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markdohle

Babel

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Babel

We live in a time of doubt. Even believers, those who follow a certain religious/spiritual path are often confronted by doubt. Perhaps one reason is that we no longer live in a culture that is ‘Christian’, that is we can’t be carried by cultural faith any more, simply doing what others are doing and in that find ourselves carried along with the others. Today our society is filled with many different voices, each expressing their own opinion and experiences to all who will listen.

There is atheism, which though not a large group is very vocal in where they stand. There are the Agnostics, then those who call themselves ‘none’s’, and of course there is new age, pagans, Satanist, those who believe in some sort of ‘alien agenda/religion’….the list is endless. Perhaps we are living in a time of ‘Babel’, a lot of noise about what is the meaning of our lives and why we are here.

Religion has a bad name today and in the United States, it is the Christian religion that gets the most hits…..many of them are deserved, others not so much so. There is a term used nowadays that states this stance: “I am spiritual not religious”. This of course can work for many, though there has to be some tradition that is tied into no matter how loosely. Though religion is rejected, the fruits and wisdom of these traditions are used, though often mixed with this and that. I believe one without the other weakens the one who is over balanced one way or the other. Balance is difficult, and I am not saying I have achieved that at this time of my life.

Most people with whom I speak to who think of themselves ‘spiritual’ in actuality do align themselves with a well worn path, even if done so loosely. For instance many follow Buddhism, or the Christian path, they just don’t belong to a Church, Temple, Mosque or congregation. I do think that the center that is missing is community with all that that implies. All the wonderful gifts of fellowship, along with other things that caused many to leave their past affiliation so easily (though often with much pain and anger as well) into seeking truth on an individual basis. I am not downplaying the pain that many have gone through from their past affiliation with religion, and at times it is best for them not to return. However not to seek to understand what their traditions teaches may keep them from freeing themselves from its baneful influence. Anger is relational, intimate, even if not life giving. There is the ‘tar baby’ affect that anger can curse those who carry it throughout their life.

Many think that spirituality should be pleasant, everyone sunny and nice, no human problems of any consequence etc. This is often unconscious. I find it interesting in an age where so many believe that there is really no truth, that all truths are equal, or that there is no objective right or wrong, are the ones who react in often childish and hurtful ways, not only towards themselves but also others, when confronted with the human situation; which is not pleasant, nor sunny, but in fact often painful and challenging.

We are all on someone’s list, wherein we can cause them pain or deep frustration just by our humanity, by our inner and outer struggles and immaturity. So people go from one group to another or end up by themselves where they gift themselves with the grace of personal infallibility. Christians do that a lot, each the only interrupter of what is true or false in the Gospel, what is important, and most of all, who gets into heaven or best of all for many, who goes to hell. Which are always those who disagree with them, well mostly, not all do that.

Free thinkers and atheist are not much better, at least the vocal ones. I guess their pronouncements like those of believers of any path that over-speak, are ignored since it is known what they are going to say in advance. Easy communication can lead to over exposure and a jaded attitude to what others will say.

The problem is how things are said. No one wants to be yelled at, put down, or forced to carry the insecurities of those who can’t stand others who think or believe differently than they do. I think it is time to get over trying to change what others believe and to learn to gently, without force, or being insulting, state what we believe and why we think and believe the way we do. Of course that will one day happen, when pigs fly, or when Glen Beck becomes a liberal, or Obama a conservative, which may take some time, a lot of time.

Edited by markdohle
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Well said, Mark. Words from and for the wise. Productive engagement is different from mere tolerance, and both are different from blithe acceptance. We all could use more of the openness and willingness to learn of which you write.

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Anyone with a cell phone has instant access to the entirety of human knowledge at his fingertips. The age of religion is coming to a close as this access to information bears it's fruit: a single global consciousness is beginning to emerge as we all pool our thoughts instead of simply relaying them.

I like that phrase you mentioned, "I'm spiritual, not religious" - that sums it up perfectly. As we turn our gaze away from ancient desert religions and instead focus on the possibility of other dimensions, other universes, the origin of consciousness...we begin to realize there is so much more to reality than what our brain interprets through our 5 senses and that there are no "right" or "wrong" religions, simply many interpretations of the same great spirit.

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Well said, Mark. Words from and for the wise. Productive engagement is different from mere tolerance, and both are different from blithe acceptance. We all could use more of the openness and willingness to learn of which you write.

Well said my friend.

Peace

Mark

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Anyone with a cell phone has instant access to the entirety of human knowledge at his fingertips. The age of religion is coming to a close as this access to information bears it's fruit: a single global consciousness is beginning to emerge as we all pool our thoughts instead of simply relaying them.

I like that phrase you mentioned, "I'm spiritual, not religious" - that sums it up perfectly. As we turn our gaze away from ancient desert religions and instead focus on the possibility of other dimensions, other universes, the origin of consciousness...we begin to realize there is so much more to reality than what our brain interprets through our 5 senses and that there are no "right" or "wrong" religions, simply many interpretations of the same great spirit.

It is going to become very interesting my friend.

Peace

mark

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I wonder where the concept of "I'm spiritual more than religious" even came from? It's a theme from a couple of contemporary threads, but no one's really produced a compelling distinction. The best that can be said is that spirituality is personal while religion is communal, but that just doesn't blend with the definition of the two terms.

But with that said, I liked the general premise of this thread. Community is a big part of what it means to be human. Organised religion (which, in my opinion is often mistakenly compared to "spirituality" as synonymous with "religion") provides one such outlet for that community, and humans grow and adapt based on this need for community.

Thanks for sharing :)

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This is just one perspective: It seems to me that spirituality refers to ways of exploring and connecting with meta-feelings and meta-ideas which may or may not be encompassed by a religion or religions. Religions are more circumscribed and self-contained, and often (not always) are mutually exclusive from one another.

Religion is almost always spiritual in a private or public manner, but spirituality is not dependent on any one established religion.

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I wonder where the concept of "I'm spiritual more than religious" even came from? It's a theme from a couple of contemporary threads, but no one's really produced a compelling distinction. The best that can be said is that spirituality is personal while religion is communal, but that just doesn't blend with the definition of the two terms.

But with that said, I liked the general premise of this thread. Community is a big part of what it means to be human. Organised religion (which, in my opinion is often mistakenly compared to "spirituality" as synonymous with "religion") provides one such outlet for that community, and humans grow and adapt based on this need for community.

Thanks for sharing :)

I think spirituality is a personal journey (I hate describing it like that but seems the easiest way to do it) to find ones true self and therefore lead to a stage of enlightenment, in turn accepting the oneness of everything.

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I think spirituality is a personal journey (I hate describing it like that but seems the easiest way to do it) to find ones true self and therefore lead to a stage of enlightenment, in turn accepting the oneness of everything.

A good way to look at it. I do think that belonging to a tradition and actually studying it, is also a help. There is a lot of collective wisdom that we can all learn from......oneness being the main one I believe that we need to learn.

peace

mark

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Posted (edited)

I wonder where the concept of "I'm spiritual more than religious" even came from? It's a theme from a couple of contemporary threads, but no one's really produced a compelling distinction. The best that can be said is that spirituality is personal while religion is communal, but that just doesn't blend with the definition of the two terms.

