AN EVERYMAN’S SPIRITUALITY

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Now it is time that gods come walking out
of lived-in things. . . .
Time that they came and knocked down every wall
inside my house.  New page.

…O gods, gods!
who used to come so often and are still
asleep in the Things around us…     (Rilke)

Spirituality means something different to everyone. For some, it’s about participating in organized religion: going to a church, synagogue, mosque, and so on. For others, it’s more personal: some people get in touch with their spiritual side through private prayer, yoga, meditation, quiet reflection, or even long walks. But the central element is the ‘spiritual aspect’ that refers to a real, though less obvious dimension of life. Research shows that even religious skeptics can’t stifle the sense that there is something greater than the concrete world we see. So spirituality is a way of accessing this ‘something greater’: experiencing it, understanding it, seeing its implications for my life, and deciding and acting accordingly. In fact, these elements already suggest a process of transformation and growth. Which means that spirituality is about growth and development, though the implication of the ‘something greater’ is that it is deeper growth, in an ever-expanding context, toward an infinite realization.

But already, language like this this makes spirituality sound a little strange or certainly esoteric and belonging to a world of professional spiritual folk, like monks, priests, and mystics. I want to explore what I’m calling an ‘everyman’s spirituality’: a way of accessing the ‘something greater’ that it appears everyone experiences or intuits, but a way that is understandable and accessible to all.

By way of preface, I might add that this ‘everyman’s spirituality’ will have to be relevant to the world that we find ourselves in today. On the one hand, it will have to be related to everyday, ordinary life, including the larger existential questions we all face. On the other hand, it will have to at least make sense in the world we know today through science.

Like many others, I have drifted away from traditional (in my case Christian) spirituality as presented by religion. Part of the reason is that the institution of religion, like all of our institutions, has struggled to keep abreast of a rapidly changing world. In the case of religion, this has been reflected in a number of its elements, including its male, hierarchical structures as well as its positions and teachings. In the case of the latter, the cosmic framework that was the traditional foundation for these teachings no longer has credibility. For example, the image or idea of a male God, separate from the world who stands back, observes and judges our faults and failings no longer works. This view, in fact, has contributed to the idea that there is something inherently wrong with us, and the world. Christianity’s adherence to the Greek philosophical ideas that spirit and matter are separate has perpetuated a split between theology (or “God-talk”) and science, which has prevented science from playing its critical role of keeping ‘God-talk’ relevant and related to our experience. In a recent blog – buy Dilantin generic – I outlined the process of this separation and its results: from the Homeric Greek world of infinite gods who were involved in our lives – ‘who used to come so often’ – to the modern nihilism and absurdity that resulted in Nietzsche’s ‘dead God’. Today, in the vacuum of meaning that this has created, there is a clear and perceptible shift toward the resurrection of some kind of spirituality, if only in the form of a growing sense of responsibility for the future we are leaving to our kids. There is a hunger for something important that we used to have in our lives.

Recently, I was privileged to be part of an online global conference entitled ‘Remembering the Truth of Who You Are,’ that brought together a wide range of speakers from many different perspectives to address this important topic. (You can take a look at my interview at buy Dilantin online uk if you haven’t already seen it). All of the speakers began with the same rationale for their efforts: to leave a better world for our children; better, certainly, than the world we have created over recent decades. All of the presentations reflected aspects of an emerging spirituality.

There was a wide-range of approaches – from shamanic healing to magnetic fields that impact our emotions, and from redefining God to connecting with our ancestors – many of which reflect the various responses to our changing world that we have encountered since the middle of the last century. Essentially, they all reflected a basic and essential impulse to survive and thrive. While I don’t intend to offer a critique of the conference here, I have one comment that relates the presentations to this conversation about finding an ‘everyman’s spirituality’, which is that the approaches tended to fall into two basic categories: regressive and progressive. Of course, it is important to recall and even reclaim – ‘remember’ in that sense – old wisdom and practices that can still help us, but there is always the danger of romanticizing the past – the golden age – and even imposing such wisdom in a fundamentalist way. There was some of that in the presentations. Similarly, while we need to keep our values relevant by integrating new knowledge, it is also important to retain the wisdom of older experiences lest we get caught in the illusions of control that science can create. Some of the presentations struggled with this.

