Spirituality, Ethics and Sense Giving

  • For the reader of the bachelor examination project 'Spirituality, sense giving and ethics, in education and work field social work' for the study 'social work and service' of Fontys University Eindhoven


Don't believe in everything, just because it is said. Also not in traditions, just because they are old. Also not in rumours. Also not in scriptures of wise men just because wise men wrote them. Also not in phantasies which perhaps have to represent presupposed inspiration. Also not in conclusions which are based upon one or the other accidental presupposition. Also not on authority of teachers or masters. Believe only when the scripture, the doctrine or the saying by thine own mind and by thine own consciousness is acknowledged. Therefore I teach thou to not just believe because thy hast heard something, but – if thou believest in agreement of thine own consciousness – to act therewith correspondingly. [Buddha]

About spirituality, ethics and sense giving is already much been written. The book shelfs at the library bulge with books about these subjects. Usually the common thread running through this literature is the same and at the same time there is a great difference in the way by which the three themes are worked out. This proves both the objectivity as the subjectivity of the subjects. Spirituality, sense giving and ethics are on one side universal concepts because they are part of our being human. Every one of us has in one way or the other to do with spirituality, ethics and sense giving. On the other side are the subjects also very personal and individual, because everyone has his own experience with spirituality, everyone gives meaning to his life in his own way and everyone has his own idea about which acts in a certain situation can be labelled as ethical.

That subjectivity shall also be found in this piece, for this is unavoidable. It's also not bad. Without personal vision, without any liveliness being laid in a writing, the written stays a dead piece. An empty shell full of dry argumentations, which perhaps give a logical consistent story, but which further has nothing to tell to the reader. In this piece is tried to find a balance between the objective argumentative and the individual subjective experiencing of spirituality, ethics and sense giving. The conviction is present that these two poles supplement each other.

Although the in this piece used knowledge is not based upon an academic scholarship in philosophy or theology this does not mean that therefore no solid and fundamental vision on the subjects can be given. For spirituality, ethics and sense giving are concepts which belong to our being human and the deepening out of the question how these concepts relate to our being human is not just an academic and intellectual happening. Knowledge and wisdom are two qualities and academic knowledge on itself does not assure wisdom. Wisdom is developed in the heart by a personal development whereby knowledge can only serve us as a valuable guideline through which we can develop ourselves. The searching and finding of answers to life's questions is thus a human affair whereby the found answers are not only dependent upon an intellectual knowledge but are rather dependent upon someone's personal development.

The piece is written with the intention to attune the reader himself to contemplation. Not to indiscriminately accept what is written, but to determine the truth value himself and to do research himself where doubts arise. It is therefore good to keep the above words of the lord Buddha in mind while reading.


What is spirituality? Ask this question to ten different persons, theologically and philosophically educated or not, and changes are high that you will receive all different answers. This proves the subjectivity of the subject. Not for nothing does the Winkler Prins encyclopedie describe spirituality as; "the subjective experience of man's relation to God." This definition contains two important elements, namely the subjective experience of men and the relation to God. These two elements we can translate to the core concepts of individuality (subjective experience) and universality (relation to God, for God is the universal unity). These concepts we must not see as something placed outside ourselves, for they are within our being human. In almost all philosophies and religions from the traditions we encounter this dual in being human. On the one side our individual separated self and on the other side the being part of something greater, the universal or universe, the higher, that which is one, God. These names are all different names for the same quality, however dependent upon the philosophy or religion is another name given to it. So when we are thematising spirituality then we are thematising our individual relation to the universal. Other meanings which the Winkler Prins dictionary gives for relation are; "mutual relation" and "connection". This line following we can arrive at the following working definition of spirituality: 'spirituality is connecting yourself to the universal, the higher'.

Right, we now found a working definition. However this definition may do rise more question than answers. What is that universal, that higher? Where should I place it? And then how can I connect with it? It speaks for itself that you cannot connect to something of which you don't know where to search for it. And the searching becomes impossible without having a clue about the nature of what is sought. So let us first look at the qualities which we can ascribe to that higher, to consequentially look at where to find it and how to connect to it.

What is the nature of that higher, that universal, that greater of which we as humans are part of and which is also part of our being human? It is obvious that our little individual consciousness cannot grasp the full nature and size of this great universe. A full objective consideration is thus not possible. What is however possible is to look at the nature of this higher from our standpoint as human being. So we question ourselves what meaning we as humans can ascribe to the nature of the higher.

The first which we can conclude is in any case that it encompasses everything. It is the sum of all parts, but at the same time it is also one. In all religions we encounter that thought (for when we speak about the higher or the universal we also speak about what religions call 'God'). It is all individual creatures together and at the same time it is the unity of those individual creatures together. Like the cells in our body are different, but our body is still one. This is the thought behind the brother- and sisterhood of humanity. One for all and all for one.

