Sometimes you hear people say that something or someone “is very spiritual,” and I have an idea about what they mean by it, of course, but I also feel bit uneasy when thinking about it more thoroughly.
Everybody can define “spirituality” the way they like, of course, and here is my contribution.
I start with the idea that spirituality could be seen as the common essence of the experience-based (mystic) sections of all religions, in contrast to their belief-based or dogmatic sections, which may differ significantly. This line between experience-based (mystic) and belief-based (dogmatic) does not separate religions from each other, but runs right through all of them. Technical details aside, this comprises more or less all religions we know of, and all these experience-based sections are monotheistic in their most fundamental tenet.
Monotheism vs. Duality
This “mono” brings us right to the crux of the matter since it transcends or negates duality (advaita), in spite of duality being the vastly dominant mode of our experience and interaction with reality. Since our analytic mind and intellect function exclusively within duality (and further multiplicity), the “oneness” of monotheism seems fundamentally incomprehensible, at least on this mental level. So, to “understand oneness” might be somewhat a contradiction in terms.
In this sense, spirituality could be defined as the experience – or any consequences according to the belief – that EVERYTHING emerges from the same ONE origin and IS connected and the same in their common essence: One Spirit, One God, always and everywhere, actually transcending time and space since those also emerge from that One. By definition Oneness means that there is nothing outside this One Spirit/God, there is nothing else or second. Consequently, there is nothing and nobody who could be more or less “spiritual” than anything or anybody else. The One Spirit/God is permeating everything, and everything in between, in the same one way.
There was a young yogi, growing up in a catholic school in India, who got into trouble with the puzzled nuns when insisting that, if there is no God in dog poo, there is no God at all. Or, taken a step further, if there is some place without Spirit/God, then this “spirit/god” seems to be not in charge of everything all the time and might not really deserve the title or be worth believing in.
Seen within this context, the following lines, frequently found in teachings, make sense:
• There is One God
• There is no other
• Recognize that the other person is you*
• If you cannot see God in all, you cannot see God at all*
The Other is Hell
Jean-Paul Sartre is quoted with “The other is hell.” I don’t think he actually meant it that way, but it is a very good definition of hell in the sense that the belief that there would be “an other,” as a state of mind, is hell, probably the only hell there is, and we are all in it most of the time. I probably agree with most atheists in the sense that I do not believe in a god who is born out of the imagination of the human mind and therefore subject to duality. (man-made god vs. God who made man, or, mind-made god vs. God who made mind)
If Oneness is the ultimate reality, then duality – including time and space – is a temporary illusion. However, we do not live in Oneness but still have to come to terms with our duality-reality, even if it is ultimately an illusion. Therefore, words like “godless,” “non-believers” (or “the others”), or, most exemplarily, “the devil” (or “evil”) make only sense and must be understood in the context of duality, because the logic of Oneness renders them obviously impossible. Whatever their exact meaning within duality, this also means that they have no ultimate truth to them but are subject to the same illusion like the duality they were conceived in. They are probably more indicative of the problems we have trying to make sense our duality-reality than having validity in the absolute sense and ontology that we usually give them.
The Infinite and Continuous Creation Music
In this understanding of spirituality and religion, so far my favourite one, everything is equally “spiritual” since filled with the only one Spirit there is, even if I cannot see or understand it. The One Spirit/God, the infinite and continuous creation music, is the only thing there is, everything is included, there is nothing else, other or second. The One Spirit/God is in all creatures and creations in all universes and moves everything into every minute detail. It is not different or apart from us and at the same time as different and apart as possible. We are as challenged and responsible as we are powerless and taken care of. We are the instruments and the music of the cosmic orchestra.
This short discussion potentially raises some valid questions, like, “Is there good and evil, darkness and light? What is the nature of darkness and evil? Is there as much God/Spirit in ‘bad’ people as there is in ‘good’ people? How do we make our choices?” and others, which I postpone to a future post…
Since the Spirit/God of Oneness cannot be defined, comprehended or even proved or disproved with our duality-mind, the techniques we have inherited from the mystics of all times and places to get in touch are those of meditation, devotion, service, music, dance, poetry, art, being with nature, but also study and balanced lifestyle.
* Sutras of Kundalini Yoga
Blessings and Love to and from One & All