In ancient spiritually and transcendentally oriented societies, it was taken for granted that the foundation for both nature and humanity is Eternal Spirit as Divine Source. In the modern secular age of exclusive immanence and non-transcendence, it is equally taken for granted that there is not Eternal Spirit or Divine Source that serves as a foundation for nature and spirit. We’re on our own, orphaned and forlorn without divine consolation, ontological meaning or transcendent hope, yet radically free to create ourselves out of a tissue of nothingness for the fleeting duration of our passionate yet absurd lives in a universe that consists only of “matter and the void,” as the existential materialist might say.
It is within this modern secular naturalistic and increasingly nihilistic context that some people today are seeking to transcend both the mythic consciousness of pre-modern civilization and the materialistic consciousness of modern civilization, to affirm the natural and humanistic dimensions without altogether denying the transcendent reality of a spiritual dimension.
The so-called “cultural creatives” constitute an emerging demographic sub-culture today that is seeking to transcend the dialectic between traditional religious culture and modern secular culture with a new creative synthesis that is inadequately described as “spiritual but not religious.” Anyone interested in exploring this new creative synthesis is invited to read Paul Ray’s book, “The Cultural Creatives,” or to look at how various integral and holistic thinkers like Ken Wilber, Arthur Young, Fritjof Capra, Christian DeQuincey, Thomas Nagel, David Ray Griffin, Raimon Panikkar, Ervin Laszlo, Kingsley Dennis, Duane Elgin, Marilyn Schlitz, Jean Houston, E.F. Schumacher, among countless others, have been attempting to create a new scientific, humanistic and spiritual paradigm for the planetary future, one that includes all dimensions and levels of reality within an encompassing whole.
At the same time, as a counter-balance to all Grand Narratives and Theories of Everything, there is merit in the alternative approach that includes Socratic Doubt, Montaignian Skepticism, Shakespearean Irony and Equivocation, Keatsian “Negative Capability” and Rilkian “Living the Questions.” This “agnostic” approach does not so much affirm a transcendental and depth dimension to the encompassing reality as evoke the Mystery beyond the limits of human language and “make room” for the spiritual dimension by acknowledging the limitations of human comprehension in the presence of the Eternal Questions.
There seems to be some integral wisdom in holding these two approaches in creative tension. Moreover, it may be entirely possible, though not obviously so, that the insights of idealism, materialism, panpsychism and dualism may each be “partly right” rather than absolutely and mutually exclusive. The Universal Human living in the global age will at least need to come to terms with each of these worldview perspectives that have captured the hearts and minds of billions of human beings across the ages and in our contemporary world.