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Temple of the Reverend Seeker—Excerpt 4

by Joseph Civitella 4 years ago in spirituality

Excerpt 4

On Life Purpose

I’d like to start off this talk on the topic of life purpose with three questions for your consideration. But be forewarned, I will not be talking about what your life purpose is or what it is not. I will be talking from a spiritual perspective about the genesis of a life purpose—in other words, where it comes from. What it is in terms of content is up to you to determine in whatever way is most suitable for you.

Here are my three questions, then: Is life purpose a human fabrication that originates from our wish to be more than we actually are? Or, is life purpose a divine attribute that we seek to identify and fulfill in our limited human ways? Then again, is it a mysterious combination of the two that defies a comprehensive description, let alone a thorough explanation?

As some of you may already know, I tend to postulate at least three options whenever I am considering an issue. The reason for this is simple, yet the repercussions are sometimes complex.

With only one option, we are fundamentally caught in a monopolistic view of the world, and this can severely limit how we interact with the people and circumstances that surround us. In this view, there is only one way to do things, and it is the right way. Everything else is necessarily wrong. There is only one truth, and it is my truth. If you don’t share it, then you must necessarily be living a falsehood.

With two options, we are essentially caught in a dilemma. If not option one, then it must be option two. If not option two, then it must be option one. This phenomenon is seen dramatically with people who exhibit so-called “black or white” thinking—there are no shades of grey in their world. It is also called “either/or” thinking—either it’s this way or it’s that way. Either you’re with me or you’re not.

With three options, however, we allow ourselves a first degree of freedom. If not option one, I still have the choice between options two or three. If not option two, I still have the choice between options one or three. If not option three, I still have the choice between options one or two. This kind of thinking recognizes that there are many shades of grey in between the extremes of pure white and pitch black. In fact, there are many options that are available to us if we open ourselves up to that possibility. This line of thinking proposes that the more options we have, the richer our life becomes. The more opportunities we allow ourselves, the more we grow as individuals and as a society.

Now, you may ask, why is this important and what relevance does it have to a discussion on life purpose? Let me repeat the three questions I posed right off the top.

Is life purpose a human fabrication that originates from our wish to be more than we actually are? That is one option.

Or, is life purpose a divine attribute that we seek to identify and fulfill in our limited human ways? That is another option.

Then again, is it a mysterious combination of the two that defies a comprehensive description let alone a thorough explanation? This is the third option, which, let us recognize, represents the “shades of grey” in between the extremes of the first two options.

The first two options give us a dilemma: Either life purpose is a human fabrication or it is a divine attribute. One denies the other. The third option allows us to consider any plausible combination between the first two, with no particular need to deny either one of them. Perhaps both extremes hold true to some extent—this is the “and/both” alternative—that life purpose may be a human fabrication in some ways, and it may be a divine attribute in other ways.

Before we explore all the possibilities, however, we need to do something else first. We need to acknowledge, straight up, that any serious discussion about life purpose will most likely bring into play the tenets of various religions, particularly those that predicate a god as the ultimate source of all purpose. It seems to me that many people fundamentally believe their purpose in life is determined by their god, and therefore the only quest they experience is how to obey their predetermined destiny to the best of their ability. Convictions like that work wonderfully well for those who have unshakeable faith in the unquestionable wisdom of their religion and the leaders who profess it. They answer with an emphatic “Yes!” the question, “Is life purpose a divine attribute that we seek to identify and fulfill in our limited human ways?”

I am not one of those people. For seekers of metaphysical truths like me, religions are too much of a closed system to answer the call of deeper insights. Those of us who are healthy skeptics—and there are many people with varying degrees of skepticism—we require a broader discussion. We need a discussion that leaves much more open to wonder than any religion will ever willingly allow. Sometimes we are accused of being contrarians, but, as I facetiously said elsewhere, I wholly disagree with that characterization.

All joking aside, let’s grant that religious beliefs are one way to look at life purpose. It works for some people, and so we can conclude that it has merit for them, even if only on that basis. Whether their convictions are true in an absolute sense is almost a moot point. It works, and therefore it has merit.

But, what if we remove god from the discussion and focus on a secular debate on life purpose? What are we left with? This is another way of asking: Is life purpose a human fabrication that originates from our wish to be more than we actually are?