But with that said, I liked the general premise of this thread. Community is a big part of what it means to be human. Organised religion (which, in my opinion is often mistakenly compared to "spirituality" as synonymous with "religion") provides one such outlet for that community, and humans grow and adapt based on this need for community.

Thanks for sharing :)

I very much enjoyed reading your blog Mark, and you can count me as a fan of your writing!

I see religion as a kind of metaphysical GPS that sets us down a path and guides us to a destination; its outward forms, signs and observances are waypoints along the route. They remind us of where we are going and how to get there. One of the problems I have with those who identify themselves as "spiritual but not religious" is that they have no such GPS. Those who are "spiritual but not religious" focus on the supposed inner experience as opposed to the outward forms of religion. Simply put, in our postmodern age people find religion to be "dull" because they ONLY see the outward forms and observances, and thus they want something "more." Why sit in a "church" when you can "experience" God or some supernatural reality?

Is it any wonder that this "spiritual but not religious" idea is almost entirely a western phenomena? Because our society prizes radical individualism above all else; is it any wonder that a spirituality would be crafted to match that ideal? This is basically what you were rightly pointing out in your post, PA. Western society thrives on individuality and our pop culture spirituality mirrors that. What we have done is to foolishly attempt to divorce spirituality from religion; for if you go to a country that has strong religious views; the two are not divorced as religion AND spirituality play an integral part in daily life. For example, when I visited my wife's home country of the Philippines that is strongly Roman Catholic; the entire town where her family lives would gather to pray a dawn Rosary and then go to Mass as an entire community at sunrise. There should be a fusion between religion and spirituality; not a division.

But this is part and parcel of the new age movement. The idea of a "spiritual but not religious" is little more than a glorification of the human ego; suggesting that truth somehow comes from within rather than without. The "self" becomes the 'absolute' standard for defining what is true and what isn't; thus I make God in MY OWN image, and I can make that God look however I want Him/Her/It to because I go to the spiritual buffet table of self; pick out what I like and ignore what I don't. I don't like hell, I don't believe in it. I don't like green beans, I don't want that on my plate. I cannot help but see this new age spirituality as nothing more than ego glorification; this foolish idea that "I am the center of the universe" and all I have to do is "ask the universe" to give me what I want and I will get it. But without religion there is no structure, there is no accountability. All I have is my own arbitrary and subjective standard for determining what is true and what isn't. By following this model I would argue that we are not worshiping God at all; we are worshiping OURSELVES and calling it God. The individual, the ego, the "I" has become IT'S OWN Tower of Babel. I will make my own way and my own path to the heavens, thank you very much!!

To those who crave something "more" than what they think organised religion offers; it is in part our fault because we do not properly explain the spiritual aspects of our religions. They simply do not understand the profundity of the outward signs operating within the religious system. Take for example, the Eucharist or Communion. Communion is an outward sign of an inward grace in which Christ becomes SPIRITUALLY present in the bread and wine; the act is a supernatural one; it is God Himself breaking into space and time, into the material world. But do we EXPLAIN that? We just DO it. Some churches have gone so far as to call it simply a "memorial." In short, we have been a part of the problem; divorcing our spirituality from our religion. The "spiritual but not religious" divorce spirituality from religion, and WE divorce spirituality from religion.

My favorite Christian writers are not the pastors of today; my favorite Christian writers are the mystics of old. You will find me reading people like Saint John of the Cross, Saint Teresa of Avila, Saint Catherine of Genoa and others before you would find me reading someone like Joel Osteen. There is such a rich mystical and contemplative spirituality within our own system of Christianity and yet we have all but buried it underneath dogma, outward observances without explanation and preaching that looks more like a self-help book than one of spiritual depth. We could easily 'court' the spiritual but not religious crowd if we would but stand on our own Sacred Tradition and bring it into the 21st century.

The two should never be divorced from one another; one should not be spiritual but not religious or religious but not spiritual. One should be both religious AND spiritual.

We have to help people get out of this narcissistic self-absorption that has been branded as 'spirituality' because what good is an inward grace, an inner experience if it bears no outward fruit? As Saint Teresa of Avila rightly pointed out; one becomes wholly dependent upon these supposed experiences. Without 'consolations' as she called them, they can no longer function properly. They are like ships being tossed about in a storm at sea. This is the difference of the mystical experience from WITHIN a religious system; the experience always causes the visionary to produce outward fruit. St. John of the Cross was a teacher who founded a religious order, as did Saint Teresa of Avila. Mother Teresa had one mystical experience and from that, dedicated the rest of her life to helping the sick and the poor. Gandhi had a mystical experience and brought about a non-violent. The Buddha, after reaching enlightenment traveled extensively and taught his path to enlightenment to all who would listen.

The inner mystical experience should cause us to want to change the world; not to retreat within the self.

Edited by Marcus Aurelius
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I very much enjoyed reading your blog Mark, and you can count me as a fan of your writing!

I see religion as a kind of metaphysical GPS that sets us down a path and guides us to a destination; its outward forms, signs and observances are waypoints along the route. They remind us of where we are going and how to get there. One of the problems I have with those who identify themselves as "spiritual but not religious" is that they have no such GPS. Those who are "spiritual but not religious" focus on the supposed inner experience as opposed to the outward forms of religion. Simply put, in our postmodern age people find religion to be "dull" because they ONLY see the outward forms and observances, and thus they want something "more." Why sit in a "church" when you can "experience" God or some supernatural reality?

Is it any wonder that this "spiritual but not religious" idea is almost entirely a western phenomena? Because our society prizes radical individualism above all else; is it any wonder that a spirituality would be crafted to match that ideal? This is basically what you were rightly pointing out in your post, PA. Western society thrives on individuality and our pop culture spirituality mirrors that. What we have done is to foolishly attempt to divorce spirituality from religion; for if you go to a country that has strong religious views; the two are not divorced as religion AND spirituality play an integral part in daily life. For example, when I visited my wife's home country of the Philippines that is strongly Roman Catholic; the entire town where her family lives would gather to pray a dawn Rosary and then go to Mass as an entire community at sunrise. There should be a fusion between religion and spirituality; not a division.

But this is part and parcel of the new age movement. The idea of a "spiritual but not religious" is little more than a glorification of the human ego; suggesting that truth somehow comes from within rather than without. The "self" becomes the 'absolute' standard for defining what is true and what isn't; thus I make God in MY OWN image, and I can make that God look however I want Him/Her/It to because I go to the spiritual buffet table of self; pick out what I like and ignore what I don't. I don't like hell, I don't believe in it. I don't like green beans, I don't want that on my plate. I cannot help but see this new age spirituality as nothing more than ego glorification; this foolish idea that "I am the center of the universe" and all I have to do is "ask the universe" to give me what I want and I will get it. But without religion there is no structure, there is no accountability. All I have is my own arbitrary and subjective standard for determining what is true and what isn't. By following this model I would argue that we are not worshiping God at all; we are worshiping OURSELVES and calling it God. The individual, the ego, the "I" has become IT'S OWN Tower of Babel. I will make my own way and my own path to the heavens, thank you very much!!

