What does it mean to be a Spiritual Person ??
adapted by V.W. Bro. Norman McEvoy from a paper contained in “Welcome to the Wisdom of the World and its meaning to you” by Joan Chittister.
Religion and Spirituality are not the same thing. They are, however, commonly confused.
“She goes to church every week” we say “She’s a very spiritual person” or that “He’s a staunch member of the Parish Finance Committee, he’s a very spiritual person”
It’s an interesting conjunction of unlike ideas. It’s the equivalent of saying “She’s an excellent vocalist. She’s been taking lessons for years.”
There’s certainly a connection between taking voice lessons and becoming a professional vocalist, but it’s not a necessary one. The truth is that we can go through the motions about something all our lives and never become what the thing itself is meant to make us.
Religion and Spirituality are like that too. The one, religion, has to do with leading us to an awareness of GOD, with giving us the tools, the disciplines to make ourselves ready for the experience of GOD.
The other, Spirituality, has to do with transforming the way we live as a result of that awareness, with infusing all of life with a sense of Presence that transcends the immediate and gives it meaning.
Sometimes we stop at one and fail to become the other. We use religious practice as a measure of our spirituality and seek spirituality without the discipline it takes to make it more than some kind of artless escapism.
One is as lacking as the other, of course, but religious practice without the spiritual development that is meant to proceed from it is the more deceptive of the two. It leaves us in danger of being keepers of the law rather than seekers of the truth. It’s when we make religion itself our substitute for GOD that, ironically, our spirits stand to wither of calcify.
Ancient Hindu spiritual masters understood the confusion only too well. They wrote:-
Once upon a time, as the Master lay dying, the disciples begged him, for their sakes, not to go. ” But if I do not go” the Master said, “How will you ever see”
“But what are we not seeing now that we will see when you are gone” the disciples pressed him. And the spiritual Master said “All I ever did was sit on the river bank handing our river water. After I’m gone, I trust you will notice the river”
The story draws a stark distinction between religion & spirituality. The disciples wanted someone, something to follow. They wanted a law they could live by, a person who could give them orders, a Master who would take responsibility for their guidance & their virtue. The Master, on the other hand, wanted them to internalize his spirit, not simply to imitate his actions.
The Master’s message is clear, religion is not about following a minister or making a GOD out of religious practices. Religion is not simply adherence to a code of law that is an end in itself. Religion is meant to be a bridge to GOD, a vehicle to understanding. It is meant to plumb the depths of the human soul to the source of the spirit.
Instead, religion can sometimes even be an obstacle to union with GOD. As someone comically said:-
“In order to sin properly it is not necessary to break the rules. All you need do is keep them to the letter”
Religion, without the Spirit it is meant to preserve, can become positively irreligious: we put the weak, the wounded, the addicts, the religious others outside the boundaries of our perfect lives, fearful of touching what might pollute us.
Religion====who hasn’t seen it happen?=====can be a very sinful thing.
If religion itself is so necessarily sanctifying, why are there so many wars, so much killing, such unlimited oppression–and all of it in the name of GOD?. Maybe it’s because what religion itself loses at times is spirituality– the spirit of the GOD it preaches. Only when our own hearts are as wide as the GOD who made us have we become both religious and spiritual.
The difference then between religion and spirituality, then, is the difference between neurotic orthodoxy and mysticism. One is religion for its own sake. The other is the immersion of the self unto GOD until we become what we say we are seeking. Real religion is not for the satisfaction of the self. It is for the sake of the WORLD.
The orthodox are those who keep the rules and guard the creeds of all the denominations of the World. They know a heretic when they see one!!!!!
The mystics of every religion are those who are looking for more than the security that rule-keepers get from being able to go through life keeping account of their virtues. Mystics absorb the spirit to which the rules are meant to lead us. They go beyond theology to immerse themselves in the reality that the rules are designed to prepare us to see, and the theology is meant to describe.
They go beyond ritual to the Reality to which it points.
They melt into GOD. They embrace the whole World.
They become the love that created the world and the compassion that sustains it. Spirituality is what takes us beyond the practice to the purpose of religion: the awareness of the sacred in the mundane.
Mystics go beyond the norms of every religion to the GOD every religion is established to revere. Then denominational boundaries disappear, differences dissolve, theological distinctions become meaningless, and we find ourselves welded to the presence of GOD here and now–in everything, everywhere at all times.
The spiritual person is the person who sees into & under, above & below and beyond the fixtures and ideas of religion to the sacredness of all of life. The spiritual person is more that a denominational devotee.
The spiritual person is one with the universe in all its forms, all its insights. To these people GOD is every breath they breathe, even thought they think, every underlying motive of everything they do.
They do not seek perfection; they seek the GOD who is perfect life, perfect fullness, perfect peace.
Spirituality is what takes us beyond the religious practice to the purpose of religion: the awareness of the sacred in the mundane, the consciousness of GOD everywhere, in everyone. It is not the rejection of matter as the opposite of spirit. That kind of spirituality can lead us to devalue ourselves. Instead, the spiritual person is aware of the Essence that pervades everything–including ourselves.
We wonder how it is that religion can do so much violence. feed on so much extremism, lead to such self-destruction. The answer is, of course, that that kind of religion is not about coming to the spirit of GOD. When religion requires that our humanity, with all its joy and all its sense of goodness be stamped out, there is something wrong with that religion.
“We are spiritual beings trying to be human”
The spiritual person knows that there is no difference between the sacred and the secular, the material and the spiritual. They are all simply part of the Essence, simply stepping stones along the way to GOD who is everything there is or needs to be. Religion itself is not sacred. And if or when it pretends to be, it can stop a soul in mid-flight from ever being able to find GOD in the midst of life.
Then we make the means the end.
Then we take a spiritual process designed to help us find GOD in life and turn it into GOD. And that is a weak and pathetic substitute for the very meaning of life, the Essence of all things, the magnate to which our souls cling. The question is “What is a spiritual person?” the answer is that the spiritual person is the one who breathes in and out the spirit of GOD toward which they move.
Although no author biography is available to me, I have, from other papers in this book deduced that she could be a Roman Catholic Nun living in a Sanctuary either in the US or in Ireland. Whoever; Wherever she may be I feel deeply indebted to her for the insight delivered in this paper.
She has described for me why I, as a Freemason, describe myself as being on a “Personal Spiritual Journey” and certainly brought clarity to my thankfulness to the Great Architect of the Universe.
For that I am deeply indebted.
Have a wonderful Day & God Bless