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Wednesday, October 22, 2008

"Spiritual AND Religious"

[This essay was originally posted to a blog on Weebly. In transferring it I have updated and made corrections where necessary.]

Sometimes when I sign up for a website (Beliefnet, for example) I find myself faced with the "Religion" question.

"Religion," the category says, and then they give a bunch of choices, none of which fits. If I say, "The Path," the formulation I've come up with, no one will understand.

The Path, in brief, is a way of seeing that leads to personal peace. It's the Perennial Philosophy that underlies all religions, with four steps:

  1. there's "something bigger" than us;
  2. we either are (Western thinking) or seem to be (in the East) separated from this "something bigger";
  3. there are ways to be unified with it;
  4. when we do, we'll lead happier, richer, fuller lives.

But that's not all. The Path also underlies disciplines as seemingly-disparate as art, music, math, and science. All the school disciplines are manifestations of The Path, as are psychology and extreme sports, meditation and good sex.

It basically says that what we all want is connection. And when we get it, we'll be happier and more at peace.

I call The Path a kind of "Real Spirituality for Real People." That means you don't have to believe in alien visitors, or crystal power, or Flying Spaghetti Monsters. You don't even have to have faith in a personal "god."

But let's not throw the Baby out with the bathwater. There are lots of things to be learned from the traditional religions.

Because the Path recognizes the metaphorical value in ALL of the stories that make us uniquely human. Some of these are stories of "that" world, stories of the unseen elements, the "other world" that helps us live better lives in this one. In other words, explicitly "religious" stories.

But The path accords equal honor to all of the intellectual, artistic, and emotional productions that set us apart from our non-human brethren. The connection we feel after having a scintillating conversation, or the feeling we have after a virtual stranger has ambushed us with kindness, or the peace that comes in gazing at the ocean or standing inside a redwood--these are all glimpses of The Path.

So yes, it's religious. But it's spiritual, too. Spiritual AND religious.


My Comment:

A "friend" at sent me a comment by personal mail; I thought the quote was great so I'll share it:

A comment on today's post on your website. You said "The path accords equal honor to all of the intellectual, artistic, and emotional productions that set us apart from our non-human brethren." This reminded me of a quote from Thomas Moore:

"The truth of things can only be expressed aesthetically - in story, picture, film, dance, music. Only when ideas are poetic do they reach the depths and express the reality."

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