To those who crave something "more" than what they think organised religion offers; it is in part our fault because we do not properly explain the spiritual aspects of our religions. They simply do not understand the profundity of the outward signs operating within the religious system. Take for example, the Eucharist or Communion. Communion is an outward sign of an inward grace in which Christ becomes SPIRITUALLY present in the bread and wine; the act is a supernatural one; it is God Himself breaking into space and time, into the material world. But do we EXPLAIN that? We just DO it. Some churches have gone so far as to call it simply a "memorial." In short, we have been a part of the problem; divorcing our spirituality from our religion. The "spiritual but not religious" divorce spirituality from religion, and WE divorce spirituality from religion.

My favorite Christian writers are not the pastors of today; my favorite Christian writers are the mystics of old. You will find me reading people like Saint John of the Cross, Saint Teresa of Avila, Saint Catherine of Genoa and others before you would find me reading someone like Joel Osteen. There is such a rich mystical and contemplative spirituality within our own system of Christianity and yet we have all but buried it underneath dogma, outward observances without explanation and preaching that looks more like a self-help book than one of spiritual depth. We could easily 'court' the spiritual but not religious crowd if we would but stand on our own Sacred Tradition and bring it into the 21st century.

The two should never be divorced from one another; one should not be spiritual but not religious or religious but not spiritual. One should be both religious AND spiritual.

We have to help people get out of this narcissistic self-absorption that has been branded as 'spirituality' because what good is an inward grace, an inner experience if it bears no outward fruit? As Saint Teresa of Avila rightly pointed out; one becomes wholly dependent upon these supposed experiences. Without 'consolations' as she called them, they can no longer function properly. They are like ships being tossed about in a storm at sea. This is the difference of the mystical experience from WITHIN a religious system; the experience always causes the visionary to produce outward fruit. St. John of the Cross was a teacher who founded a religious order, as did Saint Teresa of Avila. Mother Teresa had one mystical experience and from that, dedicated the rest of her life to helping the sick and the poor. Gandhi had a mystical experience and brought about a non-violent. The Buddha, after reaching enlightenment traveled extensively and taught his path to enlightenment to all who would listen.

The inner mystical experience should cause us to want to change the world; not to retreat within the self.

This is very well written and important. I am going to share this on my blog.

Peace

Mark

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Posted (edited)

Thanks for the kind words, I very much appreciate it and you sharing it! Please add "non-violent revolution" to the Gandhi part. I made a typo there and mistakenly left that out lol. Or no worries, I just added it as a comment on your blog and for hear. The sentence should read:

Edit: "Gandhi had a mystical experience and brought about a non-violent REVOLUTION."

Edited by Marcus Aurelius
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I see religion as a kind of metaphysical GPS that sets us down a path and guides us to a destination; its outward forms, signs and observances are waypoints along the route. They remind us of where we are going and how to get there. One of the problems I have with those who identify themselves as "spiritual but not religious" is that they have no such GPS.

What if the religion itself is operating on a flawed "GPS"? If we follow religious teaching, we can just as easily lose our way through lack of discernment by blindly accepting what is taught simply because the religion tells us this is so. Worshipping at an altar of wood and stone but having no sense of what it is we are truly worshipping.

Is it any wonder that this "spiritual but not religious" idea is almost entirely a western phenomena? Because our society prizes radical individualism above all else; is it any wonder that a spirituality would be crafted to match that ideal?

I believe it is oversimplifying the issue to suggest it is about a narcissistic or egoic approach to belief. Religion is it's own worst enemy in that the message can be lost in the personal biases and preferences of individual preachers of the faiths and their view of the scriptures. They are human and fallible after all. Further the churches preferred view of the nature of the scriptures can often disallow alternative views and deny a healthy scepticism of that which we have no actual proof of in our own experiences with belief thus far.

But this is part and parcel of the new age movement. The idea of a "spiritual but not religious" is little more than a glorification of the human ego; suggesting that truth somehow comes from within rather than without. The "self" becomes the 'absolute' standard for defining what is true and what isn't; thus I make God in MY OWN image, and I can make that God look however I want Him/Her/It to because I go to the spiritual buffet table of self; pick out what I like and ignore what I don't. I don't like hell, I don't believe in it. I don't like green beans, I don't want that on my plate. I cannot help but see this new age spirituality as nothing more than ego glorification; this foolish idea that "I am the center of the universe" and all I have to do is "ask the universe" to give me what I want and I will get it. But without religion there is no structure, there is no accountability. All I have is my own arbitrary and subjective standard for determining what is true and what isn't. By following this model I would argue that we are not worshiping God at all; we are worshiping OURSELVES and calling it God. The individual, the ego, the "I" has become IT'S OWN Tower of Babel. I will make my own way and my own path to the heavens, thank you very much!!

I agree that the structure of religion is necessary to disseminate the teaching but once it has been applied - do we not graduate and further explore our own "thesis" on the subject at some point? Continuing in ritual for rituals sake and partaking in repetative lectures without venturing and experiencing/testing what we have been taught is not going to progress our understanding, it is only going to make us loyal to the religion. If we don't like hell - it may not be the existence of hell we have a problem with but peoples and the churches use of the existence of hell to control the actions of believers through fear of it and it may have more to do with our belief that fear is negative and should not be used against others the is the cause of the disquiet. It is not so simple as creating our own God, it is a matter of understanding if we are worshipping a God created in the image of others and not God himself.

To those who crave something "more" than what they think organised religion offers; it is in part our fault because we do not properly explain the spiritual aspects of our religions. They simply do not understand the profundity of the outward signs operating within the religious system.

Here's the thing - The Kingdom of Heaven is with us, at some point the journey turns inward.

Take for example, the Eucharist or Communion. Communion is an outward sign of an inward grace in which Christ becomes SPIRITUALLY present in the bread and wine; the act is a supernatural one; it is God Himself breaking into space and time, into the material world. But do we EXPLAIN that? We just DO it. Some churches have gone so far as to call it simply a "memorial." In short, we have been a part of the problem; divorcing our spirituality from our religion. The "spiritual but not religious" divorce spirituality from religion, and WE divorce spirituality from religion.

Agreed, I had to leave my faith to discover the nature of my faith because the church was not providing me the insights with which to do so. The journey away from religion into spirituality is not by default a negative process. It was only by going out and discovering through personal experiences away from the dogmas and rituals of religion that I discovered a deep reservoir of faith within and with that came a true comprehension of the nature of the rituals of religious practice. I became a religious proponent by exploring it's veracity in the world at large, not by remaining an automaton of ritual without personal insight. Exploration of my faith awakened a sense of the sacred within me and a deep respect for the efforts of all seekers, within religious institutions and without, I finally understand the depth of integrity in the efforts of those who hold religions together against the constant waves of dissent and disbelief.

My favorite Christian writers are not the pastors of today; my favorite Christian writers are the mystics of old. You will find me reading people like Saint John of the Cross, Saint Teresa of Avila, Saint Catherine of Genoa and others before you would find me reading someone like Joel Osteen. There is such a rich mystical and contemplative spirituality within our own system of Christianity and yet we have all but buried it underneath dogma, outward observances without explanation and preaching that looks more like a self-help book than one of spiritual depth. We could easily 'court' the spiritual but not religious crowd if we would but stand on our own Sacred Tradition and bring it into the 21st century.

Yes, we could court the spiritual crowd by providing a better understanding of nature of spiritual growth within a person. Not once in my catholic upbringing were the benefits of meditation disseminated to me. Now, you can go to most churches and they will offer meditation classes as part of the parish.

The two should never be divorced from one another; one should not be spiritual but not religious or religious but not spiritual. One should be both religious AND spiritual.

