.Returning to the Promethean myth for a further moment, referred to in my previous posting, we may well maintain that fire – or to use the language of these blogs – mind and its potential for the recognition of spirit and the comprehension of spiritual need, is a gift from outwith and beyond ourselves. But how we accommodate, manage or deploy that gift is the function of religion, be it simple and obvious or elaborate and obscure. Moreover, this is a task for mankind him/herself to undertake and fulfil.
Or we might decide to employ an entirely different form of analogy to explain and delineate an essential difference between spirituality and religion. It might run something like this. Let us say that we are, for whatever reason, about to journey from point A to B somewhere in the world and for which a suitable means of transport clearly is an essential pre-requisite. Almost immediately, a variety of possibilities (appropriate and commensurate, of course, to the journey under review) come to mind. For example, some might prefer to travel a part or the whole of the envisaged journey by air. In this case – apart from booking the flight(s) and purchasing the ticket(s), all one needs to do for oneself is to turn up in time, together with all necessary baggage etc. to the Air Terminal and “check-in” desk and thereafter, board the plane. Anything and everything else required (within reason) will be provided and undertaken by the pilot, co-pilot and/or other members of his/her on-board flight team.
A preferred alternative for others may, where available, take the form of public transport, by road, rail and/or sea. In this event, somewhat more will likely be left to individual travellers’ own initiative and resources. For example, he/she may choose to eat pre-prepared food, i.e. sandwiches etc., on-board, or to eat at outside restaurants/cafeterias etc. either en route or during scheduled stops. Less formally still, one could elect to drive or be driven for all or part of the journey (and in the days of my own youth, the humble bicycle or even “Shank’s pony” would not have been ruled entirely out of the question).
Now in all probability you are asking, ‘what in the world do journeys and journeying have to do with spirituality and religion’? Well, the simple and underlying reason for what I have written immediately above has been to once again refer to that same fundamental and key difference (but in this instance, between, on the one hand, the selected mode and means of travel being adopted and, on the other, its actual purpose and destination). And so – even allowing for the inevitable shortcomings of this or any other analogy – it has, hopefully, proved adequate enough to further facilitate our understanding of spirituality (the identity and aim of which is, remember, the journey) and of religion, i.e. the method and means preferred; some elaborate and highly formal, others less so. What is more, we are now better fitted to perceive what a loss, indeed a tragedy it is, where preparation, preoccupation and commitment to the journey, i.e. religion per se, has been/is allowed to take precedence over its overall purpose, aims and ends, i.e. spiritual means and ends.
Yet sadly, the history of man – from the time of his appearance on earth to the present day – has been one of disagreement and dispute large and small, not over spirituality as such at all, but rather over religion. In numberless cases and instances, such differences have led far beyond verbal disagreement, to violence and all the horrors, distortions of mayhem of open, bloody and protracted warfare, ‘mindless’ destruction and, at times outright evil. And the ultimate irony has occurred – and continues to occur – where (in the language of our two analogies) the manner and mode and indeed, the minutiae of travel or, if you prefer, the coal (or other fuel) holder/dispenser, have come to dominate and to distort and even threaten to destroy utterly the purpose, aims and thrills the journey, or in the language of the myth, the miracle of Promethean fire. (C) SB.