Top Down versus Bottom-Up Spirituality

Have we been approaching spirituality all wrong? Most traditions believe that we are “all one,” part of a bigger whole that is either consciousness or the Godhead. If we believe this is true, we are contemplating spirituality as if we considered a human body by only looking at a little toe.

Science has created an approach to understanding that seeks to dismantle, dissect and examine matter at its smallest unit. We have been conditioned to believe that we can fully understand something only by pulling it apart and looking at each of its components. We have approached everything using the false concept that looking at the smallest parts of something gives you the total understanding of the whole. We examine things with a bottom-up approach – particles, atoms, molecules, cells, brain, consciousness not even considering that perhaps when something is dissected it loses its essence that can only be understood by it as a whole.

Is this way of thinking applied to spirituality as well? How do interact with the Divine? How does the Divine interact with me? We interact, at least with mainstream religion, as if God is somehow separate from us and we are smaller and insignificant. Starting with the individual, we look to define how the individual exists within a spiritual community, often by gender, then some type of religious text is developed as the word of God, and finally dogma is developed. Dogma then begins to have a personality of its own, it is essentially “brought to life” and rules are set in place to outline and instruct individuals on how to conduct themselves. The rules define us as separate from God and then instruct us on how to communicate with this separate from ourselves, God.

What if we were to start with a top down approach? What if we start by thinking it is not about me, it is about consciousness? What if we can really internalize that that which is outside of us as God is actually inside of us? Really internalize that we are not separate, but truly part of the larger whole and realize that is who we are? We are the entirety of the whole not just an individuation akin to a little toe? If we start from this vantage point that we are what we have always considered to be “above” and that the individual is just a part of, but not distinct from the whole? I am a ring finger, you are a thumb, she is an index finger, he is a pinky finger, but we are on the same hand. If that is the case, then when the hand is hurt, we are all hurt, would we reconsider hitting our thumb with a hammer if we really understood it wasn’t on someone else’s hand, but on our own? When we hate, deprive, reduce, humiliate, overlook, deride someone else, we are really doing it to ourselves too.

And taken a step further, God becomes not an entity to be prayed to as if he is a stern authority figure. We realize when we use the is approach, we are actually begging ourselves for intervention. We may now be able to fully understand that the kingdom of God is not only inside of us, but a part of our very being. And in that context, everything is possible because we are not asking and denying permission, favors, blessing or anything. We can grant it to ourselves by actual quantum leap from potential to physical.

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