Atheists Please Read This First
The teachings I offer in my handouts pertain to those who are of either a spiritual or non-spiritual disposition, and therefore many of my writings will have spiritual vocabulary and content while others won't. I want to be able to make those spiritual writings useful to those who consider themselves atheists, since they can still apply to your life if you can interpret it from an atheistic perspective. It is indeed possible. If you are a scientific atheist and you wish to seek out a more “spiritual practice”, which to me means simply cultivating yourself to become a better person and appreciate life more deeply, there is something important to keep in mind. I tend to use words like the “Divine Within” or the “Transcendent” or the “mind of clear light” or “God” to describe the place deep within us where we can appreciate a deeper meaning of our life. For an atheist it is helpful to understand this place in us as being merely a cultivation of the mind, something the mind has the innate capacity to cultivate if we only apply ourselves, and therefore can be correlated ultimately to brain states. This deeper place in ourselves is not other that the most general and deepest category of meaningfulness we can invoke in our mind.
We have specific categories of meaningfulness throughout our day, be it from a flower, or a friend, or a sunset. That meaningfulness we experience from it has a specificity to it, it has a certain look and feel. It also has a certain depth of meaning to it, if we find it shallowly meaningful, normally meaningful or deeply meaningful. Regardless, it no doubt gives us a sense of fulfillment. The “Divine Within”, or “The Transcendent” however is a category of meaningfulness that we experience as being the most general and the deepest. It is not the meaningfulness of this or that, but the meaningfulness we can experience that applies to everything in our life, the meaning of life itself. This is what I mean when I say the “Divine Within” or the “Transcendent” or the “mind of clear light” or “God”.
This general category of meaning can still be understood as being the effect of our brain processing information, but the way it affects our lives is no doubt substantial. When we meditate we consciously cultivate this general category of meaning for its own sake, as it is fulfilling in and of itself as well as benefits many aspects of our life. It improves our overall mental health, it increases our ability to have appreciation for our lives, and it improves relationships with others as we are able to enact more wholesome states of mind because of it.
As a scientific atheist I invite you to experiment with this general category of meaningfulness, the “Divine Within” etc., and see how it can benefit your life, all the while considering the fact that it is still associated with brain states without being anything beyond that necessarily.
Love and compassion are also cultivated in meditation practice for its own sake, which are also brain states. These as an atheist can also be understood as brain states that are beneficial. In other of my writings I also talk about deeper levels of perception of the nature of reality and experience, which are harder to grasp and are inspired by eastern spirituality. In this context still I invite you to have an approach of scientific exploration to realize the meaning of these writings, knowing that they all simply pertain to the processes of your own mind and therefore your brain. They still reap great benefit and teach you a lot about how our minds work.
The handout “Divinity for Atheists” describes a practice atheists can do to further their relationship to this general category of meaning. You can find it in the list of handouts from the link "Meditation Documents/Handouts" on the website.
Scientific atheists have a lot to benefit from deep meditation practice. It is important to have the appropriate perspective as you enter into territory that is traditionally “spiritual” and that uses vocabulary that is “spiritual”. Even as an atheist, I believe it is possible to consider and cultivate the deepest levels of spiritual awakening, only that they are understood within an scientific context, as being mental states and therefore brain states.