I’ve come to the conclusion that spirituality, for many people, is the “Next Frontier,” moving beyond the confines of a structured religious experience into a more comprehensive and inclusive understanding of our relationship with God.
Many people stay in their religion—going to church, synagogue or mosque—and may never consider what a spiritual awakening feels like; they simply remain comfortable in their religion of birth. Others may move from one denomination to another, such as a Baptist who becomes an Episcopalian or a conservative Jew who becomes Reformed. Rarely do people actually change one religion and move to another; it happens, but infrequently.
Spirituality adds a new flavor to our religious thinking because it invariably makes us less rigid and more inclusive.
Years ago people condemned other religions, fought wars, and burnt people at the stake. Vast numbers of missionaries sought to convert people to their faith, with threats of hell and damnation. That attitude, in most cases, changes once a person grasps a more spiritual approach. They begin to think, they develop a more compassionate approach to life, and they begin to interpret sacred and biblical sayings. In a word, they become enlightened.
Consider this excerpt from my book, The Happy Heretic:
Lastly, let’s consider the disagreements that occurred between Galileo and the church around the year 1610 AD. Galileo, considered by many to be the father of science, championed the work of Copernicus, which placed the sun at the center of the universe, challenging the teachings of the church, which said the Earth is at the center of the universe. The church used Psalm 96:10 to justify its teachings:
“Say among the nations, ‘The Lord is king! The world is firmly established; it shall never be moved.’”
The church immediately condemned the science of Copernicus and Galileo, which today is accepted by scientists. Galileo was judged and placed under house arrest for the rest of his life. He died in 1642. The Inquisition’s ban on reprinting the words of Galileo was lifted in 1718, and the Catholic Church only acknowledged its mistake in 1992, twenty-three years after man first landed on the moon!
Today science is not seen as the enemy. Most Christians and members of other religions see God at work in both science and medicine. These disciplines only make our understanding of the universe even more miraculous (2012, p. 127–8).
All this has me thinking that there may be a metaphysical state of mind that takes us beyond creeds, denominations, sacred books, and yes, beyond religion itself. That state of mind is spirituality.
Bill W., thinking about recovery from alcoholism, suggested that there is a state of mind called “emotional sobriety” and he described it as the “Next Frontier.” Well, I’m suggesting something similar; we move beyond thinking in narrowly religious terms into a more comprehensive way of thinking that I’m calling spirituality.
Some years ago, in my book Spirituality and Recovery, I wrote about what spirituality meant to me then:
Many people feel they are isolated pieces of humanity. It is fear that creates this isolation.
Spirituality is the way out of this prison. It is the key that opens the door to yourself and to the exciting journey of life. When I give lectures about spirituality, people always ask, ‘How do I get it? How can I bring spirituality into my life? Is there a teach-yourself book?’ These questions miss the essential point about spirituality. Spirituality has already been given! You and I have it. We are spiritual creatures, and the emphasis should not be on getting it or obtaining it but on discovering it. Spiritualty is to be experienced.
Spirituality is reality. I am aware of my spirituality when I am being real. Spirituality is my body, mind, emotions, style—that essence of my being that makes sense to me and is essential to me. The more honest I can get, the more I understand and am understood. Of course, this honesty can be a frightening experience. When honesty is experienced, vulnerability is felt. Honesty is not just me sharing things, it is me sharing me. Also, the listeners, by their eyes and smiles, give me something of their lives. It makes for connection (2012, p. 46–7).
Well, that was then and this is now. I still believe what I wrote, but my thinking has gone to another level. Today I believe that many of us are moving beyond religious organizations into a more inclusive state of mind that feeds off the best spiritual teachings in all the religions, and also philosophically creates a myriad of ideas and imaginings. It is truly a spiritual center that celebrates the best, occasionally using pomp, ceremony, and ritual.
This is the answer to ISIL. This is the answer to any religious extremism. It is the war of ideas. Rather than condemning religious groups that are different from our own, rather than killing and punishing in the name of God, we seek to include the best. We seek a universal religious enlightenment.
As I write this column I’m involved with a church that espouses these ideals. It is the Huntington Beach Center for Spiritual Living. Everyone is welcome: Jewish, Hindu, Buddhist, Christian, and Muslim. We also have people who are struggling with their faith. Others have lost or have no faith. Yet our shared spirituality, which is beyond religion, is experienced.
This, I believe, is the future. We learn from each other, only to realize that truth has many faces and we are one.
Booth, L. (2012). The happy heretic: Seven spiritual insights for healing religious codependency. Deerfield Beach, FL: Health Communications.
Booth, L. (2012). Spirituality and recovery. Deerfield Beach, FL: Health Communications.