Religion, Superstition, and Spirituality

Written September 27, 1993
by John David Garcia, School of Experimental Ecology

Superstition has been defined as "other people's religious beliefs". Similarly a "cult" may be defined as "other people's organized religion". A more precise way of defining "superstition" is "a belief in cause and effect relationships which leads to systematic, repetitive behavior which is totally ineffective in accomplishing what it claims it can accomplish, but this system of belief and behavior is never subjected to scientific scrutiny by those who believe, and repeatedly practice, it". This is "superstition". It is the basis of organized religion.

Organized religions usually have "authority" figures who claim to know what is right and what is wrong within the religion and what kinds of behavior should be condemned or lauded. These notions, usually have to do with institutionalized superstition, which, apparently is a characteristic of almost all organized religions, and is usually called "ritual". Those who practice popular ritual are often considered "spiritual". In organized religions, the nonobservance, or the defiling of ritual is almost always regarded as the greatest sin. That is why in many Christian religions the devil and his worshipers are almost always portrayed as defiling some sacred ritual. The worst thing that happens in ritualized religions is that superstitious ritual, "spirituality", comes to replace ethical action. This tends to destroy creativity among the adherents of that religion. As a general rule it can be stated that the more concerned a religion is with ritual, the less concerned it will be with creativity, and the less creative its adherents will be. "Fundamentalists" are militant superstitionists; they are the least creative humans.

Superstition and ritual are practiced because they make their practitioners happy by conforming to the prejudices and unquestioning beliefs of a tightly knit group which approves of this behavior; they then have a very strong sense of belonging and community. Loneliness seems to be the greatest source of human unhappiness. To be highly ethical in a superstitious society is to be a creative, unbelieving member of a tiny minority, which is condemned, and often persecuted and even killed, by the vast superstitious majority. The ethical persons are a minute, unorganized minority, which is sparsely distributed among the superstitious majority in all nations; this is a very lonely type of existence. Those who see the contradictions and the hypocrisy of the majority religions, often compensate for it by forming new, quasi religions of their own, such as the organized militant atheists under Madelyn Murray, the socialists under Marxist ideology, or the many, so called, "cults" of the minority religions such as the Moonies, the Hare Krishnas, the Scientologists, and all minor sects of mainstream religions. All of these persons have substituted one set of superstitions for another, but they have compensated for their loneliness by forming another religion which gives them a sense of belonging, community and "spirituality".

True spirituality, or what Constantin Brunner might have called Geistigkeit in lieu of Geist-lichkeit, is based on dedication to truth and creativity, independently of how lonely or unhappy it might make us. The true spiritual, or Esprital, as Henri Luriť might say, is prepared to stand alone all his life rather than subscribe to any form of superstition in order to find fellowship and acceptance in a group. Because of this uncompromising attitude, Espritals are extremely rare and can rarely organize themselves into a cohesive group, because they lack a common system of belief. The Esprital acts without believing. The Esprital does the best he can knowing that he may be wrong. The only common belief that true Espritals might share is the belief in the notion that the greatest good is to maximize creativity, and that we should all act and interact with one another on the basis of what maximizes our common creativity, without the reduction of the creativity of single person. However, almost all Espritals will differ on how they should maximize creativity. The last 24 years of my life have been spent in learning how to identify Espritals and organize them in such a way that they can all maximize their creativity through 100% mutual consensus. My findings are that this will occur only in small groups of 8-10, ethical, cooperative, free men and women, as described in my last book, CREATIVE TRANSFORMATION, which supports this and other unusual conclusions in this essay.

It is extremely difficult to find and organize the Espritals, because they are less than .001%, and possibly less than .0001%, of the human species. Furthermore they are not concentrated in any part of the earth. They are a tiny minority because, although almost all humans may be born ethical, almost all aspects of every culture destroy ethics by punishing creative, ethical behavior and rewarding unethical, destructive, superstitious behavior. A very small minority of humanity has the innate courage and ethics, as well as the fortunate environment, to remain ethical in the face of constant punishment, threats, and loneliness. Almost everyone ultimately succumbs to superstitious conformity and surrenders to their own fear. Once this happens, these persons have irreversible entropy, and cannot be remade ethical by any means.

