Adventures in Organized Spirituality • 6 November 2008

I. Are you spiritual but not religious? Yes; No? By the way, what does this mean?

II. Have your feelings changed about the possibilities of mixing spirituality and associational life? Have the internal and shared experiences of recent days been spiritually transformative for you–in part because bound up in organized, institutional life?



  • Posted 7 November 2008 at 12:10 am | #

    Second question too chewy for immediate response, but on first question:

    Not to be harsh, but:

    spiritual for me means spiritually seeking, in any direction, by nearly any means. I would qualify almost everyone as spiritual.

    Religious means given to some state religion which has by now almost certainly been utterly corrupted by literalist, fundamentalist interpretations of its key texts which transform it largely from the spiritual to the mob-mental, world-dominating, difference-hating mode in which we see many of the state religions on Earth currently participating.

    Buddhism, a notable exception.

    Yes, I’m aware that I generalize. Yes, I’m aware that I let very bad and unfulfilling experiences with one of the world’s big religions color my worldview. I am aware of all of that.

    But spirituality, two thumbs up.

  • Posted 7 November 2008 at 12:34 am | #

    Didn’t the term ‘spiritual but not religious’ come originally from internet dating? It is standardized terminology in that subculture and it seems to indicate that an individual retains some residual religious background effects and prefers a non-religious life but is not presently willing go full-atheist.

  • Posted 7 November 2008 at 12:35 am | #

    The second question is the chewy one. 🙂

    To put it another way:

    Isn’t the sense of euphoria and wholeness we feel in this moment the result of reclaiming corrupt institutions? Haven’t we experienced years of self-hatred due to the shadow of slavery and raceism? Isn’t this all about beginning to resolve the contraditions in the national government so that the institution can be whole?

    After so many years of being American-but-I-hate-the-government, isn’t this all about bringing some honor to an institution with a history so contradictory we’ve hated the ways it was inside us?

  • Posted 7 November 2008 at 12:36 am | #


  • Posted 7 November 2008 at 1:38 am | #

    “to put it another way”
    yes- totally. There’s real joy about this presidency that I have never witnessed before. I think, on top of Obama seeming to be a good guy, people are really hungry for intelligence. The days of loose cannon governing are over.
    Carl- you’re so right! Online dating probably had something to do with that odd phrase. It’s a way of saying, “Don’t worry, I’m not going to drag you to church with me to be baptized, but uh.. I’m not like, well, I don’t hate God or anything”
    Owl, as you know, anyone who has been through a hardcore “religious” background sometimes has a rough time embracing “spirituality” because it’s a term too often used IN religion. And- it often comes off as sounding silly. Like on an internet dating site. I think I kind of agree with Patrick a little on his concept of everyone being spiritual. There are just different levels of awareness.

  • jlafitte
    Posted 7 November 2008 at 1:43 am | #

    Suffice to say: after eight years I can breathe again.

    That said, as a member of a community manifesting the remnants of the antebellum south, I can attest that the vibe here is pretty amazing. Everyone is talking about how the city is turning a corner that was thought forever barred. It is truly a time of oppurtunity for our relationship with ourselves and the world.

    So back to the topic — the meaning we are meant to draw is that spirituality is personal and religion social, right? And maybe one modality is more authentic than the other? I’m inclined to agree with Patrick’s assertion that to be human is to be spiritual. I’m reminded of Viktor Frankl’s thesis in his “third Viennese School.” That the foundation of human activity is the “will to meaning” of which Adler’s will to power and Freud’s will to pleasure are variants.

  • Posted 7 November 2008 at 1:48 am | #

    According to Frankl, when a person is blocked from meaning she manifests addiction, aggression, and depression. Hmm….

    What I’m working over is the idea that religious institutions are no less reclaimable and no more problematic than nation states.

    Spiritual but not religious
    American but not patriotic

    Inner conflict is present in both. Social conflict is present in both.

    But I dunno Stu. None of the four adjectives above is really part of my identity. 🙂 But I AM fascinated by the disownership of institutions–religious and political–we all go through, and why there is SO MUCH energy put in to that.

