“I am spiritual not religious” she said. “Me too” I followed. This began a whole new level of conversation and connection. It moved us from the superficial, from the circumference of things, to something deeper, more universal, more relevant to our interior selves and the world at large, than all that proceeded that simple phrase. It was then we could begin to connect on a deeper level.
This phrase “I’m spiritual not religious” captures the spirit of this age. It is ubiquitous across every culture and is independent of any religious sect. The human consciousness has moved from the age of Religion to an age of Spirit. There is a movement afoot. Do you sense it? It is more than a movement it is a new consciousness. A new sense about things. It is an age in which our deeply held beliefs in everything is being challenged. Our whole world view is shifting. Nothing is left untouched — Science, Technology, Business, Psychology and, of course, Religion.
A deep radical surgery of our our every belief is happening in right now. In every sector. New discoveries which are Copernican in scope, are exploding on the human stage at an exponential rate. Just as has happened in every age shift in our history, there is a new rapidly evolving infrastructure for commerce and communication. A newer, more frictionless way, to spread ideas and connect people with what concerns them, which in turn spreads new knowledge and thought like a virus.
During each epoch shift this happens with unprecedented speed more than the age which proceeded it. That new platform for shift, discovery, and speed of knowledge transmission and dispersion has once again reached new levels of speed and growth. Our shared knowledge is exploding exponentially. It is happening every second while you read this. It is hard to imagine what will be next at this rate.
But among all these major times of shift there remains our underlying humanness. That core to our personhood. And beneath all that our spirit. During each of these ages there is a major shift in the externals of the expressions of that spirit. And, a major shift is inevitable in our core understanding on how we live and understand the universe around us — our religion — which tries to make meaning and make this shift more accessible.
Looking underneath the external religious motives and transitions it was the mystics who were able to keep continuity with that dynamic spirit. They, through at times isolated and unknowingly, preserved and kept alive a golden thread of connection between our human spirit — and what we will call The Spirit which that phrase “I am spiritual but not religious” belief- I am “Spiritual” captures the most inward, intuition and sense that there is something more to our humanness than the externals and superficialities of our lives. Something more which is core to our existence, which transcends this life, and has always been part of but beyond our usual experience of all of life.
It is a more numinal, experience of the Spirit. It is more experience than words can capture. Ineffable. But once touched this Spirit expands our understanding at a most pervasive, inward, and intimate level it is difficult to describe. Religion on the other hand tries to nail it down — with externals. Pointers. The real activity, the transformative action, the change begins with this interior sense of connection, of unity, to that which is beyond. It is this place of intimacy where we are actually transformed. The interior “touch-connection” place which transcends our human condition yet, at the same time remains so intertwined and close, so interwoven into our being, that it creates a whole new sensibility of all that is.
It is this being, this underlying place where our spirit connects to the Spirit — that which is connecting us to that which is more than us. It is in us, around us, and beyond us all at once.
Words such as God, the universe, ground of being, Great Spirit, Spiritual Center, transcendent, (fill in your sense and whatever word attached to that sensibility which works for you) which we try to capture with Religion but as we do then it becomes “concretized”, (to borrow a term from Whitehead), and then moves it from that ineffable experience to something more solid. It takes that which is more like wind, to a convention, to a ritual, to a business. It tries to extract it’s beauty and reality from its root experiential, transcendental, and internal connection — like pulling a flower from the ground to show around but then killing its root of life. From that which transcends back to the superficial. This pattern is human. It is history.
Unfortunately this process of Religion often takes us further away from that direct transformative experience, that touch- connection to the Spirit which transcends, that Spirit which is embedded/infused into our very being. Sometimes “hoisting” the genuine so much that this Religion, despite its genuine roots, is rightfully rejected as irrelevant and impotent, and abandoned.
During these turbulent times this process is most evident. At it’s worst, external powers of Religion become desperate and try to exploit Religion for it’s own political economic ends. But during these times, it was the mystics who carried this thread of genuine connection and experience throughout the ages. They continued to show us the way.
Now there is a new epoch upon us. With all the change and the nearly frictionless communication of each new discovery, we are again in a tumult of change. We are in a new age of shift. This is an age which reflects the dynamism of this very Spirit.
If we look at history of religious movement, overtime we can see the various stages of growth and understanding as they take shape. Great teachers arrive and offer a new understanding of this change. They offering a new perspective for us human beings. Sometimes it looks like two steps forward one step back with all our human frailties and dispositions. We neglect the higher callings of our own spirits, and periodically are reminded and turn again toward our best and more “enlightened” parts of ourselves. Our core spirit alignment with the ultimate Spirit.
Scientific investigation now has uncovered that things are quite different than we ever have imagined them to be. Consciousness, spiritual, the whole makeup of what we call “matter” is actually nothing more than dynamic whirl of energy probability configurations. Non- permanence is its core reality.
The new quantum view applied to the universe is more like Spirit or consciousness than substantive material. All the scientific endeavor to understand understand our material world has, ironically, led us to a more fundamentally immaterial understanding of things. Time, space, energy, multi dimensionally all now seem more Spirit than material. All these discoveries and what has evolved throughout history to this moment has now converged and grounded us in a whole new way of thinking. This new knowledge is growing exponentially and being dispersed frictionlessly throughout the globe, dynamically energizing this new age of Spirit at light speed. No wonder this uneases us. Our foundations are being rocked.
It is no wonder then, that when people, standing around the water cooler at the office, or in the bar and restaurant, in the conference hallways, standing on the sidewalk corners are all saying they are “Spiritual and not Religious”, this too is part of this evolution.
Observers of the history of the world see that whenever there have been major changes in thinking, when these changes become more pervasive and begin to challenge the current powers that be, the current paradigm of thought, the current world view, that is when trouble begins.