While I agree to a point, I think a period of separation is good for both. Organised religion can often be accompanied by structures and beliefs that have become dogmatic and are deemed beyond our rights as parishoners to question according to the religious hierarchy within them. This is not a healthy breeding ground for spiritual growth, we can fall into the trap of blindly following ritual but never comprehending a spiritual truth because the means to test and explore such things is simply not readily accessible or provided for in the particular denomination or parish we attend - at least not for the layman.

We have to help people get out of this narcissistic self-absorption that has been branded as 'spirituality' because what good is an inward grace, an inner experience if it bears no outward fruit? As Saint Teresa of Avila rightly pointed out; one becomes wholly dependent upon these supposed experiences. Without 'consolations' as she called them, they can no longer function properly. They are like ships being tossed about in a storm at sea. This is the difference of the mystical experience from WITHIN a religious system; the experience always causes the visionary to produce outward fruit. St. John of the Cross was a teacher who founded a religious order, as did Saint Teresa of Avila. Mother Teresa had one mystical experience and from that, dedicated the rest of her life to helping the sick and the poor. Gandhi had a mystical experience and brought about a non-violent. The Buddha, after reaching enlightenment traveled extensively and taught his path to enlightenment to all who would listen.

I agree that a spiritually enlightened being will bear it's fruit best in disseminating a structured teaching within an organised setting aka: religion. However, the arrival of a spiritual truth comes from introspection and personal experience. It is not narcissistic to look within, it is imperative and I think we do spiritual seekers an injustice by discounting them for forging their own path toward comprehension. Each individual is the only one who is fully aware of the question they are seeking an answer to and whether or not the answer is satisfactorily supplied in the world at large or the religion they have chosen. St Teresa's and your concern seems to stem from what to do with the fruit, do we wallow in it or use it purposefully?

The inner mystical experience should cause us to want to change the world; not to retreat within the self.

Changing the world can also mean changing the nature of religion - as it is a part of the world as we currently know it also. The great teachers of the past by far and large were considered revolutionaries by their own cultures and religions and to a man brought great changes and leaps in human understanding. Sometimes we need to sweep the place clean of the pharisees.

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I object to the notion of narcissistic self-absorption of spirituality and the idea that it bears no outward proof; a glorification of ego. You say that spiritual people lack a metaphysical GPS that provides guidance. Do you not see how these statements cause the very division that you refer to? Is it your own metaphysical GPS that leads you to make these hurtful statements? I have always felt that anyone's time is better spent examining one's own beliefs and actions and making course corrections instead of focusing on the religious or spiritual beliefs of another. My own mystical experiences have led me to realize the importance of our words and actions on the physical plane, and indeed, those may be the only things that matter, not dogma, not theology, or cosmogony, or any organized system of belief. And I do live in community with thoughtful, aware, conscious people who are committed to being assets to the community.

I am non-religious for very personal reasons, just as those who are religious have their own reasons. But this dividing humanity, separating into groups based on religious beliefs or non-beliefs, has got to stop. It's judgmental, critical, and allows for no variations or uniqueness of the human spirit or manifestation of the divine. The very act of judging implies a manifest superiority or hierarchy on the part of the one doing the judging, a feeling of superiority that one is in the position to pass judgment, or that position has been conferred upon them by some unknown source. As I understand, say, Christianity, it's highest, most pure ideology is that of love of fellow human beings, and that only the Divine is in a position to judge. I feel no separation at all from the divine, from spirit, from the sacred, it is where I find my comfort, my inspiration, my integrity, my passion and compassion, my fellowship, it guides me every day. It dwells within me and I dwell within it. And still, there are those who would seek to affect to change me because my beliefs don't satisfy them, change me without discussion, without personal revelation, without personal knowledge. I don't judge, but simply ask that I be accorded the same respect that I give to others.

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Thanks for the kind words, I very much appreciate it and you sharing it! Please add "non-violent revolution" to the Gandhi part. I made a typo there and mistakenly left that out lol. Or no worries, I just added it as a comment on your blog and for hear. The sentence should read:

Edit: "Gandhi had a mystical experience and brought about a non-violent REVOLUTION."

Done

Peace

Mark

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Posted (edited)

I object to the notion of narcissistic self-absorption of spirituality and the idea that it bears no outward proof; a glorification of ego. You say that spiritual people lack a metaphysical GPS that provides guidance. Do you not see how these statements cause the very division that you refer to? Is it your own metaphysical GPS that leads you to make these hurtful statements? I have always felt that anyone's time is better spent examining one's own beliefs and actions and making course corrections instead of focusing on the religious or spiritual beliefs of another. My own mystical experiences have led me to realize the importance of our words and actions on the physical plane, and indeed, those may be the only things that matter, not dogma, not theology, or cosmogony, or any organized system of belief. And I do live in community with thoughtful, aware, conscious people who are committed to being assets to the community.

I am non-religious for very personal reasons, just as those who are religious have their own reasons. But this dividing humanity, separating into groups based on religious beliefs or non-beliefs, has got to stop. It's judgmental, critical, and allows for no variations or uniqueness of the human spirit or manifestation of the divine. The very act of judging implies a manifest superiority or hierarchy on the part of the one doing the judging, a feeling of superiority that one is in the position to pass judgment, or that position has been conferred upon them by some unknown source. As I understand, say, Christianity, it's highest, most pure ideology is that of love of fellow human beings, and that only the Divine is in a position to judge. I feel no separation at all from the divine, from spirit, from the sacred, it is where I find my comfort, my inspiration, my integrity, my passion and compassion, my fellowship, it guides me every day. It dwells within me and I dwell within it. And still, there are those who would seek to affect to change me because my beliefs don't satisfy them, change me without discussion, without personal revelation, without personal knowledge. I don't judge, but simply ask that I be accorded the same respect that I give to others.

There will always be groupings my friend. Even if you say that you don't do that, well it is just another group thinking differently than others. I believe this is the central point (well for me) of Macus's post.

To those who crave something "more" than what they think organised religion offers; it is in part our fault because we do not properly explain the spiritual aspects of our religions. They simply do not understand the profundity of the outward signs operating within the religious system. Take for example, the Eucharist or Communion. Communion is an outward sign of an inward grace in which Christ becomes SPIRITUALLY present in the bread and wine; the act is a supernatural one; it is God Himself breaking into space and time, into the material world. But do we EXPLAIN that? We just DO it. Some churches have gone so far as to call it simply a "memorial." In short, we have been a part of the problem; divorcing our spirituality from our religion. The "spiritual but not religious" divorce spirituality from religion, and WE divorce spirituality from religion.

I believe in order to stay in any tradition today, a great deal of study has to be done, because there is just so much out there to consider. Your on a path, a good one, you are not into "whatever makes me feel good is true" type of person. You face life, your pain, your need for growth and your failures......

In the new age movement, and I have many friends who are new age, are good people, many of them deep thinkers, but most I know don't have much root in any one way of spirituality, they keep looking for a quick fix, when there is none. Religion, if known and understood, and spirituality, really do go together. The failures and evil done by those who say they walk a certain path does not discredit the path, it only means that they are too weak, or uncaring, or perhaps evil and don't care, and are only into power etc.

