For many years I have walked this path constantly in search of answers to the mysteries of life. And one of the observations that stand out in my mind is how I see myself as following a spiritual path rather then a religion.
But in order to validate such a statement one has to delineate between religion and spirituality.
The first question of course would be, is there enough of a distinction between the two to identify them as separate paths. To my mind there is clearly a parting of the ways when it comes to religion and spirituality.
There are over 400 documented religions within this world of ours. And yet of these, three tend to stand out as the examples of what a religion consists of. This distinction is by virtue of their deliberate and successful quest for power, wealth, and influence over the masses.
I personally think that one of the most obvious examples of the difference between religious and spiritual paths is that within the religious parameters, there is a “selected man” to God to the masses type of connection. However with the spiritual path, there is a direct human being to Deity connection, thus effectively cutting out the middleman. Does anyone really know your innermost thoughts in such a way that they can convey such thoughts to Deity in a manner that matches or exceeds your own efforts?
As humans we spend our entire lives living behind an emotional façade in an effort to survive amongst those of our kind. Are we honestly capable of being so completely open with another human in the manner that we would with our chosen Deity? And if not, doesn’t a middleman infringe upon the experience one would have with a more direct and personal connection with Deity?
Before I go any further I would like to make it very clear that this treatise is not about determining whether religion is superior or not to a spiritual path or vice versa. Such a determination can only be made on an individual basis as befits the one who is doing the seeking.
Having said that, another difference that I personally see between the two is that religion tends to become elitist in so many ways.
For instance there is the class distinction between males and females, with females being the subordinates or lesser beings within organized religion.
Within a spiritual path there is no such distinction for we are all seekers/students regardless of what sex we happen to be born into. Being male or female has no impact on the lessons that our spirits so actively seek. And so while such elitism is an integral part of religion, it has no valid place within spirituality.
Another form of elitism is the misguided arrogance that one’s chosen God/s is seen as the only one to the exclusion of all other concepts of Deity. Deity presents itself to the human race in many different ways, as it should. For man to make such a determination as to the validity of my God/s or yours is a bit extreme and misguided to say the least.
My spiritual growth is not determined by a fellow human being, but rather by the God/s themselves. This form of extremism is not usually a common factor found within spiritualism as within organized religion, nor should it be. This is not to say that spiritual paths such as those found in paganism are altruistic.
Unfortunately there are those who have migrated from an organized religion into paganism and who have set up their particular spiritual path to mimic religious parameters.
Just as unfortunate is the fact that these same folks will often use their facsimile of a spiritual path to attempt to control others. But as always, it is up to each individual to determine how one proceeds along ones path. For some folks, this type of setting is acceptable within their lives.
Yet another parameter of organized religion that I am personally uncomfortable with is the tenet that all members must believe in and worship Deity as espoused by a small group of select individuals. To my mind such an approach stifles the personal needs and experiences of the individual in regards to spiritual growth. I don’t believe there is any one size spirituality/religion, fits all. I believe that we are each unique in our spiritual needs and thus the approach that we take has to be broad enough to allow personal freedoms as we seek out the answers that best befit our personal lives.
To not do so is to risk being considered an outcast from that particular religion. This approach, to my mind creates a world where personal responsibility takes a back seat to hypocrisy. As we have seen so often throughout our history, there have been numerous atrocities against fellow human beings which have been justified by stating that “it is God’s will” or “God is on our side” and so on and so forth.
Since when has man had the right to speak in place of our God/s? Or is such arrogance simply a folly of humankind?
When I speak to my chosen Deity it is without hidden agendas and generally on a level that exceeds the capacity of another human being who would seek to speak for me, for it is purely from my own heart. That is a form of communication that is unique to each and every person. For our spirits are indeed individual entities.
One of the most confusing aspects of a religion is the carrot and stick approach that is used.
If one does as a chosen leader of a religion tells you to do, you will go to a place where you are fed grapes and play a harp all the day long.
And if not your spirit is sentenced to a horrible torture chamber (hell) for eternity.
Even hardened convicts here on earth are usually eligible for parole at some point in their lives. How can a God/s be any less merciful then its own creations?
According to this line of reasoning, children who refuse to be sexually molested by the leaders/representatives of organized religions are destined to be sentenced to painful torture for eternity.
And so in such situations a child has to choose between having their mind and body tortured or having their spirits tortured. Where does such hypocrisy come from?
Within the spiritual path when one does something wrong, they know this within their heart. This is why we have a conscience.
The heart serves as a direct connection to ones spirit and thus to Deity. What occurs in this situation is that we take responsibility for our actions as individuals and we seek the answers that will prevent a repeat of such actions.
We don’t rape and pillage for six days and then are forgiven on the seventh day simply because a fellow human sees it as his right to subjugate the word of Deity. This action to my mind is another form of arrogance and hypocrisy as practiced by organized religions.
I personally believe that members of a religion tend to use the masses to dilute their personal responsibilities to self and to others. When on a spiritual path one is an individual and thus has no faceless mass to take refuge in.
One example of this lack of personal responsibility is the adage found within religions that “one shalt not kill”. And yet time and time again religious leaders and the followers of these man made religions are involved in perpetuating violence and death to their fellow human beings.
And this is a practice engaged in by all three of the main organized religions of this world. In one of these organized religions, its leaders encourage their members to blow themselves up in an effort to kill others around them. They claim that such actions will make them martyrs and thus ensure their entrance into their heaven. And for whatever reasons, all three of the main organized religions are at each other’s throats. And yet all three have sprung from similar roots, making them in essence, cousins of each other. And in fact all three are male dominated and worship the same distant male God
I don’t know of any spiritual paths that engage in or advocate such death and mayhem. And so the hypocrisy continues.
Finally, within the spiritual path, our Deity is as close as our heart. They are not a distant, standoffish God/s that no one can easily connect with. I personally see Deity often within the dream state. No big deal. But the God of the organized religions has never been seen by man with but one exception, and he died in the process.
Of course at the end of the day the only right religion/spiritual path is the one that works for the individual. To suggest otherwise is to engage in patterns of control and to deny folks such an innate right to their beliefs. And this goes for all regardless if one is Santeria, Buddhist, Muslim, Pagan, Christian, Agnostic and what ever have you.
Far too often humans tend to pass judgment on others when they themselves could stand a bit of improvement. And so whether one chooses a religion or a spiritual path, it should not matter to anyone outside of the individual doing the choosing for themselves and their personal choice of religion or spirituality.
These of course are the personal views of an old witch and may not coincide with your own thoughts on this subject. I only ask that you respect my right to such beliefs as I will respect your views however divergent they may be from my own…