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What Is the Value Proposition of Spirituality?
By: James Felton Keith Keith is the author of Integrationalism: Essays on the rationale of abundance an economics analyst, an engineer, and futurist. Keith is currently Chairman of the Enxit Group of companies and a visiting faculty specialist at the Michigan State University. He’s a frequent lecturer on issues of ethics, and individualism.
Abstract In the known history of sentient beings spirituality has dominated the human consciousness, resulting in a wide array of immaterial theologies, ideologies and mythologies. Human ability to compensate for the unidentifiable and unknown over the millennia has provided extraordinary philosophical exploration; so much so, that thinkers have used spirituality's lack of rigidity to endorse everything from cultivating life to death. In this essay I will demonstrate an incentive model and logic that, any activity is justifiable in reference to spirituality; and further, ethical ambiguities disincentives humanity’s progressive growth. Tags Individualism, Technology, Economics, Philosophy, Spirituality, Logic, Integrationalism
Thinkers have rarely engaged spirituality from an economic perspective if at all. It would seem that in the exploration of virtue and worth that the actual ability of a spiritual entity to achieve its goals would be a cornerstone in modern arguments. The economics of religion is becoming more common in the modern conversation on how socio-cultural competition of ideologies effects access to people, place, and politics. In this essay I’ll use Ideology in its classical sense: as a false, or ideal of pure illusion or rather nothingness, as Karl Marx originally elaborated1. Of the few are writers like Emile Durkheim, James Dean, Nilanjana Das, Robert Henry Nelson, and others. Max Weber (with the exception of Karl Marx) is arguably the most famous with his publication The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, but I’m more interested in the living and the most modern analysts like Laurence Iannaccone and efforts to quantify what is available on the subject, like the religionomics.com website. I’ve echoed in previous texts with reference to the American Religious Identification Survey (ARIS) data, that society is becoming less religious. This is not synonymous with that of spirituality. Iannaccone once wrote that the decline of religion says "less about empirical fact than it does about secularization faith"2. Language is important here; secularization is represented as a digression of societal identification with religious specific values and corresponding institutions; and a greater identification with secular values and further, its institutions. I’m not aiming to argue one institutional subscription over another, as they all carry some set of bias that, as I’ll show, are potentially dangerous to inter-species harmonies. The secularizing of society, as it takes its toll on political decisions, still leaves some residue of spiritual subscriptions, perhaps a result of socio-cultural conservatism or comfort – Spiritual secularization is a sort of unitarian existence, or as some would call it, having your cake and eating it too. The business of spirituality’s subgroups or religions is taking its natural competitive course to filter through the global society as it exists. The religio-authors of today tend to explore spirituality from a historians perspective by examining what has happened and what is likely to happen as competition saturates the market for souls. The regular arguments are critical of ideological contradictions at one extreme and professing blind faith for salvation at the other. Perhaps it stems from the ultimate inability to actually acquire, document, and benchmark information in the spirituality debate; but thinkers have not, to my knowledge attempted to quantify the underpinning objective of spiritual endeavor. This makes it difficult to evaluate well from an economic incentive standpoint – economic incentives, meaning motivation to make decisions in situations of relative scarcity. Regardless of the lack of exploration, I think that the individuals participating in their faith have formed somewhat critical opinions about their faith and its well being, via their distribution to peers and youths. I think it reasonable to write that every spiritual person is a critic who has done some sort of analysis based on their life experience and development of reasoning skills. Throughout the history of missionary activity in the world, relatively impoverished people or people in need of help have identified with spiritual teachings of sorts as a result of their peers participation in assisting with survival. Over the past few years I’ve witnessed a stellar initiative by the Mormon Church to combat ignorance about its missions
