Chapter Six – Religion Vs Spirituality
Religion has external focus, serves as external authority and separates us as people; spirituality has internal focus, calls on inner authority and unites us as people; we learn religion, we allow ourselves to grow spiritually.
Our parents raise us and need to launch us to our next level of development. To not do so is to fail us in our cultural life. In other words, parents need to put themselves out of business to fulfill their function of bringing us to adulthood. Our religions raise us and need to launch us to our next level of development. To fail to do so is to fail us in our spiritual life. In other words, religious institutions need to put themselves out of business to fulfill their function of bringing us to maturity as divine human beings. To keep a religious institution as a parent is to deny God and goodness that comes through the Self. It is our innate nature to both grow up physically and mature spiritually. To fail to do so is to fail to bring our life to completion and to fail in our life purpose.
My mother, due to her own blindness, failed to nurture my soul. She demanded that she be the external authority figure in my life and that I conform to her external rule. I had to part ways with her to grow up. She never sanctioned my being true to myself, or ever truly recognized me as a grown up. I see churches failing to nurture souls out of this same blindness. Churches provide external authority figures and maintain an external focus that interferes with the natural growth to inner authority needed for proper function as a mature being.
Healthy parents launch their children. They allow, encourage, or force them to rely on their inner parent for what they do. Healthy religions need also to launch people. They need to allow, encourage, or force them to rely on their inner connection with the divine feminine and masculine for who they are being. To keep a religious authority as our external parent denies us our natural miraculous flow of love and all that expressions of Godness, love-infused actions, could bring to Earth.
Religions can give us external models for being good, by their definition, and we can adapt to external models. Lulled into believing that this is the highest we can be, we remain blind to their being another level of Goodness to be recognized and embraced as a way of being. To Be good, we must make our inner connection. In terms of bringing peace to earth, religious institutions are the opposite of what they purport to be. They not only hold divisions between denominations, they maintain the separation from inner authority needed to mature into a state of Peace.
We are all born with an imprint of our Highest Being, our holy or divine Self. This Self is connected to the Holy. We are to be direct conduits for this Holy. To do this we must move beyond external figures as our models and be our unique Selves. It is the self we learn to be with our parents and in society that we let die out to become our unique divine Selves. Only then can we bring our unique contributions to make our world loving, peaceful, and nurturing. In A Course in Miracles, the Second Coming is beautifully defined as each of us expressing our Christ Selves. To create a new world order we need to move to the holy level. Only there can we most beautifully give our unique gifts to Earth.
Every person has a unique way of understanding life. Every person invests faith in something whether aware of it or not. And this decision is made by the moment, more outside of awareness than in. Probably most people claim to have a religion or to be spiritual. While religion and spirituality intermix, I seek to contrast here some definite differences between them.
Religions have names that distinguish them one from the other. Then these religions, such as Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, and Buddhism are further broken down. Members of the faith learn belief systems and follow doctrines, dogmas, rituals, customs, and observances of their religion. Spiritually speaking, there are no such divisions, no set belief systems, no doctrine or dogma to follow, no set rituals, no set customs, and no such observances. At the spiritual level, we are all One and the Principle of Unity abides. The Higher Self of any person would be of the same energy or vibration in any religion or in spirituality. “Name” means vibration, as “in the name of Jesus Christ.” Holy vibration is also known a peace, love, and joy. We all have the same “name” at the level of holiness. We are all Christs (other religions have their own name for this level of energy). We all have an inner imprint or archetype of the Christ level of being or ourselves as a holy being. Perhaps most of us know this as being happy and search for happiness incessantly. Believing that only one man who lived 2000 years ago has that title, that name, that vibration, has been destructive to humanity beyond anything any of us can imagine. To include the Feminine Principle with the Masculine Principle will allow all of us to be transformed to our higher way of being. We have to move on from external figures as our models to be our unique Selves and bring our unique contributions to make our world loving, peaceful, and nurturing to all on Earth and to Earth herself.
Religion is externally and historically oriented. It teaches about people, places, and events of the past, the future, and outside of ourselves. It seeks to know Truth through sacred texts and great leaders of the past. To the extent that religious institutions hold to an external focus, they interfere with the natural inner connection that is necessary for the soul to mature. Spirituality is internally focused and deals with becoming a direct conduit of holy energy in the present. To create a new world we need to move to our holy level. Spirituality is guided from within, usually supplemented by books by current authors who have themselves awakened. Spirituality is a process of gaining Self-awareness. This allows us to align with the Self within that knows Truth intuitively.
Religion seeks to teach and inspire from without. In religion we may hear clergy speak, or read sacred texts, and seek to align ourselves with those words and models. The focus may be on what we are to do, as good deeds. Spirituality is inspired from within. In spirituality we would be drawn to discover Truth of the soul’s life from within, and then to live attuned to that. Spiritual devotees are more likely to be self-educative, introspective, reflective, and contemplative to draw on inner wisdom. The focus here is more likely on what we are Being no matter what we are doing, as in Being kind, compassionate, gentle, peaceful, inclusive of others, etc.
