Anyone with a weak mind or a much too tender ego ought not to read this article. Why is this so said? One of the most tremendously bogus, absolutely counterfeit, things around is either the tendentious or preposterous claim that one can be very or extremely spiritual or at least, for many, think of themselves as being somewhat spiritual or inclined, more or less, toward such a feeling or attitude.
Equally, nothing immoral or evil is seen, in this attitude, that has a clear tendency toward the demonic/satanic concerning a sense of human perfectionism involved, of the usually covert desire for a Godlike divinity, in disguised terms of reference.
However, this quest for or supposed attainment of spirituality ought to be seen as just a bad joke at best, a clear case of decided narcissism at worst. All else is really sordid self-delusion, a then glorified detritus, of the basest kind. Honest atheists, assuredly, have more plainly sure clarity of thought and a modicum of more rationality as well, in fair comparison with merely spiritual denizens/citizens/others.
Such a very cheap contention on the part of “spiritual” people, especially those who do then reject all of religion and “organized” religion in particular, reveals that, ultimately, that the self is what is being really worshipped under a variety of guises; these, in the postmodern age, do then widely include such bland fashions as neopaganism, environmentalism, pantheism, occultism/ spiritualism, syncretism, and various other such assumed pseudo-metaphysical venues.
These are utilized for a presumed higher belief or faith, which is really no better than an advanced kind of superstition oddly parading, of course, as a quite avant garde virtue among the benighted era’s deracinated cognoscenti, the assorted intellectuals and would-be intellectuals.
Who Are So Spiritual?
It can be reasonably found, by certain objective observation and analysis, that, regardless of the particular path chosen or the odd pretension assumed, the result of self-worship remains, finally, the true end attained, under various kinds of fashionable euphemisms. These have been noted already, and the point need not be here belabored. Few of those who say they are spiritual have, therefore, the intense moral courage and profound integrity to self-examine their consciences in depth, meaning beyond some occasional rationalized forays that are, of course, superficial at best.
The rancid superficiality of their own false lives is, moreover, a sad and living testament to the gutlessness and shallowness of what gets believed so willingly and, quite often, contradictorily as well; mental or moral consistency is, thus, not seen as a valued virtue; and this is even more true, in an age marked by spiritual darkness, for those who then see themselves as manifestly dedicated, serious, egocentric, solipsistic postmodernists. What is being said?
The intellectually incestuous worship of the self is as Godless, as it is empty of any legitimate substance of faith; in any real crisis of life or death issues, therefore, when excessively cheap talk or just seemingly pious sentimentalities simply will not do, such “spiritual” people turn usually to suicide or its equivalent; this is, normally, because the bottom just dropped out of their limited and deficient world of a pseudo-metaphysics, backed by a thoroughly shallow belief in what then lacks any foundational regard for ultimate or absolute Truth, due to a then rather rancid tautology of belief qua (personal) superstition.
It is fruitful, furthermore, to have a good discussion of how the nominalist pursuit of spirituality certainly seeks anything or everything, meaning except any ethically, morally, and spiritually needed belief in God.
The vast majority of those who so profess to be spiritual are equally assuming or asserting their conscious or quasi-conscious assumption of their own plainly presumed ethical, moral and/or metaphysical superiority to those, or the majority of those, who say or are, one supposes, known to be religious. What is occurring? Spirituality is being deliberately opposed (whether admitted or not) metaphysically or philosophically to all religion, especially against any or all organized religions, in terms of the mainstream or mainline churches/denominations.
And, anything that can successfully divert a person’s mind from the search for or desire to know or love God is, in essence, demonic and participates in the evil of denying the existence of fallen man existing in a fallen world. Is it, rather, some sort of supposed humility in the minds of spiritual people?
Very few of those who call themselves spiritual, however, are honestly humble people, a discrete minority, only wishing to try to get some understanding of wholesome or ethical percepts by which to genuinely live their lives, in what they think or hope to truly be a better manner.
The vast majority invert their reasoning, willingly, to see the darkness of this fallen world as their preferred light, with often all the unquiet enthusiasm of a sullied neo-romanticism; all manner of human behavior, to the utmost of degradation and depravity, can be casually rationalized as a manifestation of a moral or ethical movement of one’s spirit in one’s life.