The real problems are, how to best find, concentrate, and then integrate the very few Espritals. Because there are so few Espritals, conventional means, such as advertising in the mass media, are inadequate ways of locating the Espritals at any reasonable cost. Writing books of relevance to the Espritals, are also inadequate, since the mass media will ignore books they are ethically incompetent to understand. Therefore, the Espritals do not know about their mutual existence. They only know that they do not seem to fit in very well anywhere, and that they have met few or no persons who seem to fully share their values or their ethical courage.

The only common feature of Espritals, at every stage of their development, is that they lead creative lives. Because creativity is an interaction of intelligence and ethics, not all creative persons are Espritals, although all such persons are ethical. It takes a very high level of ethics to be an Esprital. The critical level of ethics, for an Esprital, seems to be the level at which someone is ready to die, or greatly suffer, before decreasing anyone's creativity, including one's own. Therefore, persons who are highly intelligent, but only marginally ethical, may be highly creative, without being Espritals. What every Esprital does, perhaps unconsciously, is to courageously search out the most creative community that can be found -- a holy grail.

Because of the bureaucratization of organizations and communities that are supposed to be creative, such as schools, universities, not-for-profit foundations, businesses, and the agencies of the federal, state, and local governments, the Espritals usually become dissatisfied with these organizations and leave. They eventually discover that the only way that they can live a purely creative life without ethical compromises is to be self-employed in some creative endeavor as varied as medicine, engineering, carpentry, machining, mechanics, art, music, farming, and many other fields, although not even a small minority of the people in these fields are likely to be Espritals. Similarly, Espritals are not likely to be lawyers, bureaucrats, politicians, or people who live parasitically off of other people's creativity, without creating something of their own, equal in value to the resources that they are consuming. This knowledge enables us to know something about where to look for Espritals, and where not to look for them.

Espritals will usually find that earning substantial amounts of money will require ethical compromises, such as nurturing totally uncreative parasites, who are normally those who traffic in money, without in anyway being creative themselves, and are often biased against financing Espritals, because they can usually earn more money financing marginally ethical persons who take few or no risks, and earn most of their money by buying low and selling high, which, for Espritals, is a trivial form of commerce. Espritals, once they are fully developed, from less ethical but still creative children and young adults, always courageously choose to work in the environment which maximizes creativity, rather in the environment which maximizes income, or even gives them minimum security. This does not, necessarily, mean that Espritals are poor.

Since Espritals are creative, and creativity is the basis of all wealth, Espritals will always have all the resources they need to maximize their creativity and that of those they most love, although they may not have any surpluses. This situation becomes even more pronounced when the Esprital discovers that he or she is better off economically by not making any ethical compromises and refusing to cooperate with any persons who are systematically destructive to themselves or others, directly or indirectly. As a consequence eventually all Espritals, who survive, will try to make themselves, and all those they love, as self-sufficient as possible.

Therefore, the best place to search for Espritals is in a community which is highly ethical and creative in many fields and simultaneously promotes self-sufficiency for itself and others. At one time I thought that the Libertarian party in the United States might be such a community. However, I soon found that the Libertarians, who have the only political philosophy that is ethically compatible with that of the Espritals, include many persons who are Libertarians primarily out of desire for using drugs, maximizing their discretionary income, hatred of government bureaucrats, or simply a love of liberty, which are not primary motivations of Espritals. A love of liberty is fully compatible with Esprital values, since liberty is a necessary, but not sufficient, condition for maximizing creativity, which is the only end goal for Espritals.

As a means of finding and integrating Espritals and their children, I have continued to interact with Libertarians, as a minor effort, and create, as a major effort, a new organization, The Creativity Center, which is designed to eventually attract Espritals from all over the world. A description of a Creativity Center, with minimum critical mass, is attached. More follows.

© John David Garcia, 1993, All rights Reserved.