Some will say that, if we remove god from the discussion and focus only on a secular debate, we are left with not much of anything. This is because, in their view, we are reduced to nothing more than biological entities living a life of vagrancies by virtue of the psychological awareness of our own existence.

This perspective holds that our psychological awareness of our own existence is a distraction from our real purpose. In other words, through evolution we have become conscious of our own existence, and we have become conscious of our consciousness. Indeed, we are even able to observe ourselves observing ourselves, and thus we lose ourselves in the hall of mirrors that is our developing mind.

Inherent in this argument, of course, is the notion that we do not fabricate our life purpose, but that is it a given. This is essentially a different way of saying that it is “divinely assigned.” And so, as much as we seek to remove god from the debate, religion somehow finds a way to reintroduce itself.

There is a reason for this, and it has to do with the “religious instinct,” and for now let’s just say that our postulated propensity “to believe in something beyond ourselves” is the perfect pre-condition to fabricate “something beyond ourselves to believe in.” It is a self-fulfilling prophecy for which we prophesize the something to fulfill. As others more learned than me have said, and I paraphrase, “It may not have been God who created us in his image, but we who created God in our image.”

That being said, let’s get back to the question at hand here. What if we remove god from the discussion and focus on a secular debate on life purpose. What are we left with?

The argument that we are left with nothing stipulates that removing divinity from humanity renders us mere mortals with nothing more to do than live out our insignificant existence and then upon death disappear into nothingness. It is a minimalist view taken to the extreme, removing any semblance of meaning from our existence or from the hypotheses we can create, with the notable exception of the merits of its own position. We are mortals, yes, as any walk through a cemetery will clearly substantiate, but to say that because of our mortality we are insignificant, that is akin to condemning our spirituality to solitary confinement in the deepest, darkest recesses of our psyche. We are too conscious of ourselves to remove all significance from our existence, even if self-fabricated.

There are other people, however, who will say that the real gift in removing the presence of god from our consciousness is that we can finally begin to take full responsibility and accountability for who we are and what we do—in essence, that we have no one to blame for our wrongs and no one to thank for our rights, other than ourselves. This god-less religious instinct is more about the challenging irreverence for the mystery of our existence than it is about a facile indoctrination into a set of beliefs that may be artificially concocted to appease out need for self-importance. It is a minimalist view in a more humane sense, perhaps, albeit this notion augments our role in the affairs of our own consciousness.

In this vein, we must now ask the following questions: If we are willing to entertain the idea that we alone are responsible for ourselves, how does that change our lives? How does that influence our thinking in terms of why we are here?

There are people who take these new questions as an affront to their moral compass, even if the concept of a god is not involved, and their response is in a diametrically opposite vein in terms of there being no reason whatsoever to be on a quest for a better life. “What would be the purpose?” they ask.

But that is the point exactly! I contend that even if the notion of life purpose is a human fabrication, the fact that we can conceive of it, for whatever psychological or spiritual reasons, ought to be a necessary and sufficient factor to convince us that we can indeed make a positive contribution to the world in a way that suffuses our life with deep meaning and fulfillment.

Given that we can fabricate a life purpose, why not take responsibility for it and actually go about fulfilling it? This is not too radical a concept, as there are many people who do exactly that. It is possible, and therefore it can become probable, and for people who focus intentional energy on their life purpose, it can almost become a certainty. I say “almost” because nothing is ever guaranteed in life, but they are definitely putting all the chances on their side.

The real question, then, is this: What is our life calling us to do? I believe that the answer is beyond the scope of a religion or a god, but firmly within the spiritual scope of what we are willing to master of ourselves for the good of the world we live in.

In this context, we do not accomplish greatness for the glory of a god or because a god commands us to do so. We achieve our individual measures of greatness because we can. And the fact that we can, in and of itself, ought to be the overriding reason to convince us that we should. We have a unique opportunity to do so, thus why not?

In a pragmatic sense, then, it doesn’t matter that life purpose may be a human fabrication that originates from our wish to be more than we actually are, or that it may be a divine attribute that we seek to identify and fulfill in our limited human ways, or that it may be a mysterious combination of the two that defies a comprehensive description let alone a thorough explanation.

What matters is that we can conceive of a life purpose and we can fulfill it. This is how, in answering the call of our life, humanity can ascribe a sense of divinity onto itself.

