Eight Paradoxical Propositions on the Nature of True Spirituality
Proposition 1: Religion and spirituality are not meant to make you comfortable in your life. They are in essence, “wrestling with God” — the original meaning of the name Israel. You don’t get to pick and choose doctrines and practices based on what your ego finds most palatable.
Proposition 2: Religions as they come to exist in the world are always mediated through fallible human beings and take on the trappings of various historical moments and limited cultural perspectives. To act as though one ought not critique various manifestations of religion based on moral or metaphysical concerns due to the supposed perfection or infallibility of the religion is incredibly naive.
Proposition 3: To be deeply religious or spiritual is to retreat from the trappings of the mundane world and to dedicate oneself to inner harmony and glorification of that which is higher, metaphysically speaking. Our human world is disharmonious, and living a perfectly pure spiritual life in these conditions is not practical.
Proposition 4: The entire meaning of spiritual growth is to bring light into this world. To remove oneself for the sake of spirituality is to put yourself above others. True spiritual work is feeding the hungry and being a beacon of hope and compassion for those around you.
Proposition 5: Religion exists as an antidote to idolatry. Human beings are always worshipping false gods, such as money, personal image, or their own intellect, often with disastrous and evil consequences. The central spiritual task for human beings is decimating these idols, so that human striving is directed towards what is genuinely highest.
Proposition 6: Faith and spirituality have as many expressions as there are human persons. An individual’s perspective on God or the Absolute is always going to be limited and conditioned by their temperament, culture, and numerous other factors. This multiplicity is inherent in God’s self-disclosure and is best viewed as a manifestation of Mercy and Compassion.
Proposition 7: We live in a fallen world. Human beings are fundamentally estranged as they move through their lives. Evil and sin are the natural consequences of this, and it is our religious duty to struggle against these misguided tendencies, remaining forever vigilant.
Proposition 8: We live in a theophanic world. The things of this life, as well as human beings and their works, are reflective of God’s myriad qualities. Our spiritual work is to let things develop freely, as harmony is already the fundamental principle at work. Viewing the world through the lens of good vs evil or sin vs righteousness is what brings these realities into the world, defiling an intrinsically pure experience.
These are some of the tensions I’ve found within the spiritual life. There are most certainly more. Do not try to collapse these — it is the tension which works on you, just as the tension of a violin string is what allows for it to produce beautiful music.