Flexible Morals Produce Necessarily Inflexible Conceit
Either concerning both the vast majority or the tiny minority involved with spirituality, it is still to be seen that no valid metaphysical position can be yet attained by the disguised effort, whether conscious or not, to (merely) seek to worship one’s self; the quite so willful self-creation of an earthly or mortal deity-in-disguise is the grossest attempt at parodying religion, for it raises up a postmodern form of superstition not recognized for being what it really, thus, is: narcissism.
Some “spiritual” people might, admittedly, be honest enough with themselves or, perhaps, others in openly recognizing the sure and certain reality of what this attitude implies; fewer still would claim that this vile and self-centered pseudo-worship, meaning an anti-religion, is justifiable or otherwise still to be held as being superior to religion.
Any and every inverted stylization of religion is a decided perversion of the truth that any diminished or reified substitute for God is, in fact, not God; an insanely corrupted or absolutely deracinated version of religion, in religious terms of the requisite appreciation of the metaphysical order, sets up an idolatry, which makes the worship then always greater than the god being worshipped. Subjectivism and relativism shake hands with existentialism and phenomenology to pole vault toward deconstructionism.
It can be, appropriately, so noted that postmodernist spirituality is, at least, clearly anti-theistic, though this viewpoint, which often claims support for tolerance, denies being explicitly atheistic. There is, in fact, no serious pursuit of truth; spiritual people are above such a mundane concern that has preoccupied great thinkers, inclusive of many theologians, for many centuries; there is to be no worry or concern for such archaic matters as sin and damnation, evil and Hell’s permanent lack of any redemption.
Mere theology is an antiquarian interest of just the supposedly inferior intellects unworthy of being taught to appreciate a higher spiritual enlightenment of those who are seeking a refined mystical perfection.
Spirituality is, therefore, to be plainly perceived as laughable idolatrous nonsense, where the solipsistic idol involved is really no comically better than just a mere tin god or an ersatz type of a humanoidic version of a plaster saint in disguise. No truly intelligent mind of mature years, therefore, should take spirituality seriously as being genuinely descriptive of an enormously profound and highly reflective affirmation of a metaphysical position above or beyond religion.
One can, rightly, note that the here overtly recognized reality of any such asserted spirituality, pertaining to the inflated beliefs of the postmodern age, is just actually an elaborate disguise for narcissistic self-worship, a sophisticated form of superstition not often seen as such; but, it is still integrally an important and irredeemable part of all New Age fanaticisms, theatrics, impulses, urges, vanities, etc.
On the other hand, however, it appropriately needs to be formally stated that superstition is, in fact, always the direct opposite of actual religion. The former is no better than idolatry; the latter abolishes idolatry, when it is properly allowed to displace false beliefs with the truth of the metaphysical order of reality, namely, true belief in God.
Religion is appropriately accounted as belief in and reverence for a supernatural power understood to be the Creator and Governor of the entire universe; a significant example of a particular integrated system of this, as a surely demonstrable expression, would be, for instance, Roman Catholicism.
Spirituality, is, by definition, a too integrally deformed metaphysics, and is ever a quite manifest means of achieving a form of inherently purposive self-deception, on a set grand scale, through exhibiting dominantly egotistic excess as to the narcissistic end to be attained. All terrene gods ultimately are, therefore, revealed to have feet of clay, not the substance of an omnipotent Being, AKA the Lord God Almighty. Q. E. D.
Prior to, e. g., the purported New Age religiosity or various spiritual feeling attitudes, there had been such things as Theosophy, the Ethical Culture Movement, and many other kinds, types, or forms of emotional and/or psychological conceit having the pretense of serious thought, as to a purported metaphysics; such convenient and pliable abstractions were the throwaway artifacts of larger movements of thought that had generally greeted the modern age’s modernity in cognition, though without the intensity of any revolutionism being attached.