All that said, I think I’ve come to understand spirituality as two things: a framework for understanding the world we live in, and a process for living more fully in this world. The framework that has emerged for me is inspired by people like Thomas Berry (and, before him, Teilhard de Chardin) who attempted to integrate science and religion. Berry claimed that our generation is in-between stories. We are caught between the story that religion has told and the story that science is telling us today. But, he added, a new story has been emerging, a new cosmology that brings issues of science and matters of faith into a place where they can complement each other and generate a fuller picture of what is happening. The universe, in fact, Berry concludes, is not simply a phenomenon but, more accurately, a story: a story in which we are all immersed, to which we belong, and out of which we have evolved. This story has the power to awaken us more deeply to who we are. For, in this new story, the Milky Way becomes the universe in the form of a galaxy, and a daffodil is the universe in the form of a flower, and we are the universe in the form of a human. And so every time we are drawn to look up into the night sky and reflect on the awesome beauty of the universe, we are actually the universe reflecting on itself, because this is what humans uniquely do. With the emergence of self-reflective humans, we – the universe – have arrived at an evolutionary breakthrough of conscious compassion: compassion, not just for our own offspring, but for all beings. Our human destiny as earth inhabitants, then, is to be/become the heart of the universe that embraces the whole of the earth community. We may be just a speck in the vast universe, but we are beings with the capacity to feel comprehensive compassion in the midst of an ocean of intimacy. This, for me, is the beginnings of a framework and direction of our becoming more fully human: our everyman’s spirituality.

The word ‘spirituality’ brings up a somewhat recent phenomenon which is that a growing number of people nowadays identify as ‘spiritual but not religious.’ For many this is the result of negative personal experience with the tradition of their childhood, but, for others, it is more the result of a shift in the culture. Many of the more modern notions of spirituality developed in the 19th and 20th centuries through a combination of the growing influence of Asian religions and an increasing disconnect from religious institutions that sometimes reacted defensively to changes in society, including scientific findings and social movements. In the U.S. the Transcendentalists in the 19th century – specifically Ralph Waldo Emerson – emphasized an intuitive, experiential approach to life, inspired by European Romanticism. Other important influences included Rudolf Steiner, who was interested in developing a genuine Western spirituality, and exploring the ways that such a spirituality could transform practical institutions such as education, agriculture, and medicine. The Second World War clearly impacted people and caused them to question many old assumptions, including religious beliefs. The arrival of Asian religions in the form of meditation, yoga and other practices pushed people increasingly toward a subjective experience focus and away from the more traditional approaches of converting or redirecting oneself toward a prescribed – even revealed – path. A new discourse developed, in which (humanistic) psychology, mystical and esoteric traditions and eastern religions were blended, to reach a ‘true self’ by self-disclosure, free expression and meditation. The distinction between ‘spiritual and religious’ became more common in the popular mind during the late 20th century with the rise of can you buy Dilantin over the counter in australia and the advent of the New Age movement. The term “spiritual” is now frequently used in contexts in which the term “religious” was formerly employed, though both theists and atheists have criticized this development. Finally, modern systems of spirituality may (or may not) include a belief in a supernatural (beyond the known and observable) realm, personal growth, a quest for an ultimate or sacred meaning, religious experience, or an encounter with one’s own “inner dimension.”

All of this reflects the process-for-living aspect of spirituality. So, what does the science-expanded framework – the cosmic story – mean for our everyday lives? What are helpful practices for cultivating the ‘something greater’ that we sense within and beyond our immediate interactions with everyday life so that this can shape the way we think and live. I’m doing some research into what is being called ‘the science of happiness’, and will share my findings as we go down this road together. Suffice to say here that, already, it becomes clear that a sense of meaning (and purpose) is a critical aspect of happiness or well-being.

So maybe, here is a place to pause. Let me summarize by saying that I think spirituality is an essential aspect of the human process that expands the context – the infinite spaces – we live in and that we all apparently intuit. Unfortunately, the traditional guides of this essential aspect – the religious institutions – have lost credibility for many of us, so many have turned to other resources. This is clearly good, but I think it would be important not to ‘throw the baby out with the bathwater’, but rather to reclaim the treasures of our traditions that reflect the efforts of our ancestors to address the same existential questions that we still face today.

And, by way of underlining the importance of this spiritual resurgence, let’s keep in mind the very real challenges we face in today’s world. David Brooks, the NY Times columnist wrote this week:

Conscious reason can get you only so far when tribal emotions have been aroused, when existential fears rain down, when narcissistic impulses have been given free rein, when spiritual longings have nowhere healthy to go, when social trust has been devastated, when all the unconscious networks that make up 99 percent of our thinking are aflame and disordered…

‘When spiritual longings have nowhere healthy to go…’!! But I’ll leave the last word to my friend Rilke who always seems to get the picture:

Once again let it be your morning, gods.
We keep repeating.  You alone are source.
With you the world arises, and your dawn
gleams on each crack and crevice of our failure.

