Reason is the rational mind and the ability to apply it, utilizing facts and knowledge to arrive at logical conclusions. It is the left side of the brain. It is the filing cabinet and analysis section of our treasured grey matter.
Reason is the traditional stomping ground of Freewill. It is part of the destination we as a human race arrived at when we stepped away from the Tree of Life and tasted the fruit of The Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil (according to that old-fashioned Genesis story). Reason is our great problem-solver that has helped us to survive and evolve over the ages.
Of all the spiritual elements, Freewill favors Reason as a toolIt has done well by it on a practical level. Humans have survived and prospered through the millennia by application of our rational, problem-solving mental tools. Therefore, Freewill will tend to rely upon Reason at the expense of other spiritual elements like Intuition, Wisdom, Faith, Creativity and Surrender. Reason will follow a path that is more practical in nature.
Reason will hand Freewill a spreadsheet and pie chart as a matter of directing future action, with no consideration of Divine will.
Reason is like Spock from Star Trek. It’s all about the logic and all about the science. Reason loves science, facts, and even trivia, since knowing even the most random bits of data may serve a purpose one day.
It is constantly seeking information, since any information collected could someday prove useful for logical application. For the element of Reason, it makes sense to be in a constant fact and information-gathering mode. Reason scours the scene for facts─ and it loves surfing the Internet.
Reason looks for linking patterns that may be able to explain phenomena and solve problems. Reason looks for certainty (i.e. established patterns) from which to formulate logical plans of action primarily geared towards survival needs. These needs may be primordial, such as where and how to obtain food, water and shelter, or they may be ego-based and manifested in modern day life, such how to accumulate wealth or protect an image.
Reason and God
As for as the existence of a higher power, with Reason one might say would say: Prove it! At the same time, Reason cannot disprove God. Reason would engage in the debate, always reverting back to “Prove it!”
With Reason arguments as to the existence of a Divine power can be as irrational, emotional, delusional or infantile. Yet our Reason can respect the existence of facts unknown, situations unexplained and phenomena which we might not consciously aware of. With Reason we can also respect for phenomena that isn’t clearly evident using available tools of observation and measurement. Reason cannot say with 100% certainty that God does not exist, and politely bows to that fact. As Blaise Pascal is quoted as saying: “Reason’s last step is the recognition that there are an infinite number of things beyond it.”
We can bump into a quandary. Our Reason, as its own entity, would ultimately have to consider its own existence and its own origins. No matter how far back it traced this question logically, it would always arrive at some point of mystery, miracle or pure speculation.
Reason itself is a gift from God. It is to be treasured, for sure, but it should not be totally relied upon as the central driver in our lives to the point that it separates us from God. The reliance on Reason is a concept which the classic Genesis story can be said to portray as we bit fruit from the Tree of Knowledge.
Instead, Reason is simply one of many tools to be tapped into in order to live a balanced life. True, it has been the “teacher’s pet” throughout Western history, always raising its hand with the answers (often in a smug fashion). If the other spiritual elements were not so humble, they might just as well roll their eyes. Reason doesn’t catch on to all the social cues that would otherwise tell it to lay low every once in a while and let the other elements shine.
Reason has a yang Energy and wants to drive aggressively towards certain kinds of answers. The other elements are primarily yin in nature and are not so deterministic. Elements like Love, Joy and Surrender don’t always need a “final answer.” They are fine with mystery over mastery.
Reason is not inherently completely wrong or “bad” at its core. We humans have simply allowed it to be a bit overzealous in its mission in this modern world. Perhaps it simply doesn’t understand those things that are not straightforward, rational and practical. Maybe it just doesn’t get that the other kids in the classroom aren’t dumb, they just have a completely different perspective that Reason cannot understand.
In applying the spiritual elements available to us in life, the more “Reasonable” approach in applying them would actually be for all elements (i.e. all the tools in your spiritual toolbox) to have their moments to shine from their unique vantage points. In this scenario, Reason may even detect a long-term advantage (in qualitative standards) relating to the soul in surrendering to Divine will and then playing an adjunct role in helping to implement it.
For example, if I use my Intuition to guide my life (which I personally do), some may find this approach to be irrational. Reason plays a role in my Intuition-based decisions, however, in that my sense of Reason helps me make sense of what a specific Intuition might mean. When I don’t follow my Intuition, I feel bothered, discontent, and regretful for having not obliged it. Reason will then play a further role in surmising that, for me, following my Intuition adds to the quality of my life so much that it is reasonable and Rational for me to oblige it.