and capability while in post-Katrina New Orleans. In 2010 C.E. I traveled extensively to speak on the disincentives of spirituality, but the most memorable talk I had was at a conference on transhumanism and spirituality at the University of Utah. It was established through the university and the Mormon Church – quite the unexpected and compelling collection of thinkers. I was excited to experience how we are able to track sentiments somewhat over a short history, and during a presentation of the philosophy to follow I was able to understand through Twitter (what a tool) that the core value proposition of spirituality is, in many spiritual subscribers understanding: connectivity. I’d actually spent some months surveying spiritual people prior to the conference on their ideals of what value spirituality brings, and derived that it is consistently: connectivity; something that connects. Of course connectivity is a grand ideal of spirituality identified in modernity. To the contrary there are ancient writings like Ibn Rushd’s, the decisive treatise on the relation between religion and philosophy that suggest the value proposition is control and elitism. Reference his uses the language: There are apparent texts that have to be interpreted by men of the demonstrative class; for such men to take them in their apparent meaning is unbelief, while for those who are not of the demonstrative class to interpret them and take them out of their unbelief and heresy on their part. Rushd is referring to sacred texts from the eleventh century and how the class of truth speakers or rather truth seekers must interpret texts to distribute and interpreted ideals to the truth receiving class. Rushd is referring to a class of educated (men; in religious texts and socio-politics) individuals as demonstrative. He thinks that the others, or uneducated individuals, would only interpret the text improperly, which would in-turn be heresy and pervade the population with ill understanding. In Rushd’s world the core value proposition is: conformity; to elite interpretation. To some regard his ideals are still relevant in today’s global socio-religious landscape. Reference the tutelage of spiritual elites as a form of philosophy and their consistent modification of interpreted text to distribute ideals and moral good/bad to the masses of populations. There are of course, more fundamentalist interpretations of texts in some religiospiritual sects that invoke a Rushd like heresy with regard to the ever reinterpreting scripture. Due to the limits of the social normative and vetting of survey material by the “demonstrative class”…lol…, I have not had a chance to survey individuals the world over who follow the analysis of sacred texts without question, yet. But I’ve had access to a few groups of individuals exceeding the hundred of participants. It could very well be said that the value proposition of spirituality is relative to the individual and is a result of a very personal relationship with ones spirit(s). I’ve heard that a lot from those of us who haven’t had lots of time to think through the question: What is the core value proposition of spirituality. I’ve been asking this question in varying ways. Based on the language that has been referenced I’m convinced that connectivity is the grand “good” of the spirituality. While it may be far removed from what a variety of
philosophers have thought over the millennia, this is how the individual of modernity justified their participation and spiritual subscriptions. Connectivity Historically our spiritually ideological endeavors have been designed to incentivize our sociological connectivity; however, we rarely, if ever, acknowledge that our economic reality disincentivizes our sociological cooperation and further any ideological connection. Per this demonstration on the value proposition of spirituality it will be necessary for the reader to assume that spirits do exist. Spirits are non-physical beings with the mission of connecting physical beings through interventions of sorts, whether divine or other. As physical beings experience all types of dilemmas based on their economic realities, spirits are designed to ensure that we don’t drift too far apart in any of our personal pursuits of survival. Obviously there are scenarios imaginable and empirical evidence that not everyone is able to avoid drifting. I can hear the people in passing, echoing what they believe, with through experience or knowing: “I was blessed to make it hear” “You have favor” “Someone is watching over me” “God bless you” “I can feel your spirit” All of these sayings and more are common place in the world that we currently live in, as hope that something else has our better interest in mind is a powerful tool for managing our way through a life filled with individualistic virtues that establish that: “I am my own man (woman)” “I gotta get mine” “I am the master of my fate” “I am the captain of my soul” Whether, were Ernest Henley’s soul captain or getting ours like 2Pac; the individualistic sentiment pervades and alienates us from our peers, inferiors, and superiors alike. The notion that only a God can judge one’s actions or that all one needs is her/his spiritual linkage, when society can condemn or permit one’s ability to thrive is a rather ludicrous ideology to hold.
