Questing Marilyn: #A-Z Challenge
“I want to seek something that is spiritual, not religious, that connects my spirit to universal energy. I want to experience the essence of all religion and come up with a belief system that suits me.”
Questing Marilyn: In Search of My Holy Grail by Marilyn Barnicke Belleghem
I am embarrassed to admit that I have only recently come to understand the difference between religion and spirituality. I’d imagined spirituality to be ‘Religion Lite’. This belief arose, I suspect, from seeing the term adorn the covers of of so many books on the New Age shelves in my local bookstore.
The Difference Between Religion and Spirituality
The essential difference between religion and spirituality, I’ve learned, is one of structure. Religions have set creeds and teachings, clear leadership, and often a long history of scholarship. When you choose to participate in a religion, you are accepting those teachings, and joining with others in a community of faith.
Spirituality, on the other hand, is a self-driven journey in search of one’s authentic self and life’s deeper meaning.
The two don’t have to be at odds but often are.
The Cafeteria Condemnation
Have you heard the term ‘cafeteria Catholic’? It refers to someone who identifies as a Catholic, but picks and chooses among the moral teachings of the Catholic church. There’s some discussion on Wikipedia of expanding the term to cafeteria Christianity because it’s not just Catholics who are being selective about what they choose to believe of their religion’s doctrine.
The same criticism is often levied at those who pursue a spiritual path. Thomas Moore, whose work I talked about in the post on aging, adds his voice to those who condemn the cafeteria approach. He is completely in favour of people picking and choosing what works for them, but he wants it to be as a result of deep study, not superficial, thoughtless choice. (Thank you to Joanne Sisco for pointing out my miscommunication. See her comment and my response below.)
In his book A Religion of One’s Own: A Guide to Creating a Personal Spirituality in a Secular World, Moore writes,
“I’m not talking about a selfish, ego-centered, loosely patched together spiritual concoction. I’m recommending a courageous, deep-seated, fate-driven, informed, and intelligent life that has a sublime and transcendent dimension…. To be religious even in a personal way, you have to wake up and find your own portals to wonder and transcendence.”
How to Be a Seeker
Moore offers many suggestions in both A Religion of One’s Own and Ageless Soul. A few of them are:
Be a natural mystic.
“Pull over when you’re driving on a highway, get out, and watch the sun set.”
Discover the power of the arts.
“You need more windows onto eternity and can’t dispense with the special portals of music, drama, poetry, dance, and all the other modes of image making.”
Find the resources that will give you insights.
Moore’s own guides include: “the Tao Te Ching, the Gospels, stories of the Greek gods and goddesses, teachings of the Zen masters, Sufi poems, Native American epic songs and tales, and the writing of the New England transcendentalists.”
Which, if any, of Moore’s suggestions appeal to you?