Spirituality Versus Religion

by Myriam Maytorena and Zsuzsana Summer / excerpted from Spirituality: True Odysseys

There are many paths to enlightenment.
Be sure to take the one with a heart.
- Lao Tzu

When Myriam's mother was a child there were not any choices to be considered in one's search to manifest the spiritual in one's day to day life. Back in Flattop, West Virginia, there was one little white church that all the surrounding farms and community supported. God and his son, Jesus, were white saviors of the world. Most of the ministers had little education and were filled with the zeal of the "Holy Spirit" and their words would create a simple solution: Believe in the white Jesus and live - don't believe and die and suffer in hell's fire.

However, the ministers (preacher men) reflected their culture of uneducated, hard working, god-fearing folks doing their best to survive in a very harsh world. Simple people needed simple answers to complex questions.

Today, there are no apparent simple answers to complex questions unless one is a simple person. Fortunately or unfortunately, we as a species are growing in spiritual and emotional complexity and as we evolve our spiritual needs are evolving.

With increased awareness of the diversity that exists throughout our cultures, we must now look for answers that fit our new perspectives and we are becoming ever more aware that truth is not an absolute but a moving, changing, media moment that impacts us with increasing rapidity.

Is God Dead?

It is no wonder that the searing words of Nietzsche made headlines: "God is dead!" reverberated through the media and through the thousands of little white churches across the world. Perhaps more appropriate words would be: God as we knew God is now dead. But the good news is that with the dawning of a new age of awareness, the divine is being reborn. We are all becoming more and more aware that our lives are fuller with a sense of spiritual connection. But the God of our fathers has not walked the information highway! Instead there is emerging a new fusion of spiritual concepts that come from every point on the globe.

Reincarnation. Goddess instead of God. Pagans. Wiccans. Buddhists. Muslims. Voodouns. Jews. Christians. Taoists. Angels and Demons. The images floating through our world reflect a new metaphor emerging where spirituality is now reaching a critical mass and is mutating into a new expression.

Some may find a label that feels comfortable to them but for many of us the labels are just to explain in a simple way our beliefs. There are people who try to identify themselves when asked and who come up with names such as Eclectic Neo-Pagan of the Alexandrian Order on the Dianic Path. This is stretching things a bit, but what a mouthful! But, the simple days are over. The simple explanations are over. However, the pursuit has not changed since man first looked at the stars and saw God reflected in the lights amid the darkness. We are all looking for a way to light our passage through the dark complexities of the unknown and to celebrate the joys we feel in the light.

Spirituality versus Religion

The main difference between Spirituality and Religion is the freedom to choose your own path towards enlightenment and ultimately, recognition of our Divine selves.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with many religions and belief systems, except that they are exclusionary and limiting. The main goals and ideals of most world religions are very much the same, but in most we are taught that as followers of a particular belief system, we are right, we will be saved and the others, well, poor unenlightened ones, they will be left behind. If we live by the book and do what we are told, we will one day (in our afterlife of course) attain spiritual unity or understanding with the Divine. Until then, we can only hope to escape punishment or notice or at best, be graced with a heavenly pat on the head for good behavior, from a judgmental god or deity.

Whether one chooses a spiritual path or the path comes to one through the heritage of one's culture, as Joseph Campbell suggested in his extensive research of religion and myth, religion is metaphor no matter what mask it wears. Religion is a metaphor for the finite mind to comprehend the infinite qualities of deity. This deity, at its source, is the same regardless of the mask.

Choosing A Spiritual Path

The vast majority of us are hugely in need of healing and hope in all areas of our being: mind, body, emotions and spirit. For many of those brought up in traditional religions, vast and seemingly impenetrable walls around our true selves need to be knocked down, sometimes stone by stone, before we can gut-wrenchingly see that the walls are only an illusion keeping us separate from each other and from Spirit.

Most religions, while they contain many truths, are fear-based and deny the miracle of the Divinity in our souls. By doing so, they limit the amount of love we can give to ourselves, and therefore naturally, the love that we can give each other. Instead, we judge, we fear, we hold back - and we donít even recognize that we are doing so, and thereby we deny the utmost beauty of life itself. However, we must come to realize with our logical mind that religions were originally created to help mankind deal with the great fear of death and dying and mortality versus immortality. Once we understand this premise it is easier to move beyond irrational response to spirituality through fear and to move on to a higher expression of love and divine connection.

There is no one who can tell you how to find your personal truth or your blazing, undeniable truthful connection with the Great Spirit. (God/dess, the Creator, the Infinite, the One, (or the Many) or whatever represents the Divine to you. We are abundantly blessed in the Western world to live without fear of persecution for exploring and expressing our spiritual beliefs, and we should make the most of this freedom. In choosing the paths which best express our personal truths and innermost beliefs, we honor ourselves and each other, and most of all, we celebrate Spirit.

©2002 by Maytorena and Summer

Spirituality Versus Religion is excerpted from Spirituality: True Odysseys published October, 2002 from Zsuzsana and Myriam - two of the foremost Metaphysical experts on the world wide web: Preview the book at www.arcanamatrix.com/mynewbook.htm.