The model below elaborates on how Spirits are actually understood to be connect with each other and connected their interaction with physical beings. ‘S’ represents spirits (souls) and ‘P’ represents physical beings (persons) in this illustration.
Based on the rhetoric that most modern intellectuals of spiritual identification rely on, it is sensible to consider the diagram above an accurate representation of their spiritual realty. But what matters most are the spiritual population’s use of language and rhetoric in regard to how they experience their spirituality. Under the ideology of spirituality we physical beings are forever separate or individuals and spirits are pirituality connected to an individual and can be, but are not necessarily, connected to every other spirit. This model of understanding provides many conveniences in indemnifying us physical beings for our “good” and physical “bad” actions. Critics of this simple model will acknowledge that I’ve left out representation for a supreme spirit in this model. It is important to understand that regardless of whether a supreme spirit exists or not, physical beings recognize themselves as interacting with a supreme spirit via their individual spirit, sical or designated piece of the supreme spirit. It is a part of the individualistic ideology that pervades modern thought. And further, it molds the way in which ideologies are visualized when forming rhetoric, parables, and anecdotal stories with regard to real and potential happenings. Most people don’t knowingly relate their spirituality to their individuality, because of the way in which they’ve traditionally received their spiritual or religious information in practice through the course of their lives. Religion is a very communal phenomenon, and the rhetoric is about: togetherness. While in Utah on a panel I was asked by a participant of a conference from the Twitter if I thought that “organizations that the happened to be religious should be abolished” and I thought “what a good question for Twitter”. Not because the question was well crafted, but I understand how difficult cramming value into one hundred crafted, and forty characters can be. I responded that organizations with missions to engage and critique us on a personal basis are so very valuable, and that our real value and potential are met when we humans are engaged in each-others lives. each I referenced my earlier writings (from Physicality vs. Spirituality) on human connections and the writing ) physical interactions that trigger learned or social reaction. These are reactions we can frequently at acknowledge as something other other-than physical; we call them spiritual reactions. While human kind is a . solely physical set of sentient beings that thrive on social interactions of sorts, our historical scarce access
to the resources that we require to generate any quality of life have stifled our best efforts to holistically become a the first harmonious species, that we are aware of. he species Spirituality has, since its inception, been a compensation tool to remedy our economic shortcomings first and our scientific shortcomings second. In extremely dire situations we see animals make the efforts to effo procure, hide, and over consume resources (food energy, other energy, shelter, etc.) in order to ensure that they are relatively well. Relatively is the most important word in the last sentence. When individuals or small groups realize that a formidable group would better their chances of consuming resources on a formidable more consistent and valuable basis they oblige the intake of once potential competitors. These are the types of fraternal alliances that bring so much of the socio cultural bias and further threat to the socio-cultural individual, by establishing institutional scarcity, entitlements, elite rights, conservative virtues, etc. Over time, as initial fraternal alliances become legacy alliances and then establish tradition, the individuals with ease of access to resources either via geographic location or physical stature or organization or other have the potential to unknowingly limit others access. Perhaps this was/is and unavoidable phenomenon: scarcity. In Essays on the rational of abundance and the Dubai vs Duba scenario on page 41 of the text, I ssays establish that scarcity and further desperation challenges the value proposition of spirituality3. However, value-proposition in the prelude to that scenario I establish that the modern technological times of today can compensate for scarcity. Of course, abundance is not possible if sentient beings knowing procure and hoard resources of sorts from peers and potential competitors within the species. ers This spiritual incentive model below is a rationale of how physical beings and their corresponding spiritual being interact.
