
  • God… a being whose only definition is that he is beyond man’s power to conceive. Ayn Rand
  • If you have understood, then this is not God. If you were able to understand, then you understood something else instead of God. If you were able to understand even partially, then you have deceived yourself with your own thoughts. St. Augustine
.

… beyond description and explanation

  • It is easy to understand God as long as you don’t try to explain him.  Joseph Joubert
  • Every word, every image used for God is a distortion more than a description.  Anthony de Mello
  • The moment God is figured out with nice neat lines and definitions, we are no longer dealing with God.  Rob Bell
  • God is a metaphor for that which transcends all levels of intellectual thought. It’s as simple as that.  Joseph Campbell
  • The ultimate is unnamable, yet contains all names. Will Wright
  • Neither God nor Being nor any other word can define or explain the ineffable reality behind the word, so the only important question is whether the word is a help or a hindrance in enabling you to experience That toward which it points. Does it point beyond itself to that transcendental reality, or does it lend itself too easily to becoming no more than an idea in your head that you believe in, a mental idol?  Eckhart Tolle
  • Truth can only be experienced. It cannot be described and it cannot be explained. I can make you aware of the conditions of truth, but the experience is of God. Together we can meet its conditions, but truth will dawn upon you of itself. A Course in Miracles
  • The Hindus point at what cannot be spoken by calling it Neti Neti: Not this, Not this, or neither this nor that. Leo Hartong
  • Now, eternity is beyond all categories of thought. This is an important point in all of the great Oriental religions. We want to think about God. God is a thought. God is a name. God is an idea. But its reference is to something that transcends all thinking. The ultimate mystery of being is beyond all categories of thought. As Kant said, the think in itself is no things. It transcends thingness, it goes past anything that could be thought. The best things can’t be told because they transcend thought. The second best are misunderstood, because those are the thoughts that are supposed to refer to that which can’t be thought about. The third best are what we talk about. And myth is that field of reference to what is absolutely transcendent….That’s why it’s absurd to speak of God as of either this sex or that sex. The divine power is antecedent to sexual separation.  Joseph Campbell
.

All our concepts of God are ultimately analogous and metaphorical

  • All God-language is analogous and metaphorical. Thomas Groome
  • God is a metaphor for that which transcends all levels of intellectual thought. It’s as simple as that. Joseph Campbell
  • Any description or definition of God is, in fact, a metaphor. Not a metaphor in the sense of a literary flourish or figure of speech, but a conceptual metaphor that actively shapes our lives. Rabbi Toba Spitzer
  • If there really is a Creator of infinite power and wisdom who designed the Universe, it makes sense that he would be beyond our capability to grasp. We can say what God is not, but we cannot understand him in any positive way except by making metaphors. Aaron Wall
  • What we know and imagine about God is metaphorical which is to say it is more approximation than actual description. Even the concept of God’s will is a metaphor. Flora A. Keshgegian
  • When it comes to talking about God, all language about God is a form of metaphor. These metaphors both help us know God and they fall short of such knowledge. Flora A. Keshgegian
  • All the thinking and talking about God that we do is symbolic; but thankfully symbols can point the way. Deepak Chopra
    God is not absolutely unknowable, and yet it is true that we cannot define Him adequately. But we can conceive and name Him in an “analogical way”… We can conceive and express these perfections only by an analogy; not by an analogy of proportion, for this analogy rests on a participation in a common concept, and, as already said, there is no element common to the finite and the
  • Infinite; but by an analogy of proportionality.  Doctor Angelicus
  • All talk of God is indirect: no words or phrases refer directly to God, for God language can refer only through the detour of description that properly belongs elsewhere. Sallie McFague
.

All our concepts of God are ultimately a mental story

  • If thinking wants to think God, then it must endeavour to tell stories. Eberhard Jungel
  • If God is essentially incomprehensible, above all names and thought, beyond every ideal and value, a living God! – How is it possible to say anything at all about the divine? When we do dare to speak, what is the import of the names, images, stories, and concepts that are used? …The most esteemed of our relationships and qualities are articulated as words pointing to God. Elizabeth Johnson
.

God, if God exists, cannot be known by the mind as a mental concept

  • The mind craves for formulations and definitions, always eager to squeeze reality into a verbal shape. Nisargadatta Maharaj
  • My mind tells me I will never understand God. And my heart tells me I am not meant to.  Dan Brown  
  • You can’t think your way to God.   Deepak Chopra
  •  For thought is a bird of Space, that in a cage of words may indeed unfold its wings but cannot fly.  Kahlil Gibran
  • In God there is an infinitude of things which I cannot comprehend, nor possibly even reach in any way by thought; for it is the nature of the infinite that my nature, which is finite and limited, should not comprehend it.  Descartes
  • Why dost thou prate of God? Whatever thou sayest of him is untrue. Meister Eckhart
  • There is in the mind no knowledge of God except the knowledge that it does not know Him. St Augustine
  • The tao that can be told is not the eternal Tao. The name that can be named is not the eternal Name. The unnameable is the eternally real. Naming is the origin of all particular things.  Lao Tzu
  • To sense that behind anything that can be experienced there is a something that our mind cannot grasp and whose beauty and sublimity reaches us only indirectly and as a feeble reflection, this is religiousness. Albert Einstein
  • God is a metaphor for that which transcends all levels of intellectual thought. It’s as simple as that.  Joseph Campbell
.

The reality of God is a direct experience …

  • The true basis of religion is not belief, but intuitive experience. Intuition is the soul’s power of knowing God. To know what religion is really all about, one must know God.  Paramahansa Yogananda
  • You cannot define God.  You cannot understand it.  You can only dissolve it in.  You can only experience it.  You can never know it.  Whatever knowledge you say you have of God is just cultural nonsense.  Experience does not mean you can grasp it.  You can only experience it by dissolving it it.  There is no other way.  Sadhguru
  • God is an unutterable sigh, planted in the depths of the soul.  Jean Paul Richter
  • The soul understands what the mind cannot conceive.  Neale Donald Walsch
  • Truths are not truths to you unless you realize them within yourself. Without realization, they are just ideas. For spiritual perception, spiritual consciousness, lies not in vague theological ideas, but in the acquisition of Self-realization.  Paramahansa Yogananda
  • People substitute tradition for the living experience of the love of God.  Francis Howgill
  • I myself believe that the evidence for God lies primarily in inner personal experiences.  William James
  • Waking up isn’t an idea you could understand by reading a book; it is something to experience. Tim Freke
.

… an experience of the heart …

  • Do not dissect the love of God, but feel it.   Emmet Fox   
  • It is the heart which experiences God, not the reason.    Blaise Pascal
  • There is a God-shaped vacuum in every heart. Blaise Pascal  
  • What do you think of God,” the teacher asked.  After a pause, the young pupil replied, “He’s not a think, he’s a feel.”   Paul Frost     
  • There are many paths to enlightenment. Be sure to take one with a heart. Lao Tzu    
  • Although the intellect is easily fooled, the heart recognizes the truth. Where the intellect is limited, the heart is unlimited; where the intellect is intrigued by the temporary, the heart is only concerned with the permanent.  David R. Hawkins
  • Earthly things must be known to be loved; Divine things must be loved to be known. Blaise Pascal
  • Love is our highest word and the synonym for God. Ralph Waldo Emerson
.

… that leads to a sense of indisputable knowing beyond the mind

  • One can spend endless lifetimes studying all the spiritual and philosophical teachings of the world and merely end up confused and discouraged. Seek to ‘know’, not to ‘know about’. ‘Know’ implies subjective experience; ‘know about’ means to accumulate facts. In the end, all facts disappear, and there are none to be known. David R. Hawkins
  • Spiritual realizations arise spontaneously and not as a consequence of thought processes. They arise in awareness as though coming out of intuition. It is a nonlinear process through which one suddenly becomes aware that they just ‘know’.  David R. Hawkins
  • In the famous Gifford lectures, James described the experience of consciousness itself as rare, unique, indescribable, and “beyond mind”—a thought-free state of Knowingness that’s complete, all-inclusive, with neither need nor want, and beyond the limitation of experiencing the merely individualized, personal self.  David R. Hawkins
  • All the teachings the sages have expounded are no more than commentaries on the sudden cry… Ah, This! Zen Master Daie
.

In the spiritual realm, therefore, absolute truth is not a thought or concept

  • The truth which can be spoken is not the true truth. Lao Tzu
  • The ultimate Truth is beyond words. Doctrines are words. They’re not the Way. Bodhidharma
  • Trying to find the Truth through words and speech is like putting your head in a bowl of glue. Yuan Wu
  • Truth begins where thought ends. Michael Jeffreys
  • Words are but symbols for the relations of things to one another and to us; nowhere do they touch upon absolute truth. Friedrich Nietzsche
  • I have a thousand brilliant lies for the question: How are you?  I have a thousand brilliant lies for the question: What is God? If you think that the Truth can be known from words; if you think that the Sun and the Ocean can an pass through that tiny opening called the mouth, someone should start laughing!  Someone should start wildly laughing now!  Hafez
.

Absolute truth is a direct experience that emerges in a high state of consciousness

  • Absolute truth is a state of consciousness that brings about an indisputable knowing beyond the mind. Anthony Lambert
  • God is not something that you have to believe in, but something that can be experienced directly.  Anthony Lambert
  • You can disagree with another person’s opinions. You can disagree with their doctrines. You can’t disagree with their experience.  Krista Tippett
  • The true basis of religion is not belief, but intuitive experience. Intuition is the soul’s power of knowing God.  Paramahansa Yogananda
  • To know much and taste nothing-of what use is that?  St. Bonaventure
  • The one unalterable reality is being. Until you realize that state of pure being you should pursue the enquiry. If once you are established in it there will be no further worry. Ramana Maharshi
  • Words can never transfer understanding. They can only open the way for one’s intuition to rise into consciousness. Ramesh Balsekar
  • Spiritual concepts exist as signposts to a direct experience, a state of consciousness, where a direct knowing beyond words and concepts arises.  Anthony Lambert
.

Spiritual narratives (comprising concepts and words) may point to God but can never encapsulate the reality and truth of what God is

  • No matter what concept is used to point to the ultimate truth, the concept is not it. The words ‘This,’ God, Oneness, non-duality, Brahman, the Tao, enlightenment, liberation, presence, and the divine are merely representations, all of which belong to the world of dualistic form. The truth involves not only form, but also a formless realm that cannot be described. It cannot be described because it is truly without form, meaning beyond or deeper than the level of ideas. It is the transparent essence of life permeating everything. This formless essence appears obscured when there is attachment to words pointing to this essence. If you stood next to a tree with a paintbrush and canvas and you painted that tree as realistically as you could, the painting would never be the actual tree. It would lack its formless essence. In the same way, no thought about this truth is the actual truth. At best, it is a representation. In seeing that this truth is not in the words, the mind stops trying to “get it.” It sees that no attempt to understand the truth conceptually will actually reveal the truth. In that seeing, what is being pointed to with words is revealed to be none other than what you are. This realization is the indescribable truth to which the words God, Oneness, non-duality, Brahman, the Tao, enlightenment, liberation, presence, and the divine are pointing. Don’t get stuck in the words. Scott Kiloby
  • Many names have been placed on This. We have called it “life,” “God,” “spirit,” “Oneness,” “enlightenment,” “presence,” “non-duality,” “awareness,” “Brahman,” the “Tao”, and a host of others. Yet none of the names are that which they describe. All words are concepts. They are memory. No matter what word you use to describe life, the word is not it. 
.

The irony is that religion, if trapped in a conceptual prison, can block higher states of consciousness that lead to direct experiences of God

  • One of the main functions of organized religion is to protect people against a direct experience of God. Carl Jung
  • Every concept grasped by the mind becomes an obstacle in the quest to those who search. Gregory of Nyssa
  • It is more and more commonly accepted that all the great religions and spiritual paths contain truths but are not the absolute Truth.  To be attached to ownership of one absolute Truth is what causes so much division, contempt and even hatred in the world.   Anthony Lambert
  • Every individual is at once the beneficiary and the victim of the linguistic tradition into which he has been born – the beneficiary in as much as language gives access to the accumulated records of other people’s experience, the victim in so far as it confirms him in the belief that reduced awareness is the only awareness and as it bedevils his sense of reality, so that he is all too apt to take his concepts for data, his words for actual things. That which, in the language of religion, is called “this world” is the universe of reduced awareness, expressed, and, as it were, petrified by language.  Aldous Huxley
.

