Neural Buddhism: Sacred Secularism is so RenGen

I’m late. I read David Brook’s essay on Neural Buddhism earlier this week and am just now blogging about it. Alas, based on the number of letters to the editor at the New York Times and all the blog chatter, I see I’m late to the discussion. So let me hasten to the point: Brooks is dead right–the next cultural wave in secular faith is not atheism, or geneticism, it’s transcendence. But just as I am late to the debate this week, Brooks is late to the reality of this movement’s potency.

Spirituality of the kind Brook’s is talking about, based in part on Eastern practices of meditation and prayer, has been quietly brewing in America for a two decades. Even longer in California, naturally. But what struck me about having someone like David Brooks dissect this rising “spiritualism” is that it makes it real.

When I began giving talks on the RenGen, and explaining that the phenomenon of secular spirituality and transcendence are signs that we are entering a period of enlightenment, people looked dubious. Granted, these are hard concepts to convey in a hotel ballroom over Chicken Vesuvio. Still, people seemed less convinced that the spirituality movement had any impact as an organizing system that could shape the entire culture. But it does. The fact a centrist/conservative like Brooks takes the matter up is exhibit A.

For a while, I stopped talking about spirituality in public. It depressed me when people looked unconvinced. (Buddhists would decry my ego on this point!) Recently, I’ve taken it up again. I figure WTF? If there is one soul in the audience who gets it, I’m good with that.

Well, if my talks are any kind of litmus test to the veracity of the growth of this movement, then I can tell you the tides are shifting. Many heads nod in polite recognition. I get emails afterward from people wanting to talk more about it. Or to simply say, “I so see this in my life, all around me.”

Here’s the crux. The secularization of spiritual practices allows every day people to tap into “the existence of the sacred.” This is akin to the way Martin Luther redefined how the average man could commune with his God–directly! No middle man (read Catholic priest) required. He was on to something BIG! Brooks is onto something, too. He’s a little late, as am I this week. But we’re talking about a higher power here. A greater good, light and love. I say better late than never!