Anger against ones past is quite a dance, not saying you have that, but I will not allow what others do in my own religion to dictate my path for me. There is too much wisdom in the Catholic Church for me to do that. Even though I am aware of all the crap, evil, corruption that goes on in my church. It is about Jesus Christ, what he taught, a relationship that is based on trust, and I simply move on. Politics, religion, the family all have their inner chaos, that is a reflection of our own, so I am not surprised by the failures of my co-believers. Self knowledge is the central aspect of leading a deep interior life, when the self is known, in all its beauty and yes that which is not beautiful, then the journey begins, and what others do is not a surprise.

Thank you for sharing so deeply, you are certainly a healing force here and a human being with a great deal of wisdom and love, learned by simply living life and seeking not to escape it.

Peace

mark

Edited by markdohle
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My annoyance has to do with someone applying a negative stereotype to a group of which I am a member, which is occurring in the present, not unresolved issues from the past. And just as you refuse to let members of your own church refuse to dictate your path, I don't let anyone inside of or outside of my faith dictate my path for me. So we are in accordance on this issue. I simply ask for the respect to choose my path as my intelligence and conscience dictates without anyone applying negative stereotypes to it because my practices and beliefs are different. Most times different just means, well, different, not right or wrong or good or bad; that's black & white thinking. Sure, we all organize humanity into groups, but not all of us apply negative stereotypes to them; some recognize an opportunity to learn, educate ourselves, engage in meaningful dialogue, and enhance ourselves and our communities through that process.

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Posted (edited)

Good evening everyone, I hope you are all having a nice weekend. I realize that several of the recent posts were in response to what I had written previously, so I am going to try to address some of those concerns here, and also to elaborate on and clarify some of my own positions. I apologize in advance if this post will be longer and more rambling in nature as there is a lot of ground to cover from the valid points you have all raised.

First, I must state for the record that I am in no way trying to criticize or attack either the spiritual seeking of others or the individual spiritual journeys of others; nor am I here to question their validity. I'm also not saying that people should sit in a church pew and blindly accept everything that they are told. I am frankly surprised that people seem to think I am advocating doing that based upon what I had written previously. I wholeheartedly ENCOURAGE people to embark upon spiritual journeys and quests of self-discovery. This can ONLY be a good thing. My concern, which I shall talk about in more detail later on is when that seeking is seen as an end unto itself.

But because this line of criticism has been (perhaps rightly?) leveled at me I feel it is necessary to provide a short biographical sketch. For many, many years I was a philosophical atheist. I did have a personal experience that led me to belief in God, specifically the Christian God. I have written about that experience elsewhere on the forum. Having been an atheist, however, faith for me was a bit of a struggle. I had to reconcile my conflicting beliefs. So I delved into the study of Christian theology; in short...I investigated the claims myself; which is what many of you are talking about. After being a Christian for several years, I began to feel the religion was too 'confining.' I had trouble accepting that Jesus was the only way. So I spent the next decade studying comparative religion heavily. I've read the sacred literature from the 5 great world religions, I've read countless books about those religions. I've also experienced them in real life and in my travels. I've meditated with Buddhist monks. I've prayed with Hindu Brahmans. I have Muslim and Jewish friends. I'm actually an active member in a large interfaith organization in my city. I have the utmost respect for people of other faiths; and you can see that on here. In my back catalog of posts you will find essays where I've defended Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism and others against their various detractors. I see that Beany's avatar is Lord Ganesha; I have statues and figurines of him among my other religious icons and artwork. In short, you could say that I am a lover of and am a student of religion IN GENERAL. That said, taking nothing away from these beautiful and wonderful systems; I was led right back to Christianity. As much as I love and respect other religions, and as much as I respect the validity of their paths; I am and will always be a follower of the Lord Jesus Christ. If you hold that against me, then that is your prerogative. I hope however, that this speaks into the criticism that has been leveled against me. In no way am I deterring anyone from spiritual seeking and going down their own path; as you can see, I have done it myself. This is why, libstaK, I agreed with the vast majority of your post. Our views may not be as different as they perhaps seem.

But there ARE points where I differ, and that is what I mean to highlight. There was a Sufi mystic who once said "for thirty years I sought God. But when I looked carefully I found that in reality God was the seeker and I the sought". That profound statement sums up my view. My question is not so much with someone choosing to undertake a personal spiritual odyssey; but how do we arrive at truth on that journey? Many who are in the SBNR crowd tend to think that religion is man made, and that therefore we can make any sort of 'spirituality' we like. We don't need religion because we are somehow more 'enlightened' now. I, as a Christian and a theist happen to take issue with that. Most Jews, Muslims and even Hindus and Buddhists would too. I mean no offense to anyone here; but nor can I mince words either. I believe there are objective truths that come from outside of man that are revealed by God and the essence of these truths are what we find in religion. It has been a modern fad among Christians to say 'relationship' over 'religion' but while that is true to a point; it is only half correct. Religion is about revelation; realizing that truth comes to us from God, not man. I do not find the truth, the truth finds me. Why do we worship at an altar of wood and stone? Because worshiping at that altar of wood or stone is but a shadow, a glimpse of an unseen reality that is far greater than myself. It is a glimpse behind the curtain of ultimate truth. People follow the religious systems that they do not because they are programmed to do so, but because from within that system it draws them closer to the divine reality; because this revelation comes from God and then the religious system is built AROUND that revelation; it is from within that system that heaven and earth are the closest. It is the true bridge between the material and the spiritual.

So my concern is when we divorce the two, as I said in my OP. My concern specifically with New Age spirituality (not necessarily spiritual seekers or those who would identify themselves as SBNR) is that I can arrive at this conclusion that somehow my own journey stands as truth and that truth comes wholly from within. I am criticizing how we ARRIVE at truth; because as I said I feel that truth does not come from WITHIN, it comes from WITHOUT. God and God alone is the source of truth. I do not find the truth, the truth finds me. There is a strong sense of subjectivism within the New Age, and THAT is what I take issue with; as Mark also pointed out, so many come to the conclusion "whatever I feel must be true." Many in the New Age would accuse Christians or other theists of 'blindly' following dogma; but I would counter that and say many in the New Age blindly follow their own emotional compass. They accept a kind of spirituality that is so self-affirming and comfortable, how can it BE anything other than egoistic?

For example, I watched a 3 hour long special with Dr. Wayne Dyer, a leading New Age writer. Don't get me wrong, I actually like the guy. I think he's a good dude and I like how he helps people. That said the whole crux of his lecture was about MANIFESTING...that I can tap into the universe and I can create a mental reality in which the universe will in turn provide for me materially what I will in 'spirit.' I can will the universe to give me what I want. How is this NOT egoistic??? I also read the book the Secret many years ago; a book that just FLEW off the shelves...and what did it teach? It taught that the secret is realizing that 'we are the center of the universe'; the universe was made...for me. Not egoistic??? I beg to differ.

I stand by what I said previously (however to clarify my problem is more with the New Age than it is with seekers or the SBNR) because the whole crux of the New Age movement is about self-affirmation using vague mixes of various spiritual traditions and putting them into a pot, stirring them together, and creating one odd mix of 'spiritual' soup. You'll do a little bit of a Buddhist meditation or a bit of Hindu yoga (although it may be repackaged to call it something else to sound 'new' and 'unique') then you will spend some time in prayer to an unknown, impersonal deity; or perhaps the universe itself (as though non-living matter will somehow HEAR your prayers) and then you will spend some more time 'manifesting' your spiritual will into physical reality. Thus my spirituality will, as Dr. Wayne Dyer says, help me to "master the art of realizing all my desires." Is THIS what we should call true spirituality????

