Updated: Nov 3, 2022
Spirituality is an odd and nebulous term.
In our modern age, a great deal of people refer to themselves as "spiritual" but very few go as far as to define what they mean by the word. The strange side-effect of this is the creation of a large "collective" of individuals who all believe they share something in common, but almost none of them do.
For example, the following is just a small list of things that are considered "spiritual" by at least some people:
The Afterlife/Heaven & Hell
Out of Body Experiences
The Worship of Idols
Not Eating Pork
Not Eating Shellfish
Only Eating Animals Killed A Certain Way
Wearing a Crucifix
Wearing Mala Beads
Talking to the Dead
Jesus is the son of God
Buddha understands the entire universe
Thor Controls Lightning
Contact with aliens
Consciousness in everything
The future is set
The Future is open
The Number 13 is Unlucky (Western)
The Number 14 is Unlucky (Chinese)
Vows of silence
Of course, there are literally thousands, possibly infinite, items that could be added to this list, many of them mutually exclusive and contradictory. So, when you define yourself as "spiritual", you are using an incredibly broad and vague term—almost so much so that it becomes meaningless.
If you find yourself reading some of the items on this list and rolling your eyes, thinking "well that's just silly, that doesn't belong here", remember, there are others who will do exactly the same for the items on the list that resonate with you. Furthermore, if you hold one or more of the beliefs on this list, what are the rules you choose to abide-by surrounding this belief? Do others who share this belief also share the same rules and conditions as you? Remember our beliefs are not just ideas but the rules and interpretations of these ideas—with each listing having an equally limitless number of interpretations.
Define your Spirituality Here's a little experiment. Copy the above list and place a tick by each belief you hold. Feel free to add any that you feel are missing. Now, ask yourself this, if you were to give this list to everyone who considers themselves spiritual, and then asked them to place a tick by their own beliefs, just how many would ticks would you share? Indeed, how many people would share an identical series of ticks? It's likely the number would be very small indeed. Deeper still, for those who share some of your beliefs, how many of them follow the same rules and definitions? Is it not clear that almost everyone would have a unique set of ticks, a unique set of definitions, and each would believe that they were right?
The Illusion of a Spiritual Community The illusion that there is a collective "spiritual community" is pervasive but false. In reality, we are dealing with an almost endless mix of individuals whose beliefs and interpretations all vary wildly, yet huddle under the very wide and vague umbrella term, "spirituality". I challenge you to be more honest in your spirituality. Instead of using a vague term that creates an "in group" and an "out group", the "spiritual" and the "closed minded", instead, rather than define yourself as "spiritual", honestly and clearly define your unique set of beliefs and be in a position to define the rules and conditions you accept. Don't just jump to the defense of others who use the term spiritual, or any other paranormal terminology you use. The chances that they share your unique interpretations and beliefs are slim, even if the words they use are the same. Otherwise, the word spiritual becomes entirely meaningless, at best it simply means "I'm open to anything" or worse still, "I'm open to anything other than science, unless the science supports my beliefs". A belief isn't a belief if it doesn't have foundations, if you cannot define or defend it, if you cannot draw a line between what it is and what it isn't. You simply cannot believe everything that is considered spiritual and you are unlikely to share much in common with someone else who calls themselves spiritual either. Ignoring this achieves nothing, you simply become a walking contradiction with no consistency or integrity.
The Adventure of Life It's good to experiment, it's good to explore ideas and concepts. Seeking answers is part of the very nature of what it means to be human. Spirituality, or "spiritual seeking", on the other hand, maybe isn't quite the universal and shared experience we like to imagine it is. At best, it seems to be a nebulous term for each individual's means to address the inherent mysteries of the cosmos. It needn't be anti-science, nor should it, by default, contradict scientific and critical thinking.
If one is seeking truth, perhaps it's better to throw away vague definitions and in-group mentality?
Perhaps we should accept that we are all lost in a strange and mysterious cosmos, all grasping at ideas, all desperately trying to make sense of things, all testing and experimenting, and then, bravely turn to face the universe head on, naked, curious and unashamed of our ignorance. Maybe when we can humbly admit that we're small creatures in a very big and strange universe, that none of us have all the answers but we're trying hard to discover them. That collectively, we can try to make sense of the little we do know. Maybe then, we can drop the act of "spiritual" grandstanding, of the "my chakra is bigger than yours" and the "I'm open minded, you're not" mentality.
Maybe when we drop the vague term "spiritual" as some kind of badge of honour or means to define ourselves as individuals, and just say it how it is:
We're lost in a big cosmos, none of us know why or how we got here, or what is really going on. It's scary, it's exhilarating, and it's really tempting to pretend we know more than we do—but we don't, really.
Maybe then, we can learn to appreciate the hard work of science, the hard work of philosophers and artists, and we can slowly, as a species, stop arguing about which way is right, and just look mother nature in the eye, on her terms, not ours, not on what we want her to be, or what we wish to be true.
Maybe then, one day, she'll share with us a few more of her secrets. Whatever you believe, definitions are important, they structure how you look at the world and how you share, discuss, and develop your views. #spirituality #spiritual #meditation #thoughts #opinion