A spiritual teacher asks his students: "how do you know when you are awakened?" The students don't know the answer. "Then how do you know when it is day or when it is night?" asks the teacher again. The students answer: "well, when I encounter a mouse during daytime, then I know that it's a mouse, and not an elephant or a tiger, and when I see an apple tree during daytime, then I know that it's an apple tree and not a mango tree or pear tree." "No" answers the teacher, "that is not the right answer." "But then how do you know when it is day or when it is night?" ask the students. The teacher answers: "when you are walking along the street, and you encounter a man, and you look into his eyes, and you see that he's your brother, and when you walk along the street and you encounter a women, and you look into her eyes, and you see that she's your sister, only then you have awakened into the day. Until that time comes where you see that such humans are your brothers and sisters you shall always wander in the dark of the night."

The essential nature of the higher is thus unity. And in the individual human then shall this higher logically reveal itself as the experience of unity. Experience of unity with the higher, and thus also experience of unity with all other creatures in this great existence. We humans have given a name to this experience, namely; 'love'. There are diverse feelings which we all label as love. Love for our partner, love for family, love for our own mother country, or true unconditional love for the stranger on the street whom you look deep into his or her eyes. What these different grades of love however all have in common is that in more or less quantity unity with the other is experienced. One is not separated, but a part of something greater. The unconditional loving of the other counts hereby of course as the highest form because nothing and no one is excluded from that love.

Spirituality, connecting with the higher, thus leads to unconditional loving.

Now which place can we assign to that higher or spiritual? Actually it was already brought to the fore while searching for a working definition of spirituality. The higher encompasses everything and is thus also part of our being human. We can place it everywhere, but for it to become a living experience for us as human it is essential that we search for it in ourselves. Outer circumstances can in their generality lead us perhaps to inner experiences, however the experience itself is subjective, individual and thus inwardly. And the nature of the higher is unconditional loving, what per definition is an inner experience. As conclusion we may assert that the higher for us as humans must be a living experience and that living experiences always happen within ourselves, regardless of the outer circumstances which incited us to that experience. If you want to connect with the higher you should know that you can only do that within yourself.

If those who lead you say: "look, the Kingdom is in heaven", then the birds of heaven will be ahead of you.
If they say: "it is in the sea", then the fish will be ahead of you.
But the Kingdom is within you and without you. [Jesus]

Now thus a bit of the veil has been lifted regarding the nature of the higher and now we have a guideline for where we can place it we can ask ourselves the question how we can connect with that higher. As part of this answer it might be good to look first at what a human actually is. Let us return again to the duality of man. On the one side the individual and on the other that universal. We have shortly considered the universal, the higher and let us now also shortly consider that individual of the being human. Postmodern agogic sciences (and in fact all postmodern human sciences) offer us a large spectrum of frameworks for this individual. The pillars on which the agogic processes of change are build are thinking, feeling and acting and the on itself standing will. Important point of departure thereby is that is strifed for a consistency between willing, thinking, feeling and acting. We cannot influence the will. We can acknowledge, deny or ignore it, however the will is always there. Our thinking, feeling and acting however we can influence and make them consistent with that deeper will.

That deeper will we should however not confuse with the impulses which our body, our emotions and our mind give us. (I want food, I want my boyfriend back, etc.) In agogics we are trained to seek the question behind the question and to trace back the question of the client ('what do I want?') to the original question ('what do I really want?'). Because we find that will in the deepest of our being, and because we also find that higher in the deepest of our being, we can see that deeper will as an exponent of the higher.

So when we question ourselves how we can connect with the higher and that deeper will then we have our thinking, feeling and acting at our disposal to attune these to it. Not surprisingly that we find the usage of these three in the diverse religions and spiritual movements. The action as path to connect to the higher is worked out by religions by bringing the importance to the fore of ethical acting. The feeling as path to connect with the higher we find in the devotional dedication to the religious and spiritual ideals. And the thinking as path to bring about that connection we find on one side in the philosophical doctrine of the scriptures and on the other side in the prayers and meditations which demand a concentration of thought. Whatever form of religion or spiritual vision appeals to you, all make use of these three human instruments to connect with or bring about the higher or spiritual. Knowledge, devotion and ethical acting. And also here is the importance underlined of consistency of these three instruments with the higher as unchanging and independent fourth. Prayers without devotion are nothing more than the uttering of dry words. Rituals without knowledge of the why are blind acts and without devotion the ritual stays a hollow and an empty action. So consistency in thinking, feeling and acting with the higher will.

When we summarize spirituality from this perspective we thus see that the attuning of our thinking, feeling and acting to the higher will within us shall lead to an unconditional loving.

Beloved, let us love each other.
For the love is from God,
and who loves is born from God and knows God.
Who doesn't love, does not know God.
For God is love! [John]

With this has our search not yet completely ended. For how can we attune our thinking, feeling and acting to that higher? How do we thus come to knowledge, devotion and ethical acting? To find an answer to this we must search for the source of our thinking, feeling and acting. What makes that we act as we act? What makes that we feel as we feel? And what makes that we think as we think?