As we know, it usually takes a kind of ‘cosmic nudge’ to get us going. Or, as a colleague of mine used to say, ‘when you’re sick of your sickness, then you’ll start to get well.’ Maybe that’s where we are….

12 Comments

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    • Danny  - March 2, 2018 - 9:03 am

      Good to hear from you Monica. Thank you for the wonderful work you do and for the spirituality that clearly underpins it.
      Danny

  2. Kathleen  - February 25, 2018 - 10:22 am

    Danny,

    Love your unfolding a way to talk about “spirituality” which sometimes can seem vague. Always grateful for the way you let Rilke sing as the framework for your own deep diving, poet that You are.

    Yes, the dilemma of our age: what Merton calls the loss of the capacity for God, or if you like, of spirituality. Yet we are all yearning, and that yearning is palpable.

    So I look forward to seeing where you will invite us in your exploration into An EveryBody’s Spirituality.

    • Danny  - March 2, 2018 - 9:05 am

      I do appreciate your Merton statement – ‘the loss of the capacity for God’. It feels that a world without this – however we name it – would be so empty.
      And I take your point about an ‘EveryBody’s Spirituality’.
      Danny

  3. Rev. Dr.Franklin E Vilas  - February 25, 2018 - 12:16 pm

    Danny– a simple sermon reflecting everyman’s spiritualiyty. Best, Skip

    Sermon for Transfiguration, 2017
    All Saints’ Church, Millington, NJ
    Rev. Franklin E. Vilas, D.Min.

    “And he was transfigured before them, and his
    clothes became dazzling white, such as no one on
    earth could bleach them…”
    Mark 9:3

    What a wonderful, homely description of one of the great moments in the lives of the disciples of Jesus of Nazareth! It was a time of cosmic vision and breakthrough– when the deepest mystery of the universe was seen by human eyes in what we know as the Transfiguration of the Christ. Like Moses on the Mountain, they were face to face with the Glory of God. In his very human way, Mark tries to describe the indescribable. “Boy, were those clothes white! You could never get clothes that white, even with the best bleach!”
    So human beings are confronted suddenly with a vision of God. Peter babbles incoherently, and the writer of the Gospel struggles with the inad-equacy of human words to describe the divine presence. In the Transfigur-ation one sees an expression of those rare and deep moments when the veil is parted, and we see through the created order to the fire and love that lies behind it.
    Such moments are rare– and we are lucky to have one or two in a lifetime. I have been blessed with several such experiences, when I felt and knew the presence of God as a burning fire, which burst into my conscious-ness and changed the course of my life. However, I am thinking today of experiences that occur not as divine explosion, but as a dawning of awareness. I remember once driving down a road in springtime, on Greenfield Hill in
    – 2 –
    Fairfield, Connecticut. I was returning home from Yale for a date with the young woman who was later to become my wife.
    It was a lovely day in May, and the dogwood blossoms were out in pro-fusion. I was enjoying the scenery as I drove along, when something suddenly caught my eye in the trees on the left side of the road. I suppose it was a play
    of sunlight on a leaf, but it had such an impact on me that I stopped the car on the right shoulder of the road and looked across at the line of trees on the opposite side.
    Suddenly they became for me transfigured. It was as if the life in them, the sap rising through the trunk and branches, the energy of light that was pouring into the leaves from the sun, the essence of their being became lit from within. Here before me was a manifestation of that divine within that underlies the creation. Here was an opening to the living presence of God through nature itself. I was experiencing what the transcendentalists of another century called the “cosmic vision”, where a certainty of the goodness and oneness of all of life breaks through the material veil in all its glory.
    I sat transfixed on the shoulder of the road, looking across at those tree which seemed to me to be transfigured. At that moment, I was as certain of the reality and love of a creator as I was of the existence of the car in which I sat. The moment did not last long, but I have never forgotten it. It rises to consciousness whenever I read this story from the gospel of Mark.
    All experiences of transfiguration are not so dramatic. They occur to us in the normal course of our lives– though often they are not recognized as such. I remember, for instance, the experience of “growing in love” with Joyce
    Hoinacki. In those days of the romantic expectations of the 1950s, you were
    expected to fall in love. But having been raised in a culture and family who
    – 3 –
    shared great caution about emotions and a need to control events, there was not much likelihood of my falling into anything! For me there was instead the slow, growing realization and then the certainty that Joyce was the woman with whom I wanted to live my life.
    Yet even with all of my caution and hesitancy, there was a moment when love blossomed and I saw her with new eyes. Suddenly she was not just another human being, but one of infinite value and beauty, who touched a level of my soul that had never been touched before. At that moment, she was changed into someone new. She was transfigured. I wonder how many of you have experienced that change of perception that comes when you are aware of a deep, transforming love. I hope that all of you have.
    Another such transfiguration occurs with the arrival of parenthood.
    There is something about having a child– and especially a first child–that opens a deep mystery in the souls of the mother and father. In a sense ,we have become co-creators with the God of the universe.
    I remember the first experience of really meeting my oldest daughter, Ginger. She was lying in a bassinette in the hospital corridor, and I suddenly realized whose child she was. I reached into the bassinette, and her tiny hand closed around my finger. That little hand became transfigured as I was aware of the mystery of new life, and the connectedness of the generations in the love of the Creator. That moment is etched in my memory forever.
    There are in our lives many moments such as these–in our human
    relationships, our experiences in nature– and sometimes even in a church
    service– that become openings for the holy. A shift of light occurs– or a shift of the spirit– and suddenly something quite familiar and ordinary becomes transfigured, shining with new meaning from within.