Spiritual narratives help point us to what is beyond the mind

.

Words and concepts never contain absolute truth but can only point to it

  • Words are secondary. What they point to is primary.  Eckhart Tolle
  • Words point. They are arrows. Arrows stuck in the rough hide of reality. Susan Sontag
  • Words do not contain the truth, they only point us to it. Nirmala
  • All you read here is NOT the truth! Leo Hartong
  • Concepts are not the truth, but they attempt to point at it, much like the fingertip attempting to touch itself, knowing that it cannot be done but, nevertheless, unwilling to stop trying. Leo Hartong
  • All these concepts have only one purpose: they are pointers to the Truth. Ramesh Balsekar
  • No thought or concept can encapsulate absolute truth.  They can only point to it.  Absolute truth is a state of being in which an absolute knowing arises.  It is a state when all words and concepts fall away. It is something you need to experience for yourself.  Relatives truths do exist. A relative truth is that which points to absolute truth. However, relative truth is subjective. A truth that acts as a good pointer for one will not work for another. Anthony Lambert
  • Words reduce reality to something the human mind can grasp, which isn’t very much. Language consists of five basic sounds produced by the vocal cords. They are the vowels a, e, i, o, u. The other sounds are consonants produced by air pressure: s, f, g, and so forth. Do you believe some combination of such basic sounds could ever explain who you are, or the ultimate purpose of the universe, or even what a tree or stone is in its depth? Eckhart Tolle
  • Zen is convinced that words can never express the ultimate truth. It must have inherited this conviction from Taoism, which showed the same uncompromising attitude. ‘If one asks about the Tao and another answers him,’ said Chuang Tzu, ‘neither of them knows it.” Fritjof Capra
  • The words I’m using are only tentative pointers. What liberates is opening to the non-conceptual actuality itself. No words can ever capture that. So once again, let go of all the words used to describe what’s going on here: consciousness, awareness, mind, matter, energy, unicity, etc. Drop all the ideas, explanations, formulations, conceptualizations, conclusions and beliefs that have been acquired. And simply be what it is impossible not to be. Joan Tollifson
.

All spiritual and religious concepts are best seen as narratives that do not encapsulate absolute truth but point to it

  • Man has created a string of ideas including Hinduism, Buddhism Christianity, and Non-Duality. Each of the ideas is pointing to an absolute truth beyond the idea itself.  The real truth to which all these ideas point is inexpressible and cannot be known through the conceptual mind.  Scott Kiloby
  • Every religion is true one way or another. It is true when understood metaphorically. But when it gets stuck in its own metaphors, interpreting them as facts, then you are in trouble. Joseph Campbell
  • Teachings use words and concepts to point to or indicate that which is beyond all words and concepts. Tom Das
  • Every religion is the product of the conceptual mind attempting to describe the mystery.  Ram Dassz
  • Spiritual concepts exist as signposts to a direct experience, a state of consciousness, where a direct knowing beyond words and concepts arises.  Anthony Lambert
  • That’s what all the words in this book really are: pointers. Nothing more, nothing less. They point back to the Source, to the origin of all things, which in the final analysis is identical with what you really are, beyond your mind-made life story, and identical with life itself, as it dances in emptiness.  Jeff Foster
  • Myth is “symbolic.” It points. It evokes. It reminds and remembers. But it never quite speaks literally, and for a simple reason: that of which and from which it speaks cannot be captured in language, in number, or by any other act of intellectual cognition. Bernardo Kastrup
.

Spiritual and religious narratives often make rich use of metaphors in order to point to the direct experience of an ineffable mystery

  • Metaphor is the only possible language available to religion because it alone is honest about Mystery. Richard Rohr
  • I take the assumption that every religion has been rooted in some mystical or transcendent experience. From that assumption, I just look at all the different systems as metaphors or doorways to God.  Ram Dass
  • Metaphor is the only possible language available to religion because it alone is honest about Mystery. Richard Rohr
  • All religions are metaphors pointing to the same Mystery. Anthony Lambert
  • Every religion, every mythology is true in this sense: It is true as metaphorical of the human and cosmic mystery. Joseph Campbell
  • Metaphorical language is indirect and imagistic, yet it is also the most appropriate and potentially transformative tool for theology. Sallie McFague
  • It seems clear that the Bible belongs to an area of language in which metaphor is functional, and where we have to surrender precision for flexibility. Northrop Frye
  • Religious speech is extreme, emotional, and motivational. It is anti-literal, relying on metaphor, allusion, and other rhetorical devices, and it assumes knowledge within a community of believers. Amy Waldman
  • Heaven and hell is a narrative. Good and evil is a narrative. Enlightenment, karma and re-incarnation are narratives. All concepts of God are narratives. All spiritual metaphors are narratives. Anthony Lambert
  • I argue against literal interpretation of religious doctrines. Religions make progress when they emancipate themselves from literalism, and take their doctrinal statements to be metaphors or allegories. Philip Kitcher
  • Anytime we use metaphorical language to describe a comprehensive vision of the meaning and value of human life, we are engaged in religious thinking, whether or not we are using formally “religious” terminology. Sallie McFague
  • The fact that religions through the ages have spoken in images, parables, and paradoxes means simply that there are no other ways of grasping the reality to which they refer. But that does not mean that it is not a genuine reality. Niels Bohr
  • All the ways to imagine and talk about the sacred are evocative metaphors. In other words, our language can free us or constrain us, and our metaphors are ways to prompt certain feelings and states of consciousness within us. Rabbi Tova Spitzer
    Spiritual truth is something that is so far from us – without any form or name that we can imagine – that we need the things that religions gave us simply as images and metaphors. But they can be found in a variety of ways. It’s not a question of religious practice. Eugene Green
  • The best theology is a spiritual exercise, akin to poetry. Religion is not an exact science but a kind of art form that, like music or painting, introduces us to a mode of knowledge that is different from the purely rational and which cannot easily be put into words. Thomas B. Sheridan
  • As remythologization, theology acknowledges that it is, as it were, painting a picture. The picture may be full and rich, but it is a picture. What this sort of enterprise makes very clear is that theology is mostly fiction: it is the elaboration of key metaphors and models. Sally McFague
  • Religions and philosophies, where most of us got the low-down on life, insist that we think of them as ultimates, as literal revelation, but their own self-importance blinds them to the possibility that their so-called truths might have been intended to be metaphors. Roger Stephens
  • Literally, the Bible is a gigantic myth, a narrative extending over the whole of time from creation to apocalypse, unified by a body of recurring imagery that freezes into a single metaphor cluster, the metaphors all being identified with the body of the Messiah, the man who is all men, the totality logoi who is one Logos, the grain of sand that is the world. Northrop Frye
  • It is important to emphasize the imagistic nature of metaphors because “of the bias of constructive theology toward conceptual clarity, often at the price of imagistic richness.” As theologians and as preachers we tend to speak in abstract concepts: we design creeds and doctrines rather than imagery and poetry. However, it is images that are most influential and persuasive. Sarah Rebecca Freeman
  • We can try to negate the problem of capturing the non-dual and non-linear in dualistic and linear word strings by using metaphors and parables and by pointing out that they are merely concepts; but we will still not succeed in kissing our own lips. Leo Hartong
  • Religions are, by definition, metaphors, after all: God is a dream, a hope, a woman, an ironist, a father, a city, a house of many rooms, a watchmaker who left his prize chronometer in the desert, someone who loves you – even, perhaps, against all evidence, a celestial being whose only interest is to make sure your football team, army, business, or marriage thrives, prospers, and triumphs over all opposition. Neil Gaiman
  • The rich Indian imagination has created a vast number of gods and goddesses whose incarnations and exploits are the subjects of fantastic tales, collected in epics of huge dimensions. The Hindu with deep insight knows that all these gods are creations of the mind, mythical images representing the many faces of reality. On the other hand, he also knows that they were not merely created to make the stories more attractive, but are essential vehicles to convey the doctrines of a philosophy rooted in mystical experience. Fritjof Capra
  • Indian mysticism, and Hinduism in particular, clothes its statements in the form of myths, using metaphors and symbols, poetic images, similes and allegories. Mythical language is much less restricted by logic and common sense. It is full of magic and of paradoxical situations, rich in suggestive images and never precise, and can thus convey the way in which mystics experience reality much better than factual language. According to Ananda Coomaraswamy, ‘myth embodies the nearest approach to absolute truth that can be stated in words. Fritjof Capra
  • Concepts without images are sterile. It is no coincidence that most religious traditions turn to personal and public human relationships to serve as metaphors and models of the relationship between God and the world: God as father, mother, lover, friend, king, lord, governor. These metaphors give a precision and persuasive power to the construct of God which concepts alone cannot. Because religions, including Christianity, are not incidentally imagistic but centrally and necessarily so, theology must also be an affair of the imagination. Sallie McFague
  • Scripture and the teachings of the churches are the repositories of the experiences, imagination and knowledge of those who have gone before us. They convey the interplay between experience, imagination and thinking, personal and communal. Alongside them, we have the work of visual artists and iconographers and the words of poets and mystics who enrich the pool of available metaphors. Whether we turn to the poetry of the Hebrew prophets or of contemporary writers, whether we gaze upon the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel or a painting of Our Lady of Guadalupe, we are encountering someone’s apprehension of the divine. Flora A. Keshgegian
.

Spiritual and religious narratives often make rich use of myth in order to point to transcendent truths

  • Myths are lies that tell the truth. Phil Cousineau
  • There is at least one truth to every myth. Suzy Kassem
  • Within infinite myths lies the Eternal Truth. Devdutt Pattanaik
  • Some truths are expressed best in the form of myth. Ransom Riggs
  • Myth is the truth of fact, not fact the truth of myth. Kathleen Raine
  • Myths and creeds are heroic struggles to comprehend the truth in the world. Ansel Adams
  • After all, I believe that legends and myths are largely made of ‘truth’. J. R. R. Tolkien
  • Myth embodies the nearest approach to absolute truth that can be stated in words. Ananda Coomaraswamy
  • Behind every myth lies a truth; beyond every legend is reality, as radiant as the story itself. Phyllis McGinley
  • … I generally find that great myths are great precisely because they represent and embody great universal truths. Scott Peck
  • A myth or legend is simply not made up out of a vacuum. Nothing is–or can be. Somehow there is a kernel of truth behind it, however distorted that might be. Isaac Asimov
  • The job of a storyteller is to speak the truth. But what we feel most deeply can’t be spoken in words alone. At this level, only images connect. And here, story becomes symbol; symbol is myth. And myth is truth. Alan Garner
  • What flows into you from myth is not truth but reality (truth is always about something, but reality is that about which truth is), and therefore, every myth becomes the father of innumerable truths on the abstract level. C. S. Lewis
  • Since religion is a primitive form of philosophy — an attempt to offer a comprehensive view of reality — many of its myths are distorted, dramatized allegories based on some element of truth, some actual, if profoundly elusive, aspect of man’s existence. Ayn Rand
  • A myth… is a metaphor for a mystery beyond human comprehension. It is a comparison that helps us understand, by analogy, some aspect of our mysterious selves. A myth, in this way of thinking, is not an untruth but a way of reaching a profound truth. Christopher Vogler
  • The myths and laws of religion are not true because they they conform to some metaphysical, scientific or historical reality but because they are life enhancing. They tell you how human nature functions, but you will not discover their truth unless you apply these myths and doctrines to your own life and put them into practice. Karen Armstrong
  • Mythology is not a lie, mythology is poetry, it is metaphorical. It has been well said that mythology is the penultimate truth–penultimate because the ultimate cannot be put into words. It is beyond words. Beyond images, beyond that bounding rim of the Buddhist Wheel of Becoming. Mythology pitches the mind beyond that rim, to what can be known but not told. Joseph Campbell
  • Myths are stories for our search through the ages for truth, for meaning, for significance. We all need to tell our story and to understand our story. We all need to understand death and to cope with death, and we all need help in our passages from birth to live and then to death. We need for life to signify, to touch the eternal, to understand the mysterious, to find out who we are. Joseph Campbell
  • The job of a storyteller is to speak the truth. But what we feel most deeply can’t be spoken in words alone. At this level, only images connect. And here, story becomes symbol; symbol is myth. And myth is truth. Alan Garner
.