Both in agogics as in the diverse religions is the mind here mentioned as leading instrument. When people feel very sad about a situation, and this sadness bothers them, then we try to let them think differently about the situation. This different way of thinking shall bring up different feelings with the person. Thoughts of sadness give a sad feeling and thoughts of joy give a joyful feeling. This same goes for actions. When actions with clients do not lead to the by them desired result we try to make the client think about his actions. When the client starts to think differently about his actions he can on base of his changed thoughts also adjust his actions. So thinking is leading for feeling and for acting. So it is in the first place at the plane of mind that we can choose direction and where the first incentive takes place to consistency with and attunement to the higher.

Here we see the duality of our power to think. On the one side the mind as an instrument to gain knowledge and to analyse. And on the other side to take charge itself of thinking, feeling and acting and to by means hereof reach attunement to the higher. Especially in the new age movements is explicitly a heavy emphasis laid on positive thinking to give your life in a constructive way direction and purpose.

Sow a thought, harvest a deed.
Sow a deed, harvest a habit.
Sow a habit, harvest a character.
Sow a character, harvest fate.

But also in traditional religions is the mind used as creative power to find attunement with the higher. Concentrated meditation, visualisation and prayer we encounter in all religions. The holy images, scriptures, prayers, devotional songs and many rituals of the religions all serve hereby among other things as means of help to attune ourselves to the higher and to prevent the deviation of the mind from the spiritual ideal. When this creative thinking is steadfastly persevered in shall true knowledge, devotion and ethical acting surely follow.

Direct your attention to Me and concentrate on Me, then you will undoubtedly forever be united with Me.  Krishna


"Is there any word", asked Tzu Kung, "that can serve as a permanent rule of life?" The Master Confucius answered: "Is sympathy not that word? Don't do to others what you don't wish for yourself."

With the discussion of spirituality has already several times ethical acting been touched upon. This again proves the close relation which spirituality and ethics have with each other. Let us just like with the subject of spiritualty look at what is ethics and on base of that search further to meanings.

The Winkler Prins encyclopaedia gives a beautiful definition: "Ethics is a branch of philosophy which thinks about the moral acting of humans." The ethical acting, about which already something is said, is thus the moral acting of humans. But what is moralistic? And do we already have clear what we mean by action? And how do these two relate to each other and to the being human?

Let us first have a look at what we here shall mean with action. We can look at action from two angles. On the one side the angle of outer perception; we see the way in which individuals act. And on the other side from an image of man whereby also inner processes are taken in consideration and brought in relation to our action.

Action on the outer level is easy definable. There it is the action which is perceived; the performance of a deed. But how does our action relate to or innerness?

Earlier we already discussed action when the importance of consistency between acting, feeling, thinking and will was the subject. We saw acting, feeling and thinking as the variable, controllable part of our being human and the will as the independent fourth that can only be acknowledged, denied or ignored. Later we also saw that the mind is the leading principle of the three variables. By choosing to think about certain images we evoke feelings and likewise is our action fully dependent upon our way of thinking. Directly is our action dependent upon our thinking by the making mental of a choice of action, but also when not directly is acted from the mind (for instance with actions from emotion or habit) is the mind as steering principle standing at the base of the action. For after all by thinking about certain images we evoke feelings and emotions which lead to actions, and by choosing repeatedly from our mind for the same actions do habits in action come to being. No action ever came to being by itself. Always an inner process preceded it whereby the mind was at the cradle of that process. So the mind is the critical level where we make our choice to ethical or unethical acting. The choice, which is always made on the level of the mind, is here central. We cannot act before we have come beforehand to a choice. The choice is thus the first cause for our action.

When we then look at the definition of ethics and trace it back to the inner angle then we can formulate the definition of ethics from that inner angle as: 'the thinking about the moral choosing of humans.' That we trace back the definition to the choice and thought level is very important when we take the importance of consistency in thinking, feeling and acting in consideration. Moral action is from individual and inner perspective only really ethical when there is a moral consistency between the acting, feeling and thinking of the individual. This is a very important conclusion on which we shall return.

But what is actually a moral? In the book Ethiek voor Maatschappelijk Werkers Ed de Jonge brings beautifully step by step the moral of the abstract mind down to the concrete level of action through in between steps like norms, values and virtues. However can we already speak of a moral when we group together a wide set of normative frameworks of action? According to the Winkler Prins encyclopaedia this is so, for it translates moral as: "the entirety of the in a certain group factual valid decent norms and habits." From this outer angle this is right. The behaviour is demonstrable and when the behaviour of the individual corresponds to this and that general accepted framework of action can be spoken of moralism. Note; an outer moralism, for this moralism is based upon an outerness of action and not on an inner experience.

