(Photo: Who or what plays the leading role in your spiritual life? Credit: Mojoey.)
I can understand that Scooby-Doo “Hruhh?” response some faithful readers have had. I think it begs the question: how do you define “spiritual” in the first place?
Traditional Judeo-Christian perspectives center around the idea of an external, omnipotent God, clearly separated from man and everyday life. We are viewed as being from God and carrying God with us. Yet we are also considered to be at the mercy of the Divine, and held accountable to God for our actions.
When my traditional Christian and Jewish friends speak of spirit, they frequently cite the names of cherished personages who appear in the cosmology of their particular faiths, and invoke those names in times of crisis.
There is great power in relying upon the Divine in this manner. But for some people, it can make it hard to see that there are other, equally valid paths to awakening spirit and touching the Divine. Much Eastern spiritual thought does not name the Divine, or invokes the names of deities and spiritual leaders with the full understanding that doing so is merely symbolic. (Buddha, for example, is very much understood to have been an ordinary person by adherents of Buddhism, not a deity).
My spiritual worldview is based in such Eastern thought. It is similar to my Judeo-Christian friends’ worldviews in that I believe in an all-encompassing, loving consciousness, from which we spring and that we carry with us throughout our lives.
However, if I were to name God, I wouldn’t point the finger out there. I would point it back to each and every one of us, instead. In my tradition, there is no separation between God and us and everyday life. Everything is Divine. Everyone is Divine. Every moment is holy. For me, the sum of us, small as it is but added to the incomprehensibly greater sum of All That Is, literally is universal consciousness–i.e. God.
Or try it this way. I do believe we carry around a “holy spirit” with is. But I don’t believe it is in addition to who we are. I believe it is who and what we are: a very literal part of what others might call God.
For anyone confused about the cast of characters I cite in my spiritual awakening, this is the main point, from which everything else springs for me. Radical personal responsibility about our lives, an inherent ability to make miraculous transformations happen, the absolute powerlessness of past-based fears and limitations, and innate and limitless wells of love and compassion? For me, they all spring from the Source. In my perhaps hard-core view, we are just more a part of that Source than more traditionally spiritual Westerners might claim.
And that’s a fine difference–a fabulous difference, even. I don’t pretend to think that my way or anyone else’s is the one and only way to ultimate truth. I can’t imagine the Divine would be so limited as to give us a single way to get there. I honor everyone else’s spiritual leaders and traditions, and I recognize that we are all aiming at the same target. The more we let our ideas about God turn into concrete and immovabe forms, the more trouble we get into as a human race.
I think it’s a shame that so many people go through their lives professing beliefs about God and faith that they haven’t examined and personally validated from deep inside. I love my Universe, deep down I know why, and I mean it when I say it. It’s a blessing to find your tradition and live it like that.
But to my mind, it’s a curse to espouse religious views as an adult just because your parents told you to do so when you were a child. Many people say they adhere to one traditional (or non-traditional) viewpoint or another about God. But I think far fewer have actually ever considered those beliefs enough to tell you why they hold them. That strikes me as hollow spirituality.
I don’t know what that kind of unexamined faith gets you. I do know that if someone told me they loved me, from the bottom of my heart I would hope that they meant it.
How do you think Jesus would feel?
Categories: Spiritual Awakening
Michael Thaddeus Doyle
I'm a NYC-native, Latino, Jew-by-choice, hardcore WDW fan in Chicago with an Irish last name. I believe in social justice, big cities, and public transit. I do nonprofit development. I've written this blog since 2005. Believe in the world you want to live in.