A spiritual narrative is a finger pointing to the moon but is not the moon

  • Do not mistake the pointing finger for the moon. Wei Wu Wei
  • The finger pointing to the moon is not the moon.  Buddhist Saying
  • When a wise man points at the moon the imbecile examines the finger. Confucius
  • When finger point at moon, don’t look at finger or you’ll miss the moon. Bruce Lee
  • I am a finger pointing to the moon. Don’t look at me; look at the moon. Gautama Buddha
  • When the sage points at the moon, all that the idiot sees is the finger. Anthony de Mello
  • As the old Zen saying reminds us, the finger pointing at the moon is not the moon. Helen Palmer Geisel
  • To point at the moon a finger is needed, but woe to those who take the finger for the moon.  D.T. Suzuki
  • Its like a finger pointing away to the moon. Dont concentrate on the finger or you will miss all that heavenly glory. Bruce Lee
  • A finger points at the moon, but the moon is not at the tip of the finger. Words points at the truth, but the truth is not in words. Huineng
  • The teachings are not themselves ultimately true. They are just words. But like a finger pointing to the moon, they point to something greater than themselves. Tom Das
  • It’s like a finger pointing away to the moon. Do not concentrate on the finger, or you will miss all of the heavenly glory! Bruce Lee
  • When you point to the moon, what do you see in front of your finger; Your task is to feel, not to think, when you can understand that the lesson will be learned. Bruce Lee
  • Words are not truth. Truth is like the moon, and words are like my finger. I can point to the moon with my finger, but my finger is not the moon. Do you need my finger to see the moon? Huineng
  • Religions should be understood as only the fingers that point to the moon, not the moon itself. Richard Rohr
  • If religion is viewed as “a finger pointing at the moon,” then preoccupation with that finger—rites, rituals, rules—can actually be an obstacle to spiritual experience. James Forbes
  • Too many of us, I fear, watch the pointing finger of religion for comfort, instead of looking where it points. Alan Watts
  • They take an empty fist as containing something real and the pointing finger as the object pointed at. Because the finger is adhered to as though it were the Moon, all their efforts are lost. Yoka Datshi
  • Zen Buddhists say that a finger is needed to point at the moon, but that we should not trouble ourselves with the finger once the moon. Fritjof Capra
  • My finger can point to the moon, but my finger is not the moon. You don’t have to become my finger, nor do you have to worship my finger. You have to forget my finger, and look at where it is pointing. Rajneesh
  • Just as a fool, on seeing a moon pointing finger, looks at the finger but not the moon, so one who is attached to words does not see the Real. The Lankavatara Sutra 
  • A religious belief is not a statement about Reality, but a hint, a clue about something that is a mystery, beyond the grasp of human thought. In short, a religious belief is only a finger pointing to the moon. Some religious people never get beyond the study of the finger. Anthony de Mello
  • As the ignorant grasp the finger-tip and not the moon, so those who cling to the letter, know not my truth. The Lankavatara Sutra, translated by DT Suzuki
  • Writing is simply a pointer or signpost, constantly repeating the same directions in different ways. It is like Zen describing itself as ‘a finger pointing to he moon.’ If you focus on the finger, you will miss the luminosity at which it is pointing. Leo Hartong
  • The finger become uninteresting when I see the moon. Words are superfluous when I get the meaning. When I feel this big love, I no longer need to analyse everything. I just want to hold the whole world in my careful hands like a newborn baby. Tim Freke
  • All revelations, however divine, are never any more than a finger pointing to the moon. As we say in the East, ‘When the sage points to the moon, all the idiot sees is the finger.’ Anthony de Mello
  • All instruction is but a finger pointing to the moon; and those whose gaze is fixed upon the pointer will never see beyond. Zen Saying
  • Truth has nothing to do with words. Truth can be likened to the bright moon in the sky. Words, in this case, can be likened to a finger. The finger can point to the moon’s location. However, the finger is not the moon. To look at the moon, it is necessary to gaze beyond the finger, right? Huineng
  • These teachings are only a finger pointing to the Noble wisdom…. They are intended for the consideration and guidance of the discriminating minds of all people, but they are not the Truth itself, which can only be self-realized within one’s own deepest consciousness. Lankavatara Sutra
  • If someone actually points his finger at the moon, I have no difficulty in turning and looking at the moon. But the thing at which these religious and philosophical fingers are pointing seems to be invisible, in that when I turn to look there is nothing there, and I am forced to go back to the finger to see whether I understood its direction correctly. And sure enough, I find time and time again that I made no mistake about its direction – but for all this I simply cannot see what it’s pointing at. Alan Watts
  • The Master made it his task to destroy systematically every doctrine, every belief, every concept of the divine, for these things, which were originally intended as pointers, were now being taken as descriptions. He loved to quote the Eastern saying “When the sage points to the moon, all that the idiot sees is the finger. Anthony de Mello
  • Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we had a world where everybody said, ‘We don’t know?’ The fact is that you’re surrounded -God and you don’t see God, because you KNOW ABOUT God. The final barrier to the vision of God is your God concept. You miss God because you think you know. The highest knowledge of God is to know God as unknowable. All revelations, however divine, are never any more than a finger pointing at the moon. As we say in the East, ‘When the sage points to the moon, all the idiot sees is the finger’. Anthony de Mello
  • In an early scene from one of the greatest martial arts movies of all time, Enter the Dragon, Bruce Lee is shown sparring with a student. Unsatisfied with the student’s performance, he implores him to throw his technique with emotional content. After a marked improvement, Bruce asks the student how it felt. “Let me think…” says the student. Bruce hits him on the head and says, “Don’t think! It’s like a finger pointing the way to the moon. Don’t concentrate on the finger or you will miss all that heavenly glory. Sifu Scott
  • A religious belief is not a statement about Reality, but a hint, a clue about something that is a mystery, beyond the grasp of human thought. In short, a religious belief is only a finger pointing to the moon. Some religious people never get beyond the study of the finger. Others are engaged in sucking it. Others yet use the finger to gouge their eyes out. These are the bigots whom religion has made blind. Rare indeed is the religionist who is sufficiently detached from the finger to see what it is indicating – these are those who, having gone beyond belief, are taken for blasphemers. Anthony de Mello
  • The Buddha told Ananda, “You still listen to the Dharma with the conditioned mind, and so the Dharma becomes conditioned as well, and you do not obtain the Dharma-nature. It is like when someone points his finger at the moon to show it to someone else. Guided by the finger, that person should see the moon. If he looks at the finger instead and mistakes it for the moon, he loses not only the moon but the finger also. Why? It is because he mistakes the pointing finger for the bright moon. The Shurangama sutra
  • The Sufi tell of disciples who, when the death of their master was clearly imminent, became totally bereft. “If you leave us, Master,” they pleaded, “how will we know what to do?” And the master relied, “I am nothing but a finger pointing at the moon. Perhaps when I am gone you will see the moon.” The meaning is clear: It is God that religion must be about, not itself. When religion makes itself God, it ceases to be religion. Joan Chittister
  • All of my philosophical ideas, as the Zen masters say, are just fingers pointing at the moon. What is the moon? It’s beyond words to express. But just look: How beautiful and mysterious it is. How bright and clear and glorious. The finger becomes uninteresting when I see the moon. Words are superfluous when I get the meaning. When I feel this big love, I no longer need to analyse everything. I just want to hold the whole world in my careful hands like a newborn baby. When I taste how sweet it is to simply be, I just want to appreciate the miracle of the moment and dissolve into the mystery. I don’t know what’s going on. All I know is that I love it. Tim Freke
  • Be not like the one who looks at the finger-tip. For instance, Mahāmati, when a man with his finger-tip points at something to somebody, the finger-tip may be taken wrongly for the thing pointed at; in like manner, Mahāmati, the people belonging to the class of the ignorant and simple-minded, like those of a childish group, are unable even unto their death to abandon the idea that in the finger-tip of words there is the meaning itself, and will not grasp ultimate reality because of their intent clinging to words which are no more than the finger-tip to them. The Lankavatara (part of the Mahayana Sutras)
  • For as long as we can remember humans have been searching for higher states of awareness and intimate connection to the divine. The gospels and tenets of the great world religions and spiritual traditions have being showing us the way. However, they are but fingers pointing to the same moon. Cara Bradley
  • If I may put it in a way which is horribly cumbersome and inadequate, that fleeting glimpse is the perception that, suddenly, some very ordinary moment of your ordinary everyday life, lived by your very ordinary self, just as it is and just as you are – that this immediate here-and-now is perfect and self-sufficient beyond any possibility of description. You know that there is nothing to desire or seek for – that no techniques, no spiritual apparatus of belief or discipline is necessary, no system of philosophy or religion. The goal is here. It is this present experience, just as it is. That, obviously, is what the finger was pointing at. But the next moment, as you look again, it is gone, though the finger still points right at it. Alan Watts
  • There is a story told among Zen Buddhists about a nun who one day approached a great patriarch to ask if he had any insight into the Nirvana sutra she had been reading. “I am illiterate,” the man replied, “but perhaps if you could read the words to me, I could understand the truth that lies behind them.” Incredulous, the nun responded, “If you do not know even the characters as they are written in the text, then how can you expect to know the truth to which they point?” Patiently the patriarch offered his answer, which has become a spiritual maxim for the ages: “Truth has nothing to do with words. Truth can be likened to the bright moon in the sky. Words, in this case, can be likened to a finger. The finger can point to the moon’s location. However, the finger is not the moon. To look at the moon, it is necessary to gaze beyond the finger, right?” Daniel G. Deffenbaugh
  • What the finger of religion points at is something not at all religious. Religion, with all its apparatus of ideas and practices, is altogether a pointing – and it does not point at itself. It doesn’t point at God, either, for the notion of God is part and parcel of religion. I might say that what religion points at is reality, except that this merely puts a philosophical notion in place of a religious one. And I can think of a dozen other substitutes for God or reality. I could say that it points at one’s true Self, at the eternal Now, at the nonverbal world, at the infinite and ineffable – but really none of this is very helpful. It’s just putting one finger in place of another. When Joshu asked his teacher Nansen, “What is the Tao, the Way?” Nansen replied, “Your everyday mind is the Tao.” Alan Watts
  • The teaching in the sutras is like a moon – pointing finger; on seeing the moon, one knows that what is marked as such (by the finger) is after al lnot the moon. The various speeches by all Tathagatas for instructing the Bodhisattvas are to be taken likewise. Dafangguang Yuanjue (The Perfect Enlightenment Sutra)
  • The Buddha told Ananda,“ You still listen to the Dharmawitha conditioned mind; as the Dharmathen becomes conditioned too, you do not attain the Dharma-nature. It isl ike when a person points with his finger toward the moon to show it to another, the latter should follow the finger to see the moon. If the second person looks on the finger as the moon, he misses not only the moon but the finger also. Why? Because he mistakes the pointing finger for the bright moon. The Suramgama Sutra
  • As when one points toward the moon with a finger, his intention is not of the finger, but to let others see the moon, so also with the teaching of the twofold ruth. The two truths are meant to make explicit the non-dual; the intention is not of duality, but to let others get at the non-dual. This is why we take the non-dual (principle) to be the substance of the two truths. Nagarjuna
  • The simile of a moon-pointing finger uses“the moon”to represent the ineffable Real, while “the moon-pointing finger stands for the scriptural words used to express the Real, and the moon-pointing function of the finger would be the expressive function of the words. The finger bears no resemblance to the moon and by no means tells the tale of the moon.It just tells the direction for seeing the moon. Now,by following the direction thus told, one knows the rough location(as marked by the finger) of the moon as well as how to see it, though, surely, it is through the eyes, not the finger, that one sees the moon. Chien-Hsing Ho
.