Reason in its essence is a Truth-seeker and for this it is valued and entwined with Divinity. It can help us discern our Truth when it recognizes Divinity. In the meantime, Reason can also be very helpful on a day-to-day basis for planning, problem solving, and making on-the-go decisions objectivity and impartiality.
God and Reason Are Not Mutually Exclusive: Forcing Cognitive Dissonance
God and Reason are not mutually exclusive. There may be some religious belief systems that ask you to suspend Reason and avoid facts all together─ and they may label this as Faith. This approach ignores Reason as being a gift from God to be honored, however. Any religion that does not open itself to questions is questionable because it means it does not honor all of God’s gifts, including our ability to question assumptions and figure things out rationally.
When we are asked to suspend Reason as a matter of Faith, we can be put in a place of cognitive dissonance. Cognitive dissonance is the discomfort experienced when a person attempts to hold on to two conflicting beliefs that cannot be reconciled in any way.
For example, a religion may teach that the Earth is 6000 years old. At the same time, we may have knowledge of facts derived from science that the Earth is many times older. Given these two very different realities, we may suffer from cognitive dissonance regarding the subject of the real age of the Earth. We may be given an “all or nothing” choice and be told that if we don’t accept a particular religion’s version of the Earth’s age, we are then going against the entire religion itself.
Reason will never dismiss nor suppress the information derived from science and rational thought; Reason will dismiss information viewed as being false. A particular religion, however, may present the above as not being an option. The consequences of adhering to Reason are a person being labeled a “non-believer” or that person being thought of as disrespecting the entire religion. The repercussions of this labeling could be severe, including family conflict, excommunication by religious authorities, or even “damnation” according to the religion’s doctrine.
If any of the above happens, there are a few options. First of all, we can suppress Reason and continue to have cognitive dissonance within us on some level. This is a form of stress and we will have to expend Energy to manage that stress. To manage the stress the cognitive dissonance produces, we can ignore the facts or even bolster the opposing view, seeking information to support it.
Another option is to express the specific belief (in this case, the fact that the Earth is much older than 6,000 years old) openly within that religion and face the consequences of censure or excommunication, or we can dismiss that belief in silence, keeping it a secret while still participating in the belief system. The latter option, however, opens ourselves up to another form of cognitive dissonance that results from personal dishonesty (i.e. not being True to oneself). A scenario such as this may also eventually undermine belief in the entire religion.
Suppressing Reason suppresses Truth. The suppression of Truth is in conflict with the basic precepts of Divinity (which are all about Truth) and will naturally force us into cognitive dissonance. Like mentioned above, maintaining a long-term condition of cognitive dissonance is stressful on an Earthly level and will likely hamper spiritual growth and awakening on a higher plane─ until the issue is reconciled, that is.
Being able to reconcile our spiritual beliefs with Reason is the last option. This choice honors God and takes us out of cognitive dissonance. Otherwise, we would have to discard that which is not Reasonable to us. Reason doesn’t have to prove our beliefs, but it should not conflict with what we know to be True.
“Do not give up your authority and follow blindly the will of others. This way will lead to only delusion.” -Buddha
Applying Reason to Experience: God as a Rational Decision
Divinity is experiential. It is a connection within ourselves and, in turn, with the greater Universe that we engage with (and that we experience directly when we are in a state of Communion). This connection might happen by design, through practice, or by some seemingly mystical happenstance.
As something that we experience, Divinity is valid for us. It cannot be disproven. Others may call our experiences with Divinity a delusion based upon their own lack of the experience, yet their interpretations make the experience no less real for us.
For example, it may be your Reason that tells you─ given all of the experiences in a life full of Reason and rationality─ that a particular moment is a profound moment of beautiful Communion, a mystic embrace. In turn, your Reason, pulling in all capabilities of fact-finding and analysis, can arrive at the conclusion that the experience is so unique that it must be Divine. It has reviewed all of the files in the database of your human experience and logically arrived at this conclusion. Reason would simply be affirming what you in your Body and soul already know.
On the other hand, Reason can hold a secondary hypothesis that the mystical situation you just experienced was a selective delusion of some type. However, that take on the situation might be hard to hold onto if you don’t have a track record of delusion in other areas of your life. Reason─ the manic collector of all possible information─ simply cannot dismiss the feelings that accompanied the experience. This may come with much chagrin to your Reasoning side, as those little buggers (emotions) tend to be very esoteric, qualitative and experiential.