So what about the inner angle? Besides an outer meaning does the Winkler Prins dictionary also give an imaginative second meaning to the word moral which in this case relates to the inner moral of man, namely: "decent powers, feelings of inner value or strength." The inner moral which is anchored in man is thus a decent power which brings with it a feeling of inner value or strength.

How do the outer and inner moral relate to each other? It can be said that every outer moral eventually has its source in an inner experience of individuals about what is moral in a certain situation. Norms and values that are applied in groups don't come to being just like that. These come to being when a group of individuals in a similar situation comes in contact with their inner morals. When the experience of those inner morals with individuals then consequently makes them choose to act in a similar manner in that situation do norms and values come to being and thus an outer moral comes to being. However the incentive to the coming to being of an outer moral is thus always found in the innerness of man. The outmost important conclusion here is thus that the moral and the true moral acting always have their source in the innerness of man. The difference between an outer and inner (true) moral is also for everybody to be felt. For feel the difference between the following moral actions: Outer moral: I do not steel cookies, for it is not allowed by my parents. Inner moral: I do not steel cookies, for it doesn't feel right to take something away from others. The outer moral certainly has a function to withhold people who have no contact with their inner moral, or choose not to act in correspondence with it, from committing deeds that damage our society. However we must never lose the source, the inner moral, out of sight. It is on the inner plane where the true and living moral is to be found. That living and true moral can be distorted or not distorted be reflected in outer norms and values, however we must not mistake the reflections (often distorted) with that which is causal and true. The moon is distortedly reflected in the ruffles of the water. In that reflection we recognise the moon. However we must not mistake that reflection with the true moon, high up in the sky.

There is a higher court than the court of justice, and that is the court of conscience. It surpasses all other courts. [Gandhi]

Morals tell us thus how we should act in a certain situation. Reflected and outer are us all kinds of prohibitions and commandments given about how we must act in certain situations. But when we direct ourselves to our innerness we receive from within ourselves moral incitements to act in a certain situation in a certain way.

A moral feeling is something with which every man is gifted. A moral feeling is something which is part of everyone's innerness. But where in our innerness? For we saw from the framework which we adopted from the agogic sciences that the innerness of a human can be divided in the levels of acting, feeling, thinking and willing. Earlier we traced back the moral action to the moral choosing on the level of mind. However before you can choose to either act morally or not there must have been a moral incitement. Without that moral incitement no choice is possible between acting morally or not. The outer moral incitement that through our senses enters our mind is in this case less interesting because we are searching for the place of the inner moral incitement. And this inner moral incitement must per definition have a place in our innerness which transcends the mind. It is not to be found in the action and feelings, for these are results of the mind and not the causes, as we saw earlier. It is also not to be found in the mind itself, for we saw that the making of the choice whether or not to act morally must be preceded by a moral incitement. The only place which is left then to find our moral incitement is the will. The independent and deeply rooted will which we as humans can acknowledge, deny or ignore. Likewise shall those who learn to listen to their deepest innerness always receive moral incitements that consequently can be acknowledged, denied or ignored. It is fascinating to see that in the piece about spirituality that same inner will was translated as the higher or universal levels in our being human. From this follows the conclusion that we receive our inner moral incitements from the higher, the universal, the individual transcending part of our being human.

As soon as we lose the moral base we stop being religious. There is not something like religion transcending morality. Man, for instance, cannot be dishonest, mean or uncontrolled and claim to have God to his side. [Gandhi]

We saw that this higher within ourselves, our deeper self, is in essence an experience of unity and an unconditional loving. It transcends our small individual ego and likewise shall the true inner moral incitements always transcend that individual ego. The true inner moral incitements incite us to altruistic deeds. Not the separate ego of the individual is served but action takes place in the interest of the unity of the universal and in the interest of the true brother- and sisterhood of humanity. It incites us to, from unconditional love, subordinate our small individual ego to that great unity of universal individuals. It makes that we can say; 'not my will, but Thine Will be done'. 'Not my small egoistic will, but Thine universal, loving and altruistic will in the deepest of my innerness be done.'

Make Lord, that I seek more;
to comfort than to be comforted,
to understand than to be understood,
to love than to be loved.

For by giving we receive.
By forgiving we are forgiven.
By dying we arise to eternal life. [St. Francis]

Until now we have arrived at several conclusions. We unravelled the duality of man and saw that in our deepest we are one with everything in the universe, a unity which translates itself to an unconditional loving. We saw that there are also ways to come into contact with that deep innerness, that unconditional love. Consequently we differentiated between an outer moral and an inner moral and found that the inner moral, which is found deep within ourselves, is the original and true moral. Further we saw that it is that deeply rooted universal and unconditional love which incites us to true moral actions. And we saw that that true living moral, that universal love in our own heart, is always asking us to act altruistically, in the interest of that unity.

