Sunday, February 21, 2016

Spiritual Impulses and Common Sense

What is the difference between being religious and being spiritual?

Religious people follow received doctrine, often based on a holy text that is then interpreted for them by clerics and priests. They may never have seen a god face to face or heard the voice of a demon or experienced a miracle, and usually they don't ever expect to do so. But they believe -- or profess to believe -- what they have been told by religious authorities.

A spiritual person has direct experiences of a spiritual nature. He sees visions, hears voices and receives messages directly from the spirit world. His holy knowledge originates in his own mind, and he is more likely to find himself at odds with authority. That is why genuine visionaries are so often martyred.

Religious people by and large are non-limerent, Spiritual people experience limerence both as a personal unidirectional attachment and as a general flow of ideas. They do not study; they are inspired. They do not "work at a relationship"; they fall in love. They do not memorize doctrine -- they receive epiphany.

In Our Lady of Kaifeng, Marah Fallowfield is spiritual, though non-religious. Ted Sesame is religious,  but decidedly un-spiritual. The conflict between their points of view can be seen  most clearly in this scene:
Sesame was cross. “Fine. Then here's your answer. Mr.
Ch'en is a deranged dope fiend. If he thinks that we can build a
whole airport for American planes to land just outside our
camp, without the Japanese noticing, well, he's completely
“And besides,” Gilkey said. “we have over fourteen
hundred people here, most of whom are either elderly, women
or children. There is no way that we could make any sort of
exodus from this place without the majority getting killed or
dying of exhaustion en route.”
“In Exodus there were women and children and infants
and elderly people. And there were no airplanes or airports.
And they got out okay,” Marah said. “They went on foot, and
all they had to eat was some unleavened bread and gold that
they stole from their neighbors. Which you would think would
not be any good for purposes of ordering food in the desert.”
“Well, yeah, but they had manna dropping from heaven
and Moses to part the red sea for them,” Sesame replied.
“And we don't?” she asked. “We have a camp full of
saints and martyrs, social workers and philosophers and
clergymen, and nobody can perform miracles? Can't Eric Liddell
part the China Sea for us? And you, Mr. Gilkey, who are so
good at creating extra space just by redistributing rooms,
couldn't you work a loaves-and-fishes miracle for us, too?”
“This is real life, Marah, not the Bible,” Sesame said.
“So you don't actually believe!” she cried. Here before
her stood a professed Christian who said he believed in the
literal transubstaniation of matter in the Eucharist, and here
was she, the staunch atheist, and yet he had faith in nothing but
compromise when it came to practical reality, whereas she
believed in miracles ...
People with common sense are rarely spiritual.  Visionaries are usually low on common sense. Great religious movements are built on the hard work of plodding multitudes with common sense, but no vision. But without the visionaries, how would they ever get started? And once the people with common sense take over the faith, how can the vision be maintained?

 Kipling had an apt verse on this head:

He that hath a Gospel
To loose upon Mankind
Though he serve it utterly—
Body, soul and mind—
Though he go to Calvary
Daily for its gain—
It is His Disciple
Shall make his labour vain.
--Rudyard Kipling

Beware of the false spiritualist, though. That would be the person who tells you that spirituality leads to a calming effect and will make you reconciled to the status quo. Such people are soap peddlers. No real spiritual leader ever had as his goal the perpetuation of the status quo. Visions don't work that way!

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  1. I do not believe in working at a relationship because it sounds like too much work. If there is true love, then why all the need for work? It makes it sound like a business transaction.

    1. Yes, I agree. It does sound like a business transaction.