In the last article “The Covenant, Illustrated” we saw that embracing the division between the secular and the spiritual has significant consequences to our beliefs and practices. We saw that much of what is claimed by people as spiritual beliefs are really secular beliefs after all. And since all secular beliefs must defer to Reason above all, we saw how the tools of Reason, such as the Skeptic’s Principle, discard much of these beliefs as unfounded. So we asked ourselves, does the Covenant merely eliminate spirituality? Or can it indeed protect it?
The remarkable truth is that we can have both. Certainly, the Covenant does place many ideas that were mislabeled as spiritual back into their proper secular context, and in so doing eliminates vast swaths of these claims as unfounded. But as we’ve said before, the Covenant cuts both ways. And the key to understanding the other side of the Covenant is immanence.
I have referred to the dream I had of being with my dead father. And as we already noted, if I claim that I was really speaking to my actual dead father, that would be a secular claim and quite unjustified.
But if I claimed instead that I had the experience of being with my father, that is not only justifiable, but quite possibly true.
You see, I can quite easily have an experience of being with my father, without really being with him. And yet, the experience can be just as meaningful, just as moving, and just as profound to me.
The dictionary defines “immanent” as: “taking place within the mind of the subject and having no effect outside of it.”
My experience of being with my dead father was immanent. It wasn’t related to my actual father factually, and yet I still had a very deep and meaningful experience nevertheless.
This is immanence, this idea that we can have very real experiences that can profoundly touch us, even when the object of the experience may not even be actually involved, may not even exist. And it is immanence that in the Covenant guards and protects our spiritual experiences.
Now obviously had my dream been different, I may not have been able to honestly say I had a very real experience of being with my dad. If instead in my dream my dad had been purple, singing show tunes in Vulcan, and burying a bone like a dog, it would be unlikely for this to feel like any kind of real experience with my father – since I can assure you that in life he wasn’t purple, did not sing show tunes, and never behaved as a canine!
Ultimately, though, it is up to the individual whether or not the experience felt real enough, because in the end, it’s not about fact, but feeling – that’s what makes it spiritual in the first place.
The next thing about immanence is that within spiritual matters, it is essentially limitless, it’s that powerful.
We said that the claim that the earth is younger than ten thousand years old is secular, and it is. But the power and meaning of the story of a young earth is not secular, and the meaning it imbues us with is protected by immanence.
We said that the idea that I was really talking to the spirit of my dead father wasn’t justifiable, and could not be sustained, and that is correct. But the value of the experience of that conversation in my dream is protected by immanence.
We said we couldn’t even claim that the fact “God exists” is actually true. But God doesn’t have to actually exist for us to pray to him (or her), to be heard by him, and to hear his reply.
The immanent world is the world inside us, the domain precisely of our spiritual truths. We have experiences every day, not rooted in factual reality, that touch us, sadden us, fill us with anger, joy, hope. Every compelling film, book, or TV show, every story that has resonance, that goes beyond mere emotion to something more, something that connects with us in some intrinsic way demonstrates to us that the profundity we see is breathed to life within us by these stories.
Whether the story is fictional or a fable or both, it doesn’t matter. Whether we are provoked into thought (or better yet, action) by a compelling movie or a sermon in church, if we are touched it’s all the same. Each of these are rooted in our immanent experiences. Whether or not those experiences come from stories or truth is perhaps not the point. The point is how we are moved, and what these experiences mean to us.
That is immanence.
And with immanence, the Covenant is able to sustain and provide for all the spirituality we need.
This is ultimate truth of the Covenant. It explicitly divides the secular from the spiritual. It gives total dominance of all secular matters to Reason. But, through immanence, it permanently and completely insulates actually spiritual matters from challenges of Reason, such as the Skeptic’s Principle.
Ultimately, the Covenant tells us the truth that we wish we had known all along: that facts aren’t a matter of opinion, but everything else is. The Covenant tells us that no spirituality can ever tell us about the “outer” world, but at the same time, that only our spirituality can answer for us questions of the “inner” world – such as matters of right and wrong, worthiness, purpose, context, and meaning.
So long as we hold to the Covenant, whatever the form of our spirituality – Christian, Muslim, Judaism, Hinduism, Atheism, etc – we will be able to seek agreement on the facts, and to more harmoniously tolerate our spiritual differences.
In the final analysis, the Covenant is what we all must embrace, and what can potentially unite us all. The time for pretending to know what we do not know is over. We must no longer have a death-grip on secular matters that we have no factual justification for and therefore no right to embrace. Likewise, we must no longer consider our own spirituality more real than anyone else’s – the Covenant defends all truly spiritual beliefs.
A place for everything, and everything in its place – that is the Covenant. And accepting it’s truth is the first, last, and most vital thing we can do. I leave it to each of you to ask yourselves what benefit you can possibly get by rejecting it. I leave it to each of us to meet under the sacred Covenant.