And what happens when things go wrong? What happens when the universe doesn't give me what I want? What happens if the universe chooses to give me cancer instead of a new car? What then? THIS is where New Age spirituality ULTIMATELY (at least in my view) fails and collapses. The New Age does not or cannot explain life's ultimate questions. If you browse the New Age books in any store; they are all about "being a better you" or "unlocking your true potential" but these aims are overly simplistic, and thus, I would argue that they are MATERIAL rather than spiritual. They try to make you feel better in the present moment, and perhaps they CAN do that. But they can't answer questions like "why are we here?" or "why is there suffering in the world" or "why does evil exist?" Only RELIGION does that. It is ironic that my critics say religion is somehow an escape from reality or an evasion of thinking or seeking for oneself, when I say the reverse is true. Religion sees the world for what it is. The New Age, by contrast, seeks to see everything through rose tinted glasses, through yoga mats and empty meditation. A New Ager will meditate to manifest their desires; a Buddhist will meditate on non-being and their own impermanence. Do you see what I mean with this? Someone who practices the New Age or pop culture spirituality talks endlessly about somehow "getting in tune" with the universe whereas those who practice religion see the world for what it actually is. I see the New Age, NOT spiritual seekers, as being on a flight from reason.

I do not want a 'spirituality' that makes me feel 'comfortable.' I don't want a 'spirituality' that just makes me feel good about myself. I want a belief that challenges me, that confronts me; I want a belief that helps me to understand the world around me; to see things as they actually are, not as I wish them to be. I want a belief that helps me to realize my flaws and makes me strive to be a better human being. I don't want a belief that says I am a "whole" and "perfect spiritual being", I want a belief that calls me a "sinner" because it helps me to realize the fact that I am not perfect and that I screw up more times than I care to admit. I want a belief that tells me that the truth does not come from within me, is not something I discover by myself, but comes from the God who made me and in His kindness and in His mercy REVEALED that truth to me through His Holy Spirit. I don't want a belief that says "I am the center of the universe"; I want a belief that says we are ALL made in God's image, and how I treat my fellow man is thus how I treat my God. I don't want a belief that masks my suffering; I want a belief that makes me mindful of suffering, because it is in that mindfulness that I am driven to compassion. What New Age book teaches such things? Only religion teaches this. The Secret and all these faddish 'spiritual' books will be forgotten in time, as is every fad. But centuries from now, people will still be reading the Holy Bible, the Quran, the Talmud, The Dhammapada, The Pali Canon, the Mahabharata, The Bhagavad Gita and the Upanishads because they reflect that which is eternal, not what is transitory.

Can one attain this path without following organized religion? Perhaps. It was never my intent to be cruel to seekers or those who profess to be spiritual but not religious; but rather to point out the flaws of those who fall into the trap of the new age which I do see as egotism. From within my own tradition, Saint Paul has said that the Law is written on the human heart and that those who follow the law without even knowing it are a law unto themselves. Thus, if those who claim to be spiritual but not religious are in some manner following the truth as God has revealed it to us; I would argue that you are a lot more religious than you think. Your very possession of truth, of revelation, MAKES you religious even though you may not recognize it as such. If one possesses revelation, then they possess religion. You are religious even if you never set foot in a church; because that's the whole point: religion is BIGGER and greater than all of us. Religion, simply put, is responding to the reality of God.

There is one final thing I wanted to address:

But this dividing humanity, separating into groups based on religious beliefs or non-beliefs, has got to stop. It's judgmental, critical, and allows for no variations or uniqueness of the human spirit or manifestation of the divine. The very act of judging implies a manifest superiority or hierarchy on the part of the one doing the judging, a feeling of superiority that one is in the position to pass judgment, or that position has been conferred upon them by some unknown source.

Is this not a judgment itself?? Rather, I would argue that it is PRECISELY BECAUSE we ARE judgmental and critical that it ALLOWS FOR the variations and the uniqueness of the human spirit and the manifestations of the divine. Every religious system has its absolute truth claims, and it is because of those truth claims that they MAINTAIN their uniqueness. The same VALUES permeate every religion; but these truth claims are what give each of them a unique identity and expression. This is WHY I love studying comparative religion; because I see that uniqueness and I see the beauty IN that uniqueness.

God could have made us all alike, He could have made us all one religion. But He didn't. And when we tried to do that, building our Tower of Babel; He came down and He confounded us, separated us. I believe that the variations in religious experience exist because God wanted there to be a variety of religious experience. The very act of judging is what makes us human. If you take away this, you take away reason itself.

I hope this has clarified my position; blessings to you all,

MA

Edited by Marcus Aurelius
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I can certainly agree with the Wayne Dyer and manifestation thing. It seems naïve to think that we can and should have everything we want handed to us at the time we want it. That usually happens only at Christmas! But often prayer is used for exactly the same thing. I've learned through repeated personal experiences, that every time I judge I end up with my foot in my mouth and always regret it. Mostly because it does absolutely no good at all for any parties involved and becomes a barrier to honest communication. Maybe others have had better luck than me with this; I mostly end up realizing how incredibly stupid I can be and how little I really know, when at the time I thought I knew quite a lot. It's humbling, for sure, at least for me.

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Posted (edited)

Babel

The problem is how things are said. No one wants to be yelled at, put down, or forced to carry the insecurities of those who can’t stand others who think or believe differently than they do. I think it is time to get over trying to change what others believe and to learn to gently, without force, or being insulting, state what we believe and why we think and believe the way we do. Of course that will one day happen, when pigs fly, or when Glen Beck becomes a liberal, or Obama a conservative, which may take some time, a lot of time.

Unfortunately, religion and spirituality have agenda. A label, in itself, is never a direct path to God because it's a mere game plan, strategy, system, or program...but that's just my point of view. The Bible has been manipulated since the day one, but this doesn't mean that it's completely useless. After all, guiding us how to love is its greatest gift. We will unite in love because Heaven is all about love, "unconditional love," I have come to accept. This love recipe is in the Bible. Here are some examples of its ingredients:

"The second is this: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no commandment greater than these." Mark 12:31

"The King will reply, 'Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.'" Matthew 25:40

"Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?" Luke 6:41

"Judge not, that ye be not judged." Matthew 7:1

"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." Jesus said, "This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins." His love is profound. One of the great benefits of praying the rosary is its reflective quality, to mirror in what it means to love Jesus Christ...and the humanity of our fellow human beings. "...and lead all souls to Heaven, especially those in most need of Thy mercy," according to the rosary; therefore, this includes atheists.

I'm very thankful that the idea (of praying the rosary again) suddenly occured to me because I stopped when my mom died. At any rate, I've been praying for a month now, more or less. It has a healing quality on one level. It's interesting to say that I'm more aware of its power compared to 20 years ago. For one thing, my mind is clearer, more focused. There's so much to say, but all about love is what's important.

