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From the P2P expressions of spirituality to the spiritual expression of P2P

photo of Michel Bauwens

Michel Bauwens
14th July 2012


Poor Richard comments on my essay, “The Next Buddha Will Be A Collective“, which appeared in Reality Sandwich magazine.

Poor Richard:

“Michel Bauwens writes in The Next Buddha Will Be a Collective, “As society evolves towards distributed networks, with peer to peer based social relations, it will affect spiritual expression in fundamental ways.”

He concludes, “The outcome of that process will be a co-created reality that is unpredictable and will create new, as yet unpredictable spiritual formats. But one thing is sure: it will be an open, participatory, approach leading to a commons of spiritual knowledge, from which all humanity can draw.”

This reminded me of something:

“Men are free when they belong to a living, organic, believing community, active in fulfilling some unfulfilled, perhaps unrealized purpose.” ? D.H. Lawrence

Personally, I am increasingly persuaded that neuroscience and psychology promise progressively materialistic explanations of the vast majority of spiritual and mystical experiences. The sciences are teasing out a lot of what goes on in creative processes like music and art, and now for spiritual practices and experiences as well. But every individual instance of creative and spiritual experience recursively combines two things in a complex and unique, one-time-only mixture: 1) the influence of environment (especially cultural context and personal history), and 2) the original contribution (or value added) of the individual in the moment-by-moment process. This is both a social and a personal reality, swirling and intermixing as in fluid dynamics.

What spirituality means to me is something separate from either the creative process or what is usually considered the spiritual practice, process, or experience per se. In my view, the essence of spirituality consists in the affirmation of, openness to, and respect for the uniqueness of every subjective creative and spiritual experience, regardless of its probably deterministic and natural correlates or causes.

Causality (no matter how natural, material, and deterministic we may reasonably infer it to be) is also irreducibly complex and thus in some measure forever beyond the scope of complete human scrutiny and interpretation. In other words–ultimately mysterious. And thus, in effect, sacred. The positive affirmation of that practical “cloud of unknowing” at both the personal and the social level is the essence of spirituality for me.

On the other hand, relatively few people (even among scientists and naturalists) will agree with me that the weight of evidence supports a default assumption that everything is material until proved otherwise.

For example, can we really explain love through its material correlates (hormones and stuff like that)?

In my opinion that’s the only credible explanation we have at this point. The rest is speculation. I encourage everyone to convert their speculations into hypotheses that can be tested, and to think about designing experiments for that purpose. The experimental paradigm can be used with any evidentiary regime we choose, including the subjective and anecdotal. But all the rest is simply creative fiction and armchair philosophy.

Ultimately, everyone will and should have their own private definitions of spirituality. One thing I hope that all personal definitions might agree on is that spirituality should not be a euphemism for magical thinking.”

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