You might think that it is not possible to be agnostic and spiritual at the same time. Agnostic means that it is not possible to know something that is beyond ourselves and spirituality is the practice of taking ourselves beyond the mundane. These two practices might seem contradictory at first, but in fact, they are quite compatible. You can be agnostic and spiritual at the same time. Wondering how? Let’s first define and understand what agnostic means, and then define spirituality in this context.
Agnosticism is the view that a person cannot know if God exists or not. There is no evidence for either argument. Agnostics are people who believe that human reason cannot provide rational grounds on the existence or non-existence of God. The term Agnostic was first coined by the English biologist Huxley.
Atheists, on the other hand, are people who firmly believe in the non-existence of anything supernatural. Agnostics say that it is impossible to conclude anything that has to do with God or the supernatural. God is a concept that exists beyond what we as humans can see, feel, hear, or touch. Agnosticism is the practice of relying on our material senses.
Now you have an idea about what agnosticism is. What about the term Spirituality? Spirituality is a very broad term that can mean a lot of different things to different people. Spirituality is a practice where you, a human being, seek to live a life that is balanced and meaningful. You seek to live a life that is filled with joy, happiness, and compassion. Each day we confront various types of stress. You want to be able to find peace within the chaos of everyday life. You want to achieve a transcendent state of awareness and bliss. According to Guru Nanak, the goal of spiritual practice is to seek a balance between the opposites. The opposites of separation-fusion, self-other, attachment-detachment. Once these binary opposites are dissolved, you can become one with your true self.
Let us explore the important ways in which we can practice agnostic spirituality.
1) Shift the focus from God to your inner-being.
Agnostic spirituality is the practice of focusing your energy on the things that you can feel, touch, see, and hear. Things that you can prove with your own senses. This means that you rely on the voice within you that is telling what is right and what is wrong. Something right for you, need not necessarily be right in the eyes of someone else.
This is where agnostic spirituality stands in contrast with religious spirituality. In religion, there are a set of rules that you have to follow. These rules are written by God or some supernatural force, and you can’t question them. In the practice of agnostic spirituality, since you cannot know where these rules came from, you make your own sets of rules that follow the guidelines of universal truth. The universal truth of love, kindness, compassion, and peace.
You are shifting your focus from what God is, or where God is, to what you know to be true for yourself. In this practice, you are not rejecting the concept of God. You are re-defining what God means to you personally. This can mean several things to different people. For some people, God means being in communion with nature. God can mean being selfless and giving your service to the community. Nobody can tell you who God is, because they cannot prove it. Neither can anybody prove the non-existence of God. This means that every person’s experience is valid for themselves. There are a million perspectives in the world, and each perspective is valid in its own right.
Your feelings and experiences are valid. You need to become conscious of your own thoughts and emotions so that you can bring back focus to the inner-being.
If you are an agnostic, you might not be a person who prays to a particular god, or a group of gods. As a person who follows agnostic spirituality, you are more concerned with the relationship that you have with yourself. Spirituality consists of realizing that our sense of self, the ego, is an illusion. The ego is dissolved through the practice of meditation.
As mentioned earlier, spirituality is about attaining a balance between opposites. Human beings are attached to their thoughts and their emotions. They derive their sense of self through identification with these thoughts and emotions. Through the practice of meditation, we can see who we truly are. Our ego and our material attachments start to dissolve.
Agnostic spirituality is the practice of believing in the power of meditation, the power of your own consciousness. Since it is a fact that thoughts and feelings do exist, it is easier to practice regulating these aspects of life. Once you make it a practice to meditate every day, you will start noticing yourself become more happy, forgiving, and joyful. That is what spirituality is about, isn’t it?
3) Rely on Scientific Inquiry.
Being agnostic means that you cannot prove the existence or the non-existence of God. Science cannot prove either argument. What science can prove are your health and well-being. This means that agnostic spirituality is concerned about your personal well-being, without telling you to believe in something that cannot be proven.
Rely on the medical and scientific advice that is given to you. Agnostic spirituality means that you have to prevent yourself from getting swayed by pseudo-scientific thought. Often, people who practice spirituality believe in esoteric concepts like vibrations, the after-life, astral travel, and spirit guides. Follow these teachings only if they have evidence backing them, or if they personally make sense to you. That is what it means to be agnostic and spiritual at the same time. Agnostic Philosophers like Hume and Soren Kierkegaard relied on empiricism and skepticism. Question everything that you are told, and rely on your rational mind to make sense of the world.
4) Many paths to the same goal.
The goal of spirituality is to let go of an illusory sense of self, and to find meaning in your day-to-day life. As mentioned earlier, meditation is one way to do this. As a person who practices agnostic spirituality, it is helpful to explore and study the many religions of the world. Ask yourself these questions – Why do people believe in what they believe in? Does it help them, or does it restrict them? If there was one thing about a religion that you wanted to follow, what would it be?
All experiences are valid, and people have their own reasons for following a particular path. As an agnostic spiritualist, it is your duty to rationally think about religion and various spiritual practices. If a belief from a particular religion or spiritual practice helps you at that moment, you have the freedom of choice to try it out for yourself. You want to know more about a particular spiritual practice so that you can borrow from it, and help yourself.
A person who practices agnostic spirituality recognizes that there are multiple paths to the same goal of enlightenment. An enlightenment where you are in touch with your inner-self and have a joyous existence on the planet while being empathetic to those around you.
5) Moving from belief to experience.
How do you know if a particular practice is helping you, or restraining you? You will only know by your experience and the experience of those around you. Agnostic spirituality means that you can not follow blind faith. You have to trust your rational mind, your feelings, and what you have learned through your experiences.
As mentioned earlier, you will be in touch with your feelings to a greater extent if you meditate. When you are, it will be easier for you to identify a spiritual path or a practice that benefits you. Do not judge the world through the lens of an established religion or teaching that you have not experienced. Judge the world through the lens of your own experience.
In conclusion, agnostic spirituality is about being in touch with your inner-self. The inner-self is something that you can call your personal God. God is something that you should be able to rationally validate through your senses. It should be flexible and not restraining. Your beliefs and spiritual path should let you live your full potential, beliefs that are grounded in scientific inquiry. You should be able to recognize the infinity of perspectives that exist on the planet. Nobody can tell you what the truth is, because you cannot prove somebody else’s truth. You have to trust yourself and write your own truths.
Agnostic spirituality is a perspective that removes the burden of searching for something that is beyond us. We will never know what exists beyond us, and so you do not need to worry about it. Your life is here on this earth. You can trust your rational human mind to tell you what is right or wrong. Do not force yourself to believe in something that does not make sense to you. Instead, follow your heart and mind. Attain the spiritual enlightenment that you seek by practicing to focus on your own mental, physical, and emotional well-being.