… [O]ur normal waking consciousness, rational consciousness as we call it, is but one special type of consciousness, whilst all about it, parted from it by the filmiest of screens, there lie potential forms of consciousness entirely different. We may go through life without suspecting their existence; but apply the requisite
stimulus, and at a touch they are there … No account of the universe in its totality can be final which leaves these other forms of consciousness quite disregarded. [William James, The Varieties of Religious Experience, 388].
When we profess a sincere, firmly held belief, we persevere despite overwhelming challenges. We deprive ourselves of pleasure because a greater benefit or advantage is to be gained. However, who would sacrifice for something they do not respect, admire and love?
It [fasting] is simply a way to make clear that we sufficiently reverence the amazing opportunity to ask help from the everlasting God, the Creator of the universe, to choose to put everything else aside and concentrate on worshiping, asking forgiveness, and making our requests known – considering His help more important than anything we could do ourselves in our own strength and with our own ideas. [Edith Schaeffer].
Spiritual consciousness defines our piety, reverence and fears. It involves worship, obedience, self-restraint and righteous deeds. Essentially, it is a psychological state in which sanctity becomes the primary focus of our attention.
Human motivations are grounded in pleasure and pain. To a believer, the ultimate source of both is God.
We love the pleasure and joy that come from Divine mercy and beneficence, and we fear the consequences of disobeying or displeasing God.
The strongest wish of a vast number of earnest men and women today is for a basis of religious belief which shall rest, not upon tradition or external authority or historical evidence, but upon the ascertainable facts of human experience. The craving for immediacy, which we have seen to be characteristic of all mysticism, now takes the form of a desire to establish the validity of the God-consciousness as a normal part of the healthy inner life. [W. R. Inge, Light, Life, and Love].
The Fast and the Frivolous
Fasting helps us overcome spiritual complacency. Until our consciousness rises above frivolous ambitions and transient hopes, we remain bound to insignificant behavior, idling in the shallows of low expectations.
Fasting is important, more important perhaps, than many of us have supposed . . . when exercised with a pure heart and a right motive, fasting may provide us with a key to unlock doors where other keys have failed; a window opening up new horizons in the unseen world; a spiritual weapon of God’s provision, mighty, to the pulling down of strongholds. [Arthur Wallis, God’s Chosen Fast].
Fasting prompts the mind toward loftier thoughts, toward acts of devotion and remembrance of God. Together with prayer, they filter out the dregs of impure thoughts, allowing greater Divine awareness to prevail.
And when you have this intention to please God in all your actions, as the happiest and best thing in the world, you will find in you as great an aversion to everything that is vain and impertinent in common life, whether of business or pleasure, as you now have to anything that is profane… [William Law, A Serious Call to a Devout and Holy Life, Ch. 2].
Fasting and Cognition
Fasting elevates our spiritual consciousness. As we know, the fasting brain uses an emergency, backup fuel for energy: ketone bodies. When our cognitive processes rely on energy from ketone bodies, we function on a different frequency.
Normally, our body converts carbohydrates into glucose for energy. However, when we use up our glucose, our body switches to ketonic energy. During periods of food deprivation, our digestive system breaks down stored fatty acids and converts them into ketone bodies. These substitute for glucose as fuel for the brain. It can be argued that since ketone bodies are the only available alternative to glucose for brain’s energy, ketosis was a critical evolutionary development to provision man’s hypertrophied brain while sparing muscle mass. [Richard L. Veech, Ketone Bodies, Potential Therapeutic Uses].
The altered consciousness produced by ketonic energy reflects our weakened condition. We are no longer poised to respond physically to our environment. Bowed by our frailty, unable to depend on physical strength, we turn to spiritual consciousness.
Without the abundance of glucose derived from a normal diet, we generate no rebellious attitude or arrogant demeanor. Our brain now easily adapts to a program of obedience – and obedience is vital to spiritual consciousness.
There is nothing more harmful to the believer’s heart than having too much food, for it brings about two things; hardness of heart and arousal of desires. Hunger is a condiment for believers, nourishment for the spirit, food for the heart, and health for the body. The Holy Prophet said, ‘The son of Adam fills no worse vessel than his belly.’ [Imam Ja’far al-Sadiq, Lantern of the Path, Section 34].