Forum: What Is The Meaning Of ‘Spirituality’ To You?

The Watcher’s Council


Every week on Monday morning, the Watcher’s Council and our invited guests weigh in at the Watcher’s Forum with short takes on a major issue of the day, the culture or daily living. This week’s question: What Is The Meaning Of ‘Spirituality’ To You?

Liberty’s Spirit: Spirituality is the understanding that the universe is greater than yourself, but at the same time, you are obligated to better the world around you as if you, and you alone, are responsible for the continuation of all living creatures. It matters not to me how any one person comes to this realization. I do not believe that a person has to have a religion to be a good person (unfortunately there are too many people in the world who use religion as a weapon to hurt others instead of a path to goodness). What matters is that individuals understand that their singular actions effect everyone around them and that there is a ripple effect in the dynamics of the universe. The constant desire to be kind to all living creatures around you is the epitome of spirituality. Every little action can have a positive effect on a stranger. A simple smile at a passing individual could bring joy to their world in ways you will never know. Trying to be a better person than you were the moment before is the path to spirituality and the constant challenge of humanity.

Simply Jews: That one sent me to the dictionary.

The first meaning (“Property or income owned by a church”) is hardly relevant to me.
The second one (“Concern with things of the spirit”) is somewhat more interesting, although, I suspect, much easier to deal with for religious people, which I am not.

So, I shall have to define it for myself, then. I would say that spirituality means several activities that a person occupies him/herself during the breaks in the daily mundane pursuit of happiness in its material aspect.

Our spiritual pursuits could be the main difference between us and the animals, although as a definition this statement doesn’t add much understanding of spirituality.

So, to be more specific, let’s go by example: fine arts, literature, music and, (unfortunately I have to say it), the elements of popular culture such as pop, heavy metal and similar kinds of musics, should be all named as part of our spirituality.

As, of course, the religious person’s study of things religious and praying, equivalent of which for a secular person would be philosophy – provided the secular person indulges in this field of activity.

And, if you want to take the root of the word “spirituality” more literally, a good bottle of spirit, like the one distillated by the magicians of Scotland, has something to do with spirituality too. Depending on the dosage, of course.

The Noisy Room: The meaning of ‘spirituality’ to me is simply my lifelong walk with God. As a child, my father was in construction and we moved constantly. My father was agnostic and my Grandmother was a devout Christian. However, we were never forced to go to church. From the time I can remember walking and talking, I have always gravitated to the Bible and its teachings. I went to church myself from the time I was very young – always alone. I have always felt Him with me – in the good and bad times and he has sustained me through many battles during my life. I could no more separate my life and being from my belief in God, than I could stop fighting against Communism. Most of my life, I have felt led by my spirituality to pursue the work I am ensconced in. It is my belief that I follow a calling from God and each and every day I pray for guidance. I gladly follow my path and His lead… I always will until I leave this world for the next.

JoshuaPundit: Spirituality is the horse that takes you on your journey towards Almighty G-d. Faith and acceptance is the reward at journey’s end. And should you be so fortunate as to be so close to the Father of Us All to be blessed with faith and acceptance, the next step is the self discipline to practice and live that faith and acceptance in this world, as an offering.

GrEaT sAtAn”S gIrLfRiEnD: “Authentic spirituality involves an emotional response, what I will call the spiritual response, which can include feelings of significance, unity, awe, joy, acceptance, and consolation. Such feelings are intrinsically rewarding and so are sought out in their own right, but they also help us in dealing with difficult situations involving death, loss, and disappointment. The spiritual response thus helps meet our affective needs for both celebration and reconciliation. ”

As Richard Dawkins puts it in his book Unweaving the Rainbow, we have an “appetite for wonder,” an appetite for evoking the positive emotional states that are linked to our deepest existential questions.