With true Communion, God becomes the rational answer to explain the experience you had. It might be at this rare time─ in the face of true Communion─ where Reason will consult with other elements such as Wisdom and Intuition and defer to them to make sense of the experience.
Historically, his type of teamwork and situational deference has been overshadowed by the success and hubris of the rational mind ever since we bit from the fruit of that certain tree. Yet, we are not beyond recognizing it and retraining ourselves to let Reason take a back seat to what the other elements know through innate Wisdom.
“I have had the experience of being gripped by something that is stronger than myself, something that people call God. So, I will never say that I believe that God exists. I must say I know God exists!” -Carl Jung
Reason as Servant Instead of Master
Reason is such a blessing and a treasure for daily problem-solving and as a support for the other elements.
Reason can help us with Non-Judgment and Justice in viewing the world impartially without prejudice.
Reason can also help to upend harmful irrational beliefs profoundly imprinted upon our psyches in our formative years. If we have unconscious beliefs like “I don’t matter” or “I am not lovable” due to the issues we suffered through with our initial caretakers, Reason can help unravel those. Reason can see, from a logical standpoint, that the child did matter and that he or she was lovable. Reason may conclude that the caretakers were wounded beings who simply lacked nurturing capabilities overall.
Reason will similarly serve to undo irrational thoughts that can permeate our minds on a daily basis and which are spurred on by anxiety. We can have a thought like, “If I don’t pass this test tomorrow, my whole life is over!” Reason will chime in. It may say,” You know, that thought is a little dramatic and overreaching and not helpful in terms doing your best for the test, don’t you think?” Anxieties will disregard a long history of relatively successful test preparations and test-taking while Reason will not. Reason may even say, “The test can be retaken if necessary.”
Albert Ellis is a famous psychologist known for his formulation of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), which calls for us to apply Reason and rationality to the many “all or nothing” thoughts that come from the same area of the brain where Reason resides. He himself, at a young age, was struggling with the loss of a girlfriend. Heartbroken, he thought that if he didn’t have her in his life, he would never find another love again and he would be “miserable for the rest of his life.” He “invented” CBT when he suddenly realized that he could still very well meet another person and fall in love at some point in the future. He went on to evaluate many common irrational beliefs and distorted ways of thinking that Reason can do well to rein in.
One of the best roles for Reason may in fact be to serve as a gatekeeper and reality-checker for the slew of irrational thoughts that often swim around in our minds.
Reason can help us with the elements of Respect and Empathy, if we consider how a “reasonable person” might behave in interacting with others when we are unsure. Reason can be a starting point in these kinds of interactions (before we apply Love and Compassion). On the other hand, we will meet unreasonable people in this world. With these kinds of interactions, Reason will not serve us other than for self-protection. We can still engage with these kinds of folks by using the elements of Love, Empathy and Respect.
Reason has to step back, however, for Generosity and Service to others to occur because Reason will tend towards acting in self-interest as the “rational response” to most situations. This response will be good only for the short term. Then other elements that are more about giving have to kick in to show the long-term rationality in the act of giving. Sometimes elements like Love or Empathy can work on their own accord and do not require Rationality in order to act. When a person is operating with Love as his or her primary elemental energy, they simply serve others for the sake of serving others. Reason can then kick back in, however, if we give and serve to the point of self-harm. And so the back and forth between Reason and the other elements goes.
Reason has to step back for Truth to work in our lives at times as well. In order to pursue our Truth, we may take actions that do not appear reasonable and practical. We may quit our day job to live our Truth, for example. Reason can make for a softer landing through practical planning of the transition, but ultimately it has to defer to any action that “feels right” (using the element of Intuition) for the individual involved. It has to defer to what the individual is experiencing that is part of their Truth. As stated before, this deference is ultimately a truly (and Divinely) rational choice.
Once we know our Truth and have deferred to Divine will regarding it, Reason can again step up and help us to route our path in a manner that is practical yet still in line with that Truth.
Reason Can Be Distorted
Our own mindset can distort our Reason in manners not always clear to us. For example, we tend to be biased towards noticing facts which support our pre-existing notions while downplaying facts that are in conflict with it. We like being pandered to. We have any number of unconscious biases based upon our upbringings and mental proclivities. We simply aren’t as objective and reasonable as we think we are.
