|"Spiritual . . . But Not Religious" on tumblr|
In a recent issue of Psychology Today, writer Massimo Pigliucci asks "what, exactly, does it mean to be "spiritual but not religious," or for that matter, just plain "spiritual?" Unfortunately, of the three possible alternatives Pigliucci examines, none of them differentiate between 'inner' religious or spiritual experience and 'outer' religious observance, ritual or identification.
Pigliucci postulates that the descriptor "spiritual but not religious'" popularly utilized in any number of research studies, opinion polls and social media sites could mean either: (a) that the person so described believes in "spirits' a rather pinched and narrow view, even Pigliucci suspects (b) one who devotes part of her time and energy to cultivate her "spirit," as opposed to just being concerned with "material" things, or, finally (c) someone who takes care of cultivating and reflecting on his ethics, of behaving justly and compassionately toward his fellow human beings, and of nurturing his aesthetic sense through arts and letters.
I feel that none of these give a whole picture or descriptios of what it means to be "spiritual but not religious." I flatter myself that I am a very 'spiritual', and rather narrowly limited 'religious person.' I seek an inner religious/spiritual experience that will improve my ability to realize higher states of consciousnsess and awareness. Pigliucci's first possibility, even he rejects; while his third category, cultivating ethics and acting compassionately - which may, perhaps, be a byproduct of spiritual or religious practice - can be equally descriptive of the true religionist, agnostic or atheist alike.
|For more on 'Higher Consciousness'|
check out: ". . . tran.ZEN.dance. . ."
Not surprisingly, as on the big questions of consciousness the perspective of Psychology Today temds to fall into the paradgmatic materialist/empiricist camp, giving little credence to intuitive and subjective studies, a more balanced viewpoint may be found in a Beliefnet.com excerpt of Robert Fuller's new work, "Spiritual but Not Religious."
"The increasing prestige of the mind sciences, the insights of modern biblical scholarship, and greater awareness of cultural relativism," Fuller writes, have "all made it more difficult for educated Americans to sustain unqualified loyalty to religious institutions." Fuller's thesis is that many Americans (and by extension most Westerners), have begun "to associate genuine faith with the 'private' realm of personal experience rather than with the 'public' realm of institutions, creeds, and rituals." As this trend grew, he notes, even "(t)he word spiritual gradually came to be associated with a private realm of thought and experience while the word religious came to be connected with the public realm of membership in religious institutions, participation in formal rituals, and adherence to official denominational doctrines."
|William James (1842-1910)|
Yet, as Fuller eloquently concludes in his excerpted article, 'inner' spiritual (and dare I say, 'inner religious') experience is a nearly universal, if almost wholly unrecognized, phenomena. He rightly observes that "(w)e encounter spiritual issues every time we wonder where the universe comes from, why we are here, or what happens when we die. We also become spiritual when we become moved by values such as beauty, love, or creativity that seem to reveal a meaning or power beyond our visible world."
Fuller notes that "(a)n idea or practice is "spiritual" when it reveals our personal desire to establish a felt-relationship with the deepest meanings or powers governing life." He or she who pursues that desire with single minded devotion and great effort is likely to experience that "felt-relationship,"which the religious and wisdom traditions of all ages and all countries identify with a higher consciousness which is the essential trait of higher religious or spiritual experience. And it really does not matter what you call it; the point is that you experience it.