Spirituality Is Not Dogma
The Codification of Dogma
A woman has been attending a fellowship group that is studying about compassion and she wants to fill her life with more love. The next day, she is reading an article about a family in a neighboring town who is unable to buy food for their children because they’ve lost everything in an apartment fire and had no insurance. The woman is moved to tears. She reads that the local church is taking donations to help the family, so she sends a check for $100 to the church for the family. The church cashes the check and the next day gives the money, along with other donations to the family. The family is happy to be able to buy food. They also feel the warmth and compassion from all who donated.
Which part(s) of that story are spiritual? The parts are the woman’s desire to be more compassionate, her feeling of compassion for the family, and their sense of warmth and compassion from all who donated. Those are spiritual. The rest are physical.
Things of the spirit are entirely inside; they’re in thoughts, feelings, and intentions. They manifest in love, compassion, forgiving, peacemaking, and humility. Anything that happens in the physical realm as a result of those sentiments is purely physical. But the causes and the effects are spiritual.
Killing is neither spiritual nor non-spiritual. It affects the physical realm. However, anger, hatred, strife, conflict, the stress and agony of the person killed, the grief and despondence of the survivors, the shock of witnesses—all these things are spiritual. They are the reasons killing is a problem for humankind. What happens to the body is nothing. What happens to the spirit is everything.
I explain spiritual development in three very broad stages (explained elsewhere on this Web site). The stage most people are in today is materialism and spiritual ignorance. The next stage, that we can see on the horizon and understand, is what I am calling the “good neighbor society,” where everyone is striving to be a good neighbor to everyone else. People have love and compassion for others, forgive eagerly, help the less fortunate, avoid violence, are honest and trustworthy, and come together as a society to help others in need. This stage is within our sight—we can envision what this stage would be like if only we could attain it as individuals and a society.
The ultimate stage, however, is heaven on Earth. This stage will be more difficult to envision because it is so far removed from the materialism and geocentricism of our society today. In heaven on Earth, every person is a servant—none is a king. The individual subjugates his needs to the needs of others. Everyone is striving to give and never take. There will be no money, insurance, laws, lawyers, police, military, or agencies to control people’s behavior. None will be necessary. I describe heaven on Earth because it is the ultimate goal of spiritual development that Yeshua envisioned. However, it will be centuries or millennia before humankind attains it.
Spirituality is entirely in the consciousness, the thought realm. It is not in the physical realm. When a spiritual insight is written in a book, it is in blobs of ink on paper with no meaning and no life. The symbols in the blobs of ink remind the reader of concepts already in the reader’s mind, and the concepts come to life. They have no existence or life as blobs of ink on the page.
The concepts that live in the reader’s mind then receive insights and inspiration from the Divine (the Universe, the Holy Spirit, the Higher Power, the Guides) and the person participates in a spiritual experience. No part of the experience is in the physical realm. The symbols in blobs of ink only remind the person of concepts already in the person’s mind. The blobs of ink have no life in them.
That means that when a spiritual insight is codified into a book, it becomes a fossil, the dead imprint of a living thing. Only when someone picks up the book and reads the fossilized concept does it come to life anew. It is never the same as the concept in the writer’s mind; it is always a new life in the reader’s mind.
All codified spiritual insights are part of the physical realm, not the spiritual. As soon as they are represented in spoken or written symbols, they enter the physical realm and no longer are spiritual. However, the speaker or writer and the hearers or listeners can give them life and have spiritual experiences as a result.
That means that creeds and dogmas are entirely physical realm entities. That is the reason there are as many as 4,200 religions in the world today, and countless thousands more from times past. (“Classical World Religions List,” Michael J. Vlach, Ph.D. TheologicalStudies.org. Retrieved from http://www.theologicalstudies.org/classicalreligionlist.html, May 29, 2007).
Among Christians, there are 34,000 separate faith groups, many of whom consider themselves to be the only true Christian church. (“Religious identification in the U.S.: How American adults view themselves,” ReligiousTolerance.org, Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance. Retrieved from http://www.religioustolerance.org/chr_prac2.htm, May 31, 2007).
Every one is sure it has codified the spiritual truth of the universe. The fact that 4,199 other religious groups and 33,999 other Christian groups are equally sure they have the one truth doesn’t dissuade from proclaiming theirs to be the only one.
Each of the religions began with some spiritual experience someone had. The person voiced or wrote the spiritual insight and it became a physical realm phenomenon. A group of people codified it and agreed to revere it as the spiritual truth of the universe. They then held to that group of beliefs with complete disdain for any spiritual insights that might be coming from the inner, spiritual self.
Religious beliefs cannot have life until someone hears or reads them and individually has a spiritual experience that cannot be predicted from the fossilized belief. When someone insists that the hearer or reader must believe a certain meaning based on the symbols, then the creeds and dogmas are firmly physical realm entities. They can only have spiritual life when the individual person reads or hears individually, gives the symbols life in her conscious understanding, and listens to the inspiration of the Holy Spirit in understanding the insights.
Thus, books, doctrines, creeds, and dogma are physical realm entities. Those who insist that people believe them are promulgating physical realm belief systems. They cannot have life as long as there is not complete freedom for the individual to understand them and listen to the Holy Spirit enhancing them.