Viewpoints is a SpokaneFāVS feature where our writers respond to a weekly question. Readers are invited to participate by posting in the comment section below.
On a recent episode of the award-winning Amazon show “Transparent” a character asks the rabbi what spirituality is, anyway. It’s a word that’s used often, and comes with lots of different interpretations. So we put to the FāVS writers:
How do you define spirituality?
Thomas Schmidt: It’s a specific emotional state
“Spirituality” is a general term that is used in ordinary language for many different emotional states and therefore should not be defined in anything more than general terms unless one is using it for a specific context. As such, it cannot be defined specifically unless a specific context is being referred to. It is not a term like ‘rock” or ‘chair,” that refer to specifics outside specific contexts. At most, one may say it is a term used to describe any combination of emotions involving one’s relationship to phenomenon involving wonder, beauty, one’s valued connection with others, and such. To assume that it refers to some emotional state that is always one way and not another, to use it in a closed instead of an open manner, is to misunderstand the way language functions. That can lead to serious misunderstandings and irrationality. If, when we use it, we are thinking of a specific state, we need to make that clear and explain the context.
Jan Shannon: Too many ‘spiritual not religious’
Spirituality is, first of all, an acknowledgment that there is more to life than we can know from a scientific perspective. Spirituality allows that there is more to being human than being a physical creature, that we each have a soul. We express our spirituality in various ways, each person being drawn by God into a relationship with the divine. With many (too many) people referring to themselves as ‘spiritual but not religious’ the idea that the divine can be understood outside of community has grown, and I believe this is both narcissistic and dangerous. When one decides all by themselves what God is like, it can lead to an utterly selfish outlook on life and unrestrained navel gazing. Even worse, it can lead to the creation of dangerous demigods like David Koresh, Jim Jones, and Charles Manson, among others. It is only in community that we can even attempt to understand God, as God is inherently communal in nature. It is when we work out our faith in the company of others that we learn what it truly means to ‘love your neighbor as yourself.’
Neal Schindler: Understanding oneself better
Back in 2006, after attending a presentation by progressive writer and activist Rabbi Michael Lerner, I got into a lengthy discussion with friends about spirituality. I said at the time that for me, experiencing works of art, and particularly films, about which I was and still am passionate, was the ultimate spiritual experience. It’s still true that immersion in a meaningful film can have deep spiritual resonance for me. (“Room,” which won its star Brie Larson an Oscar earlier this year, is a recent example.) But experiences I’ve had in the past decade compel me to expand my understanding and definition of spirituality.
To me, spirituality is the process and practice of understanding oneself better, particularly in relation to other living beings. Meditation, prayer, song, silence, or even thoughtful conversation can feed one’s spirituality. I identify as culturally Jewish but have found more spiritual connection in Buddhist traditions. I think the arts — for me film and music above the rest — can aid a person in their spiritual journey. Immersion in great art can help people empathize more with themselves and other beings — and more clearly understand what life’s purpose is.
Nicholas Damascus: A journey toward the light
In the second Epistle of Christian life, Saint Peter wrote that we are called to be followers of Christ “to become partakers of the Divine nature.”
Saint Basil the Great described man as “the creature who has received the order to become a god.”
Irenaeus, bishop of Lyons in the second century, said that “God became what we are in order to make us what He is Himself.”
Many other church fathers like Justin Martyr; Athanasius, bishop of Alexandria; Clement of Alexandria; and Gregory of Nyssa also made the same proclamation.
Spirituality brings us closer to of an understanding of God and ourselves and our relationship with him. Each person is called to participate with the life-giving and liberating Spirit” in realizing the fullness of humanity is in communion with the father. The Holy Spirit is the agent of theosis (deification) whose task it is to incorporate us into the life of the Holy Trinity (a community of love).
As we strive to attain this transformation we perceive much more in an elevated understanding, illumination, and insight into our daily experiences. It’s almost as if we transcend the limitation of the mind of discursive reasoning or rational thought and acquire an expanded perception of our reality of “knowing.”
