spirituality, you are the universe itself

Being an atheist to becoming rationally spiritual

For many people around the world, their spirituality is a given. It is passed down from their previous generations and their cultural context. They accept it, embody it, and they don’t question it: they just have faith. And then, there are also people whose spirituality is a question mark, a challenge, a mystery, or even an absent subject in their lives. Which one are you? I’ve been the latter, and I went from being an atheist to becoming rationally spiritual…

War of religions

To give you a bit of context: I come from Christian ancestors, born in a Christian (but laic) culture, one side of my family is (practicing) Catholic, the other is (non-practicing) Protestant. I have been in the middle of this silent religious war, with one side pushing to integrate me into their church. During my adolescence, I explored Christianity from different angles, as this was what was available around me at the time. I had so many questions, and everything seemed too metaphoric, too dramatic, too complicated, too far out there, too old. I just couldn’t adhere to any of these views, it didn’t speak to me. And believe me, when I say I tried. I wanted that faith I could see others experiencing. I wanted to feel something bigger had my back, loved me no matter what, that our existence made sense. But it wouldn’t click.

Trauma didn’t make sense

The dark path of an atheist, Photo by Michael Mouritz on Unsplash

The moment in my life I was the closest to faith (faking it until I would make it), I was praying every night. Praying for others, praying for the world, praying selflessly at the age of 16. But trauma, deaths, and pain kept accumulating in my life. If there was a God, he suddenly took away my lighthouse, despite all my praying. He let all these horrible things happen to me, to the world. Why? And why wasn’t I receiving the signs I was asking for, the signs that would help me strengthen the faith? It felt like either God had betrayed and abandoned all of us, or this whole thing about God and religion was fake. And that’s when I decided or realized I wasn’t getting answers because there was no one up there. I was angry and in the darkest pain. Life seemed so awful, too unfair, too unpredictable. What was the point of it all? Yet, there was some spark of hope, some thought that maybe there was more to life than all this pain, if only I could find the way out. Psychotherapy helped me get rid of my suicidal thoughts. But the dark cloud was never far for another decade.

Exploring other ideas

I had rejected the idea of God and rejected all Christian religions. I watched the documentary ‘Religulous’, and at the time, it resonated with me. It mirrored how I felt about all this. The argument throughout the controversial (and somewhat offensive) film is that we should challenge these fantasy-like stories of Jesus and God, and accept that we have no idea IF a bigger something or someone exists. But you see, it’s a bit funny because around the same time I watched this, I was very much intrigued by the law of attraction. That’s also the period when the movie ‘The Secret’ came out, and I became a bit crazy with all this ‘LOA’ stuff. I had a few successful tries at attracting money, in bizarre and surprising ways. But then my best friend and I got violently mugged, and the money I had ‘attracted’ was painfully stolen. And as I looked around, despite all my efforts to change my beliefs, visualize my dreams, create vision boards, my life was still a desperate mess. I just stopped believing in the law of attraction, and just went on with my sad little life. It was sad and little because I felt I was missing something big: meaning.

Science: killer of faith

A big change happened when I met my husband ten years ago. He is a scientist, with a vague belief in something greater. With his support and encouragement, I started university in parallel to my full-time job. I studied a bachelor of science in psychology. And this scientific degree changed my way of thinking, my perception of the world. It gave me an understanding of scientific rigor: you can demonstrate something’s existent when you can test it and replicate your findings multiple times. Well, of course, it’s not that simple… but anyway, that’s how my brain saw things then. My courses explored belief systems, cultural influences, cognitive biases, etc. It showed us that we believe what we want to believe, we tend to only see and register information that confirms what we think and want. It also talked about psychic abilities that were mostly manipulations from clever people. Or homeopathy that had no scientific basis, other than a placebo effect.

All this reinforced that humans are an anomaly in the universe, maybe not the only anomaly, but just a coincidence that could be explained by chemistry, physics, biology, evolution. I decidedly became an atheist. I didn’t believe there was a greater something, that ‘things happened for a reason’, that ‘something awaited us after death’. Instead, life felt suddenly meaningless, something that will just stop abruptly. The idea of losing someone became even more anxiety-provoking if there was no afterlife where to meet again. What was the point of life, what was the point of all the pain? I felt like I was a running headless chicken.

Parapsychology changed everything

I was at a weekend university workshop when I heard that my favorite psychology professor had organized a conference in the meeting room next to ours about parapsychology. I couldn’t attend, but the participants, former university students, told me they had goose-bumps as some crazy stuff happened in that room. Most of the speakers were scientists in the field of parapsychology, and there was evidence of paranormal things. I thought ‘hold on, my university courses were telling me it was all BS, how come they didn’t mention that some topics have scientific evidence?’ It stayed at that for a couple of years.

Rationally spiritual, Netflix docuseries Surviving death

In January 2021, my great psychology professor posted a link on his Facebook group, encouraging us to watch the Netflix docuseries ‘Surviving death’, in which appeared one of the speakers from the parapsychology conference. I jumped on my TV and watched the 6 episodes like my life depended on it. This changed everything for me! And I now recommend it to everyone, either skeptics like me or those already with some kind of faith. This docuseries explores near-death experiences (NDEs), children remembering past lives (reincarnation), mediums and psychics, etc. It’s always with the lens of science. Not all episodes affected me equally, the ones that have really made a difference are the NDEs and reincarnations. Those are mind-boggling because scientific studies have shown that these experiences are true and demonstrate life beyond death. It means that our consciousness doesn’t die when our brain dies. It lives beyond. There is an increasing amount of studies done on these events and their meaning.