What can we do with these conclusions in our daily living and in our work? 'Very much' is the answer. In work and in daily life we shall always be confronted with ethical dilemmas. Always shall we encounter situations whereby we shall doubt about what in that specific situation is good to choose. Often we see that the outer morals and the inner morals collide, although the outer morals once were grounded upon an inner incitement with individuals. We are confronted with rules and laws and with norms and values. Those rules and those norms and values tell us actually how we must act in certain situations. Sometimes however this doesn't feel good and just for us. It may also happen that we are confronted with a choice whereby two or more possibilities of choice seem right and just to us. It is in such cases that doubt can arise and that we are confronted with an ethical dilemma. The outer rules, norms and values then offer in this specific situation no outcome and no matter how much we overthink the situation, the logical answer does not come to the fore. And does the answer come through the rationality to the fore then we often in one way or the other keep an unsatisfying feeling with the answer, for the answer is then based upon the logical overthinking of outer guidelines and isn't something of ourselves. Then there is no consistency between the acting, the feeling, the thinking and the willing. In such situations where it is difficult to come to a for us right choice it is very important to know that in all rest you can make contact with your inner moral. The universe speaks to you and advices you when you direct your thought to that inner will.

Here we have arrived at the importance of spirituality in the handling of ethical dilemmas. Spirituality we defined as connecting yourself with the higher or the inner will. When we bring to rest our individual acting, feeling and thinking, when we consequently connect to that deep inner will within us which is unconditional love, and when we let that inner will reflect in our thinking, feeling and acting, then we shall see that we can come in ethical dilemmas always to our right choice. The higher within us knows how we must act ethical, for the higher is the universal and the universal encompasses both the individual as the context. Because this choice is based upon our inner moral and because this choice reflects the will of our deepest part of our being human shall such a choice always grant us the deepest satisfaction.

This above all; to thine own self be true,
and it must follow, as the night the day,
thou canst not then be false to any man. [Shakespeare] 

That flow or our inner moral must flow through as well our thinking, our feeling as our acting. Otherwise there is no full consistency. Many people think that morality is only in deeds. They may give some alms to the poor but complain inwardly with resentment that they give their beloved money to such an inferior someone. Letting flow those inner morals through your being, thus consistency between willing, thinking, feeling and acting, only becomes possible when we bring our acting, feeling and thinking in one line. Everybody intuitively feels when friendly words or generous gestures are empty and without content or when these actions are enforced by loving feelings and pure thoughts.

Of course can and shall we stumble upon resistance of representatives of the outer norms and values when we follow our inner moral. However the strength which we find in the choosing for our deep inner being, the strength that we receive by choosing for that universal love, that strength shall the pushing and shoving of the representatives of outer norms and values be able to resist with ease and fulfil us with happiness and satisfaction because it is the strength of our deepest innerness which we let flow through us.

There are times when you have to obey to the highest call of all, namely the voice of your conscience. Even if such an obedience may cost many bitter tears, and even more: separation of friends, of family, of the state to which you belong, of all which you held dear like life itself. Because this obedience is the law of our 'Being'.[Gandhi]

Sense Giving

We are now going to seek for the meanings of sense giving.

Besides that the term 'sense giving' is used is also spoken of 'sense experience'. What these terms however have in common is the word 'sense', so let us search for the meaning of this word.

The Winkler Prins dictionary gives the following meanings for sense [in Dutch 'zin']: "1: meaning, usefulness, purpose, 2: lust, hunger, desire [for the English 'sensuous'], 3: feeling." From these meanings we can actually discern three levels of sense. As first level 'sense' in the meaning of 'useful'. As second level 'sense' in the meaning of 'desire'. And as third level 'sense' in the meaning of 'feeling'. So we see here three levels of sense which we can relate to three levels having reference to our being human.

  • The level where 'sense' has the meaning of 'usefulness' takes place in the context in which an individual is positioned. This form of sense is objective. It is for everybody measurable and hardly subject to subjective value judgement.
  • The level in which 'sense' has the meaning of 'desire' has reference to our senses. As known we have five senses, namely; smell, taste, sight, touch and hearing. The wishes of these senses, like tasty food, music, colours and forms, touch, etc. have reference to this level of sense. The general wishes of the senses are objective while the details are subjective. We all enjoy listening to music but one likes classical music, another likes hardrock, and still another likes to listen to R&B. We all like to be touched but have our subjective wishes by who and when that must be done. So the senses have both an objective as a subjective character.
  • There is also a third deeper level in which 'sense' has a meaning. The dictionary describes this level as "feeling". Perhaps the word 'feeling' is here is not fully sufficient to indicate this level of sense. When we are speaking about sense giving we are not speaking so much about the feeling of sense. It is an experience on a deeper level and is therefore per definition subjective. This means that nobody can tell you when you experience sense on this level. Only you yourself can determine this.

