Spirituality - With or Without a Deity
For longer than I see it as excusable, spirituality has been synonymous to religiousness. Now, religious folks could also be spiritual, and spirituality doesn't have to include a deity. There are many atheists and agnostics who are deeply spiritual. How does it work, you may ask.
Spirituality is really a personal quest to explore one's own higher levels of consciousness, finding a god-like essence in ourselves, basically by getting rid of our lower-brain's animalistic selves and its many outer expressions.
In traditions of different spiritual schools, notably those of Far East variety, the path of spirituality is characterized by self-discipline, mental and physical, and by a philosophy with its main tenets focusing on love, harmony, and peace.
Also, there is a great emphasis on personal responsibility for one's intimate reality and one's style of interacting with others, suggesting an attitude of acceptance, tolerance, and support. If there is a god in that picture, he/she/it serves as an inspiration on that path of striving towards perfection, or a mini-god status, not a judging and punishing entity. It is not a god to be either feared or appeased.
Nevertheless, spirituality is always about a personal journey of awakening one's consciousness through meditative sinking into one's own depths, while minimizing or disposing of ego, that animalistic identity with its survivalist priorities.
Thus, those who strive towards enlightenment keep an image of a god as the awakening voice of their guidance - while taking seriously their own responsibility to increase their likeness to their deity. There is no place for "sinfulness", "evil", and alike negativities in spirituality, since these concepts don't promote, but sabotage spiritual awakening by keeping alert their vulnerable ego and its self-defeatist obsessing over interests of survival.
History Against Gods
There is nothing inherently spiritual in all of the human race; rather, it's an individually cultivated talent, more like a singing voice. We can either sing or we cannot, while being "musically literate" - able to read notes - doesn't really make us "sound" any better. Thus, all those preachers and gurus being very eloquent about spirituality are not necessarily spiritual.
It would be quite fair to simplify this distinction by saying that those who "got it" in their nature don't need much but a good push onto their path with a few words - whereas to those who "ain't got it" no words will do.
The mankind's history can easily attest to that. Namely, despite all available inspirational wisdom compiled since those first shamanic teachings about attainable harmony in ourselves and among ourselves - over ages of philosophy and religion trying to instill some morality and altruism - we don't have much to show for all that.
Ours is a history of a garden variety of animalistic urges like territoriality, greed, and struggle over resources of survival, with shameless and ruthless examples of intimidation, enslaving, and exploiting, not to mention the widespread criminal mentality.
Spiritual Call - Like a Talent to Be Cultivated
Sometimes I tend to think in terms of what I like calling "universal principle of variety". Nothing in this universe, and especially on our earth seems to insist on uniformity, starting with some over hundred chemical elements that material world consists of.
Then, people are just following that example, with their mentality, DNA, and fingerprints - which may explain why we see always the same folks reaching for a good book or for a gun. Spirituality is not ubiquitous, no matter how much we like seeing the whole humankind as one big congregation regardless of their different religious beliefs, or strictly spiritual schools.
Thoughts like that must have made an individualist out of me long time ago, especially after multiple running into a wall of a total disinterest in matters of spirituality. To many folks it is a pure waste of time to meditate, or to practice a technique that might reduce their proverbial "human condition".
It's almost shocking how many of those who would readily call themselves "spiritual" think that all they have to do is visit their church, and go through all the rituals required. At times I am suppressing a good laugh as I hear such folks talk so seriously about their beliefs - while there is nothing in their personalities that would remind of a spirituality.
Indeed, they are not even trying to be better humans, while they would not miss a single grace said before dinner. They are just as much of materialistically oriented survivalists as those whom they criticize while in a "religious mood"; as much self-centered and prone to malicious gossiping as those whom they demonize as "evil".
Well, like I said - we either "have" it, or we don't, and imitations are easy to find everywhere.
A Musical Masterpiece on Out-Of-Tune Instrument = Noise
Observing and thinking like this didn't only make me an individualist reluctant to generalize about people, but it was also a prelude to my reluctance to pick up a holy book to "learn" about things of importance.
Even if I could get over the dubious chances to be enlightened by reading such a book without working on myself - the simple fact of such books being historically ineffective was quite enough to deter me from them.
A new style of spiritual thinking appeared on the horizon, and it got all my interest and passion. Intuitively, I was from ever of opinion that cultivation of better models of personal functioning, mental and physical had to be The Answer. It just couldn't be any other way, because any teaching is entirely sterile without our ability to adopt and practice it.
I even used to have a name for it back in my teens - "functionalism". In a simple but elegant metaphor, it's like a fine-tuning of an instrument without which no good musical piece, and no good musical arrangement can possibly sound good.
In a vision I experienced the "human condition" like an attempt to play Massenet's "Meditation" on drums.
No Prescribed Path to Spirituality
So, I was telling myself, spirituality of the past has had its chance over millennia to resolve our ugliest aberrations from our dignified status of homo sapiens - now it's time to give some other form of spirituality a chance.
And that's exactly the kind I am talking about - not clinging to obviously unattainable theorisms about a celestial entity and his rules, but seeking that divine in ourselves through any modality or technique that appeals to us according to our individual differences.
Sometimes people ask me "how I meditate". I rush to tell them that they have to search for themselves what meditation will fit their intimate world. Then they ask me what I eat and drink to keep myself from doctors for many years. My answer is the same - our bodies are not same, and what may work for me, may not work for them.
This is telling us that, unlike religiousness, which in many ways tends to be passive, spirituality means an active quest for those optimal steps to be taken and maintained and then modified, and our "psycho-physical menu" can't come in a form of a single book - like a holy book.
It's also telling us that no one should feel called upon to tell others what is a "sure way" in spirituality. We can point to others at some wrong ways and inspire them towards wishing to change; we can even suggest a few ways that have been tested - but we can't play normative teachers proclaiming something to be "the only way" to their enlightenment.
Spirituality is not a team-work like religion, each of us has a distinct personality characterized by a distinct emotional, intellectual, and spiritual predispositions, and there are no one-fit-all steps to be taken.
That's exactly what makes true spirituality so promising - this recognition of personal differences which dictate different approach, and pace of advancing. Someone may have to straighten up their relationships first, because they can't bring that kind of disharmony into their quest for enlightenment.
Others, if not most of them, may have to enable their bodies to be good "appliances" for those higher energy frequencies - because you can't cultivate a spiritual harmony in a body that's intoxicated by chemicals or wrong foods.
Yet others may have to do something about their negativistic attitudes and worldview, to prepare an inner environment, or a soil, before they start planting a brand new set of intents in the direction of expanding their consciousness.
Only then they can hope to go beyond their everyday self and its habitual processing of the reality. Stepping into their inner temple, they have to leave outside their ego and its petty concerns.
It's a wrong idea that our spiritual call is supposed to "struggle" with ego to de-throne it. As soon as we struggle, we are present in our ego - which consists of all kinds of conflicts in its strife of survival. There is nothing to defeat, nothing to feel as an enemy of our spirituality.
When we are ready for it, the experience will feel exactly as our meditation - peaceful, totally accepting any contents of our awareness. For we can only grow when there are no more dragons of the past to slay, when we embrace our human totality.
I hope that these few words have made clear the distinction between that religion-oriented spirituality, and the one that holds a seed of transformation, because it insists on relying on inner resources, while probing into that unexplored depths of our DNA potential.