Edited by No-thingBornPassion
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Unfortunately, religion and spirituality have agenda. A label, in itself, is never a direct path to God because it's a mere game plan, strategy, system, or program...but that's just my point of view. The Bible has been manipulated since the day one, but this doesn't mean that it's completely useless. After all, guiding us how to love is its greatest gift. We will unite in love because Heaven is all about love, "unconditional love," I have come to accept. This love recipe is in the Bible. Here are some examples of its ingredients:

"The second is this: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no commandment greater than these." Mark 12:31

"The King will reply, 'Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.'" Matthew 25:40

"Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?" Luke 6:41

"Judge not, that ye be not judged." Matthew 7:1

"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." Jesus said, "This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins." His love is profound. One of the great benefits of praying the rosary is its reflective quality, to mirror in what it means to love Jesus Christ...and the humanity of our fellow human beings. "...and lead all souls to Heaven, especially those in most need of Thy mercy," according to the rosary; therefore, this includes atheists.

I'm very thankful that the idea (of praying the rosary again) suddenly occured to me because I stopped when my mom died. At any rate, I've been praying for a month now, more or less. It has a healing quality on one level. It's interesting to say that I'm more aware of its power compared to 20 years ago. For one thing, my mind is clearer, more focused. There's so much to say, but all about love is what's important.

Thank you for your perspective, an important one, I will think about what you have written. Because we are what we are, our religions will reflect that, both for good as well as ill. The call us to go beyond ourselves, when that does not happen they become ideologies, closed off from others and will die eventually. The rosary is a beautiful way to pray, have been praying it for most of my life and as I age my inner experience and expression change. It is not mere repetitation of words, but comes from the heart and leads to prayer for all.

Peace

Mark

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Good evening everyone, I hope you are all having a nice weekend. I realize that several of the recent posts were in response to what I had written previously, so I am going to try to address some of those concerns here, and also to elaborate on and clarify some of my own positions. I apologize in advance if this post will be longer and more rambling in nature as there is a lot of ground to cover from the valid points you have all raised.

First, I must state for the record that I am in no way trying to criticize or attack either the spiritual seeking of others or the individual spiritual journeys of others; nor am I here to question their validity. I'm also not saying that people should sit in a church pew and blindly accept everything that they are told. I am frankly surprised that people seem to think I am advocating doing that based upon what I had written previously. I wholeheartedly ENCOURAGE people to embark upon spiritual journeys and quests of self-discovery. This can ONLY be a good thing. My concern, which I shall talk about in more detail later on is when that seeking is seen as an end unto itself.

But because this line of criticism has been (perhaps rightly?) leveled at me I feel it is necessary to provide a short biographical sketch. For many, many years I was a philosophical atheist. I did have a personal experience that led me to belief in God, specifically the Christian God. I have written about that experience elsewhere on the forum. Having been an atheist, however, faith for me was a bit of a struggle. I had to reconcile my conflicting beliefs. So I delved into the study of Christian theology; in short...I investigated the claims myself; which is what many of you are talking about. After being a Christian for several years, I began to feel the religion was too 'confining.' I had trouble accepting that Jesus was the only way. So I spent the next decade studying comparative religion heavily. I've read the sacred literature from the 5 great world religions, I've read countless books about those religions. I've also experienced them in real life and in my travels. I've meditated with Buddhist monks. I've prayed with Hindu Brahmans. I have Muslim and Jewish friends. I'm actually an active member in a large interfaith organization in my city. I have the utmost respect for people of other faiths; and you can see that on here. In my back catalog of posts you will find essays where I've defended Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism and others against their various detractors. I see that Beany's avatar is Lord Ganesha; I have statues and figurines of him among my other religious icons and artwork. In short, you could say that I am a lover of and am a student of religion IN GENERAL. That said, taking nothing away from these beautiful and wonderful systems; I was led right back to Christianity. As much as I love and respect other religions, and as much as I respect the validity of their paths; I am and will always be a follower of the Lord Jesus Christ. If you hold that against me, then that is your prerogative. I hope however, that this speaks into the criticism that has been leveled against me. In no way am I deterring anyone from spiritual seeking and going down their own path; as you can see, I have done it myself. This is why, libstaK, I agreed with the vast majority of your post. Our views may not be as different as they perhaps seem.

But there ARE points where I differ, and that is what I mean to highlight. There was a Sufi mystic who once said "for thirty years I sought God. But when I looked carefully I found that in reality God was the seeker and I the sought". That profound statement sums up my view. My question is not so much with someone choosing to undertake a personal spiritual odyssey; but how do we arrive at truth on that journey? Many who are in the SBNR crowd tend to think that religion is man made, and that therefore we can make any sort of 'spirituality' we like. We don't need religion because we are somehow more 'enlightened' now. I, as a Christian and a theist happen to take issue with that. Most Jews, Muslims and even Hindus and Buddhists would too. I mean no offense to anyone here; but nor can I mince words either. I believe there are objective truths that come from outside of man that are revealed by God and the essence of these truths are what we find in religion. It has been a modern fad among Christians to say 'relationship' over 'religion' but while that is true to a point; it is only half correct. Religion is about revelation; realizing that truth comes to us from God, not man. I do not find the truth, the truth finds me. Why do we worship at an altar of wood and stone? Because worshiping at that altar of wood or stone is but a shadow, a glimpse of an unseen reality that is far greater than myself. It is a glimpse behind the curtain of ultimate truth. People follow the religious systems that they do not because they are programmed to do so, but because from within that system it draws them closer to the divine reality; because this revelation comes from God and then the religious system is built AROUND that revelation; it is from within that system that heaven and earth are the closest. It is the true bridge between the material and the spiritual.

So my concern is when we divorce the two, as I said in my OP. My concern specifically with New Age spirituality (not necessarily spiritual seekers or those who would identify themselves as SBNR) is that I can arrive at this conclusion that somehow my own journey stands as truth and that truth comes wholly from within. I am criticizing how we ARRIVE at truth; because as I said I feel that truth does not come from WITHIN, it comes from WITHOUT. God and God alone is the source of truth. I do not find the truth, the truth finds me. There is a strong sense of subjectivism within the New Age, and THAT is what I take issue with; as Mark also pointed out, so many come to the conclusion "whatever I feel must be true." Many in the New Age would accuse Christians or other theists of 'blindly' following dogma; but I would counter that and say many in the New Age blindly follow their own emotional compass. They accept a kind of spirituality that is so self-affirming and comfortable, how can it BE anything other than egoistic?

For example, I watched a 3 hour long special with Dr. Wayne Dyer, a leading New Age writer. Don't get me wrong, I actually like the guy. I think he's a good dude and I like how he helps people. That said the whole crux of his lecture was about MANIFESTING...that I can tap into the universe and I can create a mental reality in which the universe will in turn provide for me materially what I will in 'spirit.' I can will the universe to give me what I want. How is this NOT egoistic??? I also read the book the Secret many years ago; a book that just FLEW off the shelves...and what did it teach? It taught that the secret is realizing that 'we are the center of the universe'; the universe was made...for me. Not egoistic??? I beg to differ.

I stand by what I said previously (however to clarify my problem is more with the New Age than it is with seekers or the SBNR) because the whole crux of the New Age movement is about self-affirmation using vague mixes of various spiritual traditions and putting them into a pot, stirring them together, and creating one odd mix of 'spiritual' soup. You'll do a little bit of a Buddhist meditation or a bit of Hindu yoga (although it may be repackaged to call it something else to sound 'new' and 'unique') then you will spend some time in prayer to an unknown, impersonal deity; or perhaps the universe itself (as though non-living matter will somehow HEAR your prayers) and then you will spend some more time 'manifesting' your spiritual will into physical reality. Thus my spirituality will, as Dr. Wayne Dyer says, help me to "master the art of realizing all my desires." Is THIS what we should call true spirituality????