Usually during these periods of change some voices arise who articulate more clearly what is going on….on a level which meets people at this deeper spiritual level. The new leader brings some clarity and grounding for us around all the change. They are effective communicators of this new understanding. They have experienced and have deeply rediscovered the spiritual center that is is unique to our humanness — and begin to share it again. From the inner turmoil this new time brings, they re-cognize, recognize and reconnect to the spiritual center of our humanness. They appear when people are more ready than not, when the time is right, to remind us of the Spiritual center of things.
That, of course, is not to say this message is always welcomed by everyone. Our history shows that whenever there is a strong challenge to the current establishment — whether religious, scientific, business economic, or political — all hell breaks loose from the current powers that be.
Even a superficial examination of the historical context of these shifts, a pattern becomes clear. A pattern of resistance following the usual economic, political, religious, and financial areas, and the ego centered personal reasons why people resist, fight, try to discredit, and even kill the emergent new way of thinking and teachers who embody it.
Even when the Buddha came along, teaching a new way toward achieving freedom from the human condition of misery, there was much resistance. You would think with precepts of practicing a new moral based lifestyle combined with a meditative technique and showing compassion to every living thing, there would not be much to threaten anyone.
Yet during his time the Buddha had many detractors and challengers to his way of thought. Too many vested economic and ritualistic practices around the religion of the day which would become disenfranchised by a more enlightened individual practice which did not need all the “trappings” of the current religious establishment. There were personal, religious, political, and economic stakes at risk.
Even the social/religious hierarchical order of the day was threatened since the practice was placed as the sole responsibly of each individual and therefore required no religious/industrial/complex for it to work. The teaching effectively circumvented the current religious systems and rituals and effected individual transformation and experience. This practice moved them beyond this life’s misery and connected them to a higher life. This kind of movement is Spiritual in nature — not Religious.
Similarly Jesus Christ came along “when the time was right” telling stories, living and demonstrating the “kingdom of God”, the new life, and the truth of Spirit, all of which challenged the current religious order of things. A whole economic, political, and powerful religious structure was in place to service the religion of the day.
If you look into the massive sacrificial system of that time, all the economic systems that surrounded the temple, it should come as no surprise that Jesus’s teaching created huge resistance from the religious/industrial complex. Jesus challenged the current order of things with his famous quotes that started with the phrase “ You’ve heard it said ….. but I say to you…” That sort of talk is seditious to the existing order and powers that be. They cried “crucify Him, crucify Him” and they did…. and the world changed.
Resistance and struggle is part of the human condition at work in every aspect of our culture, not just religion. Rene Girard has a good analysis of the cultural and interpersonal forces that shaped our history. These episodes of life are captured well in the many stories and parables of religious writings.
Transitional pull/resist interactions like these usually trigger personal, as well as political, violence. This same pattern can be seen played out throughout history again and again. It is part of our condition. It is the Spirit that through it all, calls us back to what is good, what is beautiful, and what is true to transcend this human predisposition to something more. What the name or what the current spiritual transition? What should this age be called….future historians will no doubt name it for us. But it is be easy enough for us to label it now — We are in the “Age of the Spirit’. That ubiquitous phrase of our time “I am spiritual not religious” seems to clearly label of our time.
Another way to understand this time of change would be to look at our cultural evolution in the same way that humans individually are born and grow into adulthood. Our culture and civilization has also been evolving from birth, to childhood, through adolescence to adulthood with similar dramatic tumultuous history. It is through the ever evolving way of life and growth, that mankind is now ready for the age of the Spirit.
Every age has its source of meaning. The emphasis may change. The locus of interest may change. The focus lens moved to another area and adjust its depth of field. The context of our understanding of things is always influenced by current technology, science, cultural artifacts, and new discoveries. All contribute to new paradigms of thought.
It is big time change. It is disorienting. it is frightening. There’s a desire to go back to what we know or what we thought we knew before. Because these major shifts are disorienting and profound, at every stage we face the same foundational questions. Every individual human being asks them again. (reference Little Big Man movie clip on “human beings”?)
- why am I here
- where is the meaning/purpose of life
- who am I…
- is there a purpose to things that are happening now
- how should I live
- what comes after my life
- is there something more ??
- what am i missing
“I am not religious I am spiritual”. match other growing prevalent phrases like — “ We are not human beings trying to be spiritual but rather spiritual beings trying to be human” –
all these phrase belie the thought underneath that keyword Spiritual.
We will explore the meaning of that in the context of the age of the Spirit we are now experiencing. The epic discoveries in science, in physics and biology, and in technology are transforming our world as we know it.
It is a tumultuous time, it is a disorienting time, however it is also a very exciting new age, an age in which we can thrive into the next evolution of our humanness and world. We are in the midst of an explosive Cambrian revolution in knowledge. Knowledge is growing at a pace that we can hardly keep up with. Linear ways of thinking are just not fast enough. Technology is now enabling us to process more information than we’ve ever been able to in the history of the world. In the few minutes you have been reading this there has ben an exponential growth in information and discovery…and it is being published right now.
In the last week alone we’ve accumulated more knowledge and published more information and discoveries than we have in the last decade. And that knowledge/publishing rate is expanding exponentially. Even ways of doing business have exponential grown and been transformed by this new movement. This ability of the individual to create massive change is enabled like never before. This is the Age of the Spirit in which we live.
We want to explore all the human aspects of this time. The business aspects. The global ecological aspects. The scientific aspects. And see how they all fit together into this Age of Spirit.
At the center of it all, of course, is us. We and our own inner spirituality at the core is at work. Our own consciousness which is also evolving with a new paradigm shift. How can we try to thrive and not just survive in this new age. It begins with an understanding of the Spirit of the Age itself.