A spiritual narrative is a map but is not the territory

  • A map is not the territory and is not as interesting as the territory. Amit Goswami
  • All the concepts we use to describe reality are limited, that they are not features of reality, as we tend to believe, but creations of the mind; parts of the map, not of the territory. Whenever we expand the realm of our experience, the limitations of our rational mind become apparent and we have to modify, or even abandon, some of our concepts. Fritjof Capra
  • The signpost is never the thing it points to.  Having your head stuck in a map of Scotland while driving in Scotland, is missing the actual territory to which the word “Scotland” is pointing.  Scott Kiloby
  • The map is not the territory. Alfred Korzybski
  • When any “map” was mistaken for the territory, it became more hindrance than help. Ernest Kurtz
  • The map is not the territory, the word is not the thing it describes. Whenever the map is confused with the territory, a ‘semantic disturbance’ is set up in the organism. The disturbance continues until the limitation of the map is recognized. Alfred Korzybski
  • The map is not the territory (coined by Alfred Korzybski), and the name is not the thing named. Gregory Bateson
  • The map is not the territory, but you can’t fold up the territory and put it in the glove compartment. Arthur D. Hlavaty
  • The asanas are useful maps to explore yourself, but they are not the territory. Donna Farhi
  • Two important characteristics of maps should be noticed. A map is not the territory it represents, but, if correct, it has a similar structure to the territory, which accounts for its usefulness. Alfred Korzybski
  • The ultimate metaphysical secret, if we dare state it so simply, is that there are no boundaries in the universe. Boundaries are illusions, products not of reality but of the way we map and edit reality. And while it is fine to map out the territory, it is fatal to confuse the two. Ken Wilber
  • “Bhagavad Gita” is an examination of consciousness and the desire of human beings and the quest that we have as human beings to understand ourselves; that it was a map, you might say, for exploring the territory that leads us to find out things about ourselves. Deepak Chopra
  • However expressive, symbols can never be the things they stand for. Aldous Huxley
  • No map is itself the territory that it helps us to navigate. And so, we learn to take from each what resonates now, and not to mistake the finger pointing at the moon for the moon itself. We even learn that the moon and the pointing finger are not two, that mapping is an activity of the territory, that nothing is outside of this seamless no-thing-ness. Joan Tollifson
  • If there is such a thing as a higher power, surely it will could never be truly known through words or concepts. Mind made concepts may be signposts pointing to it, but are not it. In fact, they greatly diminish it. Does a signpost to Rome or a map of Rome actually depict all the actual sights and sounds and smells and other senses of Rome? No, of course not. God, if God exists, cannot be known through words and concepts of the mind, but only as a direct experience of the heart and the soul. Anthony Lambert
  • The symbols we use to describe our world are not that which they attempt to describe Leo Hartong
  • Maps are symbols, and even the best of them are inaccurate and imperfect symbols. But to anyone who really wants to reach a given destination, a map is indispensably useful as indicating the direction in which the traveller should set out and the roads which he must take. Aldous Huxley
  • A narrative about the world is always a tool – a rough map with which to navigate the complex territory of reality. But the map cannot be mistaken for the territory: if that happens you get stuck in your story, and the story – rather than the reality it points to – begins to dictate your actions.  Paul Kingsnorth
.

A spiritual narrative exists as a mind devices to propel us out of the mind into the realm of the heart

  • Narratives exist to inspire the mind to practice letting go and to anchor it in deep prayer, contemplation and / or stillness.  Narratives are a conceptual device to help us paddle our way out of the mind into the unchartered realm of the heart and soul.  Narratives, through the practices they instil, exist to help raise our state of consciousness enough for a direct experience of God to arise.  Anthony Lambert
  • Spiritual words create a platform into the chasm of the soul from which we can leap off into its depths where all words fall away. Anthony Lambert
.

A spiritual narrative is a raft used to cross the river that can then be discarded…

  • The raft is used to cross the river. It isn’t to be carried around on your shoulders. The finger which points at the moon isn’t the moon itself. Nhat Hanh
  • All of the wisdom of this world is but a tiny raft upon which we must set sail when we leave this earth. If only there was a firmer foundation upon which to sail, perhaps some divine word. Socrates
  • It is often said that the Buddha’s teaching is only a raft to help you cross the river, a finger pointing to the moon. Don’t maistake the finger for the moon. The raft is not the shore. If we cling to the raft, if we cling to the finger, we miss everything. We cannot, in the name of the finger or the raft kill each other. Human life is more precious than any ideology, any doctrine. Nhat Hanh
  • A raft needed to cross the river is discarded when the other shore is reached, not carried about on one’s head.  Gautama Buddha
  • Each teacher or teaching in one’s spiritual journey is a raft. You step off one raft in the spiritual stream onto the next. And each time it is a process of profound spiritual change; for each raft has less substance to hold on to than the one before, less to satisfy the mind and emotions, less of what is comfortable, less that can be shared and discussed.  Barry Long
  • To insist on a spiritual practice that served you in the past is to carry the raft on your back after you have crossed the river. Gautama Buddha
  • My teaching is like a raft used to cross the river. Only a fool would carry the raft around after he had already reached the other shore of liberation. Gautam Buddha
  • I am thinking, rather, of the old Buddhist metaphor that doctrine is like a raft for crossing a river. When you have reached the opposite shore, you do not carry the raft on your back, but leave it behind. Alan Watts
  • These teachings are like a raft, to be abandoned once you have crossed the flood. Since you should abandon even good states of mind generated by these teachings, How much more so should you abandon bad states of mind. Gautama Buddha
  • Finally you throw away the thorn that has been useful. What do I mean? A raft is used to cross a river. Now, having crossed the river, you don’t carry the raft around anymore. You throw it away. Ajahn Chah
  • Build the raft of meditation and self-discipline, to carry you across the river. There will be no ocean, and no rising tides to stop you; this is how comfortable your path shall be. Guru Nanak
  • For purposes of understanding the point, we must take the raft as representing the ideas or words or other symbols whereby a religion or a philosophy expresses itself, whereby it points at the moon of reality. As soon as you have understood the words in their plain and straightforward sense, you have already used the raft. You have reached the opposite bank of the river. All that remains now is to do what the words say – to drop the raft and go walking on the dry land. And to do this, you MUST drop the raft. In other words, you cannot, at this stage, think about religion and practice it at the same time. To see the moon, you must forget the pointing finger, and simply look at the moon. This is why all the great Oriental philosophies begin with the practice of concentration, that is of attentive looking. It is as if to say, “If you want to know what reality is, you must look directly at it and see for yourself. But this needs a certain kind of concentration, because reality is not symbols, it is not words and thoughts, it is not reflections and fantasies. Therefore to see it clearly, you mind must be free from wandering words and from the floating fantasies of memory. Alan Watts
  • The Buddha likened his teachings to a raft that takes you from the shore of suffering (samsara) across the river to the shore of enlightenment (nirvana). When you get to the land on the other side, you do not carry the raft around with you – the raft would actually be an impediment on land. The teachings are therefore provisional constructs and concepts and are not true in themselves. Ultimately we can let go of attachment both to the teaching and teacher once it has done its work. If we fall in love with the teaching or teacher, this is not necessarily a bad thing. It can serve as a useful and positive motivation force, keeping our search and inquiry strong through both good and bad times, and may well continue after a genuine enlightenment. However I have often seen how the attachment to (and belief in) a teaching or teacher can impede a genuine realisation, as it can restrict our ability to freely inquire and see things as they really are. Tom Das
.

…or a ladder that can be discarded after climbing…

  • You are invited to throw away the ladder, after you have climbed up on it. Ludwig Wittengestein
  • My propositions serve as elucidations in the following way: anyone who understands me eventually recognizes them as nonsensical, when he has used them–as steps–to climb up beyond them. (He must, so to speak, throw away the ladder after he has climbed up it.) He must transcend these propositions, and then he will see the whole world aright.  Ludwig Wittgenstein
  • The order that our mind imagines is like a net, or like a ladder, built to attain something. But afterward you must throw the ladder away, because you discover that, even if it was useful, it was meaningless.  Umberto Eco
  • Guarding knowledge is not a good way to understand. Understanding means to throw away your knowledge. You have to be able to transcend your knowledge the way people climb a ladder. If you are on the fifth step of a ladder and think that you are very high, there is no hope for you to climb to the sixth.  Nhat Hanh

.

…or a basket  or net that can be discarded after catching fish

  • Fishing baskets are employed to catch fish; but when the fish are got, the men forget the baskets; snares are employed to catch hares; but when the hares are got, men forget the snares. Words are employed to convey ideas; but when the ideas are grasped, men forget the words. Chuang Tzu
  • The fish-trap exists because of the fish; on getting the fish one forgets the trap. The rabbit-snare exists because of the rabbit; on getting the rabbit one forgets the snare. Words exist because the intention; on getting the intention one forgets the words(wangyan). How can I find a word – forgetting person to have words with him? Zhuangzi
.

A spiritual narrative is a thorn used to remove a thorn before both are thrown away

  • Once the thorn has removed the thorn, both are thrown away. Rupert Spira
  • If a thorn goes in your foot, you might use a second thorn to remove the first thorn. And then you throw both thorns away. Traditional saying, based on the Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna
  • ‘Use a thorn to remove a thorn, then throw them both away’ In this Hindu saying, a thorn represents a concept that gives rise to suffering when it pierces our skin. The teachings are another concept/thorn that you can use to remove the first thorn from your body. However you must throw the teaching away too when it’s work is done, otherwise it simply becomes a thorn in your side that binds you. Tom Das
  • Even the purpose of ‘seeing clearly’ turns out to be too much in the end. It is the thorn that removes the thorn, and when even this last trace of becoming has been dissolved in understanding, it too is abandoned, leaving only Being. Rupert Spira
  • Quite often, in Vedantic terminology, we hear of using a thorn to remove a thorn and then to throw both of them. We see this often in writings of Ramakrishna’s teachings. What is this thorn removing the thorn? It occurs to me that may be the best way to look at this (using a thorn to remove a thorn and then throw the two thorns out) is probably use the mind and the intellect (one thorn) to remove avidyA (the other thorn) and then discard (or see both of them automatically fall) both of them on realization. Gummuluru Murthy
  • Self-inquiry is the second thorn. If you have a thorn in your foot, the simplest way to remove it, is to use a second thorn. The first thorn is ignorance. The second thorn is self-inquiry, contemplation of the question “who am I?” On attainment of direct realisation of one’s True Nature, or God Self, one can throw both thorns away. Ando
  • Kõan practice is a second thorn. This is how I discovered self-inquiry. Because the first kõan I received from my former Zen Master, as a trainee Zen teacher, was “who am I?” From the moment this question came into my life, there could be no other kõan. I recognised instantly that this was the only kõan I could ever need. By using the mind, to remove the mind. Such an undoing. The second thorn. You need it. Even if you haven’t realised yet that the first thorn is there, trust me when I tell you that you need it. Your suffering. That’s the first thorn. Discover more about self-inquiry, and you will discover all you need to know about yourself. Picture the relief of removing a thorn from your foot… Ando
  • The address is false but when you reach the goal, it is Reality. In the same way, all the scriptures and the philosophical books are meant only to indicate that point, and when you reach it they become non-existent, empty.…For example, to remove a thorn in your finger you use another thorn; then you throw both of them away. But if you keep the second thorn which was used to remove the first one, you’ll surely be stuck again. To remove ignorance, knowledge is necessary, but finally both must dissolve into Reality. Your Self is without ignorance, without knowledge …If you keep the second thorn, which means knowledge, even if it is a golden thorn, you’ll be stuck [by the second thorn]. …Knowledge is a great thing but it must be only a remedy. When the fever goes off thanks to the medicine you take, you must stop taking it. Don’t prolong the treatment or you will create more problems. Knowledge is necessary only to remove the disease of ignorance. The doctor will always prescribe a limited dosage! Shri Ranjit Maharaj
.

A spiritual narrative is the menu while truth is the meal

  • The menu is not the meal. Alan Watts
  • Metaphysics is a restaurant where they give you a thirty thousand page menu, and no food. Robert M. Pirsig
  • To know much and taste nothing-of what use is that? St. Bonaventure
  • He who tastes not, knows not. Rumi
  • ..now when I use the word thinking I mean precisely that process translating what is going on in nature into words, symbols or numbers. Symbols bear the same relation to the real world that money bears to wealth. You cannot quench anybody’s thirst with the word water just as you cannot eat a dollar bill and derive nutrition, but using symbols and using conscious intelligence has proved very useful to us. It has given us such technology as we have, but at the same time, it has proved too much of a good thing. At the same time, we’ve become so fascinated with it that we confuse the world as it is with the world as it is thought about, talked about and figured about, that is to say with the world as it is described. and the difference between these two is vast, and when we are not aware of ourselves except in a symbolic way, we’re not related to ourselves at all. We’re like people eating menus instead of dinners and that’s why we all feel psychologically frustrated. Alan Watts
.