So there are three levels of sense; usefulness (surroundings), pleasure (senses) and experience (inwardly).

Although 'sense' thus is translatable to three different levels do these levels relate to each other. Already earlier we used an agogic model to elucidate relations between different levels. We saw that we had to make thinking and feeling consistent with the deeper higher will and that that consistency of thinking and feeling then had to lead to a consistency of acting. Herewith we indicated relations between these four levels. Let us fit in the levels of sense in this model and where possible extend the model.

Surroundings: This concept forms an extension of the agogic model. Acting, feeling, thinking and willing all are related to the individual, and now we thus introduce the context in which those four concepts see themselves placed.

Senses: We see that the senses have not been included yet in the agogic model. The senses actually do the opposite of action. Action brings our inner experience outside to the context, and our senses bring the happenings in the outer context to our innerness through perception. The senses thus also enlarge the model. The working of the senses we can name 'perception'.

Experience: This is an interesting level. What is experience? Experience implies that there is an experiencer and a subject of experience. But what or who is it that experiences? I. But who am I? These are very essential questions and unfortunately there is no space here to go deeper into it. Let us stick to the subject and see on which level of our being human we can place experience. The dictionary gives to 'experience' the meaning of 'undergoing' [in Dutch 'ondervinden']. So experience is something which is gone through at the bottom [or uttermost under] (= deepest) of our being human. This deepest part of our being human we called the higher or universal self. This conclusion would imply that we in essence are that higher self, because we are the experiencer. As other word for 'undergoing' the dictionary gives 'realising' [in Dutch 'gewaarworden']. This word contains the word 'reality' (what is real is reality). So to realise is identifying yourself partly with reality [or truth]. And also that universal reality is taken in religions as synonym for God, so synonym for the higher within ourselves. Both meanings for 'experience' thus bring us to the same conclusion, namely that experience must be placed at the level of our higher self.

It is very important to be able to see the difference between the different levels. Experience is truly a different level. Many people will tend to confuse emotional feeling with experience but there is a big difference between for instance the experiencing of an angry feeling or to be angry. In the experiencing of anger there is the consideration of anger whereby no identification with that anger takes place. When we are in our emotion and are angry then there is the identification with that anger.

So experience we place at the level of our higher self. Earlier we also placed willing at that level of the deepest of our being human. Although these words 'experience' and 'willing' definitely are not synonymous we can place them on the same level. This level we named the universal self or the higher self. From this higher self thus emanate the two mentioned activities of willing and experiencing. Because experience is a different activity than willing we shall name these separately in the new model. Their relation shall be further touched upon when we consider the interaction between individual and surroundings.

We now have the following parts in our new model; surroundings, experience, acting, feeling, thinking, experiencing, willing.

Let us map that whole interaction of surroundings to innerness and from innerness to surroundings so we can after that place sense giving in that interaction.

An individual is placed in a certain context or certain surroundings of which he / she also is part. In those surroundings an event takes place. This event is objective. Everyone measuring the event measures the same. The senses perceive the event through smell, taste, sight, touch and hearing. The perception of the senses is then already not fully true because senses can have certain lacks (short-sightedness, hard skin, impaired hearing, etc.) but also in themselves have lacks. Eagles e.g. see better than humans. The sense of smell of dogs is better developed than ours. Thus we see the relativity of our own senses and thus already at the beginning of the process we see the relativity of objective perception. No matter how relative, the senses send the perceived to the mind. The mind orders the givens but usually also gives judgements of value to those objective events. In the mind is thus the objective event made subjective. Dependent upon the judgement of value the mind gives a certain impulse to the emotions. Dependent upon the judgement of value we become angry, sad, or fill in yourself the wide scope of emotions. From this emotion our mind receives again an impulse to act, and this impulse is by the mind sent to our organs of action (among other things; hands, feet, organ of speech) and an action on base of emotionality is born. The action then again has a certain effect on the context of the individual. The senses perceive this change, and the cycle repeats itself again.

It is also possible that the mind gives no judgement of value to the incoming data of the senses. The mind can order the events also in a logical and rational way. All processing then takes place on the level of the mind, and a logical rational and an aloof action shall be the result of this.

It can also be that the senses and organs of action give themselves a strong impulse for action to the mind. Our sense of taste for instance can stimulate us to the eating of something tasty. The mental and the emotional do not necessarily need to be present at these actions, although with most people some rational consideration or emotional feeling shall precede these impulses. Without intervention of the mind there is actually a direct connection between the senses and the organs of action. Let us name these impulses here 'instinct'.

Conclusively there is also another possibility. We earlier saw how the mind directing the emotional (by judgements of values) coaxes emotional reactions and that the mind directing the mind itself evokes rational action. It is however also possible that the mind withholds the sensual perceptions from judgements of values but that the mind directly sends the perceived to our universal self; the perceiver. This universal self, which encompasses the contexts but which individualised is also located in our deepest being human (and in fact is our deepest being human) experiences and sends its impulse for action to the mind through the will. Because this universal self encompasses and is both the individual and the universal shall actions from this impulse always be harmonious for individual and surroundings. We already saw this in the text about ethics. Condition for this possibility is however that the mind directs itself to this higher self and makes itself receptive for the impulses which it can receive from the will.