    I also just am wondering if the present collective effervescence, which seems to be just “political,” is not as “spiritual” as anything we’ll ever experience. This is an experience of wholeness, healing, holy if fleeting one-ness. As I posted earlier, sometimes “spirituality” might move from being personal in an individual sense to being personal in a collective—or even an historical?—sense. WE ARE THAT?

    Also, I misspelled racism earlier. Crikey.

  • holdenjoy
    Posted 7 November 2008 at 5:56 am | #

    question I: I am all 4 – a: S & R, b: S not R, c: R not S and d: neither S nor R.

    so this means, as usual, I am houseless but not hOMeless and hopefully not useless.

    I do believe we have projected a lot of our hopes and pent-up frustrations on this individual. I don’t see a big shift in the collective ethos away from “whats in it for me or the group I identify with” and does this mean I have to get rid of all the stuff a la “The Jerk”

    or “I don’t care about losing all the money, its losing all the stuff”.

    Also in the circles I work in – to be honest – no one seemed to notice that a new president had been elected – the very people who will probably benefit the most from his election seemed the least interested.

  • holdenjoy
    Posted 7 November 2008 at 6:06 am | #

    and also that map is great. Take a look at the southern calif. county area map- I couldn’t help but notice that rotten orange that now was red. It sticks out like a sore “angusta”. Well at least there are 2 astanga yoga shalas there so we have beachhead of reason that may spread the light of knowledge in the sands of time.

  • meniscusmerangue
    Posted 7 November 2008 at 9:42 am | #

    Bloody hell, give it a while! F.donuts.

  • Posted 7 November 2008 at 1:41 pm | #

    The people I work with also don’t care at all about the symbolism or the psychodrama. The only consideration is policy—the technical, instrumental aspect.

    I think I’m being told that it’s too soon to step outside the moment. It is a psycho-spiritual aporia—why rightbrain it?

    But… from here on at whatever time the moment can be rendered timeless. Something this groundshaking can be accessible from whatever time and place, with not much imagination.

  • Posted 7 November 2008 at 1:45 pm | #

    Oh and H, FWIW, turnout in Orange County was record low! May as well not vote against the fait accompli. Interesting to see these folks stay behind their gates on that night.

  • Posted 7 November 2008 at 5:08 pm | #

    That map is cool… thanks for the link! The one you chose to put on your entry looks like Super Elastic Bubble Plastic. Remember that stuff? Smelled all toxic and good!? I used to burst the bubbles and stick them to the van windows on family road trips. The sun baked them on permanently one summer and I was in big trouble.

  • Posted 7 November 2008 at 5:30 pm | #

    How did I miss the Bubble Plastic phenom?

    Inkblotwise, I can’t help to see an eagle in that America…

  • jlafitte
    Posted 7 November 2008 at 6:20 pm | #

    ‘…the idea that religious institutions are no less reclaimable and no more problematic than nation states.’

    Seems that religious institutions are defined by the meaning that they ascribe to their texts (scriptures). Very resistant to change except by schism or outright revolt.

    Political institutions seem more malleable, especially when the text (constitution) is designed to be amended.

    That image makes me think of this - (Albrecht Durer)

  • Posted 7 November 2008 at 6:43 pm | #

    jlafitte- TOTALLY! I like the way your brain thinks. visually.
    (Owl, too bad you missed it- the toxic plastic bubble stuff!)

  • Posted 7 November 2008 at 7:22 pm | #

    I haven’t read THIS, but guess it might play with what I’m thinking of.

  • Posted 7 November 2008 at 7:55 pm | #

    I’m not sure what spiritual means, so I’ll go for maybe/no on question 1.

    On question 2 – It was certainly a magical experience for 52% of us. I suspect the other 48% is less sanguine about current events!

  • Posted 7 November 2008 at 9:03 pm | #

    “Religion” seems to want to be placed into a Wilber-style quadrature. Religion is the political quadrant and it’s a means for a social body to maintain certain concepts such that the least-common denominator is satisfied. That is to say, it serves to embed certain ideas within mass thinking. It would be the group-internal quadrant, I believe. “Spirituality” is much more ambiguous — in the Wilber frame, it must go into the individual-internal quadrant and it simply isn’t amenable to abstractions for external consideration. How can you make symbolic a person’s inner workings when they are exceptionally unique and the person mostly cannot elucidate them?

