Monday, May 08, 2006

What is spirituality?

Last sunday I went to an Anglical church to hear a talk. The title was "Arrogance! Is Jesus really the only way?" I thought is sounded as though there would be inquiry and broadening of the conventional orthodox N.T. picture of Jesus - who he really was and what was his mission. Instead it was quite the opposite. The talk and the service itself was rabid evangelicalism.

Spirituality is such a vague term that it can be taken to mean almost anything one wants it to mean. But I think I have some idea about what it is not. It is not to do with morality, though it has a lot to do with ethics. It is not comforting institutionalized support and ritual for those who want simple answers or for those who think 'being linked to the spiritual' involves beliefs based on authority, tradition and revelation.

It is not, either, attacks on people or ideas that those who wish to keep order and power in their own hands don't like, such as a bohemian emphasis on the erotic as deviating from the general obsessive ideas more 'conventional' people have about sex. (There's a lot of envy around.)

The spiritual person will be willing to debate and cite evidence for anything he or she puts forward as believable. There is no evidence whatsoever for God or for the authenticity of any 'holy' person or tradition as a mouthpiece of God, or any 'holy' book as having been dictated or divinely inspired by God. All such ideas are based on un-evidenced beliefs; and are social and political 'tools' for the exercise of power.

In themselves these ideas and beliefs, doctrines etc. have nothing to do with spirituality. They are sheer gobbledegook. I might then be challenged to define positively what I think spirituality is. Spirituality has to be felt, not believed in; though in expressing the feeling for spirituality we humans make wonderful use of works of artistry, symbols and myths. It just has to be remembered that these are 'pictures' that give us a relationship to reality, and not set up as dogmatics relating us directly to the 'real' behind phenomena.

All these things that constitute ways of feeling 'spiritual' are only effective if they promote self-understanding. And from that 'spiritualized' kind of self understanding emerges individualization. True individualization makes us 'citizens' of the whole natural world - even - as it were - 'citizens' and at-home in the whole universe. All other citizenships and affiliations - whether secular or religious - become secondary and subordinate. That seems to me to be the true process of seeking and becoming 'spriritual' and understanding what is spirituality.


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