A spiritual narrative is the recipe while truth is the meal

  • The teachings are like a recipe – you follow the instructions and get the results. Until the food is made, you treasure the recipe for it is the gateway to your meal. Note that the cooked meal looks nothing like the recipe and you can throw away the recipe once you have mastered the cooking and are eating the meal. However, please don’t worship the recipe, please don’t (just) discuss recipes endlessly with your friends, and please don’t forget to do what it says! Tom Das
.

A spiritual narrative is a teapot while truth is the tea

  • Disciples and devotees…what are most of them doing? Worshipping the teapot instead of drinking the tea! Wei Wu Wei
.

A spiritual narrative is a stick used to poke the fire

  • Ramana Maharshi used to speak of his teachings as being like a wooden stick used to prod the burning carcass in the funeral pyre. Once the teaching has done its job of ‘burning the ego (sense of being a separate doer)’, the stick is also pushed into the fire and it too burns away. Tom Das
.

In other words, once we have a direct experience of what the narrative points to, we are less reliant on the narrative

  • If you’ve experienced oneness, you don’t need a narrative that explains oneness.   Bernardo Kastrup
.

While narratives can be powerful and sacred pointers to truth …

  • Tell me a fact and I’ll learn. Tell me a truth and I’ll believe. But tell me a story and it will live in my heart forever. North American Indian
  • Life isn’t actually a story. Life is a mystery about which we tell stories.  Time Freke
  • All human beings have an innate need to have a story to live by.  Harvey Cox
  • It’s all invented anyway, so we might as well invent a story or a framework of meaning that enhances our quality of life and the life of those around us. Roz & Ben Zander
  • A good story is always more dazzling than a broken piece of truth.  Diane Setterfield
  • Stories are a different kind of true.  Emma Donoghue, Room
  • No story is the absolute truth, but some stories are clearly better than others, because they give us a deeper understanding of things.  Tim Freke
  • There is no truth. Only points of view. Dame Edith Sitwell
  • Sacred stories are those of transformation, they are stories that draw us closer to God within us, and they help us to see our connection to all things. Andy Fraenkel
.

… they cannot come even close to the direct experience of that which they point to

  • Does a signpost to Rome actually depict the direct experience of Rome?  It’s sights, sounds and smells? It’s bustling, public places and secret, quiet places? It’s people, it’s atmosphere, it’s emotions, it’s very soul?  No, it does’t come anywhere close.  To believe so enormously diminishes it.  Words and concepts can be signposts to truth but they cannot encapsulate it.  For spiritual truth is a state of being; a high state of consciousness in which a direct knowing arises. Truth is a direct experience.  Antony Lambert
  • If you pay too much attention to the finger pointing at the moon, you’ll miss that beautiful moon.  Zen saying
  • All religious and spiritual concepts are narratives that point to what is an unknowable Mystery.  A Mystery that cannot be described; only experienced.  Anthony Lambert
  • By reading the word “muffin,” are you able to taste a muffin? If this reflection uses the word “playground,” do you find yourself swinging on a swing set? Words are not that which they describe.  There is a tendency to buy into spiritual concepts–enlightenment, non-duality, presence, Oneness, awareness, God, and even the word “spirituality.” But these words are only pointing to awakening to the actuality of life beyond your concepts about life. To really see and know This,’ there must be a direct, immediate experiencing of the life within you and before your eyes. To bite down on this thing we call a “muffin” is to really know what a muffin is. To swing on a swing set is to directly and immediately experience that to which the word “playground” is pointing.  Similarly, when it is realized that spiritual concepts are only ever pointing to the direct and immediate experiencing of actual life right now, an unconditional love of what is arises. No concept could ever be that love. Love is actual. It is the essence of life itself.  Scott Kiloby
  • Imagine sitting with your back against a tree reading a book about orange groves. The book is clear in its description of the look of an orange grove and the taste of an orange. But no matter how many clear words are used, they are still only a second hand account of the real thing. The same is true for non-duality pointers. The words can be helpful to point but the pointers are ultimately seen to be false, a second hand account of life is that already happening.  Awakening is akin to standing up from that tree, putting the book down, and realizing you have been unknowingly sitting in an orange grove the whole time. The sweet smell of oranges flows through the whispering breeze. The bright oranges hang from the tree, nestles in leaves, while perfect white orange blossoms scatter themselves everywhere. As tongue and mouth taste the sweet, succulent orange, you see that no words could ever describe that. It must be tasted directly.  This is what non-duality is. It is not conceptual or intellectual. It is the direct taste of what is. Simple presence. Words can only point you there and show you that you have been avoiding this direct taste for years by thinking about life instead of realizing you are it.  Scott Kiloby
.

By seeing spiritual narratives are pointers rather than absolute truths, they can help set us free rather than enslave us

  • Enslavement to spiritual ideas: The greatest spiritual ideas reveal that your true nature is naturally unattached to spiritual ideas. Man has created a string of ideas including Hinduism, Buddhism, Christianity, and Non-Duality. Each of the ideas is pointing to an absolute truth beyond the idea itself. The real truth to which all these ideas point is inexpressible and cannot be known through the conceptual mind. It has nothing to do with attaching to some spiritual idea or persuading others of some belief. This truth cannot be defended because it cannot be owned on a personal level. It is beyond the time-bound, thought-based story of a person. It is a realization in which the entire world of ideas collapses and the energy that attached to those ideas is released. In that collapse and release, there is a deep knowing that cannot be expressed through dualistic words. In the willingness to see right now the ways in which you are enslaved to spiritual ideas, complete freedom and unconditional love are seen to be your true nature. This is not something the mind grasps by thinking about freedom and love. It is the direct knowing of what you are beyond ideas about what you are. The words merely point to the recognition. Scott Kiloby
  • Weaning off of spiritual concepts like enlightenment, presence, awareness, no self, and non-duality. It’s a lot like a heroine junkie with a needle in his arm. It feels good for a while, but in order to be free, he must wean himself off the drug…  Liberation is freedom even from attachment to words like liberation, enlightenment, no self, presence, awareness, and non-duality. Once it is realized that these words are pointing to the actuality of life spontaneously happening right now, you see that the words were not what they were describing. There is nothing you can do to wean yourself off these concepts except notice what is already being done. The mind is already hooked into concepts. Noticing the tendency to repeat certain spiritual phrases and mantras allows a natural weaning to happen. Just notice, the seeing takes over from there. That seeing allows all words to be used without attachment to any of them.  Scott Kiloby
.

An effective spiritual narrative helps us to embrace the mystery, not explain it away

.

Life and existence are an ineffable mystery about which we tell stories to help us navigate our lives…

  • Life is a mystery about which we tell stories. We all have a story about what life is, which we use to help us navigate our lives. A story that helps us understand what’s going on. A story that gives us a sense of who we are. A story that gives our lives meaning. Tim Freke
  • It’s perfectly clear to me that religion is a myth. It’s something we have invented to explain the inexplicable. Hugh Hefner
  • Myths are symbols or metaphors that point to ineffable truths. Bernardo Kastrup
.

… and help us feel connected to something greater than ourselves 

  • Most religions live from a narrative that shapes their relationship with the divine other, God or the gods, and with the human other, the stranger. Timothy Radcliffe
.

However, spiritual narratives are not meant to be literalized or dogmatically and rigidly believed in …

  • Narratives can become dogma if believed to be absolute truth.  Anthony Lambert
  • Dogmas–religious, political, scientific–arise out of erroneous belief that thought can encapsulate reality or truth. Dogmas are collective conceptual prisons. And the strange thing is that people love their prison cells because they give them a sense of security and a false sense of “I know.”  Eckhart Tolle  
  • A narrative is not a belief. It is a hypothesis to test.  Anthony Lambert
  • For the current of our spiritual life creeds, rituals and channels that may thwart or help, according to their fixity or openness. When a symbol or spiritual idea becomes rigidly elaborate in its construction, it supplants the idea which it should support. Rabindranath Tagore
  • Metaphors for God drawn from human experience can easily be literalized. While we are immediately aware that the personal God is not really a rock or a mother eagle, it is easy enough to imagine that God is really a king or a father. Sandra Marie Schneiders
.

… and are not meant to explain away the mystery

  • As to the ultimate things we can know nothing, and only when we admit this do we return to equilibrium.  Carl Jung
  • The mystery of life is so enormous it takes my breath away and leaves me speechless. It’s not some riddle I will one day unravel, but real magic to be marvelled at. It’s not a darkness my intellect can illuminate, but a dazzling radiance so splendid that my most brilliant ideas seem dull.  Tim Freke
  • Human beings have created a mountain of words to explain the nature of reality, but under all the words the mystery of life remains as magnificent as ever.  Tim Freke
  • Philosophical stories aspire to truth … yet no story can be the truth, because no story can explain away the great mystery of existence.  Tim Freke
  • I would rather live in a world where my life is surrounded by mystery than live in a world so small that my mind could comprehend it. Harry Emerson Fosdick
  • In other words, all of my books are lies. They are simply maps of a territory, shadows of a reality, gray symbols dragging their bellies across the dead page, suffocated signs full of muffled sound and faded glory, signifying absolutely nothing. And it is the nothing, the Mystery, the Emptiness alone that needs to be realized: not known but felt, not thought but breathed, not an object but an atmosphere, not a lesson but a life.  Ken Wilber
  • Meaning is only found when you go beyond meaning. Life only makes sense when you perceive it as mystery and it makes no sense to the conceptualizing mind.  Anthony de Mello
  • Human beings have created a mountain of words to explain the nature of reality, but under all the words the mystery of life remains as magnificent as ever. Tim Freke
  • But the man who comes back through the Door in the Wall will never be quite the same as the man who went out. He will be wiser but less cocksure, happier but less self-satisfied, humbler in acknowledging his ignorance yet better equipped to understand the relationship of words to things, of systematic reasoning to the unfathomable Mystery which it tries, forever vainly, to comprehend. Aldous Huxley
.

When we become too caught up in a narrative, mistaking it for reality, life becomes mundane and empty of wonder

  • When I become embroiled with my story I find myself living in a sort of trance. I’m certain I know what’s going on, even though I really don’t. I exist in a state of numbness that I call normality and I feel only half alive.  Tim Freke
  • Life is a mystery about which we tell stories. We all have a story about what life is, which we use to help us navigate our lives. A story that helps us understand what’s going on. A story that gives us a sense of who we are. A story that gives life meaning. Our stories are wonderful. I love listening to people’s stories. I’d love to hear your story.  We need a story to help us understand life. If we didn’t have a story we’d be lost. The problem is that we can easily mistake the story for reality. We can invest so heavily in our beliefs about life that we forget that we really don’t know what life is. We can become so caught up in our opinions that we miss the breathtaking mystery. And when this happens life becomes mundane and empty of wonder.  Tim Freke
.

We need to be conscious of both the narrative and the mystery

  • When I focus on the mystery, my story is in my peripheral attention. And when I focus on my story, the mystery is in my peripheral attention. Tim Freke
  • We need a story to help us navigate our lives. But it’s possible to also see beyond the story to the mystery. It’s not either/or . . . it’s both/and. The mystery and the story are polarities that coexist in the moment, and we need to be conscious of both. Tim Freke
  • If we didn’t have a story we’d be lost and confused, rather than awake to the wonder of life. But it’s not an either/or choice. We can approach things paralogically and be conscious of both the story and the mystery. We can see that on the surface of life our story helps us to understand our experience, but at the depths we really don’t know what life is. Tim Freke
  • As I sit here bathing in the warm night air, I feel washed by the ebb and flow of the polarities of existence. I’m immersed in the mystery and I’m contemplating my story. I have a timeless perspective on a temporary world. I’m the presence of awareness appreciating the show. I’m insignificant insignificant and vulnerable, yet magnificent and secure. I’m a transitory speck of cosmic dust, but I’m the star of the story of Tim. Tim Freke
  • If you want to spiritually awaken, you need to see through your story to the deep mystery. But please don’t misunderstand me. I’m not suggesting you abandon your story. Having a life-narrative is essential and the more coherent it is the better. Philosophy can be seen as the art of creating a better narrative to live by. If we didn’t have a story we’d be lost and confused, rather than awake to the wonder of life. But it’s not an either/or choice. We can approach things paralogically and be conscious of both the story and the mystery. We can see that on the surface of life we need a narrative to help us understand our experience. But at the depths we don’t know what life is.  Tim Freke
  • On the one hand, the simple way to wake up from the story is to become conscious of the mystery of the moment. But it’s important not to take an either/or approach, because we also need to be conscious of the story in time as well. Tim Freke
  • The paradoxity of our predicament is that we need a story to make sense of life, but to experience the WOW we also need to know that we really don’t know what’s going on. The art of awakening is to be conscious of both the story and the mystery. Tim Freke
  • Life is both a mystery and a story . . . we are both one and many . . . I am both a character in the life-dream and the life-dreamer. Tim Freke
  • The demonizing of the mind makes it harder to awaken. If we believe that to awaken we must try to stop thinking, we become forever engrossed with battling the mind. And this prevents us seeing how easy it is to wake up, by simply becoming conscious of the deep mystery as well as the story. Tim Freke
  • The deep awake state is ‘transrational’. It transcends and includes the rational state. It’s a more expansive state of consciousness in which we can be rational, but we’re also conscious of the deep mystery. Tim Freke
  • This notion that I can just let go of my story and step into the mystery is utter nonsense. If I did let go of my story, I’d be an amnesiac, for goodness’ sake. I wouldn’t know where I am or how to get home. I wouldn’t be deep awake; I’d be profoundly lost. Tim Freke
  • When we become deep awake, however, we transcend and include the rational mind within a more expansive state of consciousness. We’re conscious of ourselves as a playful child and a thinking adult.  Tim Freke
  • The mystery and the story (Tim Freke)
.

