“There is a community of spirit. Join it.”
Spirituality, like democracy, is an all-purpose word of approval, but there is no agreement about what it means and why it is so desirable. Over the past half century or so in the West spirituality has tended to be opposed to religion, which is taken to be authoritarian and repressive, as against the freedom and uplifted consciousness that is associated with spirituality. In fact, there is a very ambivalent relationship between spirituality and religion, for any religion will teach and encourage spiritual development but only up to a level which it understands. It will usually oppose any movement that seeks to go beyond this level. At the same time, the spiritual seeker needs a community of some kind to share insight, guide, support, encourage and correct. Without such a fellowship the spiritual quest risks becoming eccentric and self-centred. A purely individual pursuit of spirituality will tend to skip the hard parts, the necessary disciplines, and in the worst cases become hardly more than an exotic form of self-indulgence.
Three general comments may serve to put down markers for a push to a higher level of religion and thus of spirituality. Firstly, the world's great religions appeared in history as a response to a new understanding of the intuited higher power that we in the West usually refer to as "God". Secondly, all established religions are products of the age and the culture within which they emerged. Contemporary Judaism is the refinement of late Bronze Age monotheism; Christianity began as a fusion of this male sky God with the spiritual perception of Jesus, framed in Graeco-Roman style mythology; Islam still retains its original mindset as an essentially Jewish monotheism but modified and preached by Mohamed to the polytheistic tribes of the Arabian peninsula. Thirdly, while all great religions began as radical movements, once established they themselves reject radical change. They will at best marginalize it but more often try to stamp it out. If the world hopes now to move to a higher level of spiritual awareness, these evolutionary facts must be kept in mind. A genuinely new vision that offers hope to spiritual seekers will almost certainly be opposed and depreciated by religion in its current forms.
For the species to make spiritual progress now demands that an honest decision is made as to whether or not meditation is to be practised with the aim of making contact with a higher power or as a kind of psychotherapy with no religious connotations but with the kind of effects that could warrant the term spiritual. In effect, one must decide whether belief in a creating power and our ability to communicate with it is an illusion or whether the illusion is belief in its non-existence. In this vitally important decision science is now throwing its weight behind the reality of a creating power through the new creation story that cosmology is telling.