Desperation Similar to the first model presented in this text; ‘S’ represents spirits (souls) and ‘P’ represents physical beings (persons) in this illustration. The diamond shape between the team of beings represents resources. represe Although we can’t eat them and haven’t been able to create any life generating or sustaining technologies
from diamonds, they have held immensely high value in antiquity and do so in modernity. It’s an ironic representation of resource, indeed. It could be thought that the procurement of resources are the root of all evil…LOL (laugh out loud). At the point of conflict over poor judgment of resource need, we find that the concept of “the good” and “the bad” become relative. We must respect the constant relativity at play, in the existence of the individual. Reference the upped half of the incentive model. It’s representative of desperation. This is precisely the type of scenario that most rational persons with little life experience can identify with quite well. There are two entities in pursuit of some finite resource. In this scenario, similar to the Dubai vs Duba scenario, the physical beings are in a direct conflict (per the double sided arrows) over the resource. Both spiritual beings are interacting with their corresponding physical being and the resource, leading both physical beings to understand that there is an opportunity to procure the limited resource independently of their competition. It is impossible for the spiritual being to exist well without the physical being. Because of this phenomenological fact, the spirit will have no incentive to actually connect the physical being in competition; its only incentive is to sustain existence. In the modern spiritual rhetoric that I find in searching the approximately one-hundred and twenty four million results on Google.com for “my spirit”, is that individual humans are in possessing of a person specific spirit. This is one quote of where I draw the language “it is impossible for the spiritual being to exist well without the physical being”. When the objective is to survive and the resource is the conduit the ideals that generate moral structure start to fail at providing a universal “good” and/or “bad” – and beings will strive to exist by any means necessary. I’m reminded of one of the most taught and best documented revolts of medieval times: Tyler’s Rebellion of the Great Rising in England. It was a class and resource war that was lost by the original prosecutors, because of the resource might of the defenders of the kingdom. The rebellion was sparked by tax hikes to the resource poor and lead to the reconsideration of the sustainability of the feudalistic models during the fourteenth century C.E. We still see this type of tug-of-war in the modern times between the resource consuming elites and the others. In America we’ve come to call them the “haves and have-nots”. Entitlement While we witness the hyper technological boom that succeeds the industrialization of small factions of the western and eastern hemispheres it is not so difficult to envision an abundant production of the food energy and other energy resources that human kind requires to live well (per what we’ve become accustom to in the technologically elite factions of the world). At the end of 2010 C.E. human kind bears witness to all the technological feats that we’d need support the planet and its inhabitants as is; however, the social climate is not prepared for that. We are far too divided. Weak artificial intelligence, hyper communications, high speed travel, synthetic life… these realities, while being our greatest testimony to life’s value in large numbers, could also be argued as a cause for caution. To be redundant, we are far too divided.
Regarding the lower portion of the incentive model presented previously, abundant resources wouldn’t permit the same fundamental conflict as the scarce resources. Spirituality in its essence is about individualism, ultimately elitism, and potential anointment of the individual. The rhetoric that surrounds the various belief systems that encounter spirits of sorts require followership of some objective set, which in-turn incentivizes the individual to cooperate. For instance, a spiritual person (physical being adopting spiritual ideologies) will necessarily adopt the ideal that they can be “blessed” or as the cultural specific jargon goes favored, favoured, enlightened, privileged, partisan, superior, and everything synonymous. Per the understanding, all physical persons with corresponding spiritual beings have the potential to become: special, to sum it up in one word. The spiritual entity provides its corresponding physical being the economic opportunity to become omniselfish at some point depending on intellectual ability, socio-cultural status, and/or economic reality – it all results from the understood potential for anointment relative to our peers, or rather, juniors and seniors. The very potential for elitism is what divides us. Some have attained it, others want/require it, and others still, acknowledge being elite as impossible for their statistical faction. When the incentive model shows a double sided arrow interacting between