Here is a simple but effective analogy to help you understand and remember the various approaches to the subject of 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 to explore. This desire takes in two directions, outward into the world and inward. The journey of the outer world takes into the vastness of the universe. The inward journey takes into the mind, the subconscious, and eventually into our soul. This inner world is as vast as the universe.
The cat in this analogy represents some aspect of the truth. Looking for our spiritual truth is part of the “great spiritual experiment.” Sages and philosophers disagree about this quest. The spiritual quest is where we get the analogy of looking for a black cat in a dark room. Does the cat exist at all? Or, if it exists, can we find it?
“The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing. One cannot help but be in awe when he contemplates the mysteries of eternity, of life, of the marvelous structure of reality. It is enough if one tries merely to comprehend a little of this mystery every day. Never lose a holy curiosity.”— Albert Einstein
The word “spirituality” has many meanings. It all depends on your worldview. The analogy of looking for a cat in a dark room explains the different ways of seeking spiritual truth. There are five main paths one can take. Here is a simple but effective analogy that will help you understand each of these five approaches to spirituality.
What are these five paths?
5) Spiritual Exploration
Are we looking for a Black Cat that isn’t there?
One other thing, some people use more than one of these tools in their spiritual quest. But, some people prefer only one approach. You’ll find the people who only choose one are those who pick a religion.
Philosophy deals with developing ideas and theories about knowledge, reality, and existence. It tries to find meaning and patterns that help us understand things.
The philosophical approach 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?
“Philosophy is the true mother of science.” — Marcus Tullius Cicero
Is it possible that the elusive cat of spiritual truth is not in the room? Does it simply not exist? Perhaps we are looking for the wrong type of cat? Should we be looking for a white cat or 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 and looks for causation. It also delves into the abstract realm of Being, knowing our relation to time and space.
“Metaphysics is the finding of bad reasons for what we believe on instinct.” — F. H. Bradley
The metaphysical approach is like looking for a black cat in a dark room that isn’t there. You look everywhere in the room, each corner and in every direction. You conclude there is no cat in the room. Yet, you keep searching in the darkness. Eventually, hey, you find something else. But what is it? It doesn’t feel like a cat and doesn’t act like a cat. You don’t know what it is. What are the possibilities?
Religion is the collective belief in imaginary supernatural beings, God, or gods as the 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. Then you decide to create a religion and sell a book on how you found the cat. Sure, somebody will buy it.
We see organized religion as a counterfeit to the authentic spiritual quest. It provides easy answers while making you a paying customer.
“Religion makes intelligent people say and do wacky things, believe and affirm crazy things.” — Christopher Hitchens
But people are hesitant to buy your story. So, you tell them it’s too dangerous for them 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. It’s how religion exploits our existential fear of death and the unknown. And it works!
Science is an analytical and systematic approach to investigating reality.
“Science is magic that works.” — Kurt Vonnegut
The scientific approach 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 search for clues. You find a hairball. There is some evidence a cat may have been here, and you keep searching. You develop a better flashlight. You document all the evidence.
It’s an approach you can combine with others, like the tools for spiritual exploration and the philosophical path. However, it doesn’t mesh well with religion. That’s because it exposes the inconsistencies and logical flaws of mythology and superstition. It can help those who prefer metaphysics bridge the gap between reality and fiction.
Spiritual exploration uses consciousness development tools to find the room where the cat lives. Then you go to the 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 path.
As you can see from the above analogy, spiritual exploration has a lot in common with several other vantage points. It looks at the philosophical implications, the metaphysical possibilities, and the scientific approach. It’s all about the individual’s perception through various consciousness development tools.
“Beyond its practical aspects, gardening – be it of the soil or soul — can lead us on a philosophical and spiritual exploration that is nothing less than a journey into the depths of our own sacredness and the sacredness of all beings. After all, there must be something more mystical beyond the garden gate, something that satisfies the soul’s attraction to beauty, peace, solace, and celebration.” — Christopher McDowell
Consciousness Development Tools
Everyone has a unique way of awakening. We have unique gifts, and we are on different timetables. Awakening is a process that can either be slow or fast. Several factors affect our ability to access the spiritual gifts sleeping in our DNA. Opening them is the essence of spiritual exploration. We recommend this approach on the black cat analogy.
The fact is exploring these gifts was the central goal of many ancient cultures. We enjoy the benefits of generations of research, and the results are a set of powerful tools anyone can use. These are sound methods for expanding awareness and exploring consciousness.
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 primary partitions of consciousness of waking, sleeping, and dreaming.
You do not need to follow a religion to use these tools. All you need to do is follow the process. For the most part, these tools come from Eastern traditions. Their focus is on exploring consciousness and developing human potential.
You will find this eclectic in other systems. For example, Gurdjieff’s approach was to adopt what has already proven effective. After all, human physiology hasn’t changed in thousands of years. So, the work of the ancient pioneers stands the test of time.
Spiritual technologies are what we call the ancient methods for exploring consciousness. These tools expand awareness and unlock the gifts to reach higher states of consciousness. We divide these tools into four major categories:
Anyone can use these techniques. All you need to do is follow the process. It’s like following the recipe for baking a cake. If you combine the right ingredients in the right way and you get something delicious.
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 the wrong approach to the inner quest may not yield the results we want. It is perfectly okay to change your path.
We know many people live under the influence of organized religion. They come from families where they indoctrinate children at an early age. Others join because they are looking for answers to life’s dilemmas. People in crisis are vulnerable, and they willingly subject themselves to indoctrination to find answers and solutions. However, more and more people are not satisfied with their proclamation that they have found the cat.
The black cat analogy is one way to explain these five approaches to the inner spiritual quest.
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(1) Joseph Campbell & Joseph Campbell’s book The Hero’s Journey, Wikipedia