Pic of the day: Out of the closed rooms, under an open sky, but still on Earth.
Is spiritual good?
This may seem like the strangest question, but it is a topic that I really want to mention some time in my life. Because I suspect that many people automatically assume that if there is a spiritual reality, then spiritual equals good and materiel equals bad. I think it is not quite that simple.
I should first clarify my own point of view. I consider myself a Christian mystic, at least in theory. (I have not lived a Christlike life in all ways, as a disciple should have done. Sorry about that.) If you belong to another religion or a nonreligious school of spirituality, you will have to adjust the perspective accordingly.
I believe in God, the Creator, who exists independently from the universe and who brought the universe into being. I even believe that the Creator upholds the universe, so that it would not exist unless God so wanted. In my view, the materiel universe is God's will. We are born here because God wants it. God is eternal and independent of all. He does not need anything that we can give him: Whatever sacrifice we make from our belongings is like the flowers that a toddler picks from the garden to give to the parents. Therefore says the Bible: "Obedience is better than sacrifice, and attention better than the fat of rams." God has not created us to fulfill his needs, unless it be his need to love.
If we live in the material world by God's will, and he has no sinister motive, then the material world must be a good thing. To claim that the material world is evil strongly implies that God is either evil himself to place us here, or powerless to stop it. (The latter view is found in at least some branches of Hinduism, which believe that the soul is pulled into this world by karma. Perhaps it is from here it comes, the idea that it would be better to not have a physical body. It is certainly not supported by the Bible, which holds up the resurrection as the ultimate goal.)
In all honesty, though, lack of materialism is hardly the greatest problem facing Christianity or the world in general. On the contrary, it is common to become so absorbed in material things that we forget the spiritual dimension. The body is not exactly subtle about its needs and wants, and we could easily spend all day running its errands. It is easy to forget that our life here is limited, but God is unlimited. God wants the spirit to rule over the soul, filling it with light. The enlightened soul will then rule over the body, making it an instrument of God's will, which is love (giving, sharing, caring). In this way, we contribute toward making a paradise on Earth. Just improving the material standard of living can never truly create a paradise, because there will still be greed and envy and resentment. No amount of economic growth can eliminate these. (Some years ago, American students were asked which scenario they preferred: Little to no economic growth, or some economic growth in the USA but faster economic growth in Japan. Most students preferred to spite the Japanese. Of course, this was before Japanese anime became common among students, but still...)
It is possible to try to move into the spiritual realm from a position of selfishness. We may just want the happiness, but are not willing to walk in the light of love. To love always means to give, as also the Bible says: that so did God love the world, that he gave his Son... (The Son must be assumed to have loved quite a bit, too!)
Do evil spirits really exist? The Bible says so, in no uncertain terms. And yet it may be too easy to see this as the game of chess, with black and white pieces on a black and white board. If Christ is Light, as the Bible says, then it is probably true what Kierkegaard concludes, that "the demonic is the closed". (Not to mention black holes, the ultimate metaphor of greed. The Bible never mentions them, but still ... I think we should stay away from them. Now back to our topic!)
If we seek spiritual growth in order to perform miracles or hold great speeches to impress people, then we have moved away from love. If we seek spiritual growth merely for our own happiness, then we are still in the closed room of greed. I will not even consider those who seek to hurt or take advantage of other people. With such darkness in our hearts we can never open up our spirit in truth. Jesus Christ says: "If the light in you is darkness, how great is then the darkness?"
God is love. God does not only love me, or even the people I like. If I disagree with God on this, then all my imagined "spirituality" is for nothing. My individuality is tied to my body. As an egotist, I am not spiritual at all, no matter how much I sing and dance, no matter how much I meditate and pray and chant. I may think I am spiritual because I have these subtle channels to manipulate energy and influence people. But these are the back eddies of spirituality, cut off from the stream of a common goal in the face of God who is God for all. "If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing." Notice that he speaks as if that is an option ... you may actually develop your "spiritual" powers and still be a selfish pig!
In conclusion then, spirit is not the goal. Love is the goal. I am looking into this "love" thing now. I believe it to be horribly misunderstood. More about that later ... God willing.
Visit the Diary Farm for the older diaries I've put out to pasture.