Religions teach about God. Spirituality’s focus is on realizing Divinity as Imminent, everywhere in the Universe including within one’s own consciousness, and then experiencing God. When we have balanced the pulse of the Feminine and Masculine Principles within, to receive and to give are one and the same. To experience God is to receive energy and give it as received. This would be to receive the love of God and give the love of God.
Most religions would have a place to gather for worship. Spirituality is a personal journey which sometimes is supported by a community. The whole world and every relationship is a place of practice.
Religions can be talked about. A person may have a sense of certainty about what they have learned. Spiritual experiences are quite unique and usually cannot be adequately described with words. One never knows or can predict just where they will be led or what lesson they are about to learn in another life experience.
Religions often use fear to try to get people to adapt to their teachings. Most teach what we should and should not do to fit with the religion or into society. The emphasis in spirituality is on inner discovery, experience, realization, and validation. Spirituality seeks to free the Self of limiting fears, interpretations that lead us to restrict, and judgments from earlier life experiences that keep us in a state of blame. The goal is to live confidently in pure Essence, true to the Soul now.
A religious person may invite another to their church, temple, mosque, or ashram. The energy of a spiritual person may invite another to be at peace with them, to share openly, and to search for meaning together.
All religions teach a version of The Golden Rule. Many teach that sin and virtue have very different consequences for the soul after death. Spirituality is inspired within to live out The Golden Rule as a way of Being in Heaven now. I think we all know that living lovelessly feels like hell now!
Religions are usually patriarchal and structured so people have titles and levels of authority. Traditionally, religions have been run by men and have not given equal title and authority to women. Spirituality has no titles or external authority. It is equally available to any person willing to devote themselves to a journey of Self-awareness and inner authority. Gender relates only to the physical body. At the level of the soul, we all need to pulse with the receptive and active energies, the feminine and masculine side of God.
Religions, their texts and teachings, have become distorted in being written years after events actually took place, in being translated from oral tradition, in being translated between languages, in having selections made as to what to include in texts, in being misunderstood, and in being true to cultures and customs of the time that are very different from current cultures and customs. Spirituality is insight gained from within that is from the now, current to one’s life situation and experience in the present. A good share of spiritual growth is undoing the mistakes we learned through religion.
To the extent that we are immature, we would be following programming for “getting” love and may do so through religion. Spirituality is about allowingoneself to receive love from within and then extending that love to others rather than relying on the need to “get” love from others. Here you see the feminine functions of allowing and receiving.
Religion may teach us to forgive others for their wrongs. Spirituality would seek to find where one holds judgment, blame, envy, hate, revenge, etc., toward others and clear these from consciousness by allowing Truth to stand and love to be expressed. This is forgiving in its truest sense, a feminine function, one that allows love to flow miraculously. Forgiving here is the correction of our own thinking. Instead of constricting in fear which is how we end up feeling unloved, we accept a balance of feminine and masculine functions that allows for the flow of love. Rather than forgiving being about what someone else did wrong, it becomes a process in which we correct our own errors. Holding fear and blame keeps us from receiving and giving love.
Religion may see The Second Coming as being Jesus Christ’s physical return to Earth, or the Messiah coming to Earth as a major life changing event for humanity. Spirituality may see The Second Coming as the expression of Christ energy, or the highest level of consciousness, from within humanity at large. This means that falsehood would be replaced by truth, darkness by light, ignorance by awareness, war by peace, and hate by love one individual at a time.
Religions usually have services and times set aside for practice and worship. Spirituality is more likely a full-time personal dedication to practice by giving one’s highest response to whatever one is facing in order to solve problems as they arise.
Religions often teach about sin and punishment and therefore people seek to be good. In doing so, their behavior would be beneficial to humanity. Spirituality looks for one’s own errors in consciousness and corrects them in mind. As a result, behavior becomes beneficial and virtuous. Every correction that balances the feminine and masculine allows for love to flow miraculously.
To be religious may mean to live within the limits of what one is taught. To be spiritual is a process in which one seeks always to deepen, gain meaning, and view things in ever greater circles. It is usually an undoing process of what was learned.
Religions are set up as separate entities that exclude by definition if not by practice. I’ve never understood exclusion of guests or even children from a communion ceremony. Spirituality includes. Like the sun shining on every human being, a person who is peaceful and loving radiates these energies to all.
We need faith in external authority and faith in the process presented to us to adhere to a religion. We need humility to surrender our lower ways to be spiritual. Since our culture associates surrender with losing a battle, we also need to upgrade our understanding of surrender. We surrender our own lower ways. We need to have faith that whatever comes through our higher Self will be good, because we are not the one determining what it will be. We surrender what inhibits our growth to allow and accept that which will help us grow and mature.