And what happens when things go wrong? What happens when the universe doesn't give me what I want? What happens if the universe chooses to give me cancer instead of a new car? What then? THIS is where New Age spirituality ULTIMATELY (at least in my view) fails and collapses. The New Age does not or cannot explain life's ultimate questions. If you browse the New Age books in any store; they are all about "being a better you" or "unlocking your true potential" but these aims are overly simplistic, and thus, I would argue that they are MATERIAL rather than spiritual. They try to make you feel better in the present moment, and perhaps they CAN do that. But they can't answer questions like "why are we here?" or "why is there suffering in the world" or "why does evil exist?" Only RELIGION does that. It is ironic that my critics say religion is somehow an escape from reality or an evasion of thinking or seeking for oneself, when I say the reverse is true. Religion sees the world for what it is. The New Age, by contrast, seeks to see everything through rose tinted glasses, through yoga mats and empty meditation. A New Ager will meditate to manifest their desires; a Buddhist will meditate on non-being and their own impermanence. Do you see what I mean with this? Someone who practices the New Age or pop culture spirituality talks endlessly about somehow "getting in tune" with the universe whereas those who practice religion see the world for what it actually is. I see the New Age, NOT spiritual seekers, as being on a flight from reason.

I do not want a 'spirituality' that makes me feel 'comfortable.' I don't want a 'spirituality' that just makes me feel good about myself. I want a belief that challenges me, that confronts me; I want a belief that helps me to understand the world around me; to see things as they actually are, not as I wish them to be. I want a belief that helps me to realize my flaws and makes me strive to be a better human being. I don't want a belief that says I am a "whole" and "perfect spiritual being", I want a belief that calls me a "sinner" because it helps me to realize the fact that I am not perfect and that I screw up more times than I care to admit. I want a belief that tells me that the truth does not come from within me, is not something I discover by myself, but comes from the God who made me and in His kindness and in His mercy REVEALED that truth to me through His Holy Spirit. I don't want a belief that says "I am the center of the universe"; I want a belief that says we are ALL made in God's image, and how I treat my fellow man is thus how I treat my God. I don't want a belief that masks my suffering; I want a belief that makes me mindful of suffering, because it is in that mindfulness that I am driven to compassion. What New Age book teaches such things? Only religion teaches this. The Secret and all these faddish 'spiritual' books will be forgotten in time, as is every fad. But centuries from now, people will still be reading the Holy Bible, the Quran, the Talmud, The Dhammapada, The Pali Canon, the Mahabharata, The Bhagavad Gita and the Upanishads because they reflect that which is eternal, not what is transitory.

Can one attain this path without following organized religion? Perhaps. It was never my intent to be cruel to seekers or those who profess to be spiritual but not religious; but rather to point out the flaws of those who fall into the trap of the new age which I do see as egotism. From within my own tradition, Saint Paul has said that the Law is written on the human heart and that those who follow the law without even knowing it are a law unto themselves. Thus, if those who claim to be spiritual but not religious are in some manner following the truth as God has revealed it to us; I would argue that you are a lot more religious than you think. Your very possession of truth, of revelation, MAKES you religious even though you may not recognize it as such. If one possesses revelation, then they possess religion. You are religious even if you never set foot in a church; because that's the whole point: religion is BIGGER and greater than all of us. Religion, simply put, is responding to the reality of God.

There is one final thing I wanted to address:

Is this not a judgment itself?? Rather, I would argue that it is PRECISELY BECAUSE we ARE judgmental and critical that it ALLOWS FOR the variations and the uniqueness of the human spirit and the manifestations of the divine. Every religious system has its absolute truth claims, and it is because of those truth claims that they MAINTAIN their uniqueness. The same VALUES permeate every religion; but these truth claims are what give each of them a unique identity and expression. This is WHY I love studying comparative religion; because I see that uniqueness and I see the beauty IN that uniqueness.

God could have made us all alike, He could have made us all one religion. But He didn't. And when we tried to do that, building our Tower of Babel; He came down and He confounded us, separated us. I believe that the variations in religious experience exist because God wanted there to be a variety of religious experience. The very act of judging is what makes us human. If you take away this, you take away reason itself.

I hope this has clarified my position; blessings to you all,

MA

I envy your clarity, glad you have it and that you responded so well. I am going to blog this as well my friend.

Peace

mark

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Posted (edited)

Thank you for your perspective, an important one, I will think about what you have written. Because we are what we are, our religions will reflect that, both for good as well as ill. The call us to go beyond ourselves, when that does not happen they become ideologies, closed off from others and will die eventually. The rosary is a beautiful way to pray, have been praying it for most of my life and as I age my inner experience and expression change. It is not mere repetitation of words, but comes from the heart and leads to prayer for all.

Peace

Mark

I was thinking exactly the same thing, Mark. Sometimes we bring what we are to religion or spirituality and never change, others find that what they brought to their faith has changed as their knowledge and depth of understanding increases. It's not the type of faith or religion that's a problem, it's what some people bring to it; blaming poor human behavior on religion is maybe excusing that person from persona' responsibility for their actions. Or, as a friend of mine says, is all in what we bring to the party.

Edited by Beany
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I was thinking exactly the same thing, Mark. Sometimes we bring what we are to religion or spirituality and never change, others find that what they brought to their faith has changed as their knowledge and depth of understanding increases. It's not the type of faith or religion that's a problem, it's what some people bring to it; blaming poor human behavior on religion is maybe excusing that person from persona' responsibility for their actions. Or, as a friend of mine says, is all in what we bring to the party.

Yes of course my friend. It is like our cities, our governments etc. They reflect back on us, we create them, or perhaps form them, change them over time. To get rid of religion, or politics would only make things worse, we have to deal with what we got, though it seems that each generation does not learn from the past, at least not enough to make change. I am not saying that good things don't happen, or learning, yet the pull of chaos seems very strong in our species.

Peace

mark

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Because we are what we are, our religions will reflect that, both for good as well as ill. The call us to go beyond ourselves, when that does not happen they become ideologies, closed off from others and will die eventually.

I agree: the call is to go beyond ourselves...and completely embrace the theme of the New Testiment, which is love. Not only is it the best way to follow Jesus Christ, it's also the safest, but that's just the way I follow the Lord's teachings. I try to revolve my life according to His love and compassion because by having a first-hand experience of His "unconditional love" radiance in the afterlife, it has given me an added edge to decifer the Good Book, if you will. Therefore, this includes going beyond the judgmental, harsh sides of human politics, for the NT was written down by human beings and things got edited in/out. Besides, Jesus was all about forgiveness, which is also part of the "unconditional love" configuration. I was not a follower of Jesus Christ the last time I died, but he raised me from the dead and regenerated my body to its original healthy state, right before my very eyes. What made the Lord spare this broken pagan, in the afterlife? Why did He come to my rescue, in the first place? Was it because the love in me was so great, and deep in my heart I felt that I didn't deserve to be in that Void? Some things to think about because there's more to life that meets the eye and collection of books.
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