We also have what I call “Stiff Paradigms.” These are the overall belief frameworks that we hold. The paradigms that we hold are meant to be somewhat malleable, changing when new facts our presented. With Stiff Paradigms, we tend to want to make the facts fit into our paradigms instead of the other way around.
With Reason, however, we always question our own objectivity. We ask ourselves: Am I seeing the world as it really is? Are my perceptions biased in some way? Am I allowing myself to be pandered to? Do my overall paradigms need to adjust to fit with all the facts that exist, not just the ones that I like?
Mystery over Mastery: Differentiation between Reason and Wisdom
Reason wants to master any and all given situations as a matter of maximizing Earthly survival. It wants to line up all the facts, figure out all the patterns and create certainties so that it can achieve its goal of the survival of its bodily keeper (i.e. you). It will tend to disregard any information that doesn’t fit into its domain of logic and certainty. It can’t hold on to conflicting information without cognitive dissonance because it deals just with the facts. It is “yang” in its desire to wrap everything up and solve everything in a timely manner because, according to Reason, every challenge is a problem with a concise formula in which to solve it. Picturing the classic circular black and white symbol of yin and yang, Reason, accompanied by Freewill, may be the small circle of yang within the whole of the yin which is the Spiritual Table of Elements.
Reason looks into the night sky and counts the stars, quantifies their distance and speculates on their make-up.
Wisdom, as opposed to Reason, makes room for mystery. Wisdom can be in a place of not knowing. It doesn’t have to have everything all figured out and lined up. It considers nonfactual information like feelings and Intuition as just as valid as facts. It consorts more readily and by design with all other elements that are more fluid and esoteric in nature. It can hold paradox in a peaceful manner. It is less controlling and is okay with letting things just be. Everything is not a problem to be solved for those who are Wise. Wisdom knows that much of what happens needs not be explained.
Wisdom looks up into the stars and sees Beauty, God.
Wisdom holds an arm around the shoulder of Reason as a mentor or coach might do. Wisdom appreciates the eagerness of the young upstart (Reason) while focusing on getting it to relax, chill out and be a team player. Wisdoms says, “Accept some mystery.” Reason will likely do well if this advice is taken.
Mindfulness serves Reason because when we are mindful, we are aware of our mindset, emotions, and bodily reactions at all times. Mindfulness can serve with Freewill to suspend the activity of Reason as necessary in order to calm the mind and be okay with mystery.
Wisdom serves as a mentor for Reason, helping Reason to respect other faculties.
Humility helps Reason to stay humble and not always hog the spotlight.
Breath serves Reason by relaxing the Body when the mind races with anxiety and irrational thoughts.
- Maintaining ongoing practices of both Meditation and Mindfulness can aid us in recognizing when our Reason is in play and what emotions may be affecting it. With Mindfulness, we can recognize and call upon our rational mind. We can say, “I need to tap into my rational mind now.”
- Notice your thoughts throughout the day. Pay attention to different types of irrational thinking such as all-or-nothings, “must dos” and “shoulds,” overgeneralizations, the minimizing of positives or negatives, jumping to conclusions or emotionally-tinged thoughts in general. Reframe these thoughts to something more realistic.
- Keep a log of common irrational/anxious thoughts. Track what the thoughts are, what triggers them, what feelings and bodily reactions ensue and how the thought could be reframed to be more realistic.
- Research the list of Albert Ellis’s common irrational beliefs.
- Practice Breathing and relaxation exercises as necessary to bring you into your rational mind if your mind is spinning with anxious thoughts (See Breath).
- Be aware of the issue of Cognitive Dissonance. Notice where it may be occurring in your life. Consider how the dissonance might be resolved by releasing untrue beliefs which conflict with beliefs proven true or which are not disproven.
- Spend time in Nature. Observe Beauty. Seek to have the mind in a neutral position, not seeking information or problem-solving activities.
- Be aware of the fact that your own sense of Reason may be subject to distortions which our common to our species. Question your own objectivity at all times.
I Am Grateful For The Gift That is My Ability to Reason and My Rational Mind.
Let Me Hear My Truth, Let Me Be Open to Mystery.
I Know Who I Am; I Am Open to The Guidance and Healing Powers of The Universe.
Let My Mind Be Calm, Let My Body Relax with Each Breath.