Yesterday I posted a blog about spirituality versus religion.
It got a response from Julian Lord, who frequents this blog from time to time and is a highly educated, highly erudite Christian.
He disagreed with the thrust of what I was saying, and I began drafting a reply to put in Comments, but then thought that our “argument” deserved a wider dissemination, and so I’ve decided to make it a separate post.
I will first post Julian’s comment to my post yesterday, reacting to my stating that I believe spiritualism is personal, religion is institutional…
I very much disagree — perhaps a better parallel for you to work with, in relation to your work here, would be : Spirituality is intuitive, religion is intellective.
Religion is meaningless if it isn’t also spiritual though ; so that the complementary point, that spirituality is meaningless if it isn’t also religious, is worthy of some very serious consideration.
And my response:
Hi Julian, nice to see you here again.
Of COURSE you would disagree! You are a devout and highly intelligent Christian, and we have disagreed on many things in the past. I value your opinions, as you know, and respect your take on matters spiritual and religious, but don’t personally hold all your beliefs.
Firstly, your point – Spirituality is intuitive, religion is intellective.
I had to look up the definition of “intellective,” and what I got was – of or relating to the intellect. Intelligent, cognitive, having power to understand. From the same dictionary, the definition of intuitive is: perceiving directly without rational thought.
By the way, as an aside, that is not my definition of intuition. But I’ll save that for my film…
Getting back to your point – tell me if I’m wrong here but what you’re implying is that spiritualism doesn’t employ an intellectual rigour, whereas religion does. That spirituality is diaphanous and lacking in rational thinking, whereas religion is substantiated by scholarship and learning.
To use your term, I very much disagree.
A spiritual person can draw from the writings and teachings of some of the great minds from the past five millennia. A spiritual person isn’t limited in his/her search for knowledge – and isn’t tied to one particular school of thought.
A spiritual person can draw from various religions – and most do – but they’re not necessarily limited to one doctrine. They usually search wider, and include in that search the wisdom of many other disciplines, often pre-dating Christianity by thousands of years.
Most often, these ancient wisdom texts can be highly intellective, to use your term, or they can be reductive, as with Zen Buddhism, yet in being reductive they are no less rigorous intellectually. Study some Zen koans, then study the Rig Vedas, read the Bhagavad Gita, or the Buddha’s discourses in the various Pali Canons – these are works of high intellective value.
Equally, a spiritual person can delve into the complexities of quantum physics, Unified Field theory, and the nature of the universe from a cosmological and astrophysics perspective. Some of our greatest scientists working in this area are spiritualists, because in studying the fundamental nature of matter and the cosmos they’ve come to the conclusion that there must be a God.
Then there’s the mystical element of spiritualism, which involves the study of the processes of cognition, and the nature of the mind, and thought itself. These shift into the areas of clinical and medical scientific research, but also psychology and psychiatry. They also involve the study of philosophy, and those seeking a true spiritual understanding will often delve into these disciplines.
Then we come to the soul. Those who seek an understanding of the nature of the soul can turn to various sources, some of which of course are speculative, but some are again highly intellectual discourses which date back four or five thousand years, and have become the basis of the world’s largest religions.
So to say that spiritualism is intuitive I believe doesn’t give full credit to the depth of highly scholastic and intellectual work that is available to those that wish to follow a spiritual path.
To your point – Religion is meaningless if it isn’t also spiritual though ; so that the complementary point, that spirituality is meaningless if it isn’t also religious, is worthy of some very serious consideration.
Agreed – religion is meaningless without spirituality, however I don’t believe that spirituality is meaningless without religion.
As I said earlier, most seeking spirituality in their lives invariably turn to religious texts – although most often they’re not Christian. Again though, it comes down to definitions. I define religion as an organisational structure for those that adhere to a particular set of beliefs about the cause, nature, and purpose of their existence.
Certainly religion can be, and must be, personal. There is possibly nothing more personal than one’s religious beliefs. But I’m not talking about that aspect of “personal,” I’m talking about the structure of a system of beliefs, and of communion with God.
Religion, in my view, is an “agency,” that helps guide an individual, a community, a society, a civilisation to God. It acts as an intermediary between those people and God, and seeks exclusivity. It professes to “know” God, and seeks to pass on that knowledge. Sometimes it seeks to impose that knowledge.
Most religions believe that because they know God so intimately, their God is the right God, the only God, and there can be no other God but their God. Some believe this vehemently. And so there is war.
Spiritualists, on the other hand, usually believe that there is only one God, irrespective and independent of religious belief. This is regarded as heretical by most religions.
The religion agency has certain rules as part of its Terms of Trade. Each religion has different Terms of Trade, different rules. But usually anyone wishing to use the services of that agency to find God has to adhere to those Terms of Trade.
There are some who don’t want that agency, or don’t like its Terms of Trade. And so they look elsewhere for a more direct and unfettered communion with God. This is why the church so often vigorously opposes spiritualism, because its exclusive arrangement as the sole agent is threatened.
I’m reading Salman Rushdie’s new book at the moment. Two Years, Eight Months, and Twenty Eight Nights. I recommend you read the book Julian. It’s a highly imaginative, and beautifully written metaphor, but at its heart it’s a discourse on the battle between science and religion.
But one of the characters, at one point states: In a thousand years, we will discover that we don’t need religion.