    It’s like in Ira Progoff’s programmed meditation scheme: The ardent spiritualist went deep within and discovered the wellspring; he came back to tell everybody about it and they built a cathedral over the well. In time, they bricked over the well with a stone floor, etc., to build up the cathedral even greater, yadda yadda yadda, and the well became hidden again. You get the idea.

    But religion serves an important purpose in that it preserves path markers that the spiritualist might uncover and then use to find his/her own way. Religion is mostly a means of conveying ideas symbolically and thus is necessarily a political structure and not a “spiritual” structure.

  • Posted 7 November 2008 at 10:13 pm | #

    …and then the symbols get confused for reality and everything goes all kablooey. (didn’t someone once call that avidya?)

  • meniscucmerangue
    Posted 8 November 2008 at 10:44 am | #

    Nonsense. You are getting carried away with the unpacking. It is quite exciting, though.

  • Posted 8 November 2008 at 1:38 pm | #

    Hi (0v0)
    Since I work in graphics, I find that site you link to and the subject fascinating. The end result looks like the inner workings of the internal organs of a human body, with its associated muscles and tendons connected to the rest of the body. This is an interesting analogy. I liked the inspired words that Oprah said in an interview as it was apparent that Obama was winning. She was saying that as he went around the country O stressed that it was not about being red or blue states, but of being Americans. Winning was good for the color purple; now people of all colors, white, black, yellow, orange, purple could all work as one representing America. I’m paraphrasing from memory, but she was pointing to the strength that comes from the diversity in our country and that we should not be divisive. The graphics you point to basically ties everyone together.

  • Posted 8 November 2008 at 1:41 pm | #

    wow, Stuart, that’s an amazing analogy also – the two look alike!

  • Susan
    Posted 8 November 2008 at 6:56 pm | #

    I have decided that you people talk too much about things that don’t need to be talked about.

    I hope that works out for you all.

    Bye bye!

  • Posted 8 November 2008 at 9:07 pm | #

    Whatever. I’ve been away, so didn’t get a chance to take this thread in the direction I had intended.

    Anti-intellectualism is Bush League.

  • Susan
    Posted 9 November 2008 at 1:13 am | #

    I guess I’m in league with the devil now, since I dissed your friends. Better go and celebrate Jesus day with my friend George W. Bush…..

  • Posted 9 November 2008 at 1:25 am | #

    Huh. It’s funny how being told your writing is pointless affects your interest in writing.

    But, maybe it is pointless.


  • Posted 9 November 2008 at 8:07 am | #

    After so many years of being American-but-I-hate-the-government, isn’t this all about bringing some honor to an institution with a history so contradictory we’ve hated the ways it was inside us?

    Yes, yes. Thanks, Owl.

  • Posted 9 November 2008 at 1:38 pm | #

    What difference, point or no point?


  • Posted 9 November 2008 at 2:36 pm | #

    Realizing there is nothing to do, and acting anyway.

    Oh shit, did my blog just get comment-thread- shaktipat?

    This is the most enlightened thread of all.

  • Posted 9 November 2008 at 2:39 pm | #

    Oh and p.s. bad avaita alert.

    I played extremely hard yesterday. But, going to practice now. Talk about pointless. Very exciting.

  • Susan
    Posted 9 November 2008 at 4:44 pm | #

    Funny, I never said pointless, that was you darling.

  • Posted 9 November 2008 at 6:36 pm | #

    Oh, hello Zee. Please defer to Puppetji, above.

  • Posted 10 November 2008 at 2:10 am | #

    Hi again (0v0)
    in case I contributed to veering way off the subject of your post (I did), with respect to the question, am i spiritual but not religious? i consider that i’m spiritual and religious. that is because i gravitate to a type of buddhism that is big on form, which appeals to people who were brought up in strong religious traditions. some types of buddhism are more loose. i’m referring to the differences between theravadan and zen traditions. zen has more forms, hence would be seen as more religious. that’s as much more as i’ll say, in case it makes your blog comment wonky.

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