But what might evoke these states? Spirituality often involves a cognitive context, a set of beliefs about oneself and the world which can both inspire the spiritual response and provide an interpretation of it. Our ideas about what ultimately exists, who we fundamentally are, and our place in the greater scheme of things form the cognitive context for spirituality. By contemplating such beliefs we are temporarily drawn out of the mundane into the realization of life’s deeper significance, and this realization generates emotional effects. But equally, the spiritual response thus generated is itself interpreted in the light of our basic beliefs; namely, it is taken to reflect the ultimate truth of our situation as we conceive it. The cognitive context of spirituality and the spiritual response are therefore linked tightly in reciprocal evocation and validation.

A third essential component of spirituality is what is ordinarily called spiritual practice. Since the intellectual appreciation of fundamental beliefs alone may not suffice to evoke a particularly deep experience, various non-cognitive techniques can help to access the spiritual response. Activities such as dance, singing, chant, meditation, and participation in various rituals and ceremonies all can play a role in moving us from the head to the heart. And it is in the heart, or gut, after all, where we find the most powerful intrinsic rewards of spirituality, as profound as its cognitive context might be.

Although the emotional content of the spiritual response – feelings of connection, significance, serenity, acceptance – is common to all spirituality, the background beliefs and specific practices vary tremendously. Almost all of us have the biological capacity to feel spiritually transported, but the cognitive context of those moments and the techniques to induce them are a matter of our culture.

A fascinating variety of spiritual traditions have arisen, ranging from the rigorous, ascetic regimes of Zen meditation to the ecstatic communal celebration of a Sunday morning gospel service, and each tradition has its own conception of the world and the individual’s place in it.

Stemming from these beliefs there are a multiplicity of spiritual objects of veneration, of deeper realities to be encountered: God, Earth, Nature, Emptiness, angels, devils, ancestors, previous incarnations, the Force, you name it (for a current, pop-cultural sampling of these, visit Beliefnet). For each tradition, spiritual experience is taken to be the direct appreciation of the ultimate truth about the world, a way to transcend one’s limited everyday perspective in the quest for meaning, unity, and serenity.

One of the most prominent recurring themes in Paul’s writings is the contrast between the flesh and the spirit. In the original Greek manuscripts of Paul’s letters, the Greek word SARX appears over ninety times. This word is most often translated as “flesh” and represents the physical, literal, carnal viewpoint. The opposite of the word SARX is the word PNEUMOS. This word appears over one hundred and thirty times in Paul’s writings and is translated as “spirit”.

The PNEUMOS represents the spiritual, non-physical, symbolic view. One of the best examples illustrating this contrast between the fleshly, literal outlook and the non -physical, spiritual perspective can be found in the epistle that Paul wrote to the Christians of Rome.

In this letter he declared: “there is therefore now no condemnation to those… who do not walk according to the flesh (SARX), but according to the Spirit (PNEUMOS)… for the mind of the flesh (SARX) is death; but the mind of the Spirit (PHRONEMA TOU PNEUMATOS) is life and peace; because of this the mind of the flesh (SARX) is enmity towards God… those in the flesh (SARX) are not able to please God… if anyone has not the Spirit (PNEUMOS) of Christ, this one is not His… for as many as are led by the Spirit (PNEUMOS) of God, these are sons of God” -Romans 8 (Interlinear Bible)

When Paul spoke of “those in the flesh [who] are not able to please God”, he certainly was not implying that anyone who has a physical, fleshly body can’t please God. Instead, he’s referring to the “mind of the flesh (SARX)”… the fleshly, literal attitudes, interpretations and ways of thinking which “are not able to please God”. It is the “mind of the flesh” – being literal minded which is “death.” It is the “mind of the spirit” – having a spiritual viewpoint which “is life”.

To make absolutely certain that Christians don’t miss this important point, Paul repeats it again in another passage. He wrote: “God made us able ministers of a new covenant; not of letter, but of Spirit (PNEUMOS). For the letter [the literal] kills, but the Spirit makes alive” -2 Corinthians 3:6 (Interlinear Bible)

The literal “kills”. The “mind of the flesh” is “death”. But seeing things in terms of their spiritual meanings breathes life into them and fosters true understanding.It was to these kinds of literal minded people that Jesus was referring when he said “seeing they do not see and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand”.