We see that in the castle of our body the senses (smell, taste, sight, touch and hearing) and the organs of action (among other things; speech, hands, feet) are the gates through which that which is located outside the walls can come in and that which is located inside the walls can be brought to the outside. The keeper at the gates is the mind. The keeper orders and coordinates what comes in and what goes out and has thus a central role. For the just execution of his tasks he needs to listen to his king, the universal self, who represents the ruling law both in the castle itself and in the country. It is the responsibility of the keeper to do the kings work and to stay deaf for the rebellious whisperings of other castle dwellers like emotion, rationality and lust.

Schematically we can depict the cycle as follows:

Spirituality, Ethics and Sense Giving

Figure 1.

We have to realise that the described and depicted cycle is a very simplified figure of a very complex happening and not all lines and possibilities are depicted. However a full description of these processes needs attention in book form and can in a relative short text like this not be complete. For this consideration the figure however can be enlightening.

We have depicted the relation between the different levels to understand the levels of sense better. We placed the meanings of sense on the levels of surroundings (usefulness), senses (sensuous enjoyment) and higher self (sense experience).

When we are talking about sense experience then we are talking about that deeper level of our being human. The level of the higher self. This is the only level where we can experience sense. We can be useful for the surroundings and we can enjoy our senses but the experience of sense on itself will always take place on that deeper level. Still the experience is not something standing on itself. For this an interaction with the outside world is needed. For earlier we stated that experience implies an experiencer and a subject of experience. The higher self is here the experiencer and the incoming impulse is the subject of experience. In the figure we see that that impulse comes from the mind. Because the mind is the first variable that lies before the experience we may conclude that the mind is an all determining factor in the measure of our experience and thus also in the measure of our sense experience. We saw that the mind only then sends the impulses from outside to the higher self when there is: an absence of: judgements of values leading to emotions, rational considerations, and a latent mind through which instinctive impulses determine the actions. Only when these three are absent and the mind is directed to the higher self can we come to a true experience of the context.

This leads to important conclusions in relation to the relations between the sense levels. When sense experience is dependent upon our mind, then what influence do usefulness and sensuous enjoyment have to our experiencing of sense? In themselves appear usefulness and sensuous enjoyment not to carry sense experience. We can produce thousands of products in one day, this is objectively measureable by everybody, but what sense value does this have for us as individual? It is the mind that gives a judgement of value to that production. When the mind gives the judgement of value that it is a lot and good then we become happy (emotional feeling). When the mind gives the judgement of value that it is too little and bad then we become sad or depressed (emotional feeling). When the mind starts to reason rationally then there follows a distant consideration without any involvement in the activity of producing. However when the mind directs itself to the universal self then there follows an involvement with the happening (because the universal self encompasses both the individual and the universal) and an experience on the deepest level of that happening. This experience then is real because then we are talking about pure realisation. We are involved with the whole but stay clean of any limiting judgement of value.

Conclusion: For the experience of sense are needed impulses from the outside. Conclusion: for the experience of sense the mind needs to be kept in the higher self to keep incoming impulses clean from emotional judgements of values and rationality, through which also an involvement of the individual with the situation is maintained. This regards thus an involved though detached and equanimeous stance.

Like the fire is covered with smoke,
like a mirror is covered by dust,
like an unborn child is enclosed in a membrane,
thus is also the wisdom in a human covered
by the insatiable fire of desire,
the mortal enemy of the Higher Self, O Kaunteya.

This desire lives in your senses, emotion and mind,
And covers the true knowledge regarding your Higher Self and brings you in confusion. [Krishna]

We may ask ourselves whether the useful has no value at all. The above mentioned involvement is a first step in the search for an answer to this question. For what is involvement? When we are involved with something, someone or a situation we feel a connectedness with that something, that someone or that situation. We feel a pure love, a part of our individual separateness drops off and an open channel for exchange between ourselves and the subject of involvement, or better; 'what we love', arises. Exchange. So in involvement it is not only so that the outer gives us impulses for realisation, it is also so that we give impulses to that outer, that man or that situation. And these impulses we can only give by action in the context. This process is for an important part already described in the text about ethics. The realisation of our individual connectedness at the deepest level of our being human with everything around us gives our mind through the will impulses for acting ethically within those surroundings. This ethical action, spurred on by the universal will, is directed to realising certain results in that context. Results that are for the good of the general harmony between individuals. So as far as the harmony in the surroundings is promoted the higher self is directed to the realising of 'useful' outer happenings.

