.Some describe religion quite simply as a belief in spiritual power emanating and radiating from and through spiritual beings. Others have worked out more elaborate definitions to do with beliefs and practices prescribing patterns of behaviour, which in turn possess cohesive powers; of uniting people’s of the same or of different races in a shared experience and explanation of the purpose and meaning of life. Whether its origin should be ascribed to what is sometimes referred to as “animatism”··· or to an evolved knowledge of a Creator God who made man in his own image and likeness, is not the issue that concerns us here. That is not what this letter is about. Sufficient is it to recognize that the mystery of birth and death, together with the challenge (or threat) of life itself, seems forever to be drawing us out toward something, someone, somewhere, in our insatiable thirst for meaning.
In summary then, we have here begun to consider the issue of spirituality in man. We have said that there is good evidence of both internal and external promptings as to its presence within and impact upon man. We have also seen that although science may very well assist in the cogency of our search and can clarify important issues concerning the existence of spirituality, it cannot determine purpose and meaning. Finally, we have in fact drawn our first real parallel and at the same time made our first distinction between spirituality and religion.
Spirituality would appear to be an integral and – for whatever reason – necessary facet of all human existence (even though we may later exercise our choice to dismiss or deny it). Religion defines and describes the wide variety of ways in which both historically and currently, man has sought and seeks to accommodate and respond to his spiritual dimension and satisfy his spiritual needs. Thus from the beginning, religion and culture have been inextricably intertwined. Religion it is that has come to supply an important organizational content in terms of thought, doctrine, ritualistic procedure and daily practice, as well as to provide a necessary focus for meaning, purpose and power. All combine to lay due emphasis on the dynamic nature of spirituality experienced and expressed through the practice of a variety of religious beliefs.
In my next blog I shall first of all amplify somewhat the contents of the last two blogs which I have attempted to introduce the concept of spirituality: i.e. man’s insatiable thirst for and means of quenching/satisfying what we have defined and described as spiritual need. This will further facilitate the introduction of the concept of religion and enable us to define it as a means to an end rather than as an end in itself.
- ·· A pre-human response of a “vague, potent and terrifying inscrutable force”, which over time evolved into Animism, i.e. a spirit fearing response among the most primitive of humans, who were a spirit fearing tribal people.