Tuesday, 22 December 2009

Progressive Spirituality

Well - here we go. I have started a Blog with the name 'Progressive Spirituality'. So it probably helps to define it first - and get my readers to say why they agree or don't agree. I have NOT gone back to any books or dictionaries on this - as I want to share what I mean when I use the phrase instinctively.

So what, first of all, is "spirituality"? Spirituality can be found in all the world's religions, but it is also expressed in a vast sea of individual ways of seeing the world. Spirituality is almost certainly an evolved human response to the mystery of human "being", a 6th 'sense', more hidden than sight, touch, smell, taste and hearing, but, I think, real nonetheless. It links more to feeling and the survival and reproductive emotions of fear, love, care and compassion. It offers us the insight that there is a "more", a connectedness, that helps make sense of the fear and joy in being alive and human.

Spirituality is thus more all encompassing than religion - but of course the full gamut of religions past and present do provide a communal foundation for exploring and explaining the mystery of life and human existence.  The earliest spiritual awareness is evident in cave art - which expresses the burgeoning creativity of human kind. Shamanic and other expressions of religion / spirituality then evolved. By the time of the emergence of significant Empires, Religions became more formalised, and gradually became more about beliefs set out in "holy" writings than about free individual or communal spiritual searching. At their worst religions have been control systems, and often still are.

So I do draw a clear distinction between religion and spirituality. The "Spiritual but not Religious" movement seeks to make people aware that religious dogma and structure are often damaging to our individual spiritual path. That is not to say that the religion founders were wrong, but it does warn us that "the letter kills" - and that all the world's faiths have had founders who were seeking to bring spirit back into the living of life. In John's Gospel Jesus talked mystically of water turned to wine, of being "born again" and many other symbols that at heart we are to be spirtual first and foremost.

But, spirituality can also encompass the experience of those who have no belief in a Divine "Sky God", including those who simply find their sense of wonder in the emergent Universe, and the discovering of how it works. In this sense Richard Dawkins is plainly spiritually alive.

So I would want everyone to express "spirit" in their living, loving and compassion - whatever their background. Spirituality is for everyone. The wisdom teachers of the past made non of the distinctions we have made since the Western enlightenment, between sacred and secular, politics and religion, as ALL was seen as one domain. The pre scientific world saw nature and life as "enchanted" - God filled - connected with us at a deep level of awareness. We are only now discovering that we need to "re-enchant" the world - and be at our deepest spiritual level, open to seeing only one domain - that we are part of Life emergent, evolved to be spiritual beings.

Next - why add the word "progressive"? For me the word progressive is a creative and open word. It speaks of moving on joyfully to build global community in infinite variety, in a unified embrace of difference and freedom. We are still in a defensive mind set as human beings seeking our own survival, slowly growing through tribe, to culture, to nation (via empire), to regional and global institutions. This is a progressive journey, provided it does not enshrine injustices. Progressives are open to change, to moving on, to valuing the past and learning from it, while knowing that each step will be a challenge to preserve the good and reshape the harmful. Spiritual Progressives see no distinction in service in politics or in religious and spiritual paths.

Progressive Spirituality is thus for me a coming togthether of all our best spiritual, religious, political and scientific insights - and  is the way we must go as human spiritual evolution continues.

Your views are most welcome.

Copyright ©2009: Rev John Hetherington. All rights reserved. Permission is granted for this article to be reproduced upon condition that full acknowledgements of author and copyright details are made. John Hetherington - January 2010


John Churcher said...

Thanks John for creating your blog. I hope to find time to dip in and out whenever possible. I enjoyed reading your recent postings and share with you the quest for a spirituality that is free of religious dogma. The Sacred is within us all, regardless of the explanatory fictions that we use to describe our allegiances and choices. As a Follower of the Jesus Way, he and the Bible remain central to my life and work, but doctrines and creeds have ceased to have any relevance for me. I explored the 'born again' saying in my book 'Setting Jesus free' [pages 51/2] from an Indian Christianity perspective - being wombed and birthed within a culture and religion but then being born again, out of that religion and culture into a freedom of a new spiritual experience and undestanding. That's where I am now... John

JohnHet60 said...

You are welcome John - I've begun posting on the PCNB website, and indeed posted a duplicate of the new poost here - so will check that too. Whether I have time to keep this up during the busy work periods will be another matter.

Patrice said...

I think you might like CSLewis. In particular, Screwtape Letters and Mere Christianity. Also check out Ken Ham,
a Christian scientist. Keep searching and seeking, always praying that your spirit be open to truth. I applaud your willingness to believe "there is more".