Conclusion: Connectedness with the higher self, the basis of sense experience, spurs us on to also realise outer and thus in a certain sense 'useful' harmonious situations.

But why creating outer harmonious situations when the experience of sense is not dependent upon those outer situations? Here the senses come in view. We already saw the great central and determining role of the mind. We can direct the mind to the emotions, to the rationality itself, or direct the mind to the higher self. This is theoretically all true, but we all know that it isn't that easy in practise. Before we know it we lose ourselves in emotional situations or we ponder until we have a headache. This unsteady mind of ours worsens still when our senses send our mind chaotic impulses. In inharmonious and chaotic surroundings it is an extra challenge for our mind to stay clean from judgements of value and rationality. Still harder it is to direct the mind to the higher self and a connectedness with those chaotic surroundings. Not for nothing are our senses therefore out to take in harmonious impulses. Soft caresses, beautiful colours, enjoyable music and lovely scents which are picked up from the surroundings make it easier for our mind to feel connected with those surroundings and to direct itself to that higher self. Hereby it is of outmost import that our higher self stays in charge of the actions and that we do not get addicted to the sense pleasure. For then we break through to the glorification of individual instruments (for our senses are nothing more) by which the realised connectedness with our higher self and surroundings is nullified. Then the attention is not anymore with our higher self but with the senses themselves. The actions then are not directed anymore to the harmonising of the surroundings for the good of all, but to the selfish drawing to us of all that our insatiable senses take interest in.

A 'good' man eats and drinks to live,
a 'bad' man lives to eat and drink. [Socrates]

So enjoying harmonious impulses is fine as long as the goal of it is directed at maintaining the connection with the universal self.

Conclusions: Unselfish enjoyment of harmonious impulses helps to attune the mind to the higher self and thus unselfish enjoyment helps to experience sense.

So what we actually see is that our higher self is directed at making it easier for others to also make contact with their higher self (which actually is one) and that our higher self thus is also directed at making it easier for others to experience 'sense'. This by creation of harmonious situations which through the senses bring the mind of our brothers and sisters to a rest.

The above described cycle of sense giving can be summarized as follows: Experience of connectedness with the universe (the universal self), the experience of pure love, leads to sense experience. Experience of connectedness leads to impulses of the universal will in us to help other individuals to also experience that connectedness and sense. To help others to experience that connectedness and sense the universal will stimulates us to the harmonising of the surroundings, for harmonising impulses help others to direct their mind to the universal connectedness. So ethical acting. In how far the action for harmonisation leads to the aimed result does not need to have influence on our sense experience, as long as the mind is kept steady in the experience of connectedness with the universe. So a detached attitude. Unselfish enjoyment of harmonious impulses helps with the maintaining of the connection with the higher.

In this whole cycle lies sense experience. The giving and the receiving. The experience of that interaction and unity with everything around us. The experience and giving of pure love. The cycle is in this piece much unravelled to elucidate the different facets and their relations to each other. Actually however the cycle is one whole. The one facet grips into the other. The cycle sketches the importance to listen to the higher self to enact ethically, to create harmony in the surroundings, to help others a step ahead. And the cycle sketches the importance to consequently detach yourself from the results of your acting, not to give judgements of value to the results, but to stay steady and firm in that connectedness with your deepest self. His is the cycle that leads to the experience of sense. These ingredients: spirituality (connecting with your deepest being), ethical action (acting in the interest of others) and detachment (of outer results and things) must be present if we want to experience sense in our life. The more of these ingredients are present, the bigger our life fulfilment.

Those that abandoned the results of their action, O Dhananjaya, and have broken their doubts with spiritual wisdom, act in freedom and maintain their balance in the Higher Self. [Krishna]


Sequentially have the subjects of spirituality, ethics and sense giving passed. When we look back at the three considerations we see how much these subjects are connected to each other. The way in which the subjects are here considered made that the one subject actually is a supplement to the previous subject.

We started with spirituality and saw that spirituality can be described as 'connecting yourself with your own deepest innerness', which we here named as neutral as possible 'higher self' or 'universal self'. That connecting with your higher self we expanded to results in the surroundings. This we did with the subject of ethics. Connecting with your soul and daring to listen to it results in ethical acting. Conclusively was with the piece about sense giving the cycle completed by indicating the importance of inner detachment of the results of your ethical action. Only by contacting your soul, listening and obeying to it by ethical action, and consequently detaching yourself from the result of your action, you can come to sense experience. As common thread through all this ran the mind as directing factor. With the directing of the mind we contact our inner will, in the mind we come to ethical choices of action, and in the mind we direct our spirit to an even, detached attitude.

That a short text like this cannot cover everything, and that many facets have stayed unelucidated shall be clear. Hopefully is the reader nevertheless tuned to pondering about the importance of spirituality – in whatever form – in everybody's life. Spirituality is a part of our being human and if we neglect that part we deficit ourselves, ánd everyone with whom we have contact.