Paradoxically, the narrative can help us embrace the mystery

  • The paradox of our predicament is that to wake up, we need to see beyond our story to the mystery. But we also need a story to become deep awake. Tim Freke
  • Paradoxically, it’s easier to relax into the mystery when we have a strong sense of our story. In my experience, when I am conscious that I both know and don’t know what life is, I fall in love with the magnificent enigma of existence. I feel the mystery around me like a warm embrace and within me like a reassuring presence. I am far from terrified. I am wonderstruck.  Tim Freke
  • When I wake up I can see that my story is just a story. If I look deeper I discover that hidden behind my story is the pristine, virgin, untouchable mystery. And that’s when the mystery experience spontaneously arises.  Tim Freke
  • An effective narrative should be easy to let go of and surrender completely to the pure mystery of it all.  It is the very opposite of a scripture or clinging belief.  Once there has been a deep direct experience of God, the narrative becomes more and more immaterial.  Anthony Lambert
  • Then I’m free to take some time off from thinking to refresh myself in the mystery. And when I come back to my story and engage with the mind again I see the dilemmas of my story in a whole new light. My thoughts become less anxious and more considered. And when my mind is calm my attention can dance between my story and the deep mystery. Tim Freke
  • This captures my experience of the paradoxity of awakening perfectly. When I deep-know my essential nature I am liberated from the confines of the story into the mystery of being. But the deep love I feel in the deep awake state impels me back into the story to compassionately engage with life… to care for others… to make the world a better place for future generations. Tim Freke
.

On a regular basis, we need to step out of the story and embrace the mystery

  • Become quiet and comfortable… relaxed and alert. Wonder at the world around you and enter a state of profound not-knowing. Step out of your story into the mystery of the moment. Then focus your attention on your sensual experience in the here and now. Tim Freke
  • The words are just pointers to the mystery experience. The important thing is to actually experience the WOW of awakening for yourself. Tim Freke
  • The door to God is the insecurity of not knowing anything. Bear the grace of that uncertainty and all wisdom will be yours.  Adyashanti
  • Really knowing you don’t know takes some work. It requires you to clearly see that your story is just a story; and to become conscious of the deep mystery at its foundation. Tim Freke
  • Life is a mystery; that means it cannot be solved. And when all efforts to solve it prove futile, the mystery dawns upon you. Then the doors are open; then you are invited. As a knower, nobody enters the divine; as a child, ignorant, not knowing at all- the mystery embraces you. With a knowing mind you are clever, not innocent. Innocence is the door.  Rajneesh
  • When we believe we have all the answers, we are not open to mystery. To begin a mystical journey, you have to start with a sense of wonder, of not knowing…  Mary Pope Osborne
  • In my experience, the mystery of this moment is an open doorway to the deep awake state—and we can step through whenever we like. The problem is that normally we’re so unconscious that we don’t even notice the mystery. Tim Freke
  • The state we call realization is simply being oneself, not knowing anything or becoming anything.  Ramana Maharshi
  • I have recognized that I am only superficially awake, so I am waking myself up by experiencing a moment of wonder. I am conscious that I really don’t know what life is. I am stepping out of my story into the mystery of the moment. Tim Freke
  • I’m hanging out in the deep awake state right now, and I’d love for you to join me. All you need to do is become conscious of the mystery of the moment. This doesn’t require you to abandon your story, only for you to place it to one side for a while and focus your attention on the most obvious thing about your predicament predicament . . . that it’s profoundly enigmatic. You can do this now by focusing on the feeling that there is much more to life than you understand. Tim Freke
  • It involves really listening, looking and feeling, so that we profoundly appreciate how wonderful our sensations are. In my experience, when I enter the sensuality of the moment it’s intensely pleasurable, so it’s easy to let go of my story and dive into the mystery. My mind begins to become quiet and the mystery experience spontaneously arises. Tim Freke
  • The intricacies of spiritual philosophy and theologies are just a thought within Emptiness. Adyashanti\
  • The simplest way to start becoming deep awake is to wonder… to look at the world with amazement… to be conscious of the breathtaking mystery of existence… to recognize that you really don’t know what life is. If you wonder deeply you’ll come out of your story and into the mystery of the moment. Tim Freke
.

When we embrace the mystery and surrender completely to it, our level of consciousness shoots upwards and a direct knowing arises beyond the mind

  • To become conscious of the deep mystery we need to enter a profound state of not-knowing. This is the gateway to deep knowing what-is before words.  Tim Freke
  • It is one of the great paradoxities of life that not-knowing leads to the ‘deep knowing’ that the ancients called ‘gnosis’. As the poet Robert Frost writes so beautifully:   We dance around in a ring, and suppose, But the Secret sits in the middle and knows.  Tim Freke
  • In my experience, when I know that I don’t know, there’s a wordless knowing of what-is before words. A silent knowing that arises in the mind as intuitive wisdom. A passionate knowing that arises in the heart as boundless love.  Tim Freke
  • At the heart of all we think we know is the deep mystery. And at the heart of the deep mystery lies a deep knowing that is so immediate it can’t be mediated by words. A silent certainty that all is well. An unshakeable conviction that all that really matters is love.  Tim Freke
  • In fact, to truly Awaken to a deeply transformational experience of The Unknowable, one needs to let go of all narratives. And then, through falling into the exquisite mystery of it all, there is the exhilarating freedom of not needing to know or understand anything.  And that is when the deepest and direct knowing imaginable arises.  A deep knowing that all is one, that love is all there is and that all is well.  It’s the ultimate experience a human being can have; transformative beyond what words can ever express.   Anthony Lambert
  • Pay attention to your state of consciousness, and regularly choose to step out of your story into the deep mystery. Tim Freke
  • When you go into the Space of nothingness, everything becomes known. Gautama Buddha
  • As I wonder deeply about life, I find myself immersed in the deep mystery. Then something astonishing happens. The inarticulate question of the heart dissolves into the ocean of mystery. And I feel I’ve found the answer I’m looking for. But this answer, like the question, is more of a feeling than a thought. I can’t really express the inarticulate question, because it’s too deep for words. I can’t really express the inarticulate answer, because it’s too deep for words.  Tim Freke
  • The Truth has shared so much of Itself with me That I can no longer call myself A man, a woman, an angel, Or even pure Soul.  Hafez
.

An effective spiritual narrative must be rational and embrace scientific observations

.

An effective spiritual narrative should make rational sense and take scientific discoveries and observations into account…

  • An effective spiritual narrative should still the mind, open the heart and expand the soul.  If it completely disagrees with scientific fact, it’s likely to create doubt and will not quieten the mind.  Anthony Lambert
  • For spiritual development to be acceptable it must be reasonable. It must make sense within the current worldview.  Peter Russell
  • An effective narrative should satisfy the logic of the rational mind while also inspiring the imagination.  Anthony Lambert
  • Science is the storytelling of our time. William Irwin Thompson
  • Indeed, in view of its function, religion stands in greater need of a rational foundation of its ultimate principles than even the dogmas of science.  Muhammad Iqbal
  • We need to consider a philosophical worldview that makes sense of our spiritual experiences as well as our scientific discoveries.  Tim Freke
  • A theology of nature draws “mainly from features of science that are widely accepted, rather than risk adopting to limited or speculative theories that are more likely to be abandoned in the future. Sally McFague
  • Science has freed us from irrational religion … and that has cleared the way for a vibrant new form of rational spirituality … which complements the discoveries of science, but offers an alternative to bleak objectivism.  Tim Freke
  • We need a kind of rational spirituality. Bernard Haisch
  • I consider the ambition of overcoming opposites, including also a synthesis embracing both rational understanding and the mystical experience of unity, to be the mythos spoken or unspoken of our present day and age. Wolfgang PauliYou want the mystical understanding of the cosmos to feel compatible with a scientific understanding of the cosmos, like it extends our understanding rather than unwriting it. Jon Spaihts
  • A misleading perception or false belief is increasingly being perpetuated that the unconscious or the intuitive is all that really matters in any spiritual endeavor, and that the conscious, rational, logical, analytical mind is the mortal enemy of spiritual awareness and soul growth. Anthon St. Maarten
  • The further the spiritual evolution of mankind advances, the more certain it seems to me that the path to genuine religiosity does not lie through the fear of life, and the fear of death, and blind faith, but through striving after rational knowledge.   Albert Einstein
  • The religion that is afraid of science dishonors God and commits suicide.   Ralph Waldo Emerson
  • A theology of nature attempts to reconceive belief in terms of contemporary views of the natural world. A theology of nature does not solicit the help of science to provide a basis for or to confirm faith, but uses the contemporary picture of reality from the sciences of its day as a resource to reconstruct and express the faith. Sally McFague
  • Analogies and metaphors have often proved pivotal in expanding our thoughts both within and without science, and so one should not discourage the attempt to synthesize apparent opposites. However, citizens of the New Age often forget that, when they involve science, analogies should be tempered by experiment and calculation. Tony Rothman
  • But if science may be said to be blind without philosophy, it is true also that philosophy is virtually empty without science. A.J. Ayer
  • I, therefore, propose the God Theory—a theory that is intellectually satisfying as well as spiritually enriching. Bernard Haisch
  • In the 21st century we need an approach to spirituality that can sit comfortably alongside science. Tim Freke
  • You want the mystical understanding of the cosmos to feel compatible with a scientific understanding of the cosmos, like it extends our understanding rather than unwriting it. Jon Spaihts
.

…although its interpretations of those scientific observations do not need to conform to the mainstream scientific worldview 

  • I am not offering a new science. I am offering a new interpretation of science from a metaphysical perspective. Bernardo Kastrup
.

A spiritual narrative needs to make rational sense in order for the head to allow the heart to open and have a direct experience

  • We need to clarify the mind so that we can open the heart. Tim Freke
  • The intellect is a filter of emotional experience. Bernardo Kastrup
  • The intellect is the bouncer of the heart. It will not allow the heart to open unless it is first satisfied.  Anthony Lambert
  • Conceptual understanding is not transformative. You need it to open the doors to a deeper understanding. Felt understanding. But felt understanding doesn’t come through when the intellect feels it’s implausible.  Bernardo Kastrup
  • Plausibility is important because it allows the intellect to relax in the possibility of truth. Bernardo Kastrup
  • We must achieve a lived understanding, a visceral understanding. We must achieve a lived understanding, a visceral understanding. Tam Hunt
.

A spiritual narrative has only done its work once it becomes experienced as an embodied truth at the emotional level

  • Intellectual truth must sink to the emotional level and become embodied. Otherwise it is not transformative.  Bernardo Kastrup
  • [A spiritual narrative is an] intellectual understanding for a felt understanding to come through.   It is the direct embodied felt experience that is transformative.  Bernardo Kastrup
.

A spiritual narrative should also delve deeply into areas that science doesn’t venture, particularly our subjective inner experiences

  • The real mystery of life is not a problem to be solved, it is a reality to be experienced.  J.J. Van der Leeuw
  • The humble knowledge of thyself is a surer way to God than the deepest search after science.  Thomas à Kempis
  • Spirituality leaps where science cannot yet follow, because science must always test and measure, and much of reality and human experience is immeasurable.  Miriam Simos
  • Science sometimes falls short when trying to fathom the depths of our essence – and our inspiration comes from that essence.  Lance Secretan
  • We need to embrace the paradoxity that there are objective and subjective ways of knowing. We can look outside ourselves for answers and we can look within ourselves for answers. Tim Freke
.

