As the world closes out another year and prepares for a new one, many people know intuitively that they need to make some changes to their life. Some will try and get out of debt, get healthier, or land that big job or deal which takes them to the next level. But just beyond the surface, many are self-aware enough to realize that they truly need to grow spiritually as the anchor point for all other change. But what are we to do? None of us want to get sucked into a cult, or some weird group, and very few people want to be controlled by religious institutions. So how do we find spiritual renewal without becoming institutionalized or weird.
Over the past decade I’ve served people online in this pursuit and I have proven that the path up is actually a descent. Solitude takes us further than most communities. Stillness leads us beyond additional effort and activity. I’ll list five questions and then briefly unpack each one so that you can begin this journey in the privacy of your own soul.
- What do you truly want?
Most people have no idea what they truly want, because they are confused about who they are. Thus, every time they go after something (based in who they think themselves to be) they meet dissatisfaction and go on to wanting something else. The un-scratchable itch.
Getting beyond our motivation for spiritual renewal is vital. Some are seeking an internal sense of peace or some consolation. Some have done wrong and feel an appropriate sense of shame. Spiritual pursuits often offer this, but usually set up a transactional religion. Some are seeking Divine Union, which is a worthy pursuit, but then seek out experts in religious systems and are taught specific rituals to coax the genie out of the bottle. This union is graced awareness, not manipulated exchange. Some are seeking a sense of inner and outer freedom. In my discoveries, this freedom is only grasped via subversion of all institutional powers and their ability to name us…thus, making freedom ontological. This means that as we come to know who we truly are, freedom is the byproduct, not the end product. Usually, it is this sense of freedom that people want, when they say they need spiritual renewal.
2. What are your assumptions on how to get it?
This is where our religious and cultural training come into view. Low level tribal religion begins pitting one framework against another. Is the “path” one of study, is it prayer, is it meditation, is it religious subscription and membership, is it a code of conduct, moral obedience, etc… Each system gives us the roadmap and the assimilation process, but most of us are rightly skeptical of joining anything. I’m here to tell you that you don’t have to join or convert to anything.
Upon reflection we usually have a “sense” about what we need to do. This can be part of the spiritual journey, but it can also be residue of institutional control. Confusion of what we are truly seeking can mean that we fall victim to some institutions’s design for how they will control and name us. This is why it’s vital to really get a “sense” of that awakened heart that is seeking, even if we don’t yet know precisely what we are seeking. That deeper sense, that “voice” is a universal call to all humanity to “come forth” and I believe is the foundation for the true Good News, and if this assumption is correct, then this renewal cannot be exchanged within any religion or ritual, but only through a transformational experience of Divine presence. There are many containers for this.
3. What frameworks are still in use which may need to be reworked?
Continuing now, we can reverse engineer the systems (containers) which in the past have given us the contents we have sought. By conflating the contents and container we create idols and enemies when our container is over-appraised, and we forfeit our ontological center when we discard the contents with the containers. Much of our world has thrown the baby out with the bathwater. Is that you? Support structures are helpful but they are not required, nor are they actually sacred.
Once able to discern the contents from the container, we are no longer threatened, triggered, or apprehensive about any container or framework. Each is just a shed and is not an idol. Containers have no power for good or evil, regardless of what the hired clergy say about them. This opens our hand not only to ourselves but to others and allows for any container to exist without threat to the deeper work of transformation.
4. What will be your source of Truth?
No navigation effort can succeed without True North and our ability to discern it. Capital “T” Truth is not an object, it is a subject. Objective truth is a subset of Total Truth. Confusion over these means our nav systems are not operating. Capital T Truth is a subject (persona) but is not subjective to each person. What we call subjective truth is merely the partial swatch of truth which each of us is able to possess. Each person possesses some partial measure of this Truth and none possesses all the Truth. Wider Truth then extends beyond each person’s limited grasp and is ultimately external, though it must be internalized (believed) if it is to transform anything.
Since Truth is ultimately external and objective, but is experienced internally and subjectively, and because religious guides cannot discern the difference, we remain confused and misguided. The value of an external source of truth cannot be understated. Sacred texts are viewed as such sources, the oldest dating back to either Hebrew or Vedic texts (Hinduism) which both date to about 1300-1500 BC. Beyond this are many other writings, books, articles, podcasts, sermons, etc… of the experience of millions of people on this same quest. Filtering out the capital T truth from the noise and commentary and religious pressure is the most difficult task, but one which opens up a perspective and allows that “voice” to come more clearly into our hearing. Without following that voice into sacred text, the mind will not be transformed, only the affections will be excited. I recommend the Bible as it comprises the Hebrew scripture and the New Testament teachings about Christ. Once these texts are liberated from their containers, your own journey truly begins. Healing means you can return to the scripture because you are outside of the the institutions which have abused it or used it against you.
5. Are you OK with not having a “thing?”
Religion is not the end game of spiritual renewal. Religion can support the process but it must serve us and not end with us serving it. A free and unfettered soul is a person who knows who they truly are, hidden in their Maker, that their true name is “beloved”, and who is training themselves constantly to hear, follow, and be empowered by the voice that began the process in the first place. Such a person allows for others to be in completely different places and is not threatened, triggered, or sucked into the gravitational pull of the trap of the religious mind. True spiritual renewal is constant divine union, experienced in the minutia of daily living, both suffering and joy, dancing and mourning, and receives each moment as it comes, and is satisfied in it, realizing nothing is ever missing.
Once that is enough for a seeker, there is no need for a “king to rule over us”, and our spirituality is “Between oneself and God” just as everyone else’s is. It’s a wilderness wandering of sorts with no Sun or Moon to light our way, only the light that called to us in the first place. Anything beyond this seems to send people down endless rabbit trails of control, competition, power plays, echo chambers, tribalism, and loss of freedom and authenticity. My work has been to call many out of this and into spiritual renewal and freedom, yet so many feel they need to belong to something, and I refuse to do that to you.
The great discovery of life is that once we leave our three-sided prison and are finally free to be ourselves in union with our Maker, we discover a virtual city of others who share the same experience and knowledge of the Truth. This community, this assembly, or gathering is a blessed discovery, it is the true Church with no walls, and is the single greatest powerful collective in the world. It’s not a religion, it’s not a denomination, it’s not a cult. It’s a living, breathing, body of those who have eyes to see it and spiritual renewal automatically wakes us up to the realization that we are a vital part of it, and that our life has tremendous purpose.
That is what I think we want as we reflect on the New Year.