What is Spiritual?
The word spiritual means different things to different people. It often has connotations of religion or psychic phenomena or physical healing. To some people the word suggests something dangerous, something not to be tampered with. To others it is just a positive word that covers any kind of nice emotions or deeds.
Everything is spiritual, meaning that everything can viewed from a spiritual point of view. To me this means accepting everything, and I mean everything as an aspect of spirit, God, the Divine Creator. But, it requires some effort for most of us to get out from under the hold of rational thinking and to allow ourselves to see from another perspective- the perspective of creation.
Some synonyms for words with the root “spirit” include: courageous, animated, gaiety, ghost, energetic, transcendental, idealism, psychic, heavenly, immaterial, ethereal, piety, refined, inspiring, nature entities (nymphs), inner nature, meaning, psyche, and so on.
This list comes from Roget’s Thesaurus and having followed through each of these categories the one closest to how I use the word “spiritual” is “inner nature”.
Under the heading “inner nature” the thesaurus lists the following words: inside, inner or esoteric reality, essential nature, centre of life, vital principle, soul, heart, inner man, heart of hearts, and so on.
This latter definition is what I am talking about, your inner reality, your soul, your true nature, your natural self, your Truth.
It is interesting to note that the category “inner nature” comes under the heading “intrinsicality”, which in turn comes under the heading “Existence”. The category “Existence” is the first one in the thesaurus, so all other categories of words and hence ideas come after the thought of Existence.
So, the thought “I am” is the most basic thought anyone can have and every other thought is built on this foundation stone.
The fundamental thought “I am” becomes so covered over with other thoughts and emotions and activities that we lose sight of it. Let’s just speculate about how this might come about. The “I am” thought turns into “I am hungry” because we learn to associate certain feelings with needing food and we learn the language to label these feelings as being hungry. We do not like this feeling of hunger so this develops to, when these feelings arise I will scream and roar until the world deals with them. Then someone appears and gives food which alleviates these feelings.
Then the thought arises that, “I have power, I can affect things by crying and screaming.”
In this way the child learns words for all these observed phenomena and by experimenting with both the words and the effects the “I” can bring about. It is utterly intoxicating. It is the most amazing adventure ever, the adventure of a life. You become so intoxicated by this outward looking adventure, ably assisted by your doting parents who cheer every time you try out a new power game. Soon you forget all about the spaciousness out of which the “I” thought arose.
The world, in the form of your parents and family and teachers tell you who you are a separate individual. You are this beautiful body, a boy maybe, and you have a name and come from a certain family and a certain geographic location and so on. It is just the most amazing adventure to be piecing all these facts and events together.
By the time you are a teenager you enjoy comparing your “I” with that of your friends. By now it has acquired thousands of traits. It’s important to the “I” to always be the best “I”. It does not like other “I’s” who are richer, more attractive, academically better, or indeed superior in any way.
Your “I” learns that it cannot be top dog in every thing so it learns to do a balancing act of constant comparing and jostling for position.
As a teenager it is most likely your “I” does not realise that all the other “I’s” around are also involved in this comparing and balancing act too.
Whatever the story, and it is a grand story, by now a solid story has been generated, and the great adventure is becoming somewhat precarious. It is still the great adventure but the world is full of others who are also on their great adventure and each situation allows for only one top dog.
So, getting back to where I started this essay, defining the word “spiritual”, my notion of spiritual is about getting back to where the whole adventure began, when it becomes too precarious for you.
The “I” in you that wants to be top dog is usually referred to as “the ego” in spiritual lingo. It is the layers and layers of thoughts that formed over the original “I” thought and in the process obscured the Real “I”, the Truth of who you really are.
The problem with the ego is that finding it is not top dog leads to suffering, all the suffering of humanity. At some point along the adventure even the ego, the “I” that generated the whole adventure can become sick of it and want it all to stop. It is not that easy to stop it as it has generated a momentum of its own, fuelled on by society in general.
When I speak about spiritual development I am speaking about the undoing of the ego, the stepping back from all thoughts and actions that are generated by the ego. This is the work that is being undertaken by spiritual paths around the world from all cultures and all times.
Spiritual skill to me is the art of using the techniques that have been developed to assist in the undoing of the ego. In order to become a master of anything we need to learn what it is about and then practice the skills that lead to mastery. The traditional and effective skills leading to spiritual attainment are self-inquiry and meditation. I see meditation as practising Silence, which has the effect of stabilising the ego, or mental chatter.
No one can unravel your ego for you. Each of us must do this for ourselves but there is help and guidance available for this unravelling. This is what is meant by spiritual quest. You are on a quest to uncover your own true nature, to get back to your origin.
Persons who have uncovered their own true nature can be of great assistance to you in this quest as they have gone down that road ahead of you. Throughout all time there have been people who have been able to assist the world in this way.
Now it seems we live in a time when many people are coming back to their own true nature and so there is much more guidance available to us now than in the past. The invention of the internet has been of huge benefit in making this kind of information available to those who are interested in it.