Have you ever been in a conversation with someone who consistently tossed around the word spirituality and you knew without a doubt they were discussing the word religion? If you haven’t, your day will come or maybe you have, and did not realize there is a difference between the two. Before you and I agree to disagree, let’s talk about the meaning of the two words.
What is Spirituality?
Wikipedia says ” The term spirituality lacks a definitive definition, although social scientists have defined spirituality as the search for the sacred, where the sacred is broadly defined as that which is set apart from the ordinary and worthy of veneration” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spirituality. I am not sure I can concur with the notion that spirituality lacks a definitive definition, but let’s move on to another point of view. American Heritage Dictionary simply says “A state, quality, manner, or fact of being spiritual.” In order to understand that definition, one would have to define the word “spiritual” which will be discussed later in this article.
An interesting website that I visited had an article that posed the question What is spirituality? and answered it this way:
Spirituality has been defined in numerous ways. These include: a belief in a power operating in the universe that is greater than oneself, a sense of inter-connectedness with all living creatures, and an awareness of the purpose and meaning of life and the development of personal, absolute values. ( http://www.umm.edu/altmed/articles/spirituality-000360.htm. While all of these definitions contribute to the meaning of spirituality, my focus will begin with the root word spirit.
The first step in doing so, is to capitalize the “s” and make the word “Spirit,” which is another name for God. How do I arrive at this conclusion? From the words of John: “God is Spirit: and they that worship him must worship in spirit and in truth”(John 4:24). The writer uses spirit in the sentence twice–once with a capital “S” and once with a small “s.” Why so? John is making a clear distinction between God who is the One Spirit, and man’s ability to express the spiritual qualities of God. He is in effect saying that man will never be God, Spirit, but he can do godly things, and those things will be made of the substance of Spirit.
What is the substance of Spirit? Answer: The divine qualities of Spirit–qualities like faith, hope, courage, strength, abundance, inspiration, unfoldment–to name a few. Establishing these qualities in thought and exercising them in action, places one in the pathway of godliness. John continues his discussion by emphasizing that the kind of worship expected of us must express truth–the word of God. By adding that word, he is establishing that the spiritual expression of truth will not be the world’s perception of truth, but a higher meaning–one of divine intelligence, perfection and love. Truth then, becomes a truth defined not by what the human senses affirm as truth, but what the wisdom of God defines as truth. To know or understand truth, revelation, enlightenment and regeneration must precede thought. To gain a better
understanding of spirit, it becomes necessary to look at its origin.
Spirit comes from the Latin word spiritus, which means “breath,” meaning the breath of God, or that which constitutes God’s Being. The obvious question is, What is God’s Being? “Hear O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord” (Deuteronomy 6:4). Even though there is only one God, there are infinite facets to this Oneness. Relating this statement to the human experience, a person maybe a woman, mother, daughter, minister and teacher and yet be only one person, not five. Each title simply shows an extension of her being. Similarly, the synonyms of God are Mind, Spirit, Soul, Principle, Life, Truth, Love. Each reveals the nature of God in a different way, yet all constitute His Oneness. Each one has infinite qualities that the man of God’s creation expresses. Understanding God as Spirit, the only substance, negates man’s true nature as being anything material. God is not material, but Spirit, so man, the likeness of Him cannot express materiality. Spirituality then becomes that which expresses the true nature of God–the divine qualities of God. Thus, if man is expressing spirituality, he is loving, kind, peaceful, righteous, forgiving, humble and full of grace.
What is Religion?
Religion is an organized collection of belief systems, cultural systems, and world views that relate humanity to spirituality and, sometimes, to moral values
( en.wikipedia.org/wiki/). Webster defines religion as “belief in a divine or supernatural power or powers to be obeyed and worshiped as the creator (s) and ruler (s) of the universe.”
Finally, Webster’s Third New International Dictionary, 1971 states religion is “the personal commitment to and serving God or a god with worshipful devotion, conduct in accord with divine commands esp. as found in accepted sacred writings or declared by authoritative teachers, a way of life recognized as incumbent on true believers and typically the relating of oneself to an organized body of believers.”
I see religion as a set of rules, commands or doctrines created, defined and practiced by an individual or group, based on that person or group’s interpretation of morality, the Scriptures or other sacred writings. Thus, one can conceivably be religious, but not spiritual. Many people consider themselves religious, but have minimal demonstration of spirituality.
Throughout the history of mankind, religion has played an important role in life. Most people worship or devote themselves to “something,” even the atheist. This begs the question “Why are there so many denominations of religion if we all serve the same God or Supreme Being?” Two words: spiritual understanding. The key to understanding the Bible is divine inspiration. Why? Because it must be interpreted both literally and spiritually, whereas, some people seek understanding by only using literal interpretation. Consequently, their ability to serve God lacks substance. It is difficult to practice something if you do not understand it.
Early childhood found me trying to serve God. However, I found the Bible almost impossible to understand, so I sent away for biblical lessons that explained verses of the Bible. Many were based on literal interpretations and did little to ignite the spirit within me. Thus, I relied on my minister to rant, rave, stamp his foot and stir me emotionally, but without understanding. This continued well into adulthood, with my moving from Baptist to Methodist to Catholic to a smattering of Bahaism. This is where Christian Science found me.
Reading a book entitled Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by a woman called Mary Baker Eddy, I began to slowly comprehend what it means to read the Bible and listen for God to give understanding through the presence of the Christ. Not only did I increase my understanding of the Bible, but I began to use that understanding to “heal all (my) diseases” as promised by it. In so doing, the discernment of the difference between religion and spirituality emerged in consciousness. My awareness of spirituality parallels these words:
“Christianity as Jesus taught it was not a creed, nor a system of ceremonies, nor a special gift from a ritualistic Jehovah; but it was the demonstration of divine Love casting out error and healing the sick, not merely in the name of Christ, or Truth, but in demonstration of Truth, as must be the case in the cycles of divine light” (Science and Health, p. 135).
Embracing these words, I began to understand that it is not how scholarly words are written on a page, nor the popularity of a religion, the literal interpretation of words, nor the money and human power a denomination possesses, but the spirit of the words that burn within us–words that cause us to forgive when severely hurt, give our neighbors the benefit of doubt, even when the evidence points against them, love unconditionally, and put in practice the words that inspire, enlighten and touch our souls. This is spirituality in action!
How do we acquire it? When do we use it? and Is it effective?
- Seek a greater understanding of God and the man He created. That man is divine, not human.
- Pray daily for yourself, family, country and world.
- Serve only one God.
- Trust God above anything and anyone.
- Study materials daily that give peace, comfort, joy and uplifting messages.
- Watch what you allow into your consciousness.
- Dissolve selfishness with purity of thought.
- Strive only to please God.
- Seek divine guidance before you make a decision– small as well as large things.
- Rid your thoughts of resentment, anger, guilt, hate and revenge. Holding on to them, destroys yourself.
- Set aside human will.
- When someone treats you unjustly, work hard to keep the image of a spiritual man in your thinking.