The dilemma of spirituality

I truly believe that the reason people choose fundamentalist religion over more flexible belief structures is because they are easy. There is little, if any, self examination required, no experimentation to see how a concept feels or fits into your framework. You’re not expected to create or maintain a relationship with your spirituality beyond following the rules. Your entire plan of action is laid out for you, and the only struggle is trying to stay within your guidelines.

Carl Jung posited that the decline in the influence of traditional religions was the reason for the rise in debilitating feelings of insignificance, inadequacy, and hopelessness; in his eyes, this led to the destabilization of society and created political and social unrest. The challenge is that organized religions are, essentially, political animals – they seek to amass and consolidate power. The easiest way for them to do this is to disempower and dehumanize their adherents. By setting up a system that requires the “faithful” to follow the rules and give their power over to the political body, the religion is able to accumulate more and more power.

My core values are empowerment, community, and equality. These are, to me, spiritual values. I deeply believe that one can be spiritual and be empowered. That spirituality can exist within a religion, only if the religion is worn like a loose cloak, and the follower is willing to ask questions and perform the required self-examination to forge a personal belief system within the framework of the larger religion. More importantly, spirituality doesn’t *have* to reside within a religious structure.

How then do we define spirituality? Does it have to be tied to an idea of a Divine power? How open-ended can spirituality be?

If one has an experiential sense of being part of a larger whole, of being able to create, and being able to effect change, even if that is in the bounds of a small community, is that not spiritual? Does that not cause one to exhibit the behaviors one would attribute to spirituality? Does that not counter the effects Jung described as symptoms of leaving the church?

If you are struggling to find your spirituality, or even to find your place in the world, here are some questions you can ask yourself:

  • Who is my immediate community? Who do I identify with? With whom do I share values, interests, and/or a feeling of kinship?

  • Is this close community part of a larger community or grouping? How far out can those connections be seen?

  • How do I give back to that community?

  • How do I put my creative impulses to use? (Hint: it doesn’t have to be art)

  • How do I touch people on a daily basis? If this one is hard for you to see, ask your community for input. When they give it, don’t argue, just listen.
  • Believe me, you are the light of the world!

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