the resource and the physical being it is meant to illustrate that physical beings in a situation of relative resource abundance still have incentive, under a spiritual ideology, to misallocate and over consume resources out of its rigid understanding that it is allowed and further entitled to. It should be stated that a lowly status can result in the exact kinds of anarchistic activity that brings dangerous conflict into situational abundance. An argument against this logic could easily be made that if a situation is truly abundant, then it can’t possible incur any misallocations. And from a broader philosophical perspective, I’d agree. But, our reality is such that we’ll have to engage pervasive educational and technological regulatory efforts, in order to cease the inherent bias that prohibits the value proposition (connectivity) that individuals identify as a cornerstone. Some time ago I presented this incentive model to a group of my pseudo-religious, frankly-spiritual friends and peers. I saved the conversation on a private blog. It was lengthy. Everyone chimed in to give their two cents on what the value of spirituality was, and some condemned the intellectual community for “tainting” the world with its secularization rhetoric. The value in the dialogue, as it usually tends to, came at the end, when a rather decorated psychologist asked: “what is the value in all of this”. She was asking about the value of discrediting the objectives of spiritual interaction specifically. Redundantly and necessarily she asked: “Who does this all benefit”. It was the aha moment/question… But, it wouldn’t have been as valuable to the group if I would have posed it; similarly, many people who read these pages will reject the notion that spirituality, even in a reality where it absolutely exists, provides no added value to the human experience. Please excuse my poor delivery…lol. Words are often our gateways and boundaries simultaneously; sometimes we have to share a vision to truly understand. Regarding the questions, this exploration benefits the species, of course. Encountering a time when human kind can afford the
opportunity to interact harmoniously, will require mutual understanding among the species’ individuals. Well understood divisions will inevitably create incentives to put quality of life, and further, lives at risk. I’m reminded of the seemingly endless research over the past one hundred years conducted by biologists, sociologists, writers, hobbyists, and thinkers on ant colonies and bee hives to make analogies on the human experience. Human kind, in its search for uniformity and just execution of “work” tasks and organization has derived multiple political management models. Of course while we can look to an ant colony or bee hive to witness remarkable organization and a nest with a complete social world of identifiable diversity, these species can only perform few (if not singular) tasks within a life span. Each individual has some set of tasks to do, and to our knowledge, does it well. We don’t recognize these species as having the desire to do multiple things or to achieve some relative (to their aging life span) selfactualization through polymathic means. A human by contrast, as a polymathic being, has the potential to learn an infinite number of tasks. Before this technological age, one could argue well that it is impossible to learn an infinite number of tasks. However, human kind’s innovation of language, corresponding characters, methods of storage, and finally transmittal have designated our species as being the only known species to evolve outside of our immediate physical capabilities. Technology’s ability to help us quantify, interpret, and distribute resources of sorts will be crucial in human kind’s pursuit of an actual civil society. Peace is not a phenomenon that human kind will achieve without its technological extensions. It brings into question the ideal that our technologies are other than human instead of human extensions. While it is not possible for there to exist a spiritual connector of physical beings and distributors of resources, it is possible for there to exist a physical connector and distributor of resources.
1. Engels, Friedrich, and Karl Marx. The Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844: and the Communist Manifesto. Trans. Martin Milligan. Prometheus, 1988. Google Books. 2006. Web. 03 Nov. 2010. <http://books.google.com/books?id=vV8EAQAAIAAJ&q=Karl Marx manuscripts&dq=Karl Marx manuscripts&hl=en&ei=qHXRTPaoC4WgnQfNi43KDA&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=1&ved=0CDIQ6AEwAA>. Caplan, Bryan. "Why Religious Beliefs Are Irrational, and Why Economists Should Care." Http://econfaculty.gmu.edu/bcaplan/ldebate.htm. Web. 3 Nov. 2010. Keith, James Felton. Integrationalism: Essays on the Rationale of Abundance. New York: Think Enxit, 2010. Google Books. Think Enxit Press, 13 May 2010. Web. 15 Nov. 2010. <http://books.google.com/books?id=dgOinwwR-FoC&printsec=frontcover&dq=james felton keith&hl=en&ei=wobhTOb7CpKnAep9sjMDw&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=1&ved=0CCoQ6AEwAA#v=onepage&q=Duba&f=false>.
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