One of my objectives in this blog, to be perfectly honest, is to help others understand spirituality as essentially distinct from orthodox religion and esoteric spiritualism. It is not, as religions commonly are, an establishment of conservative morality and an echo chamber of archaic superstitions. But neither is it a secret tradition of metaphysical revelations and paranormal powers, protected and passed on to new generations of illuminati by obscure rituals.
As I see it, spirituality is intentional living by the activation of your spiritual intelligence (SQ). Unique to this strand within the quadratic intelligence of our species is a capacity for grounded awareness and unity consciousness, to plumb the depths of your being and participate in the higher wholeness of all things. Such intentional living is very naturally productive of health, happiness, and harmony – what we all desire as human beings.
It’s understandable if theologians and mystagogues might regard my efforts with suspicion, since the goal here is to show everyone – not just true believers and illuminati but each and every one of us – that spirituality is fundamentally a way of life, and one that is open to all.
If orthodox religion and esoteric spiritualism are concerned about membership – belonging to the right tradition, believing the right things, and behaving in the right ways – proper spirituality is interested in primarily one thing: breaking through to the liberated life.
An important feature of this particular type of spirituality, which is best labeled “post-theistic,”* has to do with its emphasis on the developed personality and its executive center of identity, called ego (from Latin for “I”). Instead of regarding the ego as “against god,” in need of rescue to heaven, or as the immortal divinity of your true self, post-theistic spirituality treats it as a healthy symptom and leading indicator in the process of your becoming a unique individual person.
An axiom of spiritual wisdom acknowledges that All is One. In its own way, Western science has confirmed this truth, registered somewhat covertly in its name for the cosmic totality of all things: Universe, literally “turning as one.”
This includes, of course, each of us and all of us together – human and nonhuman, living and nonliving, you and me, the clouds and the stars beyond.
We might call this the Fact of facts, the one sure thing, regardless of whether you contemplate it in rapturous wonder or bumble along in complete ignorance of its truth. And this is where spirituality – or at least your spiritual intelligence – comes into the picture. By virtue of its evolved capacity for grounded awareness and unity consciousness, your spiritual intelligence makes it possible for you to experience your life as both a manifestation of the oneness and as participation in the allness – in the All that is One.
So, while we can agree conceptually that “All is One,” it’s also necessary to understand that you can live your entire life without verifying this Fact of facts in your own experience. Your spiritual intelligence might remain dormant, undeveloped, or suppressed, leaving the depth and unity of existence screened outside your awareness.
Merely subscribing intellectually to these ideas, holding them religiously as doctrines, or confessing them in unison with a standing congregation of fellow believers isn’t a substitute for an awakened spirituality.
A central tenet of post-theistic spirituality affirms the ego – your separate center of self-conscious personal identity – as serving a critical function in the activation of your spiritual intelligence. The drop into a contemplative experience of oneness (what I call the grounding mystery) and the leap into a transpersonal experience of allness (or higher unity) presuppose a set location in consciousness from which the drop or leap is taken.
This location is your ego.
For a proper reading of my diagram, keep your eye on the center axis. The formation of your ego and contruction of a personal identity entail a gradual contraction of consciousness, out of the undifferentiated (and relatively speaking, unconscious) oneness, or communion, in which you are immersed, like a fish in water. With your self-center established, you are able to participate in the shared consciousness (or “togetherness”) of relationships, or what is properly named community – literally “together as one.”
The difference between community and communion is an experiential one: in community your ego is included and transcended in a higher wholeness, while in communion your separate center of identity is released for a deeper oneness where differences and distinctions begin to dissolve away.
I like to think of this duality of higher wholeness (community) and deeper oneness (communion) as the Yang and Yin of the All-as-One, the ultimate reality of Tao.
If everything went reasonably well in your early years of ego formation – with good-enough parents and a provident home environment – your emerging personality, with the executive ego at its center, achieved a sufficient degree of integrity. In this context, integrity is a measure of how stable and unified your personality is by virtue of possessing a secure center of identity. It is from this center that a contemplative release into communion is possible, leading to deeper experiences of solitude.
Ego integrity also affords your personality a necessary freedom from other people and the world around you. You no longer need to emotionally cling to or lean on something outside yourself for security, which sets you free to engage others and the world around you with intention rather than in reaction or by compulsion. Relating to others on such a non-attachment basis allows for attentive and compassionate engagement, where genuine dialogue between partners can take place.
In other posts I refer to dialogue – literally the mutual construction of meaning by partners in relationship – as the high calling of genuine community. Together-as-one, partners create a shared world based on respect, compassion, service, inclusion, and goodwill.
That’s spirituality for everyone.
*Interpreting spirituality against the backdrop of religion and its three main types (animism, theism, and post-theism) provides important context for a constructive approach to religion itself.