The word “spiritual” has no useful meaning if it does not refer to a relation to a real spirit, something from a world not our own, something supernatural, something that or someone who tells us things we do not know, judges us for our failures, and gives us ideals to strive for and maybe help in reaching them. It’s not a useful word if it means a general inclination or shape of mind or emotional pattern or set of attitudes or collection of values. There is no reason to call any of these spiritual.
We want the spiritual-ish, because God made us to want him yet we do not want to want him, and we do not want him on his terms. If our hearts are restless without God, as St. Augustine argued, they can be tranquillized with substitutes, of which “spirituality” is easier to find and much less costly than the alternatives. Drugs and drink are bad for you, and wealth and sex are hard to get, and achievement takes work.
The dying man is the true man, in the sense of being the one who reveals to us what we essentially are. We are on our death bed from the day we are born. To paraphrase Pascal, dying men want not the God of spirituality, but the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
Friday, May 28, 2010
Spiritual, not Religious?
David Mills on the First Things blog offers some insight on the quirkiness of the claim, "I'm spiritual, not religious"