It is the power to increasingly become oneself, the self we are meant to become through our realization of and association with the “beyond self”; that unbounded and unfailing resource that we can with, at times, such confidence tap into and unite with. And so we connect to the “beyond self”; a ‘field’, if you wish to see it that way that flows within, around and beyond us and which is, such is our belief – and maybe, our faith – the ultimate and final answer to each and every form of negativity and evil.
We have, you will recall, recently seen how – so we hypothesised – spirituality and eternity is that realm in which time and space is set. You will also recall that we came to regard spirituality as “as integral to life as in the air at that surrounds us”. Somehow or other, so we said, we are ‘plugged’ into it from our earliest pre-birth moments as human beings and we – in part at any rate – respond to it by, among other things, formulating beliefs and elements of doctrine which in turn forms the need for and basis of religion, be it Buddhism, Christianity, Islam or Judaism or whatever and which, as we shall increasingly recognize to be the human response to a dawning awareness of spiritual reality.
Hopefully, an adequate and credible account of the need to correlate and to distinguish between spirituality and religion has now been established. So if it is the case (as I am contending here and throughout these letters) that we are spiritual rather than religious beings and that spiritual awareness and need is a necessary prerequisite to any sustained and meaningful form of religious experience, what precisely is the nature of the relationship between spirituality and such formal religions as Islam, Hinduism, Christianity, Judaism etc? In order to satisfactorily answer this question we need first to explore, at least somewhat, the evolution of religion and the means whereby the great religions of the world emerged and why?
We have earlier referred to the great paradox, i.e. sameness yet difference in the humankind and nowhere are these similar and yet contrasting qualities and characteristics more evident than in the origins and practice of the great religions of the world. By seeking to understand others, e.g. the similarities we share as well as the manner in which we differ, we greatly enhance and enrichen our awareness and understanding of self. The need to believe and the means whereby we seek to address and satisfy such need appears to every generation, from the dawn of homosapien existence, right up to the present day. Thus it is part of that great heritage of human nature in which we all share.
Over the course of my lifetime, man’s view of the world and its people has changed, in some ways almost beyond recognition. As a child in Sunday school now a lifetime ago, I learned from silent, snowy and fuzzy grey and white films – and doubtless with mind agog – of the ways of “little black girls and boys” from far distant places, which might for all the world have been on another planet. Nowadays I open my e-mails sometimes to find a welcome message from close relatives now living in Brisbane Australia. Sometimes, it contains an “attachment” which consists of photographs taken no more than an hour or so previously; all of which I respond to with a return message of thanks and greetings, possibly within hours.
The world of today (by comparison with my perception of it in those far-off days of childhood and youth) has become little more than a global village. Yet to sensibly and intelligently grasp the meaning and the values of the myriad cultures of today’s world, we need to possess at least some knowledge and insight into that variety of values and practices that underlying them; of their origin and – sometimes more importantly – why?
Moreover, to satisfactorily form our own intelligible, enduring and satisfying picture of the real world, we surely need to develop a comparative and ‘relevant to need’ perspective of the great ideas and contributions made by other cultures and civilisations to the incredible story of human origin, growth and continuing development right up to this present day. Today it is common for all manner of people, representing almost every known culture, ideology, tradition and religion, to live in our big cities, e.g. London, Paris, New York, Sydney and therefore to, in reality, be our neighbours. The nature of our reaction and responsiveness to them will depend heavily on attempts to understand their traditions and values and vice versa.