Keep in mind, science can tell us how the universe behaves but it cannot tell us what the universe is…

  • Science does not settle questions of being. It only informs them. Bernardo Kastrup
  • Science is not a metaphysical commitment. It should be metaphysically neutral. Science and materialism should never be conflated. Bernardo Kastrup
  • Science does not say what things are. It only says how they behave. Bernardo Kastrup
  • Science predicts the behaviour of the dream world but it cannot say what the dream is made of. Anthony Lambert
.

…and when science ventures into metaphysical conjecture, it too can be considered as a narrative

  • Even science is a bundle of stories. There are short stories about particular research projects and the history of entire disciplines. There is the new cosmological narrative of a dynamic universe and an evolving planet. And then there are interpretations of these scientific stories. William Grassie
  • Whenever science attempts to legitimate itself, it is no longer scientific but narrative, appealing to an orienting myth that is not susceptible to scientific legitimation. James K. A. Smith
.

Keep in mind too that science can answer the question, “how?” but is not equipped to tell us “why?”

  • Science cannot answer the deepest questions.  As soon as you ask why there is something instead of nothing, you have gone beyond science.  Allan R. Sandage
  • Science is wonderfully equipped to answer the question “How?” but it gets terribly confused when you ask the question “Why?   Erwin Chargaff
.

We need modern narratives that are empowering and life affirming

.

The narratives we embrace can have a profound effect on us and the way we behave, especially if it becomes an integral part of our culture

  • Humans make stories but, in some sense, are also made by our stories. William Grassie
  • Every culture has a story, a narrative, a myth or a worldview under which they operate. This cultural narrative describes who we are, what life is, and what our purpose is.  Joseph P. Kauffman
  • Each culture has a dominant narrative or worldview that shapes the way they think and act. To the people of these cultures, their narrative is seen as fact, or is so widely accepted that they don’t even notice its existence, as to them, it is simply the way that things are. A cultural narrative acts as a lens through which we see the world, and from this way of seeing the world, comes our way of acting in the world. Joseph P. Kauffman
  • Every culture has a narrative that they live by, some kind of model that describes the Universe, and provides a framework for understanding oneself and one’s place in the world. This narrative is the myth of our culture, the image with which we try to understand and describe reality. You can imagine just how influential a cultural narrative is, as it literally determines who people believe themselves to be, how people relate to the world, and how people interact with the world. Thus, the way a society behaves is very much a reflection of who they believe themselves to be.   Joseph P. Kauffman
  • Every culture has a story, a narrative, or worldview that shapes the way they think and act. This narrative describes who we are, what life is, and what our purpose is. To the people born and raised in their culture, their narrative is believed to be the truth, or is so widely accepted that they don’t even notice its existence; to them, it is simply the way things are, since it is all they have ever known, and all they’ve been raised to believe since birth. The prevailing worldview of our culture is that we are isolated individuals who exist apart from the rest of the world, and are living in an unintelligent and mechanical universe made of matter, governed by random and chaotic forces, and from this random and insentient universe of inert matter, through an accidental and improbable process of evolution, life emerged. This belief is widely accepted by the majority of people; it is taught in our schools, it is proclaimed by our scientists, it is assumed by our societies and governments. This worldview is so widely accepted that the majority of people never stop to question their narrative, to ask themselves why they believe it, how it makes them feel, whether or not it is true, nor especially how this worldview is the cause of human conflict and the rapid destruction of the natural world.  Joseph P. Kauffman
  • There are stories beneath the stories and around the stories. The recent event on the surface is often merely the hood ornament on the mighty social engine that is a story driving the culture. We call those “dominant narratives” or “paradigms” or “memes” or “metaphors we live by” or “frameworks.” However we describe them, they are immensely powerful forces. And the dominant culture mostly goes about reinforcing the stories that are the pillars propping it up and that, too often, are also the bars of someone else’s cage. They are too often stories that should be broken, or are already broken and ruined and ruinous and way past their expiration date. They sit atop mountains of unexamined assumptions. Rebecca Solnit
  • A worldview is a commitment, a fundamental orientation of the heart, that can be expressed as a story… which we hold (consciously or subconsciously, consistently or inconsistently) about the basic constitution of reality, and that provides the foundations on which we live and more and have our being. James W. Sire
.

Some narratives are more effective pointers than others

  • We can never know truth, but some stories are better than others. Aaron Shepard
  • As a philosopher, I’m in the business of changing people’s stories. And if we must have a story, then it seems to me that we’d better make it a good one. Tim Freke
  • There are many different expressions of non-duality. It is easy to get hooked into one particular way of pointing to it. Each expression, from the clearest non-dual pointer to the most confusing one, is an expression of Oneness. This is not to say that all expressions are equally clear. Some words point more directly and clearly to the realization. But the pointer is never that which it describes. Scott Kiloby
.

An effective spiritual narrative should help us interpret and understand reality

  • We interpret what we see … We live entirely … by the imposition of a narrative line upon disparate images, by the “ideas” with which we have learned to freeze the shifting phantasmagoria which is our actual experience. Joan Didion
  • Myth is the code that each one of us constantly uses, whether we are aware of it or not, to interpret life in the world. Bernardo Kastrup
  • Myth is the very thing that allows the events of consensus reality to mean anything to us. Bernardo Kastrup
  • Great storytellers matter more than ever in helping us make sense of an increasingly complex world. Maria Popova
.

An effective spiritual narrative should be a rich source of meaning and perspective

  • There are no stories without meaning. Umberto Eco
  • Stories help me. To live. To work. To find the meaning hidden in every dream, ever leaf, every drop of dew. A. Barron
  • Myths are stories that express meaning, morality or motivation. Whether they are true or not is irrelevant. Michael Shermer
  • The ultimate meaning to which all stories refer has two faces: the continuity of life, the inevitability of death. Italo Calvino
  • Stories are the creative conversion of life itself into a more powerful, clearer, more meaningful experience. They are the currency of human contact. Robert McKee
  • Myths are stories for our search through the ages for truth, for meaning, for significance. We all need to tell our story and to understand our story. Joseph Campbell
  • And once you live a good story, you get a taste for a kind of meaning in life, and you can’t go back to being normal; you can’t go back to meaningless scenes stitched together by the forgettable thread of wasted time. Donald Miller
  • The least livable life is the one without coherence-nothing connects, nothing means anything. Stories make connections. They allow us to see our past, our present, and our future as interrelated and purposeful…. The stories we value most reassure us that life is worth the pain, that meaning is not an illusion, and that others share our experience with us. Daniel Taylor
  • Why does anybody tell a story? It does indeed have something to do with faith. Faith that the universe has meaning, that our little human lives are not irrelevant, that what we choose or say or do matters, matters cosmically. Madeleine L’Engle
  • Somebody once asked me if I have anything like faith, and I said I have faith in the narrative. I have a belief in a narrative that is bigger than me, that is alive and I trust will work itself out. Joss Whedon
.

An effective spiritual narrative should help point to why we are here

  • A great storyteller is what brings us somewhat closer to the answer, to our particular answer, to that grand question: Why are we here? Maria Popova
  • A myth is a way of making sense in a senseless world. Myths are narrative patterns that give significance to our existence. Rollo May
  • People need a sacred narrative. They must have a sense of larger purpose, in one form or another, however intellectualized. E. O. Wilson
.

An effective spiritual narrative should help you realise who you really are

  • Concepts and metaphors gives us the opportunity to view them from different angles, while consistently pointing to the true Self and affirming that you are it. Leo Hartong
.

An effective spiritual narrative should be light on ideology and dogma

  • Do not be idolatrous about or bound to any doctrine, theory, or ideology, even Buddhist ones. All systems of thought are guiding means; they are not absolute truth. Nhat Hanh
.

An effective spiritual narrative should be empowering

  • Our world needs enlightened narratives that use relevant metaphors, make rational sense and ultimately, empower us by giving us a richer sense of meaning. Anthony Lambert
  • Spiritual narratives should lighten the heaviness of the mind made sense of self (ego) and the suffering it brings. They should open the heart to love and compassion.  They should inspire spiritual practice that allow us to go within.  They should be be light, free of ideology and dogma. They should inspire us to embrace the present moment.  They should create a sense of aliveness, wonder and gratitude. They should cut through old spiritual concepts that have become tired and heavy, instead containing concepts and metaphors that feel fresh and relevant in today’s world. They should be inclusive of the experiences of all living beings, both human and non-human and be inclusive of all beliefs, both spiritual and non-spiritual. Anthony Lambert
.

An effective spiritual narrative should be rich in wisdom

  • Facts bring us to knowledge, but stories lead to wisdom. Rachel Naomi Remen
  • Stories are memory aids, instruction manuals and moral compasses. Aleks Krotoski
  • Stories are beyond value; they are the memory and wisdom of a people, the particular individual rivers of the sea of life which constitutes us all. Rudy Wiebe
  • We have stories to tell, stories that provide wisdom about the journey of life. What more have we to give one another than our ‘truth’ about our human adventure as honestly and as openly as we know how? Rabbi Saul Rubin
.

An effective spiritual narrative should help us make sense of the apparent existence of suffering and evil in the world

  • Much of today’s religious dogma concerning God and the nature and destiny of mankind is flawed and irrational. It fails to resolve basic paradoxes—like why bad things happen to good people, and why some are born into privilege and some into starvation and misery. Moreover, the conflicting claims of the world’s religions contribute directly to the violence and hatred that afflicts much of the planet. Bernard Haisch
  • One reason to consider what I propose is that it is so beautifully rational. It answers key paradoxes of good and evil, of divine benevolence and human malice, of God’s justice and the persistent Problem of Job. It transcends the impossible contradictions of competing religions. It opens the door to an unprecedented world peace based on universal self-interest. It is a worldview, I submit, that grows on you with time. It is elegant. Bernard Haisch
.

An effective spiritual narrative should help us bear suffering and discomfort

  • It wasn’t about believing this or that, it wasn’t even about good and evil and right and wrong, it was about finding the strength to bear the discomfort that came with being in the world.  Mark Haddon
.

An effective spiritual narrative contains rich essence that can be penetrated distilled as truth and the rest discarded

  • The task is not primarily to have a story, but to penetrate the story, to discard the elements of it that are merely shell, or husk, that give apparent form to the story, but actually obscure the essence. In other words, the problem is to transcend the givens of a narrative. Deborah Eisenberg
  • We mythologists know very well that myths and legends contain borrowings, moral lessons, nature cycles, and a hundred other distorting influences, and we labor to cut them away and get to what might be a kernel of truth. Isaac Asimov
  • Every great narrative is at least two narratives, if not more – the thing that is on the surface and then the things underneath which are invisible. Ali Smith
.

An effective spiritual narrative should have a direct, positive influence on the way we live life and relate to others

  • A metaphor or model is good, better, or true inasmuch as it is able to create a better world now. Indeed, the ‘certainty’ of metaphorical theology is not in its assertions but in the opportunity it provides to live differently. Sally McFague
  • Faith in God is not so much correct thoughts about God (ones that correspond to God’s being), but appropriate, responsible action to help a planet, created and loved by God, be an adequate home for all its many creatures. Sally McFague
  • The only way to judge whether a metaphor has approximated reality for our time is by how well the theological metaphor functions; that is, by how well it leads humans to behave on planet earth.  Sally McFague
.

An effective spiritual narrative should bring positive change to the world

  • The narratives of Scripture were not meant to describe our world … but to change the world, including the one in which we now live. Stanley Hauerwas
  • The only way to judge whether a model has approximated reality for our time is by how well the theological model functions; that is, by how well it leads humans to behave on planet earth. Sally McFague
.

An effective narrative should make room for paradox and ambiguity

  • The purpose of narrative is to present us with complexity and ambiguity.  Scott Turow
  • One option for scriptural interpretation is to read the Bible and other sacred texts as rich sources for archetypal stories… This approach seeks contemporary, true-to-life profundities in sacred stories but does so with an eye to ambivalence and uncertainty, conflict and catharsis, and the construction of powerful symbols and shared meanings. William Grassie
.

