What is Spirituality?
These days so many are talking about connecting spiritually, finding a spiritual path and being spiritual but not religious. Yet you hardly hear anyone speak on what spirituality is. I like to start with facts so to begin this, my idea and take of the meaning of spirituality, I am simply going to start with the definition from the Oxford Dictionary and then expand on the concept with my research, thoughts, and experiences over my personal and professional journey.
noun: spirituality; plural noun: spiritualities
- the quality of being concerned with the human spirit or soul as opposed to material or physical things.
“the shift in priorities allows us to embrace our spirituality in a more profound way”
It is a great definition and very simply explains the base of spirituality. Though, isn’t this what religion teaches us too? So how are spirituality and religion different? How are they the same? What drives us to connect spiritually and not just find a religion where we like all the rules?
Let’s start with that first question: “isn’t that what religion teaches us?”. I was raised as a Jehovah’s Witness. Within this religion we get a very base knowledge of other religions as to not offend them when you go out proselytize (bring in the door knocking jokes). What this was not supposed to do, was to lead me into the curiosity of how other religions connect to their belief system. Though, that is exactly what it did do. So, as I got older, I found myself more and more disconnected from the religion itself. This was very much to my parent’s dismay. Something that to this day they still have a hard time understanding.
To them leaving the congregation is akin to not believing and to falling off the path of righteousness. To many the word righteousness and religious are basically the same. As if being religious automatically makes you righteous. So, I am adding those definitions in here too. Let’s start with righteous.
(of a person or conduct) morally right or justifiable; virtuous.
“feelings of righteous indignation about pay and conditions”
Good, virtuous, upright, upstanding, decent, worthy, ethical, principled, moral, high-minded, law-abiding, just, honest, innocent, faultless, honorable, blameless, guiltless, irreproachable, sinless, uncorrupted, anticorruption, saintly, angelic, pure, noble, noble-minded, pious, God-fearing, Justifiable, justified, legitimate, defensible, supportable, rightful, well founded, sound, valid, admissible, allowable, understandable, excusable, acceptable, reasonable, sensible
very good; excellent.
“righteous bread pudding”
Again, this definition is copied directly from the Oxford dictionary. There are quite a few synonyms there. I highlighted a few (put them in bold and italicized).
In not practicing in their religion I was being told that I am no longer righteous. Which synonym were they using as a definition? For, just because I am not practicing your faith does not mean I have no faith. Nor does it mean that I do not believe in God. Now, are you telling me I am immoral, unprincipled and unethical? Philosophers have been debating over who decides what any of those things are and when they apply for centuries. Some say encouraging the lie of Santa Claus to young children is ok and not unethical while others disagree. Who is right? To move on before tangents go to far, there is one highlighted word or hyphenated word that I do agree with. I am not a God-fearing person. That is not however an indication that I do not believe in God. I very much do believe in God and maintain a relationship with him but no I do not fear him, he is a benevolent God after all, is he not? So, who then gets to determine my righteousness?
Now, let’s look at the definition for religious.
- relating to or believing in a religion.
“both men were deeply religious, intelligent, and moralistic”
Devout, pious, reverent, believing, godly, God-fearing, Dutiful, saintly, holy, prayerful, churchgoing, practicing, faithful, devoted, committed
- a person bound by monastic vows.
Okay, that can tie into being concerned with the human spirit instead of material things.
Let’s do one more definition, Religion what is it exactly according to the Oxford Dictionary?
- the belief in and worship of a superhuman controlling power, especially a personal God or gods.
“ideas about the relationship between science and religion”
Faith, belief, divinity, worship, creed, teaching, doctrine, theology, sect, cult, religious group, faith community, church, denomination, body, following, persuasion, affiliation
- a system of faith and worship.
plural noun: religions
“the world’s great religions”
- a pursuit or interest to which someone ascribes supreme importance.
“consumerism is the new religion”
get religion — be converted to religious belief and practices.
As you can see on this one, I included the origin of the word as I find it very relevant. The Latin origin of the word religion means to bind. Religion binds you to a belief system and a set of rules that the creators and governing body of that religion state as righteous or not.
Now back to my short tangent on the philosophy of “white lies” about Santa Clause. Some religions say it is ok and encourage the concept of Santa Clause, others say it is immoral and others say it is up to your relationship with God. A phrase used by many religions. Including the one I grew up in yet if you don’t follow their set rules or you stray off the path they have set before you, you risk being ostracized until you repent. How then would that affect your spirituality? How then does that affect your relationship with God?
Spirituality is a relationship to God (Gods, source, spirit whatever it is you call God) without the regulation of a specific set of rules. Now you can have that relationship and that connection within a religion and the two may very much coincide, as it does for my parents. Just know that they are not mutually exclusive. You can have one without the other.
In my journey of discovery my spirituality, my connection to the human spirit I have met many people that found true connection in their chosen religion and I have met many more that follow a religion because it’s what they were taught to do. The latter have a hard time connecting to their beliefs and often feel lost and lonely.
It is in our nature to feel connected. We are social creatures and require a connection to other people. It is why we can feel so strongly about the groups we belong to whether it is a religion, a sisterhood/brotherhood organization such as the Free Masons or even something as broadly encompassing as patriotism. There is absolutely nothing wrong with any of these things.
What embracing spirituality does is broaden our minds to the understanding of other’s plights relating our own personal experiences to others struggles and giving them room and support to get through those struggles. Spirituality is being responsible for your own connection to the creator(s) of this Earth. Spirituality is realizing that no matter what you believe in whether it is a religion or science or somewhat else we are all connected through the energy that created us and flows through us.
In my studies I have yet to find a faith from the past or the present that does not begin with us being created from nothing. Whether you believe in science or in a religion or a hodgepodge of it all, one thing that is found in them all is that from this Earth we were born and to it we shall return (at least our physical form). Spirituality is the understanding and acceptance of this. Of the basic knowledge that while we are individuals, we are also indivisible. We are connected through our making and we require knowing of, feeling and being a part of that human spirit.