What were to be then lightly grappled with were the proud excrescences of inferior reflections, claiming degrees of esoteric knowledge, which only the true believers or initiates could absorb with any pride of more than just an adequate acquaintance with such (assumed) higher thought. There are implications and ramifications.
Either some, much, or extensive fornication can be tolerated as being consistent with spiritual intensity; worship of the physical body could be applied equally to a belief that did not distain the self, as part of the worship done.
In short, whatever or however various things were and will be then found to remain acceptable as to a plastic faith capable of having itself molded into any shape needed for the believer, a religiosity of convenience, exists; no dogmas are really to exist; doctrines, if any, are then fairly pliable to the multitudinously diverse needs of the (nominalist) believer; any functional or operational rationality is dispensed with in fundamental terms; all that essentially remains, therefore, is merely a cheap canard of intellectualized emotional fancies and odd predilections of temperament combined just casually into a higher form of (postmodernist) superstition.
Any real concern for the realization and study of Being, of ontology, which ought to morally or spiritually exist, gets carelessly lost in the tawdry trendiness of the ethically corrupted affections toward aesthetics and axiological nonsense galore. Silliness, consequently, pretends to be true seriousness that demands to be respected, one supposes, by minds as vacuous as those that hold on to such preposterous precepts of pious pretentiousness puerilely postured and postulated; all else, with flexible morality attendant, is inflexible conceit.
Indifferentism has gone by many names, including Universalism, Unitarianism, and, generally speaking, latitudinarianism. These were quite logical developments that had stemmed from how Protestantism, influenced heavily be nominalism, lead to increasing degrees of secularization of society and culture, which has been often called modernization. The individualism encouraged by Protestantism, as with each man becoming, in effect, his own pope, contributed to secularism, which has certainly supported indifferentism in the course of modern history.
An appreciation of the spirituality attitude, as being no more than certain sophisticated nonsense, reminds intelligent people that hate is not really the direct opposite of love, the contrary emotion is indifference; and, there is a place in Hell reserved for those who were consciously indifferent, though this has often been totally denied or ignored, of course, especially by, e. g., advocates of the heresy of universal salvation.
Thus, claiming to be spiritual, meaning being possessed by it, is no substantially viable substitute for possessing religion, which is either the love of God or else it is nothing; it is not simply the love of goodness itself nor just the qualities of a supposedly ethical person pursuing moral ends; an indifference to the truth, especially the greatest Truth, is then simultaneously the full rejection of the Supreme Deity, of the Lord God Almighty.
Back in the late 19th century, Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman, in his good book entitled Difficulties of Anglicans, stated the matter quite boldly and authoritatively, when he remarked: “Conscience has rights because it has duties; but in this age, with a large portion of the public, it is the very right and freedom of conscience to dispense with conscience, to ignore a Lawgiver and Judge, to be independent of unseen obligations.”
Cardinal Newman, furthermore, easily recognized the logical and bizarre consequences of such enormously blatant relativism and subjectivism, meaning radical individualism to the nth degree, that “becomes a license to take up any or no religion, to take up this or that and let it go again, to go to church, to go to chapel, to boast of being above all religions and to be impartial critic of each of them.”
Thus, such an attitude is not a new thing actually invented during either the late 20th or early 21st century; it is a manifest relic of modernity revolving airily around the preferential attitudes of a consumerist culture with an Open Society orientation; the “inner light” of earlier generations of proud heretics has been subsumed by consumerism, as to the various and sundry intellectual fads and fashions of the New Age kind. Thus, there is no room for sin or damnation within those who possess such ethically elevated and supremely enlightened minds.
Whatever may be popularly thought as to beliefs, half-way beliefs, or anything filled with any real degree of incompleteness will not do; as an analogy in thought, it is completely nonsensical to ever speak of being, e. g., only partially pregnant. What is meant?
Spiritual people practice the mere pretense of being supposedly in line with something either equal to or better than being religious, though without what ought to be the strenuous effort of the latter point of view as to somehow adhering to metaphysical reality; spirituality is, ultimately, not a truly ethical or moral attitude; one sees it as a kind of feeling, an elaborated thrust of (an abstract) emotionalism.