An effective spiritual narrative should be life affirming rather than life denying

  • All narratives, even the confusing, are implicitly hopeful; they speak of a world that can be ordered, and thus understood.  Lucy Grealy
  • The conception of God should be a celebration of life and self. Mitchell Silver
  • We need to build more life-sustaining models and metaphors for the relationship between God and creation. Sallie McFague
    What is “good”? Anything that supports LIFE and overcomes obstructions to life – whether creatively or destructively.  Peter Wilberg
  • We can create reality – in fact, we do all the time with the constructs we embrace unknowingly. We can also create reality knowingly – and humanely – by living within models that we wager are true as well as good for human beings and other life forms. Sally McFague
  • Between the experience of living a normal life at this moment on the planet and the public narratives being offered to give a sense to that life, the empty space, the gap, is enormous. John Berger
  • Human life is fundamentally practical and hence … true knowledge is not basically correspondence with ‘reality-as-it-is’; rather, it is [that which] contribute[s] to fulfillment of life in its many forms. Sally McFague
  • Life experience is not something to be denied, but to be celebrated. Madeleine M. Kunin
.

An effective spiritual narrative should be inspiring rather than prescriptive

  • I like living in a society where people behave. However, making that the purpose of our religion doesn’t make for a very inspiring story. It certainly doesn’t captivate or move us. It doesn’t rouse us to the great heroism and selfless service that is part of our heritage. Behavior modification makes for a functional religion. It serves its purpose, but not a very inspiring one. Doug Hammack
.

An effective spiritual narrative should bring a sense of peace and equanimity

  • People are fatigued with old religious and spiritual concepts that have been dragged though history, acquiring the heavy weight of more and more mind forms to become cloaked in ego and a sense of separateness and fear.  Anthony Lambert
  • The way of peace is the way of truth. Mahatma Gandhi
  • Truth brings peace, whereas falsehood brings fear. David Hawkins
  • That which is false troubles the heart, but truth brings joyous tranquility. Rumi
  • Only embrace those spiritual narratives that expand your soul in a sense of peace and spaciousness.  Anthony Lambert
.

An effective spiritual narrative makes room for other narratives and ways of interpreting things…

  • Humans can hold multiple narratives, sometimes mutually exclusive. We mix and match. William Grassie
  • Let’s have a creativity for new narratives and a comfort level with holding multiple possibilities in mind. David Eagleman
.

…in the knowing that all effective narratives point to the same transcendent truth

  • In essence there is and always has been only one spiritual teaching, although it comes in many forms. Eckhart Tolle
.

An effective spiritual narrative is conscious that it is simply a narrative and not absolute or literal truth to believe in or overly attach to…

  • There are no truths. Only stories. Thomas King
  • Stories surround us like air; we breathe them in, we breathe them out. The art of being fully conscious in personal life means seeing the stories and becoming their teller, rather than letting them be the unseen forces that tell you what to do. Rebecca Solnit
  • The most important stories that humans tell, retell, and reframe are the ones people do not generally recognize as stories at all. These are referred to as “metanarratives.” These master stories are the stuff of ideologies, religions, nationalisms, and cultures. People do not even recognize them as stories but rather tend to take them as an unarticulated background, the taken-for-granted truth, the way things really are. William Grassie
  • Theological statements are universal in scope – they address God, the world, and human beings – but they are, in the end, only risky, partial assertions made by relative, historically bound creatures. Each contribution is, only one square in the quilt. Sally McFague
  • We have the capability of taking a step back and observing these narratives, and seeing them for what they are. In doing so, we can become free of the stories that shape our worldview, and can then open ourselves up to seeing the world in an entirely new way.  Joseph P. Kauffman
  • Stories are the untested, uninvestigated theories that tell us what all these things mean. We don’t even realize that they’re just theories. Byron Katie
  • Part of the job of a great storyteller is to examine the stories that underlie the story you’re assigned, maybe to make them visible, and sometimes to break us free of them. Break the story. Breaking is a creative act as much as making. Rebecca Solnit
.

…in the recognition that all spiritual and religious concepts are simply narratives…

  • Heaven and hell is a narrative. Good and evil is a narrative.  Enlightenment, karma and re-incarnation are narratives. All concepts of God are narratives.  All spiritual metaphors are narratives.  Anthony Lambert
  • Words like meditation, karma, samskaras, they’re just words. You can get into the jargon, you can speak it, but that doesn’t mean you’ll be any freer. Frederick Lenz
  • The only truth is I AM – I Exist. That is the only truth. Everything else is a concept. Rebirth is a concept. Your karma is a concept.  Ramesh Balsekar
.

…and that beyond the story is the pristine mystery

  • When I become embroiled with my story I find myself living in a sort of trance. I’m certain I know what’s going on, even though I really don’t. I exist in a state of numbness that I call normality and I feel only half alive. But when I wake up I can see that my story is a story. If I look deeper I discover that hidden behind my story is the pristine, virgin, untouchable mystery. Tim Freke
.

An effective spiritual narrative is conscious that it’s true purpose is to be transcended…

  • Our lives are a long series of acquiring and then sloughing narratives. Melissa Febos
  • Enough of these phrases, conceit and metaphors, I want burning, burning, burning. Rumi
  • You have to suspend thinking in narratives. The moment you are conscious of yourself the gap opens up. And in this gap, stories are generated.  Aleksandar Hemon
.

…in order to give rise to a direct experience of the heart beyond words and concepts

  • Would that we might pass beyond the word into the experience. Richard Kellaway
.

An effective spiritual narrative should feel relevant in our modern times

  • Although I’ve been heavily influenced by my studies of spirituality, these days I find most established spiritual traditions to be weighed down by religious ways of thinking that are well past their sell-by date. In their day, traditional forms of spirituality were dangerously radical, but now they’ve become safely conservative. They can’t free us from the past because they are the past. We need something fresh to take us over the new edge. Tim Freke
.

We should be ready to let go of any outdated narratives that no longer work for us…

  • You never change things by fighting against the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the old model obsolete. Buckminster Fuller
  • We do not have to keep living in stories that have long ago spent their shelf lives. Bernardo Kastrup
  • Each generation made the story just a little more practical, a little more understandable, and a little bit better. But for all their good intent, through the generations, a truth that inspired hope and peace devolved into a fear-inducing, wearying narrative of guilt, shame, and obligation. That’s what happens to stories over time. Doug Hammack
  • If we are dreaming our own stories, we can always dream others. Bernardo Kastrup
.

…and embrace new narratives that seem relevant and plausible in today’s context

  • We need modern formulations of religious myths; formulations that use plausible contemporary images, more amenable to intellectual tolerance. … We need new images, new representations consistent with our contemporary knowledge and intellectual ethos. Bernardo Kastrup
  • We can tell new stories. We can develop new myths, perhaps even myths that point back to the myth-maker. Bernardo Kastrup
  • I was beginning to see the danger in adhering to a single narrative, hewing to a story. The peril wasn’t only in getting it wrong. It was a kind of calcification, a narrowing, a perversion of reality that hardened and stilled the spirit. Dani Shapiro
.

We should be ready to embrace new narratives in order to advance on our spiritual path

  • The key to the work of changing the world is changing the story. Rebecca Solnit
    Spirituality is inherently oriented towards discovery, towards new perceptions and new understandings of reality. Mark McIntosh
    The task of the philosopher is to create the best story, because culture moves forward through us creating better stories. Tim Freke
.

The true litmus test of a spiritual narrative

.

Spiritual narratives are deeply subjective

  • A particular narrative may lead to a direct experience of God for some while it won’t for others.  Throughout history, there have been countless religious and spiritual narratives.  Any narrative is valid if it works for at least one person. Anthony Lambert
  • No single narrative will work for everyone. Diversity is one the joys of the human experience.  There are as many valid spiritual narratives as there are people on the planet.  Anthony Lambert
  • Relative truth is subjective. A truth that acts as a good pointer for you may not work for me.  Anthony Lambert
.

There are many narratives and we should embrace those that work best for us

  • We live in a world of competing narratives. In the end, we have to decide for ourselves which is right. And having made that decision, we then need to inhabit the story we trust.  Alister E. McGrath
  • We must select the illusion which appeals to our temperament, and embrace it with passion, if we want to be happy Cyril Connolly
  • Which of these stories is worthy of our affirmation and support? Which narrative has the power to convince, convert, and transform? Which religion does one choose?  Which stories of self, society, and cosmos are we willing to risk all for when push comes to shove?  William Grassie
  • The phantasmagoria, the actual experience that we try to understand and organize through narrative, varies from place to place. No single narrative serves the needs of everyone everywhere.  Sheena Iyengar
  • There is no one-size-fits all narrative; everyone’s path winds in different way. Sarah McBride
.

The true litmus test of a narrative’s power is its effect on our own direct experience…

  • Spiritual narratives should be strong on practice and the test of direct experience. Anthony Lambert
  • Relate to the world as if the narrative or metaphor were true and see how it effects your direct experience of life. If it brings a growing sense of happiness, love and peace, then it is working for you.  If not, discard it, and try on another.  Anthony Lambert
  • How can I know if a relevant truth works for me?
    First, contemplate the apparent truth.  Go inwards to your inner most being and contemplate it deeply.  Does it resonate?  In other words, does it inspire the mind to quieten?  Does it open the heart?  Does it give rise to a sense of spaciousness within?  Yes?  If so, it has potential.
    Second, try on the apparent truth like a loose garment. See how it feels to wear it for a while, knowing you can discard it at any time.  Relate to the world as if it were true and see how it effects your direct experience of life.  If it brings a growing sense of happiness, love and peace, then it is working for you.  If not, discard it, and try on another truth.
    As a truth works its magic in your life, there will come a time when the mind is ready to surrender. And in that letting go, a state of Being beyond the mind arises in which reality is revealed.  This state of knowing can take different forms.  Sometimes it arises as love; full yet bottomless.  Sometimes it arises as peace; empty yet vast.  In this state of Being, the Knowing that arises is so unshakeable that you are forever changed.  It is a state in which Being Knows itself.  Being and Knowing merge to become one.
    – Anthony Lambert
.

…for direct, personal experience is the best oracle of relative truth

  • All that is necessary is to stick very closely to our actual experience and not rely on concepts or ideas from the past about the way we think things are. We have to come very cleanly to this exploration of experience and only permit that which we know for ourself to be true. Rupert Spira
  • Experience alone is the proof of the existence of everything. Therefore, what is present in experience alone can be real. Sri Atmananda Krishna Menon
  • Experience always takes place now, in the present, so if we want to explore the nature of Reality, all we have is this current experience. Rupert Spira
  • Experience is the only criterion by which the reality of anything can be decided. Sri Atmananda Krishna Menon
  • Experience is the only prophecy of wise men Alphonse de Lamartine
  • Experience is the oracle of truth; and where its responses are unequivocal, they ought to be conclusive and sacred. James Madison
  • If we are to make an honest investigation into the nature of Reality, we have to discard any presumptions that are not derived from direct experience. Rupert Spira
  • In this current experience we have all the information that is needed to understand the nature of ourself and of Reality, because both we, whatever we are, and Reality, whatever it is, are present. Rupert Spira
  • In wisdom gathered over time I have found that every experience is a form of exploration. Ansel Adams
  • Intellectualization is basically an abstract speculation that must be confirmed by experience. David R. Hawkins
  • Is belief or experience the truest test of reality? Rupert Spira
  • The only field available for enquiry is experience itself. Rupert Spira
  • The only source of knowledge is experience. Albert Einstein
  • There are many truths of which the full meaning cannot be realized until personal experience has brought it home. John Stuart Mill
  • To be radical, an empiricism must neither admit into its constructions any element that is not directly experienced, nor exclude from them any element that is directly experienced. William James
  • Truth does not need argument, agreement, theories or beliefs. There is only one test for it and that is to ask yourself ‘Is the statement true or false in my experience? Barry Long
  • Truth is what stands the test of experience. Albert Einstein
  • We should not believe the story that the mind tells us about what and where the body is. We should rely only on the facts of our experience, and that means this current experience. That is the test of Reality, of Truth. Rupert Spira
  • Believe nothing, no matter where you read it, or who said it, no matter if I have said it, unless it agrees with your own reason and your own experience. Buddha
  • You will find you know nothing for sure — you trust on hearsay. To know the truth, you must pass through your own experience.  Nisargadatta Maharaj