The Twin Towers Trilogy has a subtitle: A Spirituality for the Age of Terrorism, and Entering Eternity With Ease has a subtitle: A Spirituality For Any Pandemic but what exactly is “spirituality”? We need to clarify what we mean by “spirituality”.
Spirituality, like philosophy, means many different concepts to many different people. There is mostly confusion and misunderstanding for most people because we tend to bunch together spirituality, religion, belief, and faith, as if they were all synonyms for ultimately the same practices. There is a huge difference between spirituality and religion. There is also an enormous difference between spirituality and belief. There is, too, an inescapable difference between spirituality and faith.
First, religion is most often understood as belief in and worship of a superhuman, supernatural controlling power, especially a personal God or gods. Religions have rituals, prayers, and liturgies that are usually read by professional “religious”, men and women, who make lifetime commitments. Most religions consider themselves “the one true religion”, because once you believe you have found God, the One True God, your religion, i.e. your binding to “Him” must be absolute, because your salvation depends on your religious practice. The very name “Islam”, in the case of Mohammedanism, means being a slave of Allah (God.)
The second difference is that between spirituality and belief. Spirituality is a practice of awareness inside of us, in our very gut. Belief is thinking in our brains about the world outside of us. Belief is a number of human opinions about ultimate reality that have been codified and canonized, and institutionalized into official religions. Most human beings are born into a religion with its own traditional set of beliefs, which we absorb through our family and societal environment right from our toddlerhood.
Finally, faith. Faith is a blind commitment to a religion’s set of beliefs. Most religions believe that the articles of faith are revealed by God. Of course, religions believe that God exists outside this universe, outside our history, and intervenes in history to reveal himself to us. The Bible, the Quran, other Religious Scriptures, are called The Word of God, literally. I explain throughout my writings that all “Scriptures” were composed as metaphors, but have come down to us as literal history. We have very little absolute knowledge of what really happened and who really wrote down the scriptures which were mostly oral traditions handed down over generations.
So, if spirituality is different from religious faith or belief, what is it? It behooves me to define spirituality as broadly as I can, with the hope of appealing to as many people as I possibly can. My fond hope is that my spiritual outlook on human existence is compatible with all human beings, regardless of religion, or regardless of political ideology, or lack of it. Regardless of whether they are theists or atheists, agnostics or Gnostics, I hope to appeal to whatever philosophy the reader has been exposed to. Philosophy is, literally, “the love of wisdom”, and concerns itself especially with the “ultimate facts and principles of reality and of human nature and conduct.” (Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary, Merriam, Springfield, MA,1959)
The spirituality which I have lived for the past ten years may be called “new age” spirituality by those who feel a need to categorize where I am coming from, but it is hardly new in its basic elements and really goes back to the dawn of human consciousness, as I explained in Chapter Two of the Third Book of the Trilogy: “The God Who Always Was”.
There are two basic forms of spirituality afoot in the world today: religious spirituality and secular spirituality. Religious spirituality is based on the faith, beliefs, and teachings of whatever religion one chooses to follow. Secular spirituality is based, not on a series of beliefs, held on faith, or taught by authority like religious spirituality, but on practice. I have said elsewhere that this is the difference between orthodoxy and orthopraxy. Orthodoxy is about “The Right Teachings” and orthopraxy is about “The Right Practices.” Jesus’ famous statement: “By their fruits you shall know them”, says that you can tell who has the truth, not by what they say or teach, but by what they do, or how they act in practice.
Another way of putting it: If a spirituality, a way of thinking or non-thinking, or of being or of doing, leads you to love yourself (your true self, that is), and leads you to love all those around you, you are on the right track.
If the spiritual practice you embrace leads you to fear and guilt, and anxiety, you are on the wrong track, get off that practice.
If the spiritual practice you embrace leads you to joy, you are on the right track. Joy is the experience of ultimate reality as peace and love.
Recently, I encountered a book on spirituality that contains most of the ideas that I have in my books. The book is: This Is It: Dialogues on the Nature of Oneness, by Jan Kersschot, (Watkins Publishing, London, 2004). Jan Kersschot has an interview with Eckhart Tolle another great spiritual teacher, which says very beautifully what the spirituality I espouse is all about.
“John K.: The story goes that you spent two years living on park benches before you started to talk about this.
“Ekhart T.: I was lost in Being. The present moment was so fulfilling that I had completely lost interest in the future. The future and all the rest didn’t matter anymore. I was in some sort of continuous state of joy. Sometimes my mind would come in and ask, ‘How can you be so happy?’
“JT.: You got lost in Beingness?
“ET.: Yes. One aspect of the transformation that happened to me was that the stream of thinking became reduced considerably.
“JK.: You were walking around with very little thought?
“ET.: Yes. I was walking around with very little thought. Without realizing it.
“JK.: I see.
“ET.: The wonderful thing is to relate to the world and yourself without the screen of interpretation and conceptualization. So, not relating to yourself and others through mental noise but through stillness.
“JK.: That is what awakening means to you?
“ET.: Yes: Knowing yourself to be the stillness.
“JK.: At that time, you were so to speak lost in this stillness.
“ET.: But gradually I managed to function in the world again. I couldn’t be sitting on a park bench in Russell Square for the rest of my life. I gradually regained the balance between being and doing.” 1.
This “reducing the amount of thinking”, and cutting down on the “screen of mental noise” is one of the main tenets of Zen meditation. I call it “teaching yourself not to think.” This is one of the biggest stumbling blocks to our Ego, for Ego uses this “conceptualization and interpretation” constantly to take us away from the present moment and drive us into guilt about the past and anxiety about the future.
Jan Kersschot and Eckhart Tolle both teach a spirituality based, not on thinking but on being. To enter into the Oneness of Being, we don’t have to do anything, or say anything, or think anything, we just have to BE what we already are: in the Oneness of Being, or Unicity, but they are all interchangeable terms for God, Allah, Brahman, the Dao. Neither Tolle or Eckhart embrace the teachings of the religions about God, Allah, or Brahman, but they are all talking about the same Universal Power of Being which Kersschott calls “IT.” I prefer my description of “The God who always was” as synonymous with their “Beingness.” I emphasize what Eckhart Tolle says about his thinking being diminished by 90 % since his experience of “Enlightenment”, or “Awakening.”
I relate to this diminishment of bad thinking, accompanied by negative feeling, which Tolle calls The Pain-Body, the accumulation of guilt, shame, regrets, anger, and anxiety flooding our minds and drowning our Ego/false-self in a sea of suffering. With this diminishment of negative thoughts, I have found peace and joy and, of course, compassion for my fellow man drowning in this sea of self-induced pain. They suffer from their emotion saturated Pain-Body, as described by Tolle.
After a lifetime search for “enlightenment” or “awakening,” I am finally coming to see it as acceptance of the reality that I am not an individual being, but I exist within the Oneness of Being. I am not part of the Oneness of Being, because if Being is One, it obviously has no parts. But my true spirit/self exists within the Oneness of Being, that is, in Beingness itself, as Kersschot and Tolle say. (If you want to hear this in terms understandable to Christian tradition: “In Him we live and move, and have our being.” (St. Paul)
- Kersschoff, Jan, This Is It: The Nature of Oneness, Watkins Publishing, London, 2004