Saturday, October 11, 2008

Ben's Methodology for the Mature Spiritual Seeker

An associate of mine, Ben Dench, is working on what he calls A Methodology for the Mature Spiritual Seeker. He is, in my estimation, a remarkable young man. And, by training/education, he is a philosopher. I think that much may be obvious in the methodology he espouses. Regarding his methodology, which is the point of this post, I feel he has made a good start of it, particularly because the process starts with experience. But it also seems to me that there is only one other experiential component of the methodology, and only partially at that. Since his original posting, I have seen no dialogue on the topic. Yet I think it is worthy of some discussion, so I have taken the liberty of posting the methodology here. I hope my few readers will take the time to look at this, and perhaps even post a note or two. I will post some further thoughts on Ben's methodology at a later time. For now I want to point out that this is important work. In an increasingly secular -- even post-Christian -- society, what is a spiritual seeker to do? Those of us in Pagan/Heathen traditions can look to the past for inspiration and guidance, but whatever is found there still has to be brought to the present and made relevant today. I know I do. But what do you say? And can this methodology be of any help? Without further ado, I give to you Ben Dench's six-step approach:
A Methodology for the Mature Spiritual Seeker 
1. Actively seek out and have your own direct spiritual experiences. Testimony is not sufficient for believing in paranormal phenomena. Direct experience is. 
2. Think critically about the experiences you have had. What can you legitimately conclude from experience X? To what extent might you be reading into your experience based on your own religious / cultural preconceptions? 
3. Form your own tentative conclusions. Don't get too attached to any one conception about the way things are. Remain open to revising your ideas about reality based on new information. 
4. Dialogue with others and rigorously test your hypotheses. If there are other interpretations of your experience, listen to them. See what experiments you could do and what background information you could find to determine which explanation best fits the reality of the situation. 
5. Seek to integrate all areas of objective knowledge into a coherent narrative. To what extent does our knowledge from other areas of study (anthropology, psychology, biology, history, literary criticism, etc.) support or oppose your interpretation of reality? 
6. Repeat. This is a continuing process. Always be open to new experiences and to revising your beliefs based on new information.

You can dialogue with Ben over at his own blog, The Philosophy of Ben Dench (

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