How to be spiritual
without necessarily being religious?
It occurred to me
recently that I see an ever growing number of people who are spiritually
minded, who have beliefs that recognise either a supreme being, a greater
whole, or something which can be collectively called god. And, yet they
feel disconnected from most traditional religions, or feel that religions
are not providing the answers in a form in which they can relate.
So, where do you
go to connect, if you don't follow the lingo of the latins or the mantra
of the muslims? How do you follow the "Lord of the Dance"
if you feel your rhythm is more freestyle, when the available options
seem to be a formation waltz or the military two step? How do you "tune
in to god" on a radio with only preset channels?
I would like to
make it clear, that I am not anti-religion, but I am pro-choice.
I do not want to
be merely quoted information from a book which is deemed to be the word
of god, but I do want to understand and know the essence and the values
which inspired it.
It is not enough
to read a particular written doctrine and say this is absolute truth,
this is the word of god, this is the law above all others and must be
followed without question.
I do question. I
want to know - how can a text, which has been translated and revised
from it's original inception still be accurate to the original "word
of god"? Even if it was, how could it be absolutely and totally
relevant today when written from the context of centuries ago? And even
accepting all of that, how can the essence of god really be condensed
into words without losing something in the process?
For example, no
matter how eloquently, I might be able to describe the taste of an orange,
it would still fall far short of what the real taste of orange was like.
I might read a book about oranges as a starting point to learning and
knowledge, just as I might read a religious text to start to know god.
But, it is only a starting point, a guide along the way and a signpost
I might also search
out knowledgeable people, just as I would look for others who have experienced
oranges and who might also help me in my studies, perhaps even show
me where to find one or how they enjoy them. However, if they tell me
that THEY are the only one with the key to the orangery or that I have
to join the Orange Appreciation Society in order to get near enough
for a sniff, then I start to think that it's not just oranges that I
It is when exclusivity
creeps into religious attitudes, where the rituals and rites seem to
take precedence over the core values of our spiritual unity, that I
start to look for answers elsewhere.
All these "good
books", waved fervently by their devotees as badges of allegiance
might be based on spiritual values, but people being people, often put
people focused interpretations on them and then they lose some of the
divine essence to baser human frailties.
Most of the "good
books" could really be refined down to a few essential principles
upon which all interpretations of them would be based. That way, freedom
to choose a particular way needn't violate someone else's choice about
their path, because they are both still based upon the same fundamental
principles. By trying to be a step-by-step guide to heaven, a good book's
focus on one route often excludes other options, which may be equally
valid. Added to that, human nature has a tendency to validate it's own
beliefs by reinforcement (sometimes forcefully) and by denigrating anything
else that doesn't fit or follow.
To illustrate -
here is one core principle that you can find in most "good books"
in some form or other:
as YOU wish to be treated".
This very simple
but profound principle gets trodden on and trampled to death by all
the presumptions of rightfulness, the intentions of the righteous and
the glory of the mighty.
who go into battle, with their "good book" in hand ready to
impose their righteousness, their lifestyle, their beliefs, their way
on others, also expect to be treated in that same way. After all, if
they are following the instructions of their own "good book"
they must be acting how THEY wish to be treated!
And, if someone
abuses another in the name of some "good intention", whether
they perceive it to be for "their own good", or the greater
good, it also means that they expect the same treatment if the tables
History is littered
with the debris from "good intentions" and "righteous
warring", but are we really living now in more enlightened times?
Personally, I feel
disappointed by the standards being upheld by many religions.
Too many religious
leaders are allowing fanaticism to become established at the expense
of unity and the expansion of all humanity.
Too many are turning
blind eyes to behaviour that subverts the morals and ethics of which
they espouse, and in doing so teach double standards to those who look
to them for a spiritual lead.
Too many are becoming
entrenched in their own dogma rather than inspiring others through enlightened
Too many are taking
judgmental stands and preaching intolerance and separatism rather than
acceptance and union.
Too many expect
rigid adherence to a rule book and expect rituals to be undertaken "religiously".
In fact the term
"religiously" has now taken on slightly negative connotations
and is often used in other contexts to indicate following an idea or
ideal slavishly and without question.
However, it is through
asking questions that we expand our knowledge and that we increase understanding.
We may step out of the comfort zone of routine perhaps, but we are then
able to discover something greater than we previously knew or were.
We may still have faith in a higher existence, we may still trust that
we will reach it, but each day we can ask ourselves - which path shall
I take? who's company do I choose? who am I? what are my values?
IF WE STOP ASKING
QUESTIONS, WE STOP GROWING.
If we stop growing
and expanding our spirit, we are merely following a familiar groove
and are invariably looking down rather than upwards or 'god'-wards.
Hargreaves 5th April 2005)
How to be spiritual without necessarily being religious - Hark.net.au