One of the principles of neomasculinity doctrine is spirituality. We believe that life, in all its richness and fullness, contains more than that which is accorded to us by sense perception alone. The development of our spiritual side proceeds hand-in-hand with the development of our bodies. Body and soul are intimately connected, and one cannot survive without the other.
“But,” you may say, “I have no interest in these things. These matters bore me. I don’t see any value in this sort of thing, and don’t think I need any program of spiritual development. Give me my atheism and you can keep your spirituality.” This is a sentiment shared by many.
But I have an answer for this also. Actually, I have two answers in response to this.
My first answer is this: philosophy without a spiritual grounding is a dark and cold thing. To believe that the material world is all there is, and that this eternal dance of atoms, molecules, galaxies, and nebulae is a random buzzing of matter with no meaning, and that man’s sufferings and trials are pointless excursions down rabbit holes that lead nowhere: is this not the most depressing of conclusions? Does not the very fact that religions have been with us since the dawn of time speak to their utility to man?
We begin to believe that it is better to think, as did the Latin writer Minucius Felix, in the following way:
I cannot but feel that those who regard the design of this great universe not as the product of the divine reason, but a conglomeration of odds and ends luckily brought together, have neither mind, nor sense, nor even eyes. What can be more clear, plain, or obvious as you look up at the sky, and look at all the things beneath you and around you, than that there must be some Divine Mind excelling in wisdom, through which all Nature is moved, imbued, and governed? [Octavius 17.4]
My second answer to your objection is this: you may believe one thing now, but at some point in your life you will believe something else. You will not be the same person in ten years as you are now. There are a great many examples of men who underwent profound shifts in their thinking, and moved from atheism to spirituality with startling speed.
The French mathematician Blaise Pascal was one of the most brilliant men of his era. At the ripe age of nineteen (1642), he had constructed an advanced computing machine. Six years later, he designed an experiment, based on the work of Torricelli on atmospheric weights and measurements, to use tubes of mercury to measure atmospheric pressure at different heights above sea level. He had a founding hand—along with Pierre de Fermat—in the development of the mathematics of probabilities.
And yet, all this worldly brilliance would be eclipsed by a series of profound events that visited him after 1647. He was seized in that year by an attack of paralysis which damaged his nervous system. A patrimony left him financially secure, but he began to be haunted by doubts about the existence and health of his soul; a highly sensitive man, he bore with difficulty the injustices he saw around him in the streets of Paris. He could not find the relief he was looking for in his mathematical tables and scientific instruments.
One day, as he was driving over the Pont de Neuilly, the horses became startled and caused his carriage nearly to be thrown into the Seine. Perched on the very edge of the bridge, his fate literally hung in the balance. He collapsed from the trauma of the incident, but emerged from convalescence a changed man; gone was the rational scientist, and in its place there now appeared a deeply pious man of the Jansenist school. It was an incredible transformation. The energies that had previously been devoted to science now were directed with equal brilliance to theological problems.
A similar type of conversion experience is found in the life of the Islamic mystic Abu Hamid Al-Ghazali (1058-1111). A methodical and brilliant man, he occupied a distinguished professorship in Baghdad, and enjoyed the favor of the political authorities. His teaching career was going well, and his administrative responsibilities were always executed with diligence. But then everything changed after 1095.
Al-Ghazali found himself consumed by doubts about the choices he had made in his life. He underwent some kind of profound spiritual crisis, which he describes in some detail in one of the classics of Islamic mysticism, The Deliverer From Error (Al-munqidh min ad-dalal). He could not concentrate. He could not sleep. Eventually, by entirely changing his residence, his lifestyle, and his worldview, he was able to find answers to his questions and the peace he needed.
We cannot foresee exactly where our lives or our opinions will lead us. What seems certain today, may not appear so certain tomorrow. Is it not better, then, to keep an open mind, and adhere to a view that accepts all things as possible?
But let us look at the matter rationally. Rationalists may find appealing the proposition that has been termed “Pascal’s Wager.” It is found in diluted form in his great philosophical work, the Pensees. It can almost be seen as a “cost-benefit” argument for the existence of God. The essence of the wager is this: you have nothing to lose by believing in God, and everything to gain.
Pascal’s reasoning proceeds in this way. Either God exists, or he does not. Your job is to wager on one of these alternatives. If you decide that he does exist, then you gain the peace of mind that comes from belief. If you decide he does not exist, then you may be denying yourself potential rewards. As he explains it:
Which will you choose then? Let us see. Since you must choose, let us see which interests you least. You have two things to lose, the true and the good; and two things to stake, your reason and your will, your knowledge and your happiness; and your nature has two things to shun, error and misery. Your reason is no more shocked in choosing one rather than the other, since you must of necessity choose. This is one point settled. But your happiness? Let us weigh the gain and the loss in wagering that God is. Let us estimate these two chances. If you gain, you gain all; if you lose, you lose nothing. Wager, then, without hesitation that He is. [Pensees, 272]
Pascal’s Wager may not convince everyone, but it at least has the merit of trying to offer a rational argument for belief. We are given a choice, and the choice is ours. What have you got to lose by believing in a Divine Force? Nothing.
We return to our original point, which is that even highly rational men of science can radically change their views of the world. The conversion experience is an interesting one, and presents many questions for study.
The Stages Of Belief
My own study of these matters leads me to believe that the religious personality goes through several stages. We can think of them as the stages in the development of the soul. The first stage consists in service to humanity. The person devotes himself to enterprises that help others more than himself. “A true believer,” says an Islamic Hadith (Taysir al-Wusul), is “he whom other people trust in regard to their person or property.” This is an admirably practical, and profound, definition.
The second stage consists in the “purification” of the heart. The person busies himself with removing bad thoughts and feelings from himself, and replacing those with good ones. The third and final stage is self-negation. That is, he begins to recognize his own personal insignificance when compared to the infinite vastness of creation. Feelings of wonder and awe overpower him, and these sentiments can find creative outlets in literature, art, or music.
In any case, these are deep waters, and worthy of exploration in measured doses. Perhaps the most we can say is that (1) there is a place for spirituality in the life of man; and (2) we should not become too rigid in our beliefs. What you believe today, may not what you believe tomorrow. Keep an open mind. Some men find satisfaction in the expression of their religion, and we should respect this.
Strong men have strong beliefs. Some of these beliefs may not be to our liking, but we should acknowledge their validity. Spirituality can be seen as an outward expression of love. The two things are connected, and find a home in the heart of a strong man. Sir Francis Bacon tells us, in his own unique way:
I know not how, but martial men are given to love: I think it is but as they are given to wine; for perils commonly ask to be paid in pleasures. There is in man’s nature a secret inclination and motion towards love of others, which, if it be not spent upon some one or a few, doth naturally spread itself towards many, and maketh men become humane and charitable; as it is seen sometime in friars. [cf. On Love]
We should not look for the truth or untruth of spiritual doctrines. That would a debate of absurdities, and one with no end. What matters, rather, is whether spiritual beliefs serve the needs of a strong man.
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