What is "Spirituality"?

by Father Paschal Baute

Spirituality is living one's life from the realization that the body/mind/ego personality we have been taught to identify with is just the tip of our iceberg, our little head sticking through the window of the senses into this world, whereas our true body is the universe. It is recognizing that our perceived world is mostly an illusion, a shared dream we are asleep in, and that the goal of life is to awake to our real Self which is vast and multidimensional--already intimately connected with all of creation, with a twin shadow self that is already scripted, mostly primitive, and hidden from us, but that this whole Self is already One with this mystery we call God/dess whose essence can hardly be understood, but to which we give names as Eternal Wisdom, Ultimate Reality, Birther of all Life, S/he Who Is, etc.

Our spiritual journey is interpreting the precious meaning of this unique life given to us and, hopefully, recognizing and living this Oneness, brought to us in many forms by the great teacher, Life itself, in its various crises and transitions.

Maybe it would help to realize that we are so made as humans that we need and yearn for the ultimate in our lives, the TREMENDUM MYSTERIUM, and that if we don't find it in this mystery we call God/dess, we are bound to create it by worshipping some thing in our exterior, material worlds, or even some idea (=ideology) or, possibly, ideas about God. Many are of such orientation and persuasion that THIS DIVINE ENTITY needs to be definitive, nailed down, with all parameters set and explained. Some end up worshipping their way to God, rather than this mystery we call "God", and as a result, judging all others by their way to God, thereby judging others as further from God than they. Someone said that we must leave "religion" to find God. This is mostly true: I must leave all my preconceived ideas about God to find God. I prefer to think of this Mystery not as a noun but as a verb, always new: the possibility of each new moment. It is the Birther of all Life, Ultimate Reality, Eternal Wisdom, Unconditional Love.

The problem is that many end up worshipping their own CERTAINTY, or the singularity of their belief system, not the unfathomable Mysterium. Gregory of Nyssa in the 4th century said it well: "Concepts create idols, only wonder understands anything." Religion is about certainty, spirituality is about wonder. Many escape into religion in order not to be challenged by God. Christians may have made Jesus into the only Son of God in order not be confronted with his prophetical challenges to a vast new way of living and who he was as a human being. Jesus Before Christianity (before the Christians got hold of him) by Albert Nolan (Maryknoll, Orbis) is an excellent start. Because we do not want to have to continually rethink things, most of us prefer our illusions and private idols to reality and mystery and challenge."Church" is only one of the messes we've made out of "Jesus." It is unlikely that he meant to establish any of what we have today as "church."

Religion attracts those of a Guardian type personality-- needing certainty; Spirituality attracts those of a more Pilgrim type of personality-- more open to learning, wonder, mystery. These "types" are more bearings on a dimension rather than a dichotomy. Wholeness means having both, integrated, but ever new, never fully "arrived." More becoming, as a verb. Jesus invited us to the journey, not to "church", certainly not to organized religion--which he opposed. He gave the Reign of God back to ordinary folk without the need for official intermediaries. The uses and misuses of belief and power fascinate me as a psychologist interested in mystery, spirituality, the human shadow self, the role of grace, chaos theory & cyberspace.

Namaste! (The Divine Mystery in me welcomes and salutes the Divine Mystery in You.)

© 1/5/95 Paschal Baute. Lexington, KY 40509-9520.