It is, thus, the shallow assumption of a debatable completeness that only theology can, in the end, satisfactorily provide for those who do really believe in (and adore) God; and, this pertains, as to an understanding of some sense of mortal life having a definitive finality, to the four last things: Death, Judgment, Heaven, and Hell.
If there were, however, no finality, then spirituality of any kind, type, or shape would be, thus, only ludicrously superfluous, not merely cognitively absurd regarding an assumed metaphysical tolerance for any belief or, of course, none. Illogicality and irrationality are, thus, superbly revealed within, as it were, the modish spiritual motif.
But, for spirituality, there is ultimately an intolerance for then suggesting that mere honesty yet requires a decision to say why belief in God must be excluded as ever beyond the limits, e. g., of maintaining one’s asserted spirituality qua thoughtlessness; this is as to a preferred belief not ever demanding a theology, doctrines, dogmas, or any logical appurtenances of religion.
Feeling replaces thought, as it pushes any consideration for metaphysics aside, and proceeds lightly to advance toward any or every effort to hide the (ugly) fact that the glorified self is to be the sure focus, sooner or later, of any (pretense at) worship that may (accidently?) occur.
Modalities of such a quizzical belief need to consider its own compositional elements as to what might be called para- or quasi-theological formulations of such nonreligious “belief”, which then ought to be so discerningly unbelievable, as a sarcastic apropos afterthought.
Exoteric v. Esoteric Theology: Mystery v. Mysticism
Cardinal Newman, in his Essays Critical and Historical, succinctly puts forth the superb notable thoughts that: “A revelation is religious doctrine viewed on its illuminated side; a mystery is the selfsame doctrine viewed on the side unilluminated.”
As to (traditional) mysticism, one can still profitably refer to the seemingly paradoxical, though delightful, thoughts of G. K. Chesterton, as he made the rather interesting matter known in his Orthodoxy: “Mysticism keeps men sane. As long as you have mystery you have health; when you destroy mystery you create morbidity. The ordinary man has always been sane because the ordinary man has always been a mystic.”
What has then strangely happened, however, is that modernist or postmodernist connotations of mysticism have fully replaced any classical or older denotations of it; the interpretations that do so fairly predominate are then usually either Gnostic or neo-Gnostic in temperament, though the overall historical, cultural, and societal context is mainly neo-Pelagian.
Gnostic faiths, which can be seen predominantly among both modern and postmodern belief systems, come to be those found most often attractive to those people who think of themselves as just being spiritual, though not religious. These faiths are (more or less) esoteric in that people who espouse them wish to seem or think of themselves as superior people, in that they claim to know (gnosis) the truly better or right way toward expressing and/or acting upon belief, though it yet may be only a pseudo- or quasi-theology at best.
The cognoscenti or illuminati, the great ones, do believe that they have found a truer or higher system or, perhaps, way of belief that is dissimilar from uninformed, ignorant, superstitious, or bigoted people who are affiliated with organized churches or have highly structured theologies with, thus, at least some or, perhaps, many doctrines, dogmas, etc. However, the postmodernist superstition of spirituality causes or, rather, forces the crude juxtapositioning of mystery against mysticism, though here recognizing that both have the same root regarding their etymological origination.
The problem is yet sufficiently found within the esotericism, whether understood as implicit or explicit, involved necessarily, therefore, with the claiming of a higher knowledge not easily or readily attainable by the simple, unsophisticated masses or just the common people.
Mysticism characterizes such cognition in that the believer assumes that there is some mystical essence in the spiritual inclination adopted, supposedly, regarding how someone then chooses to abstractly think in a metaphysical manner, though not in a truly religious way, as according to an orthodox approach toward formal theology; that consideration being, by definition, absolutely rejected by spirituality.
It can be and really is, thus, as widely subjective as the individual believer wishes it to be, due to the basic absence of all doctrines and an abhorrence of anything that might tentatively “stink” of certain dogmatic statements or, perhaps, dogma itself, a categorical imperative of a definitive system of belief that categorizes a religion; the thought presented is that a religion without any dogmas or doctrines would, in fact, be a logical contradiction; this is, nonetheless, different from a generalizing belief in whatever it may be that is to be called spirituality, a relativistic notion.
