Religion and Spirituality

September 18, 2013

At the tender age of six, my Sunday school teacher shoved a picture in front of each of her pupils to make sure we fully understood her version of religion: do what you are expected or suffer horribly. The picture was of a grotesque scene in hell with screaming people reaching out from a fire scorching their feet and legs. I never have forgotten it.

What I did forget for many years was my inner connection to the Divine. I still used the word God, but there was no depth of Grace or loving feeling in its meaning for me. Even though all that has changed, I still prefer this term as I have now realized God is quite more than we can ever fathom. Whatever word we use to describe the Divine – whether God, El, Adonai, YHWH, Yahweh, Allah, Numinous, the Universe, or hundreds of others – because of our limited perception, no word can be a complete expression of the omnipresent, omnipotent, and omniscient. No word can fully express Divine Love.

For most of us, we seek That Which Is Greater than we are, That Which is Holy, That Which is Love, all the while hoping and dreaming, scheming and planning, studying and following all manner of teachings from those we feel are more educated in the ways of God than we are. I have been no different. Because we want more love, want more understanding, and want to know we are close to God, most of us have been constant seekers for part or all of our lives, seeking outside of ourselves what is already part of our own created nature.

Yet, over the years I have learned one very important thing concerning this constant seeking of Divinity, that holy connection between creation and Creator: religion and spirituality are two entirely different things. Religion is organizationally based upon a specific set of beliefs while spirituality is uniquely individual.

Every religion I have studied has at its core a defined theology based upon extensive analysis, direct experience of the Divine by someone we admire and trust, or a combination of both. Usually, the teachings are finite instead of infinite. In other words, religion is usually analytical and specific instead of mystical.

Religion does have a positive purpose in this world. We learn from each other. We often need community when we have troubles, and we often have the need to become the community to help others. Since most religions are group-based within a specific institution, they provide community and a way to become closer to God through the beliefs of the organization. However, if the religious organization discourages inner exploration, then it becomes a problem instead of a solution, a cage instead of a path.

Spirituality is that unique, all encompassing, all empowering connection between the individual and God. Because each of us is unique, this Divine relationship cannot be compared between people. Every one of us has been created with specific talents that allow us to facilitate and utilize this inner connection as we increase in Wisdom. More than faith based, it’s an inner longing that has been finally recognized as real.

Spirituality is that inner stillness basked in Holy Love emanating from total Divinity, which is actually with us from birth. We’ve just been conditioned by experiences in this world to forget this inner connection. Divinity is not something we seek. Instead, it’s our Presence, our Now.

In other words, we are that Divinity which we have constantly sought; it’s been with us the entire time. Understand, however, though we are of God, we are not all of God. Humanity is just a tiny fraction of the unmeasurable totality of God. Accepting this realization is not something we do; instead, it is something we allow, something we open up to, and something we simply are. When this happens, personal growth continues exponentially and in ways that are not always analytical in nature.

Currently, I am a member of a well-established, Christian denomination located nearby. I love attending the services on Sunday mornings. Through the hymns, sermons, or even an occasional extra class I usually come home with a new thought, awareness, or even just feel good for having attended. However, this is not my total experience; because I am mystical, I need more.

I love witnessing the blue herons in the marshland near the seashore. I love the ancient Live Oaks dipping their branches down toward the earth while ever growing toward the open sky. I feel that Inner Stillness increase exponentially while sitting silently in a wooden canoe in the still waters at the back of the lake nearby. These moments feel more to me than a Divine hug. They feel like life itself emanating Love from God through my heart right into my very soul. In this way, mystically, I know that I am One with All – an overwhelmingly wonderful feeling of my own spirituality that is quite impossible to explain.

Yes, it’s possible to have religion and spirituality together as long as you are continually open to that inner, still voice of God to lead you, love you, and help you grow in wisdom. It’s also possible to have spirituality without religion. As always, it’s your choice. Become aware of that choice. Instead of constantly seeking, become more present, more sensitive of your own innate spirituality, more aware of your own Divine connection.

This inner awareness can change your life in many positive ways. It certainly has mine.

 

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