Ultimately, we cannot avoid the conclusion that endless consciousness has always been and always will be, independently of the body. There is no beginning and there will never be an end to our consciousness. For this reason, we ought to seriously consider the possibility that death, like birth, may be a mere passing from one state of consciousness into another and that, during life, the body functions as an interface or place of resonance.

Pim van Lommel, M.D., Consciousness Beyond Life: The Science of the Near-Death Experience (p.257)

Spiritual rabbit-hole

After watching this docuseries, I needed to explore more, connect all the dots. It made me go back to the wonderful book “The Untethered Soul” by Michael A. Singer. This book says that if you can observe your thoughts and emotions, then you cannot ‘be’ those thoughts and emotions. You cannot be that body you observe, because you are the observer. We are absorbed by the objects and circumstances we observe as if we were watching TV and losing consciousness of ourselves. But if we look deep, behind the chaos in our mind, there is that consciousness, connected to everything. It’s always been there, and will always be there, thoughts or no thoughts. This consciousness goes back to what people seem to experience during NDEs, or children with memories of past lives. This consciousness is not a part of our body or our brain, it’s not even inside our brain! Instead, this consciousness is observing our brain and our body, and it’s timeless and immaterial.

I had come across these concepts before, as I had read other books from fascinating writers such as Eckhart Tolle, James Doty, etc. But these books were just great ideas, but they wouldn’t connect with my real life. It felt like these concepts were from another planet, for people who are not like me. But now suddenly, I can start to connect the dots, and intellectualize a sense of faith (yes, it’s still an intellectual thing at the moment, but it’s growing on me ;))

You’re not even a human being.
You just happen to be watching one.

Michael A. Singer, The Untethered Soul (p.37)

I also read the two books from Laura Lynne Jackson, one of the psychic mediums from the Netflix series. At first, that was the topic I had the most resistance with. But after reading her two books, I can no longer deny that some people have those capacities to see past and future, and to connect to the Other Side, as Jackson calls it. How do I know this? She was rigorously and scientifically tested. The story is captivating, go and read it! As I was reading her books, I asked (with a certain level of doubt) my deceased loved ones to send me very specific signs, as Jackson was suggesting. And these signs kept arriving, again and again, in a way that I couldn’t doubt or question. And they still do to this day!

The universe was speaking to me

And I was finally listening. I had so many questions, that I kept telling ‘whoever out there’ (my loved ones on the Other Side, the universe, whatever it is) to keep sending clear and undeniable information and lessons. In the months that followed, I was recommended more books by strangers, the local TV channel did a two-part documentary on NDEs, this topic would pop up in all places and newspapers. Pim van Lommel, a Dutch cardiologist, was interviewed in one of these documentaries. He had seen many patients on his operating table whose hearts stopped beating during surgery and yet had full consciousness of what was happening in that operating room at the very moment they were clinically dead. Van Lommel became curious and started research in NDEs. He wrote a thought-provoking and life-changing book on his findings, his hypothesis, and some explorations on the meaning of it all. Interestingly, he also included an analysis of several religions, texts from philosophers, and cultures. He noticed patterns and similarities in the conception of consciousness but also hints that the writers had likely experienced some form of NDE and/or other similarly enlightening situation.

How is it possible for people to observe their own resuscitation from a position above their lifeless body? How can they have clear thoughts and retain their memories without a physical body? How is it possible for them to meet and recognize deceased relatives? How is it possible to experience a life review or a preview in mere minutes, as if time and distance do not exist in this other, unearthly realm?

Pim van Lommel, M.D., Consciousness Beyond Life: The Science of the Near-Death Experience (p.17)
Signs from the universe 'this is the sign you've been looking for', Photo by Austin Chan on Unsplash

Of course, I was thinking “I am looking for it, so my brain is more attentive to it, it’s just a bias”. And maybe, that information was always just in front of me and I ignored it before. But the content was nonetheless undeniable. Everything started to make sense, and life got more meaning. And now each day, I feel things and people are magically planted on my path: books to read, podcasts to listen to, names of people I should look into, encouragements in the directions I’m taking, etc. I am feeling a big relief sigh from the universe “aahhh you’re finally getting it, keep going, you’re heading in the right direction”.

Yes to rationally spiritual, no to religious

My spirituality is growing, as I am starting to feel this connection to something bigger. I still have more questions than there are minutes in my life. My spirituality has become a personal definition of why we are here, how to behave, what to learn, how to love, what comes before and after this life … and it’s inspired by my recent readings and discoveries, which I hope will spark something in you too.

Why are we here? To learn. To give and receive love. To be the agents of positive change in the world. What happens when we die? We shed our bodies but our consciousness endures. What is our true purpose on this earth? To grow in love – and to help others do the same.

Laura Lynne Jackson, The Light Between Us (p.210)

I see religions as man-made attempts at making sense of this something bigger. There are many common elements to all of them, but they are inevitably made of human interpretations. Religions also all include rules and laws on how to behave in society, which does not necessarily have much to do with spirituality, but rather population control. Many religions include a sense of hierarchy and power, a sense of separation between ‘us-believers’ and ‘them-believers-in-something-else-and-non-believers’, and instill fear and obedience. I struggle with these aspects of religion. To me, spirituality can be inspired by others’ thoughts and beliefs, but can’t and shouldn’t be something organized like an international corporation. Spirituality is ultimately an intimate thing, isn’t it?

How do you feel about your spirituality?

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