This set contention exists by having neither a bottom nor top but only, as it were, an emotional presence, as to a sentiment, feeling, or, perhaps, an advanced affective orientation of thought; someone claims, e. g., to be a spiritual person, though not ever religiously inclined; it is as if a fertile woman might seriously claim to be only partially pregnant. This has implications.
Exoteric theology can be found, e. g., in Catholicism because the simplest believer in the Faith can know all the essential information necessary for salvation in clear terms of the fundamental teachings of the Church; a peasant or just a simple common workman can, therefore, be as fully knowledgeable as a highly educated cleric or even the pope himself; there is nothing Gnostic about the Catholic religion, though mysteries of the Faith do exist as with, e. g., the Trinitarian Dogma.
A mystery, in the context of a genuine religion, is a profound truth that cannot, by definition, be really understood and comprehended by mere human beings because to actually have that kind of hyper-knowledge that is only possessed, by definition, by God is, in fact, to be God Himself. Those who are well devoted to spirituality have contempt for such a matter; they prefer, instead, contemporary understandings of mysticism as justifying their self-created beliefs, which remain so easily compatible with a secular-oriented society that denies the existence of true evil, much less sin, of course.
Mysticism, as to modernist or postmodernist cognition qua nominalism, is the aggressive (un-admittedly disingenuous) obfuscation or, better yet, bland abstractionization of such emotive or affective inclinations or attitudes held by the person claiming to be so spiritual as to, thus, avoid ever becoming-God forbid!-religious (in any acceptable sense of a theological perspective).
Because ethical, moral, and spiritual failure get ignored as to its reality, certain bold egocentrism, therefore, becomes then, in effect, its very own narcissistic faith so predicated implicitly, if not always explicitly, upon various contemptible forms of self-worship fearing exposure to the truth of its duplicity, its highly debatable verisimilitude.
In the absence of the holding of true religion, meaning the theological pursuit of moral certitude, there is the then cowardly absconding of truth in the effort to be supposedly so spiritual as to be fully beyond belief, both personally and intellectually, of course. None of this is surprising, in a post-Christian society informed by such things as existentialism and phenomenology, in that the typical rendition of an ascendant postmodernity is quite far from any appreciation for what used to exist, centuries ago, as Christendom.
In America, e. g., Christianity (or what now weakly remains of it) has become quite increasingly compartmentalized, especially by most governmental diktat; and, the public square is held to be no decent place for what is, so assuredly, supposed to be just a private concern, according, of course, to dedicated secularists and “reformist” Christians; the latter really do congregate in such organizations as Americans United for Separation of Church and State.
Only religion, however, can lead to metaphysical truth, not a vague or generalized moving of the human spirit, meaning unguided by any real conscience oriented toward the ever holy search for definite ultimates, especially those matters that do direct attention toward the highest reaches of ontology.
And, after knowing that all of reality, all of the universe in its full entirety, is merely contingent being, then metaphysical ontology, in the end, must unhesitatingly point to the logical existence of the absolute metaphysical order itself, namely, God.
In the sagacious words of Robert H. Benson, as taken from his Preface to Bands of Love: “It is the oldest temptation in the world, and the most fruitful parent of sin … to regard self rather than God as the center in which spiritual effort must originate.”
More than all that, for those who have profoundly studied the thinking of Western civilization, in terms of both philosophical and theological efforts to tremendously comprehend ontological truth at its absolutely highest level, as was done by, e. g., Mortimer Adler, the choice made, therefore, can only be for Catholicism.
In addition, many who have come from the environment of Eastern civilization have arrived at exactly the same conclusion when the matter of Being, of the totality of existence, is realized to be an objective reality, not a metaphysical or philosophical projection of the human mind upon an assumed reality.
The maximum understanding and comprehension of ontology, for human beings, has been properly attained. There is the bold and refreshing affirmation, through the Roman Catholic Church, of abundant light and eternal hope that can be supremely and actually found, even in this postmodern age of darkness; the hope of Salvation is yet real; the Light of this world is still Christ.