by Jean-Léon Gérôme
[Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Not deep into the forest of spirituality and mysticism, you will encounter peddlers offering to validate you. Many of these are people who have defined their sense of holiness as “spirituality vs religion.” When you encounter those with only a spiritual practice out of opposition to organized religion, you will soon hear Bonnie Raitt’s ubiquitous quote:
“Religion is for people who are scared to go to hell. Spirituality is for people who have already been there.”
My friend, press on without stopping. Do not set up a merchant booth with these people only conducting business at the edge of the forest.
There are treasures to be had in all religions. Buddhist meditation, Christian prayer, and the ecstasy of Rumi are just some of the gems that can glorify your inner altar. There are many more.
There is a large camp that holds the major religions are all talking about the same God, and of course that’s true, but that camp only exists as a community because they’re attempting to lay siege to the organized religions.
Do not use spiritual rituals, beliefs, or practices as weapons to impose your belief. This is equally true for the protesting New Age folk as it is for the conservative classic believers. Your belief will arise and subside like the tide; there is no one specific form that reflects Truth. Faith is the continuity of believing that there is a depth and essence to the world beyond all time and place. Specific beliefs are merely the distorted reflections by which we somewhat apprehend holiness and divinity, eternity and love – but the reflections are of ourselves, and faith is about continuing to keep our faces upturned to the light no matter how the reflections ripple.
If we are to draw the line of “spirituality vs religion” in terms of hierarchy and financial orientation, then I have not yet seen the organization that is spiritual. For me, though, it seems that there is no line between spirituality and religion. The faithful in a Christian church may disagree with some of the dogma. The devout in practice may deviate from the practices and observances of the Buddhist masters. Religion implies only community in spiritual endeavor, and you cannot have any sense at all of the divine while refusing the universal brotherhood and sisterhood of the Children of God.
Whether you want to regard yourself as spiritual or religious, you must proceed in your own direct relationship with the divine. Books, groups, and spiritual practices are all blankets to cover the frightened if you go about it by relying on others. But these same things are lovely, gorgeous, and routes by which you may find yourself able to view another face of God if your own consciousness is the altar.
My friend, the next time someone starts talking about “spirituality vs religion,” please know you’re only being lured by the darkness of empire. The only “versus” applicable is the Kingdom versus the empire: divinity versus hierarchy, freedom versus domination, Love versus fear. And in truth, that’s no battle or conflict at all. Empire is a fever dream and a child’s tantrum, an illusion and a growing pain, nothing more. Duality is only confusion.
Be free and walk in love, my friend.