An essential insight for the spiritual journeyor is that religion and spirituality are not the same thing. They are related, certainly, but they are also quite distinct.
Religion has to do with rites, rituals, dogmas, doctrines and moral codes. Religion is a pathway, a human construct designed to facilitate a person’s journey to God. But religion is not God. It is not necessarily the experience of God. It is merely the experience of one’s religion.
Spirituality, on the other hand, has to do with one’s experience of God. This experience may come through a formal religion, but then again it may not.
God has often chosen to communicate through the great religions of the world, but God does not consult with religious leaders before breaking into the lives of individuals. To believe otherwise would be the height of arrogance.
It seems clear to me, after many years on this earth, that no human being can ultimately be at peace unless and until they have had an experience of their spiritual nature and essence. But I am also clear that sometimes this experience comes outside of the bounds of formal religion.
Not every spiritual person is religious. The opposite is, unfortunately, also true. Not every religious person is spiritual. Is religion, then, of little consequence on the spiritual path? Quite the contrary. Stripped of all the human aberrations and weaknesses, religion can provide a map, a blueprint for building a solid spiritual edifice.
Religion represents the cumulative wisdom of millions of Spirit-filled individuals who have taken the path before us. Our struggles, triumphs and failures have all, for the most part, been undergone by millions of people before us. To ignore the collective wisdom of religion seems to me to be foolhardy. But to be confined by religion is just as dangerous. This path that can be so helpful can also be a trap. If people make too much out of anything, even religion, they are falling victim to the old temptation to worship “the golden calf.”
As our earthly consciousness grows, we expand from seeing ourselves as just being Americans to being residents of the same planet. As our spiritual consciousness grows, we can find God through any religion or no religion.
The map is not the journey. The menu is not the meal. Religion is not God. We need maps, menus and religions, but they never substitute for the journey, the meal and the experience of God.
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