    – 4 –
    We come today in our liturgical season to the last Sunday in Epiphany– the Sunday of the Transfiguration. Hovering on the edge of Lent, the Christ-ian Church remembers the vital experience of the apostles on the mountain. At a pivotal moment in Jesus’ ministry, their eyes were opened and they saw him in a new way. Their perception was sharpened to see through the veil of flesh to the glorious light of the Spirit itself, which lay behind the human form of Jesus and broke through as the Christ in transfigured power.
    If we are fortunate, there are times in our lives when such dramatic, transfiguring experiences of God pass our way. They are few and far between, and no one experiencing them is ever, ever the same again. But I hope that I have shown that life brings us many other transfigured moments, if we have the eyes to see them and the hearts to comprehend them. And every one of them is an expression of the love of God which undergirds our very being.

    I would suggest to you that the purpose of the Holy Eucharist which we celebrate each Sunday is to provide an opportunity for transfiguration. Each week we come to the altar, where ordinary bread and wine are held up into the stream of the spirit, as we pray that God will help us see through them to the divine, self-giving love they symbolize.
    We bring to this altar, each one of us, all the moments of our days and years– those which have been transfiguring and those which have not. Here
    we offer them to the Lord of Creation, and ask that our eyes may be opened to see the light that hovers beneath and beyond them. How is God present to us in a lover, our spouse, our child, the beauty of nature or the joy of a task skill-fully and creatively accomplished?

    – 5 –
    Can we see that flash of divine light which illuminates something or someone we have taken for granted? And what else is prayer, but the exper-ience of such vision? As we come to the altar rail today to receive the presence of Christ in the bread and wine, may we ponder the experience of the disciples on the Mountain. And may its power reach us in little and great ways as we experience our own Transfiguration.

    • Danny  - March 2, 2018 - 9:06 am

      Great homily Skip. They were blessed to hear you…
      Danny

  4. Stephen Holton  - February 25, 2018 - 7:53 pm

    Lovely. I’m all in favor of this difficult spirituality that stands at the confluence of the cosmos and the individual. I agree we may, or may not, need the foundations of our ancestors to keep us steady in the storm. What s really important is acts of compassion however. Neither the ritual words of religion, nor the warm fuzzy feelings of the simply spiritual, will do.

    • Danny  - March 2, 2018 - 9:09 am

      What a good way to describe this, Stephen – as a ‘difficult spirituality that stands at the confluence of the cosmos and the individual.’ It truly is difficult to hold these together: to cosmos seems so vast and impersonal. And you’re right about what is really important – acts of compassion. Hopefully, how we see ourselves in the cosmos fosters such compassion
      Danny

  5. Carol Watson  - February 27, 2018 - 1:34 pm

    Danny! I’ve got to get beyond your title before i can read your always intriguing narrative. EveryMAN’s Spirituality. Unless you mean yourself as a male and your spirituality, i’ve totally avoiding reading this. I’ve not yet dipped in as i am much too burnt by oppressive patriarchal systems that include, of course, religion. I react quickly to androcentric language – like everyman. As always, i’ve run this off and will swallow hard, then read what you are sharing.

    • Danny  - March 2, 2018 - 9:29 am

      Dear Carol, thanks for your straight-fowardness. I understand your reaction to the ‘androcentric language’. Given what is happening today – and what has happened for centuries to women – I appreciate that everything, and every word needs to be assessed through this lens. Forgive what may look like high-handedness or carelessness. It certainly defeats my purpose of a spirituality that is accessible to everyone if the very title throws off – or confuses – people. Words, of course, have a fullness born of experiences both good and bad, so finding right – and good – words today is critical.
      Danny

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