I was told last week that people leery of religion shy away from words like “spirituality”, and I have been considering what words can I use to talk about what I mean when I want to use the word “spirituality.” Being an erratic sort of lateral, sometimes linear thinker, I began to ponder what is understood when discussing the Spirit.
According to traditional Christian doctrine, the Spirit is one of the three persons of the Trinity. That is, the Spirit is a discrete entity with boundaries, just as people were perceived to have definite boundaries. Now we now that, on the biological level, our bodies contain about 10 times as many bacteria as it has cells, and these bacteria share life with us in ways important to our well-being. Without them, we will be prone to illness, and, when their balance is wrong, they can make us sick. Biologically then, we have become less clear about where our boundaries are. According to quantum physics, electrons associated with the atoms in our bodies could be almost anywhere, throwing uncertainty into our physical boundaries in another way. Socially, it gets even less clear. I am a teacher, a preacher, a husband, a father, a son, a brother, a cousin, a gardener, a canoeist, a cyclist, a driver, an owner of many things, a jack of all trades, a rabble rouser, and so on. None of these defines me, but they are part of me. Being a teacher connects me to all who teach in general, and in particular to teachers and students when I am in a teaching situation. The same kind of statements apply to each of my other ways of being. Each of those connections introduces uncertainty into where my boundaries really are. The concept that we are separate entities is called, “self-encapsulated egos,” and these are illusions.
If the concept of separateness of person is an illusion for us, then it makes sense that it is an illusion for the Spirit as well. An Anglican monk visited the Atlantic School of Theology in my first year there, and he described God as being like a river flowing past us. The role of prayer is to help us connect to that flow and, perhaps, to direct a little bit of that flow to where we wanted something extra to happen. This was a difficult idea for me at the time to thoroughly grasp, but it provided me with another image for understanding God without trying to confine God to that image.
I believe everything we know is immersed in that flow in some way, along with everything that has been, and, possibly, will be. The last part brings to my mind One, a book by Richard Bach. It would be easier for you to read the first part of this book, than it would be for me to try to explain its concept — it is harder on my brain than the idea of God as flow.
Back to where I started, if boundaries are helpful, but illusions when we really push them, and if everything is suspended in some way of the flow of God, what word or words can we use to talk about the connections we have: to ourselves, to others, to the rest of the physical and biological parts of this planet, to the physical universe, and to God/Spirit?
I would sincerely appreciate your suggestions.
May all that is part of you make joyful and beautiful music in the harmony of life.