Religion does not necessarily require self-honesty or integrity. It could be a mental activity. While guilt may be taught as a restraint, a person may not be held accountable. Spirituality, by definition, requires personal growth to achieve Self-honesty and integrity. A devotee is accountable to the Universe/God, with constancy, and no excuses. Fear and guilt call for one to correct oneself.
Religious devotion often starts with the religion of one’s upbringing and is therefore experienced as complete and satisfying. Faith plus worship, prayer, and religious observances serve the needs of the majority of religious people. Their faith is often augmented by service or support of humanitarian activities. Spirituality comes from the heart. It is usually a deviation from any religion of the past. Devotion as a commitment to love, is constant, and includes “no matter what” (responding with love regardless of what one faces in others, or how much temptation there is to respond in lower ways). With each response, life shifts and flows. A person would be led to give their unique gifts to humanity. Many of these would include the virtues which bring nourishment to souls.
Religions may seek to give answers and teach morals which are external rules from culture. Spiritual intention is to ask deep and probing questions of the Self so as to learn to live ethically which means by internal rules from the Higher Self. After both our mates had been ill for around ten years, my new square dance partner and I became companions and intimate partners. On paper we were both married so there was nothing moral about that. In as much as it was the most loving thing for both of us to do under the circumstances, it was an ethical decision. It brought vitality to two lives that had been put on hold. And feeling nourished ourselves, we were able to continue to serve our mates as needed to and through their deaths.
Religions may be pleased with and honor those who attend services and give financial support to the institution. Pleasure may also be gained this way. There is an innate gratification in spiritual growth and the evolution of consciousness itself. As in miracles, both the giver and receiver of love extended are pleasured in the process. Gifts may not involve the material at all.
Religion may be about enriching the mind, and this may be done through effort. Spirituality is about letting go and surrendering. Spiritual work is about undoing and updating the mind. It is an allowing, a feminine function.
Prayer in religion may be focused on asking God for what is desired. Prayers may be written and repeated by custom. Prayer in spirituality may be to change the Self: to surrender to humility, to release fear, to become receptive, or to receive guidance to empower one’s own actions. One’s own behavior may BE the prayer by giving a higher response that calls for a higher response in return.
Religion may focus on results. “Let there be peace on Earth.” Spirituality gives focus to intention. If peace is the desired result, Be peace and extend that to others.
Religion could be taken lightly and lived superficially. There could be a focus on being born again which changes one’s experience of life. One cannot “act” their way through spirituality. Spirituality calls for surrender of the personal will which keeps us acting in adapted ways. It calls for us to accept and live out the Will of God which is our genuine Self. It means to ensoul our words and actions. It takes courage to do this because one’s own ego will be threatened by this surrender and warn us that we will die. We may experience this shift as a dying. What births from within could be thought of as a virgin birth as opposed to the birth from the mating of parents. In growing spiritually, the world is continuously “newly born” each instant. As we mature, radiance of the Self replaces the smaller self.
Religion teaches about miracles as part of history. In spirituality, miraculous events unfold effortlessly as one aligns with higher energy, dying to the self to live as the Self.
Religion fosters service to others and doing good deeds. Spirituality may see that bringing a higher energy to humanity is in itself a gift. Gifts of Self may include a positive attitude, the ability to give creative responses to problems, a cooperative attitude, an inclusive nature, generosity of spirit, etc. Gifts of Self would be given effortlessly as life itself and serve all of humanity.
Religions may believe that they are the only truth among religions and position themselves above or against other religions. Spirituality seeks to align with Universal Truth/God and know the energy by being that energy which is Oneness and Unity, not above, below, or against anyone.
Religion may provide community and confidence because of a shared belief system. Spirituality may isolate one from community. Family and group patterns tend to be scripted. Spiritual growth usually leads one outside of those patterns. It takes strength to grow as others may well protest and shun the one who seems to be growing apart. Others may also envy their miraculous results.
Religions offer much support to people with problems of all kinds. People may make big changes in their lives as a result. The spiritual have often “hit bottom” and surrendered to God or a Higher Way as a last ditch effort to save themselves, not realizing the power in that surrender at the time. They may experience this as their life being turned upside down. It is true that shifting from lower to higher thinking, or from ego’s way to a balance of receiving and giving reverses all in mind.
The religious may intend to change others to get them to see as they see. The spiritual intend to wake the Self to change the way they themselves see. Notice the reversal here as in the last point. The spiritual reverses the religious.
Religions use music as a major part of worship to activate and elevate the spirit of humanity. Spiritually speaking, the Spirit of every human being waits to have the music called from its own soul. Is this not the result of balancing the Feminine and Masculine Principles so that our spirit and soul pulse with the beat of divinity in our Earthly existence?
In summary, religion has an external focus and spirituality has an internal focus. Religion is a group process and spirituality is an individual process. Religions separate us as people and spirituality unites us as people. Religions speak of miracles and the spiritual create them. The spiritual reverses the religious in bringing balance to the Feminine and Masculine Principles, the pulsing oneness of God.