On one particular Sunday a few years ago I had attended a church service to be in community with old friends, but more importantly, to experience the greater sensation of Holiness that I feel in God’s House. While I was taking in the sounds of the church organ and the voices of the congregation singing, I suddenly felt an elbow to my rib cage.
The person standing next to me noticed that I had not picked up a hymnal book and offered me one so that I could join in the singing. This person obviously had loving intentions but had unknowingly interfered with my personal “spiritual” experience of the service. This is the problem I have with institutionalized religion—it seeks conformity.
Having attended both an art school and later a seminary I see my relationship with God as an intensely creative one. What makes things difficult for me in attending church on a regular basis is that when I express my creativity I run the risk of making the congregation feel uncomfortable and gaining the reputation of being a “disturbance.”
Traditional religions would label me as a Gnostic—one who seeks deeper knowledge and participates in personal evolution (at the expense of official church doctrine). However, I do see drawbacks to developing one’s personal spirituality because it can often be confused with simply feeling good about oneself and worse, embracing a false sense of “enlightenment.”
But forget the negatives of each. That is not why I wanted to write this post. Both approaches—religion and spirituality—play a valuable part in God’s grand scheme! In fact, I think both terms can even share a common meaning.
Scientist/theologian Emanuel Swedenborg stated that a single person represents a “church” as its smallest unit. With such a definition, spirituality and religion are actually the same thing—with the exception that the first term addresses particular beliefs and the latter, shared or common beliefs. The challenge for all of us in this confrontational world is to “marry” high creativity with conformity.
Science is faced with the same problem—novelty versus constancy. Somehow God’s universe has successfully married these two fundamental features of reality. The manifest universe shows us causal processes that reflect both constancy of law and openness to evolution and change. Yet miraculously, these two seemingly opposite influences give us the perfection of unity through distinctiveness (diversity).
There is much, much more to discuss concerning this most important topic. I hope I have thrown out some ideas as a brain-starter. Please chime in with your thoughts—all views are valid and important to the discussion!