Before I opine about some of the parameters of a spiritual life, I offer the following caveats:
Everyone has the right to pursue whatever theology they desire, and we must be tolerant of the large and widespread diversity of beliefs that exist worldwide. However, and this is an important however, you do not have the right to impose your beliefs on others, and you certainly cannot assert that your beliefs have more validity or truth to them than anyone else’s beliefs. And then, of course, there’s one additionally important caveat to what I am about to get into here: Your beliefs and their relevant actions cannot harm anyone in any way.
So where does that put homo sapiens? In my opinion, it puts us all in a place with many more questions. And here’s the key question along these lines that comes up first in my mind:
Giving Away Your Freedom
Is placing your faith in some dogma created and espoused by any outside-of-yourself entity or organization – without you giving such faith a clear, honest, and utterly thorough introspective investigation – harmful to yourself? I believe it is, primarily because if you follow religious dogma, without such close examination, you are essentially giving away the freedom of belief you were born to explore.
On the other hand, if you have examined the dogmas you profess honest belief in and have concluded they are congruent to who you truly are inside, then no harm done. You are, in effect, aligned with yourself. So, if you thought deeply enough about becoming an evangelical and felt it incumbent upon yourself to become a devout one, so be it. But don’t, I repeat, don’t, feel that it gives you any moral superiority over anyone else’s un-harmful behavior. You have no right, for instance, to say that gay people are living unethically. Or, you have no right to claim that living your religion should be imposed on non-believers.
Blind-faith following is the lazy man’s way of avoiding deep consternation, which over time becomes a straight-on path that frequently leads to dull, myopic intolerance.
A few more caveats: You can be a unit or you can be part of a larger group or groups. The only real rule that applies across the board of life is live your life as you desire as long as nobody, including yourself, experiences any harm. The word harm in this case means anything that delays your own or someone else’s benevolent progress toward living what can be considered a fulfilling life. A fulfilling life honors one’s inner voice that, to repeat, does not promote or catalyze any harm. It does not matter how or what you do; it only matters that no harm is directed on yourself or others.
The Truth About Meaning
PhD James Hollis, in his book “Finding Meaning in the Second Half of Life: How to Finally, Really Grow Up,” calls blind-faith-oriented thinking and believing a loss of “personal authority.” This authority is defined as “what is true for oneself and to live it in the world.” Hollis, no surprise, is a Jungian analyst, or what can also be considered a “depth psychologist.” He is basically professing a good chunk of Jung’s notions of individuation here, whereby he strongly emphasizes how one’s lifelong pathway should be a strong and worthy attempt at integrating one’s consciousness with one’s unconsciousness. He says that honoring your personal authority is one of two “major tasks” that should confront us as we grow old during the second half of our lives.” The other is “discovering a personal spirituality.”
This task entails accepting the invitation by your inner voice to explore what you truly believe. Hollis does not mince words when describing this task, saying that many folks often confuse this invitation “with familiar institutions, creeds, dogmas, and practices,” to their loss. “And, for sure, many of today’s purveyors of spiritual goods are as slippery as soap salesmen,” Hollis adds. “Their coiffed hair, their televangelistic suavity, their oleaginous platitudes infantilize their congregants rather than challenge them to become what they were meant to become. Their messages offer relief from struggle through simple steps and seduce by surreptitious avoidance of life’s summons to depth. Our culture is crowded with such spiritual snake oil.”
To avoid the snakes, we can at the very least acknowledge that “a mature spirituality already lies within each of us,” Hollis says. We all have the potential “to take on the mystery as it comes to us, to query it, to risk change and growth, and to continue the revisioning of our journey for so long as we live.”