Perhaps such a conclusion may appear surprising in that it does not answer any of the three questions with which I started this talk, but, then again, is it really surprising that some things in life contain surprises? Is it really a mystery that some things in life are mysterious? We know these things by now in the evolution of our species. The surprise and mystery may be that we insist on there being an ulterior purpose to the fact of having a life purpose. Perhaps it just is what it is, nothing more and nothing less.

Although I profess vast admiration for the strength of courage it takes to ask intelligent questions instead of postulating dumb answers, sometimes we are even wiser to stop asking questions for which there can be no satisfactory answer—for now. Acceptance becomes the currency by which we can live a fulfilling life, until acceptance itself is no longer acceptable.

So, what is your life calling you to do? And how do you answer that call?

We are in dialogue with our spirit/soul by the way we live our lives and do our work, and too often we believe that we are on the right path simply by virtue of putting one foot in front of the other. But a dialogue is bi-directional, meaning that the universe is communicating back to us as much, if not more, than we are to it. Its language, however, may be mysterious even if we are attuned to the nuances of our life and work.

A lot of literature is available discussing the nature of synchronicities and serendipities, and the main point to consider with regards to our interaction with the universe is that a dialogue is a conversation we engage in whose lexicon is the set of intentions, beliefs and perceptions we hold. Our actions and reactions are a reflection of how we formulate our internal grammar, and the results we generate are the language of our life and work.

The language of the universe can be experienced in nature itself, in the ways that our world builds upon itself and destroys itself, in the ways that it produces new possibilities and eliminates old ones, in the ways that it is increasingly complex and yet always simple. Every aspect of the universe appears to have a purpose, or at least a role, that is unique to itself, but that is also interrelated and interdependent on every other aspect. And every aspect of the universe appears to be intent on fulfilling its role with a singularity of purpose that is admirable in its effectiveness, if not awe-inspiring.

Except for us humans, that is, who presume upon ourselves the arrogance to think we know better, and can do better than nature, and thus inevitably result in a state of ineffectiveness when we continue to be intent on ignoring the role models inherent in nature all around us. The most jarring ineffectiveness of our species still remains our propensity to ignore the nature within us—ergo, to ignore our very nature.

To answer the query “What is your life calling you to do?” requires an intimate dialogue with our very nature—the god-figure within us, if you will. But I am not alluding to a god-figure fabricated from human pretensions to divinity. I am rather referring to the god-figure we touch upon when we come home to ourselves in our deepest essence of soul and our highest truth of spirit.

To answer a life calling requires a religious instinct that reaches far beyond the human construct that is religion. It requires a spiritual openness and acceptance of the dialogue that takes place between ourselves and the universe by virtue of who we choose to be and what we choose to do, and the synchronicities, serendipities, and intuitions that accompany us in our passage from here to there, and from now to then.

We are not necessarily on the right path simply by virtue of putting one foot in front of the other, for we need to know where we are heading, and preferably, where it is we would like to be heading based on who we are and what we are here to accomplish. But the universe also provides us with an interesting paradox, amongst many others, by virtue of “pulling” and “pushing” us in one particular direction as opposed to many others.

Some may want to call this divine intervention, and some may not—the point is that when we are attuned to the nature inside us and around us, and we follow the guidance that feels right to our sacred consciousness, then the dialogue between us and our universe is at its most intimate. And in deep intimacy, the truth is spoken and shared as a reflection of our purpose.

With this truth we are then enabled and mandated to achieve our purpose—to grow into who we are truly meant to be, and to evolve into what we are truly meant to do. As with all other aspects of nature, we could thus fulfill our unique role in this universe, whatever it may be and however it may exemplify itself.

Consider this passage from an article I wrote years ago: “Growth occurs at the edge of your experience, where the known ends and the intuitive begins, when you take the next step to augment your world and safely bridge to new possibilities, because you have a motivating purpose for going there.”

The universe is like a giant puzzle that provides an eternal mystery, and we all know intuitively that a puzzle with a piece missing is not complete. Therefore, behold the mystery of your piece of the puzzle of the universe—your life calling—and be at peace with the mystery.

Copyright © 2017, Joseph Civitella.

spirituality

Joseph Civitella

Joseph Civitella, PhD, is a life-long student of metaphysics – the quest for truth, meaning and purpose – and is an ordained minister in the International Metaphysical Ministry. He operates the School of LifeWork (www.schooloflifework.com).

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