It seems to me that spirituality, nowadays, is in quite a dilemma. In fact, it seems to be hanging on by a thread. It seems that spirituality is either non-existentent, distorted, or there is too much skepticism of it. This leads to a general non-spirituality in people.
I mention this because my experience is that a good healthy spirituality is beneficial to people and makes for a better fuller life. This makes it so that it is something that should not be looked at lightly. Promoting and developing a spirituality, in my opinion, is better than learning or education. Who cares if someone can name the capitals of all the states or knows the scientific names of dinosaurs or can do algebra. These are petty details in life compared to spirituality.
A spirituality places a person in the world actively. It makes them a participant. Spirituality also takes a more broader perspective of life. Unlike intellectualism (which is so prevalent nowadays), spirituality is based in the ‘seen’ and ‘unseen’ in life, making it look at life from a larger perspective.
I should point out that spirituality is an active personal act of belief. Religion, on the other hand, is just the ‘social’ perspectives and demonstration of belief. A person may be ‘religious’ but have no spirituality (which is often the case). Though spirituality may have a foundation in religion, it is not the same as religion.
I’ve found that many people do develop a ‘naturally appearing spirituality’, which is a good example of its innate need. Where I live this is usually not based on any ‘religion’ but on a ‘moral perspective’ of life, of a ‘proper way to live’. As such, its usually based on how one acts in life. It doesn’t go into the ‘deeper’ aspects of life, dealing with the mystery of life and such (that something like a religious belief can create), making it sort of a ‘watered down spirituality’. Nonetheless, it is a form of spirituality. It shows qualities of a spirituality such as:
- A perception of what life is – a reference to the authority of life.
- A sense that one must live a certain way – a reference to the need for us to submit to life.
- A sense that this should be ‘taken to heart’, so to speak – a reference to the fact that our behaviour hits something deep within us.
The latter quality gives spirituality its ‘oomph’, but this can’t happen without the earlier qualities. ‘Modern spirituality’, in particular, fails particularly bad as it does not ‘hit deep’.
It appears that the dilemma of spirituality is primarily a result of history. In other words, historical events have basically undermined spirituality. It has nothing to do with spirituality itself. Spirituality, by itself, didn’t really do anything but it was how history used or influenced it that caused the dilemma. In that sense, spirituality is an ‘innocent victim’ of historical circumstance.
Some of the historical circumstances that have helped undermine spirituality include:
- The disputes between religions and beliefs over the years. These have created great doubt about belief in general.
- The rise of intellectualism. Looking at things critically had a tendency to undermine anything to do with belief, including spirituality. It’s outlook, also, tended to not favor a spirituality. One reason for this is that intellectualism did not allow for the ‘mystery’ in life.
- The coming of Protestentism. The dispute with the Catholic church put much of the beliefs under question. Also, being based in intellectualism, it was not much favoring the ‘mystery’ of life.
- The attitudes and perspectives of science. In the 1700’s science began to try to disprove and contradict religious beliefs. This led to a deteriation of belief, including spirituality.
- The effects of the modern world. The changes caused by the modern world has undermined and destroyed ways of life and living. They’ve created whole new circumstances of living and this has come rapidly. Being that much of belief and spirituality is rooted in a way of life, this has had great impact on the validity of belief and spirituality. In many ways, they have become ‘uprooted’ by the modern world.
- The ‘new age’ beliefs. I often feel this has done more damage than science and intellectualism. Though it “promotes” spirituality, it promotes a distorted-like spirituality, founded on specific historical circumstance (the cold war and the problems of the modern world). As a result, they tend to be blindly idealistic. There was a tendency to alter beliefs to suit their ‘fancy’, use beliefs not based in a way of life or the culture they lived in (they ‘transplanted’ beliefs from other places), there was no authority in their beliefs, many views were based in the social problems of the 1960’s and 1970’s, and such.
- The effects of overpopulation. The overpopulation of the world has caused a deteriation of belief in general. Too many people, too many points of view, clashing of cultures and belief, the dilemma’s caused by overpopulation, the strains it causes, the political problems, the economic problems, etc. have all added up to a moving away of belief and spirituality in many overpopulated areas.
- The influence of alienation. With the modern world we see a rise in alienation in people, as well as dehumanization. This condition is not conducive to the developing of a spirituality.
Many of these are rooted in historical events and some reflect various historical movements that have or are taking place. These events have all done specific and particular damage to belief and spirituality in general. They have done damage a number of ways:
- By altering it.
- By distorting it.
- By destroying it.
- By creating conditions where spirituality cannot grow.
In general, I see very little that promotes of develops a spirituality and nothing ‘new’ has really been developed: no new beliefs, no new spirituality. This creates a condition where things are more whittled down than not, causing a gradual decrease in these things. In so doing, the good and beneficial effects of spirituality are being lost and, in a way, forgotten. Though many people may not see it at this time, I see this as a tragedy. With the march of overpopulation and the modern world, I don’t see any change soon either. Much of Western society has already had its beliefs and spirituality ‘gutted out’ long ago . . . there isn’t even anything to build upon. All this develops a tendency of non-growth with spirituality, which is what we’re seeing.