Here is a simple but effective analogy to help you understand and remember the various approaches to spirituality.
The Black Cat Analogy
This analogy is all about searching for something in the dark. The darkness represents the arena of the unknown. There is much we don’t know about the world, the universe, and ourselves. Many people find themselves eager or drawn to explore the inner world of the mind and soul. The cat represents the truth. Looking for our own spiritual truth is the spiritual quest.
The word “spirituality” has many meanings. It all depends on your worldview. The black cat analogy explains the different ways of seeking spiritual truth. There are five main paths one can take. Here is a simple but effective analogy will help you understand each of these five approaches to spirituality.
Philosophy deals with developing ideas and theories about knowledge, reality, and existence. It trys to find meaning and patterns that help us understand the nature of things.
The approach of philosophy is like looking for a black cat in a dark room that may or may not be there. How can we be sure unless we search for it? How can we find it? The room is too dark to see. So, do we try to talk to it? Should we try to scar it?
Is it possible that the elusive cat of spiritual truth is not in the room? Does it simply not exist? Or, perhaps we are looking for the wrong type of cat? Should we be looking for a white cat? Or, perhaps a calico cat? All we can do is ask questions.
Metaphysics is a branch of philosophy dealing with the abstract, occult or hidden meaning. It looks for and develops the underlying principles of things. It looks for causation. It also delves into the abstract realm of Being, knowing, our relation to time and space.
The metaphysical approach is like looking for a black cat in a dark room that simply isn’t there. You look everywhere in the room. You go to each corner. You go across the room. You conclude there is no cat in the room. Yet, you keep searching the dark room. Eventually, hey, you find something else. But what is it? It doesn’t feel like a cat. It doesn’t act like a cat. You don’t know what it is. What are the possibilities?
Religion is the collective belief imaginary supernatural being or being, God or gods as meaning of explaining the unknown.
Religion is like looking for a black cat in a dark room. You can’t find the cat, but you don’t want to look stupid or incompetent so you shout I found it! Other people are interested because they can’t find the cat either. So, you decide to create a religion and sell a book on how you found the cat.
But people are hesitant to believe buy your story. So, you tell them it’s dangerous to look for the cat. You exploit their fear of the dark. You tell people if they don’t buy your story they will spend eternity in a place of agony and torture. This is how religion exploits our existential fear of death and the unknown. And it works!
Science is the analytical and systematic approach to investigating reality.
The approach of science is like being in a dark room looking for a black cat, searching methodically with a grid and a flashlight. If you don’t find it in one dark room, you try another. You keep searching room by room.
And you find clues. You find stuff that might be cat hair. So, there is some evidence and you keep searching. You develop a better flashlight. You document all the evidence.
Spiritual exploration uses consciousness development tools to find out which room the cat is in. Then you go to the right room, call the cat and take it outside in the sunlight for a walk. You make friends with the cat. You understand the benefits and pitfalls of each approach. The black cat analogy becomes a way to help others forge their own path.
As you can see from the above analogy, spiritual exploration has a lot in common with several of the other vantage points. It certainly looks at the philosophical implications, the metaphysical possibilities and the scientific approach. It’s really all about the individual’s perception through the use of a variety of consciousness development tools.
Conscious Development Tools
Everyone has their own way of awakening. And, each of us has spiritual gifts to aid in this quest. These gifts are sleeping in our DNA. So, waking these gifts is the key. It sets our spiritual walk into motion. It opens our minds to new potentials.
Accessing these gifts was the central goal of many ancient cultures. And so, we benefit from generations of research. The results are a set of powerful tools anyone can use. We call these tools spiritual technologies. These are sound methods for expanding awareness and exploring consciousness.
Above all, these tools stand up to the test of science. They are repeatable experiential phenomena. And, higher states of awareness also have unique measurable physiological signatures. They differ from the basic states of consciousness (waking, sleeping, and dreaming). These processes do not require belief in a religion. All you need to do is follow the process. For the most part, these tools come from Eastern traditions. This probably because their focus is on developing human potential.
Other schools of thought have a similar eclectic approach. For example, Gurdjieff’s approach was to adopt what is already proven to be effective. After all, human physiology hasn’t changed in thousands of years. So, the work of the ancient pioneers stands the test of time.
Above all, these spiritual technologies stand up to the test of science. They exhibit repeatable common experiential phenomena. And, they also have unique physiological signatures different from the basic states of consciousness (waking, sleeping, and dreaming). So, they require no belief or faith in any religious doctrine. Therefore, all you need to do is follow the process correctly.
Spiritual technologies are tools for exploring consciousness. They result from generations of research by cultures around the world. These processes stand up to the test of science. They are repeatable and measurable. They do not require belief in religious doctrine. So, everyone who can follow a process can use them. We call the practice of these processes spiritual exploration.
Looking for a Black Cat in a Dark Room
Examining each of the various approaches to spirituality is like looking in a mirror. We see how we may be using an approach to the inner quest that may not yield the results we want. It is perfectly okay to change your path.
We know many people are under the influence of organized religion. They indoctrinate at an early age and use groupthink manipulation to keep their customer base. They use fear and anger to protect their cash flow. However, more and more people are not satisfied with their proclamation that they have actually found the cat.
The black cat analogy is one way to explain these five approaches to the inner spiritual quest.
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Joseph Campbell & Joseph Campbell’s Book The Hero’s Journey, Wikipedia