Is not spirituality becoming something more than what you are?
Naghmana Ahmed-Sherazi: A deep connection
For me the term ‘spirituality’ points to a deep connection between my inner self, my core beliefs, and my religion.
This is what dictates my right and wrong, gives my moral compass an even keel.
- The Kingdom of God is Like a Wilted Kale Salad: A Timely Parable - May 4, 2017
- Is there a truth to truth? - Mar 31, 2017
- Are we confronting our racism? - Feb 3, 2017
- Trump as Parable - Dec 30, 2016
- The Liturgy of Travel - Dec 23, 2016
- Viewpoints: What is spirituality? - Nov 1, 2016
- Nationalism, Patriotism and My Values - Oct 26, 2016
- A Lost Soul at Lost Lake - Sep 29, 2016
- Natural Disaster’s Effect on our Faiths, and Our Faithful Response - Sep 26, 2016
- Deep in the Woods, Stop the Trains - Aug 24, 2016
- I’m too busy for your rules - Jun 2, 2017
- Most powerful woman in the Bible: The Holy Spirit - Mar 8, 2017
- #Resistance: A Better Strategy – Say His Name - Feb 7, 2017
- Soulless Nation, turn to the Bible - Nov 15, 2016
- Viewpoints: Is there a spiritual component to sex? - Oct 24, 2016
- I’m begging you: Fight on! - Oct 20, 2016
- Viewpoints: Colin Kaepernick and the National Anthem - Sep 5, 2016
- Y’all Drink Too Much: Happy Hour Faith? - Jul 11, 2016
- Message of Hope in Planning LGBT Pride Service - Jun 2, 2016
- Depression is Like Riding a Bike With Flat Tires - Apr 29, 2016
- Ask a Jew: What is a Reform Jew’s viewpoint on interfaith marriage? - Jun 15, 2017
- Ask a Jew: If the Jewish people believe the Savior is yet to come, why have most Jews forgone the written law in the Hebrew Scriptures? - Jun 1, 2017
- Ask a Jew: Why do some Jews wear curls on the sides of their heads? - May 30, 2017
- A response to Mark Azzara’s “How Do We Know Who We Are?” - May 29, 2017
- What good is Judaism without legalism? - May 23, 2017
- Interview with artist Melanie Lieb - May 17, 2017
- Are pets members of the family? - May 5, 2017
- Why Mike Pence’s dining doctrine irks me - Apr 19, 2017
- Ask a Jew: How do I explain God in Jewish terms to a 4-year-old? - Apr 17, 2017
- Ask A Jew: What is shiva? - Apr 13, 2017
- Ask an Eastern Orthodox Christian: Is the Eastern Orthodox Church a very conservative church? - Jun 5, 2017
- The Bible Answer Man explains theosis - May 2, 2017
- An Eastern Orthodox View on Truth - Mar 30, 2017
- Mary: The most powerful woman from Scripture - Mar 10, 2017
- Conviction: I do not love God Part 1 - Feb 22, 2017
- Ask an Eastern Orthodox Christian: Why do you ask departed saints to pray for you? - Feb 17, 2017
- Ask an Eastern Orthodox Christian: Is Orthodoxy like the newest Christian faiths? - Feb 2, 2017
- Ask An Eastern Orthodox Christian: Do you pray to the Virgin Mary? - Dec 18, 2016
- Ask An Eastern Orthodox Christian: What are the 7 Sacraments? - Nov 2, 2016
- Ask An Eastern Orthodox Christian: How Many Orthodox Churches are in the Spokane area? - Oct 22, 2016
- Ask a Muslim: Proving the existence of Allah - Jun 12, 2017
- Ask A Muslim: Islam and Jinn - Apr 25, 2017
- Ask a Muslim: Why can’t the Quran touch the ground? - Mar 2, 2017
- The Reason I Would Never Leave - Dec 29, 2016