I found this article to be of interest and something that a warrior might be considering these days… http://www.realitysandwich.com/spiritual_religious After reading it, I wrote the following response, but it goes to the practice of silence that has been a theme of late.
This dialectical problem of words (spiritual vs religious) has struck me throughout my association with the study of life. I cannot say what the right answer is, and I do not hold faith in the zodiac as a system. I was a deeply religious young man. I have found religion as a concept is an organizing system developed for social norms and conditioning. The framework of passing on traditions, repetitions of behavior, values, social standards etc. Through repetition of ceremonies and seasonal holidays, societies come together and have cohesion. Answers to existential questions are often simple and initially shallow, like “if you do good things you will go to heaven.” and so forth.
Yet any religion has within its ranks leaders and mystics to say nothing of founders, saints, yogis etc who have pushed the boundaries of the norms, taken the heros journey and returned with adjustments to the religion. These become incorporated into the system and then shared down the line. For millennia, it was the rare individual who stretched the boundaries and sought independent confirmation or questioned the fundamental structures and concepts of their religion. The overwhelming majority survive and do what is necessary to maintain their perceptual framework. From out of the early 1800s and one could claim earlier, America religious movements have struggled to separate themselves from the roots of the old ways (religio acutally means to trace back to the source)… and thus we have been a rather independent culture with a highly creative bent and a desire for the new. Whether it was the home grown philosophers like Emerson, or the upstart religious movements which interpreted the bible in their own way like the 7th day adventists to creation of totally unique ways of religion like the Mormons… we have a history of rather independent thought and ideas.
The new age was no different… calling on the resources of eastern philosophy, esoteric ideas, concepts at the fringe and even ensophiagens and entheogens, the new age (see David Spangler for a great root source in Revelations)… the new age has erred on the side of being all inclusive and thus run over the traditional discipline that the classical religions with their unique histories and answers held sacred.
Any religion if it is worth its salt is founded on the spiritual search of a few and is maintained by the spiritual practice of the leaders. This is what we expect of our leaders, that they seek out the personal heroic journey and then return to serve those of us who don’t take or have the time to question the answers…. But we have come into a time when all religions are available, all philosophies available and all ideas available to the personal interpretation of the individual. Very similar to the reformation when the printing press brought the bible into the home of the intellegencia, the computer and the internet has brought religious ideas to the masses…. thus many have chosen to interpret these things and then like a cookbook, use all the spices rather than those just in our local cornucopia to answer personal existential questions. Add to that the downfall of our leadership with conspiracies and immoral behavior and the spread of history (historie means to question)… we have all become our own little religious leaders…..
Thus many now separate themselves from their upbringing by saying they are spiritual rather than religious. They are saying, “I have my own answers, I follow my own way”… and it is often a plethora of mixed ingredients to make a unique soup. Its like everyone is a shaman, everyone a priest, everyone a prophet…. Makes for a rather tough mélange of magical thinking. But the term spiritual has its tradition too… it is the quest to find the self within the greater mystery we call life. Religious must include some spiritual tradition and spark. The two are not mutually exclusive, though it is often tough to start such a path in the modern process of becoming spiritual.
In fact many of us have left, run, danced away from our religious upbringing for all the right reasons, it just does not fill the need… but where do we go that we do not take ourselves along with us and that spoils things. I have seen spiritual people who are just catholics wrapped up in feathers and bones. I have experienced the spiritual traditions get mixed up with all these recovering religious people and just end up down the same merry path. What is essential is a practice of silence while religions have always provided a practice of the repetition of words and ceremony. What is also essential, though many would disagree, is to honor elders who have walked before on a similar path. This allows for depth and perspective. All paths have pitfalls. All paths can wander into dangerous territory. The elder is not perfect nor should the spiritual journey expect perfection…rather it should expect a relationship with the mysterious.
And I think this is what makes the spiritual path different. If we can recapitulate the stories of our upbringing and truly let them go along with our self importance, wander away from the village far enough, we come to understand the value of the village, the religious leaders…even the real shaman (not everyone is a shaman though many would profess to be, the dark side of the new age is everyone can be everything.) We become if we are persistent with our practice of silence, of reflection, spiritual where any religion is all religion. We become one with the ineffable… and this mystery is why many of us are very clear that we are spiritual, not religious. Though I see clearly from the mountain top, the necessity of our religion and our religious experience.