Today, Spirituality is a word that’s passed around with much disdain. Those who pride themselves on being spiritual are often cast aside as tired hippies or delusional fantasists. Words like ‘chakras’ and ‘mantras’ are continuously the butt of satirical jokes.
However, beneath all the stereotyping and the jumping on the bandwagon, this unique belief-system has much deeper roots than many don’t consider.
Further than that, it seems to be making a poignant statement about the state of our society. Are we moving back to a time before religion dictated spirituality; when our journey to ‘heaven’ or ‘enlightenment’ was deeply personal and intimate?
Is the mass movement demanding there’s no place for religious segregation anymore, or is it mere a western interpretation of an ancient belief.
What Is Spirituality?
A quick Google search defines spirituality as the following:
the quality of being concerned with the human spirit or soul as opposed to material or physical things.
“the shift in priorities allows us to embrace our spirituality in a more profound way.”
In essence, spirituality has existed ever since human beings began to reflect on the nature of their existence. Every recorded religion has its basis here. When people talk about the practice in terms of meditation, yoga, crystal healing ect., they are merely noting the symptoms of a species obsessed with their greater purpose.
A Brief History Of The Spirit
Now, I’m in no way a historian, but here’s some general important events:
- Ancient religions grew around a fear of that which they could not control. Their Gods controlled the harvests, the rains, birth, death, health, and disease. Their worship was a way to honor and placate this greater power.
- Some of the very oldest religions worshiped many deities and beliefs would vary between tribes, villages, and regions.
- The oldest scriptured religion, Hinduism, was formed 4000 years ago; it believed there were many paths to God and allowed followers to chose from thousands of idols.
- The first monolithic religions, such as Zoroastrianism and Judaism, started popping up 500 or so years later.
- There were also more abstract trains of spirituality developing – e.g., Taoism and Buddhism – which were based in philosophical and moral belief, rather than praising an idol.
- All the major religions continuously invaded each other, stole each other’s customs, sent out missionaries to force the other to convert.
- Christianity happened – I don’t think you need me to tell you how that worked out.
- Today, most of our popular religious customs are a hodge-podge of ancient festivals and belief systems.
- Scientific advances have nurtured a large atheist population
So, how did this turbulent history of wars, betrayals, deaths, miracles and acts of God make way for skinny white women to wear yoga pants and drink green juice? This is how:
The way for modern spirituality was initially (as far as I know) paved by the beatniks of the American1950s. Largely inspired by the religious exports coming from India and other parts of Asia, many set out to live a simple life. They aimed to cast aside the materialism of the Western world and find their true selves via meditation, travel and having no money!
This group subsequently influenced the hippy movement, which is where today’s spirituality found its footing. Yoga, meditation, clean living, non-violence and unconditional love became socio-political practices as much as they were religious. Spirituality became synonymous with community, tolerance, and peace.
Today, as our world continues to become increasingly mechanized and digitalized – as we continue to exist in a system not acclimated to our wellbeing – it seems many are turning back to these old ways.
We are once again looking to our spirit for our own salvation, even if many of us don’t realize it.
A Brighter Future?
I have been a strong advocate of spirituality for a while now, but recently another outlook on its worth really gripped me. During a conversation with friends, it was suggested that maybe generalized spirituality is our species evolving in our beliefs.
Many religions – and this doesn’t make them invalid – are so stringently based around certain areas or physical places. (think Mecca, Bethlehem, the River Ganges, etc.) These ancient traditions were born from a time when communities -and their awareness of existence – were isolated to those locations.
Today, the information that we have is infinite. I can find how a devout Sufi in Pakistan worships just as quickly as I can investigate the Methodist church down the road. Has the advent of the internet meant that we can refine our spirituality like never before? Can we simply choose the paradigms that work for us, in our lives?
Is modern spirituality the start of a unified world religion? One that is tolerant and flexible and accepts all paths to God – even if that is a purely scientific journey?
I can’t say for sure, but I hope it is!