The Glittering Eye: I think that people refer to themselves as “spiritual” when they don’t want to be inconvenienced by a religion or systematic theology or ethics that might demand something from them or constrain their actions.

Perhaps that’s unkind of me.

Ask Marion: Spirituality to me is my (everyone’s) personal connection to God, our creator, but also to each other, to all living creatures and to nature. I liken it to a telephone for our souls.

Spirituality is the personal side of religion. Religion educates us and often helps people find a way to meet and mingle with like minded souls or searchers, but organized religion also has a worldly agenda that sometimes steers us far from spirituality and what I see as organized religions’ true and original intent.

I grew up Catholic and they actually steer you away from what I see as spirituality where each of us can speak and pray to God directly at any and all times instead of having to go through a third party. You can see how popular I was with the nuns… 😉

For me spirituality includes the little voice in our heads, the tug in our hearts and the dreams or premonitions that tell us what is right or lead us in the right direction… if we listen. For those of us driver personality types, like me, I try to listen and often hear but then have to fight myself not to try to take control and argue with God, in our discussions that I have with him throughout the day, for my point of view.

The voice of spirituality is far too often not heard by many and even if they do, it is equally as often ignored. I remember Dr. Robert H. Schuller, Founder of the Crystal Cathedral, saying in one of his sermons, that we in countries like the United States and other first world countries, where we have so much to be grateful for, often have a much shallower connection to God and that inner voice than people in very poor nations where merely surviving is an every day struggle, because our world is so busy, so noisy and so full of distractions, that we no longer search for God, take time to listen to him talking to each of us, or recognize His messages to us. Just like many of us never take the time to pray or just talk to God… until we need or want something from Him. for as they say… there are no atheists in foxholes.

Also included in the realm of spirituality for me are joy and sadness… the feeling you get when you look into your children’s eyes; the feeling you get when you look into your pets’ or any animals’ eyes; the indescribable feeling you get when you see the beauty in nature; the feeling of peace you get when you took action or stood for the right thing, no matter what the personal cost to you. Spirituality is what makes living creatures of all kinds help each other and do good deeds that no one will ever know about and for which the only reward is the fulfillment of having done something good. But for me it is also the sadness you feel when we, humans anywhere in the world, abuse each other, when animals are mistreated, when we destroy a part of the world’s landscape or when humanity falls short no matter how far we are removed from the person (people), place, living-creature or event… and the guilt that we should feel for not having stepped-up. It is also the combined feeling of joy and sorrow that one feels if they were ever blessed to be holding another living creature… a loved-one or a pet, when they take their last breath and leave this world, knowing… if you have the belief, that they are entering the next.

Spirituality is the glue that holds us all together and that will hopefully someday prevail over the hate and politics that run the world.

Bookworm Room: When I was young, I called myself an atheist. There is no God, I thought.

As I’ve grown older, though, I’ve realized a few things. First, we humans are definitely greater than the sum of our parts. We can deconstruct humans down to the atomic level without ever touching upon the animating force that powers us or understanding our ability to function not just mechanically, but in a moral, abstract way. Second, no one has answered to my satisfaction what preceded the Big Bang. And third, without a belief in something greater than ourselves, nothing controls our baser instincts. Incidentally, by greater than ourselves, I don’t mean a collection of individuals, such as government, as opposed to a single individual or a small group of individuals. When I speak of something greater, I refer to an entity other than mankind. I don’t know if this entity created us, controls us, or just observes us, but I believe it exists and that we would be wise to assume that it has certain expectations about our behavior.

To me, then, spirituality means accepting that there is — and must be — something out there bigger than we are, and believing that this greater being demands that we behave according to our best abilities, not our worst. I find the Judeo-Christian tradition a very satisfying way of both recognizing a greater being and demanding a higher standard of living.

Well, there you have it.

Make sure to tune in every Monday for the Watcher’s Forum. And remember, every Wednesday, the Council has its weekly contest with the members nominating two posts each, one written by themselves and one written by someone from outside the group for consideration by the whole Council. The votes are cast by the Council and the results are posted on Friday morning.

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