I published a post at around 11:30 last night on the humanist vision of spiritual formation. Then, by 5:00 this morning (baby feeding time) Twitter had promoted a blog post for me called “How and Why to Pick a Spiritual Practice.”I checked it out and it turned out to be a quintessential example of this brand of spiritual formation.
It begins from an almost Biblical perspective on the Fall. “For centuries, people have turned to religious belief systems for support and understanding. Yet in never resulted in a better world… We can guess that… [this failure] is the failure of humanity.”
At this point, I would say, Amen, our problems can’t be solved by religious moralism. If the problem comes from us, we need to be transformed by something (someone) outside ourselves.
But, the author does not look for the solution outside of us, but in a specific part of us – the Self. The solution begins by recognizing the difference between faith and belief. Belief is a faculty of the mind and has to do with religious teachings. Faith, on the other hand, “is our personal affair with our spiritual Self.” Or again, “Faith is this indescribable feeling of knowing what’s right for oneself and acting on it.” What we need is faith, not belief. Or to put it another way, we need to be spiritual, not religious.
Spiritual practices, then, are ways of getting in touch with your Self, of cultivating belief. The author doesn’t provide specifics about what a spiritual practice is, but she does say what it is not. She says, “Religion or tradition do not matter, except to your heart, so it is very important to follow your intuition, not your mind.” And again, “Spirituality is an experience, not an intellectual pastime.”
So how do we solve our personal and societal problems? Each person goes on a spiritual journey to their inner Self, throws off tradition, religion, and belief, and attempts to connect to the “sea of consciousness.” How exactly this creates social transformation, I’m not entirely sure.
I would have a few follow up questions:
First: By what standard would we determine whether what our Self is telling us is true, correct, just, etc. if not through some external source? Here’s another way of putting it: How can we objectively judge between two competing ideas of the Self.
Second: Much of what we call “belief” (which the author is ambivalent toward) comes from individuals seeking the spiritual reality of faith. Wouldn’t it benefit us to learn from others spiritual insights?
Third: The author clearly advocates certain morals: love, forgiveness, compassion. Yet, she goes on to state that religion and tradition do not matter. If that’s the case, where does she get the ideas of love, forgiveness, and compassion? These are categories of the mind and are understood differently by different worldviews. These are not culturally or religious neutral categories.
Fourth (and finally) a comment: Her short bio says that she “is not aligned with any particular religion or tradition and has always favored a direct experience of spirituality.” I find this slightly disingenuous. She is not aligned with any of the major spiritual traditions, but she does advocate a unique religious system that is antithetical to the major “revelatory” religions of Christianity, Judaism, and Islam. She may intend to embrace many religious traditions but ends up undermining all of them.