Class on Spirituality 2003

Why Should We Study Spirituality?

     Even within the “best” Christian communities there are individuals who radiate spiritual qualities that are different from those of others.  People who have dedicated themselves to the study of Spirituality know that these qualities can be enhanced and accelerated through constant use.  Such innate talents and abilities originate from a world that we cannot perceive with our senses.  Their genesis belongs to the world within us.  For example, we cannot see an idea.  We cannot sense why some people are highly motivated while others are not.  Our senses only perceive results, never origins.  Our uniqueness as one-of-a-kind beings is within our seed from the moment of conception.   One of the qualities that differentiates us from other living organisms is that we can access and change our “spiritual DNA” while a rose or a pumpkin does not.

     While accessing this treasury of potential is the sole responsibility of each individual, people may become stagnant in their growth, become confused by the appearance of life’s unfairness, or rush into the material world with the desire to acquire creature comforts, material success, love and security.

     By studying the world that governs what we radiate through our personalities, we can creatively adjust our worldview. We may focus our attention, for example, on being kind rather than correct.  We may practice patience instead of becoming frustrated by a desire or need for instant gratification.

     Spirituality enables a person significantly and creatively to detach from the material world.  This does not mean that people are encouraged to abandon the world of “things,” rather they can be taught how to view all material aspects of creation as symbols, as tools for learning, as a means for development and as a way to enhance what and how they create with their thoughts.  Without refining the discriminating gyroscope within us, we have a very challenging time successfully negotiating the changes in life that must and will come.

     We can so easily trade the path to spiritual power for one that promises the rewards of the physical world, a world that cannot deliver anything that ultimately matters.  It is merely the classroom.  Our religious beliefs frequently suggest that "being saved" is the quintessential experience, yet such a refuge may reflect the same need for safety and security sought by those who rely on the symbols of our material world. Those "saved" should be willing to "march into Hell for a Heavenly cause," demonstrating perhaps a more accurate test of their carefully chosen code word.  Salvation might better be explained by saying that it is a level of a person's consciousness with regard to their confidence and trust in God's unconditional loving nature.  Identical stimuli, for example, may cause one person to soar to great heights of understanding and spiritual skill development while causing another person to spiral into self destructive behavior.  Our thoughts and perceptions create along a continuum where a loving spirit is on one end and on the other end is an angry, uninformed and undisciplined child living in an adult body.  Somewhere along that stream of energy and consciousness we will find ourselves.

     The Kingdom, as Jesus suggested, is here.  This course is about developing a trained eye that allows us to live in that consciousness every moment, every day.  Spirituality deals with harnessing, developing and enhancing the skills necessary for a creative, energetic journey while living in solid form.  Spirituality is universal in its scope, i.e., it does not pertain to any one religion or specific belief system. Spirituality teaches how to abandon a belief system based on fear and embrace one that is based on radiating loving energy, the truth Jesus came to give us.

Is The Study Of Spirituality Different From The Study of Christianity?

Yes. Christianity is a belief system based on ideas that were expressed and made visible by Jesus.  These beliefs were later extended and elaborated on by the Apostle Paul who wrote many portions of the New Testament.  As the centuries passed, those devoted to Jesus’ teachings developed creeds and theologies as thought patterns that could be shared with the masses.  Thus, the Church of Jesus Christ was given birth.  Truth for centuries was held and interpreted to the faithful by the ordained members of the priesthood, a collective who further defined and refined Christian theology and practices.

     The Church is absolutely essential to our lives.  It has preserved the basic teachings, the core stories, and the hope that springs eternal for the community of believers.  People who lack a spiritual orientation or who seek to enhance the substance, meaning and purpose of their lives can often find it in the community of believers.  An accepting, loving fellowship can provide a spiritual community for those seeking to fulfill their potentiality.

     Living in the material world and the Kingdom of God at the same time has never been an easy task.  The runways of life are filled with the wreckage of those who have tried and failed.  The world of our senses is extremely seductive.  Our perceptions are frequently filled with the lure for having the right partner, the best vocational opportunities, earning the highest salary, communicating our success through clothes, cars, academic degrees, living on the right side of town and enjoying lucrative business associations.  Many succeed in the material world without realizing that they have sabotaged themselves through their pursuit of what lacks substance and permanence. Through the centuries a truth Jesus taught has been given form through our uninformed choices.  He once taught, “What does it profit anyone if they win the entire world but lose their spiritual identity”?

     For example: We appear to be growing in the best of the world's gardens for achieving our spiritual potential until we examine closely what is happening within this land flowing with milk and honey.  By observing our chosen escape routes, our pharmacy bills, our eating habits, our sexual practices, our communication skills, and our ability to hide behind numerous masks, we can see whether or not we have lost the identity that would serve others and ourselves.   For all its faults, failures and shortcomings, the Church and its teachings is a community where many people can receive the news that lives can be made new. 

     The Sabbath, for example, can become an island in our world of chaos (constant change) where we can express thoughts about God’s nature and presence in community with others.  We are invited to remember the importance of forgiving others and ourselves; to recognize again that we are loved by God, who always has the final word; to study more deeply the principles of Divine Truth; to recall the stories and vision of the faithful who lived before us.  No other setting provides human beings with such a generous springboard that will propel them toward their spiritual growth.

     Without the dream of the Kingdom of God and all the promised attributes that pertain to those who live it, humanity would be more mired than it is in the illusion that people must acquire and strive for what will make them whole.  The Church has preserved the essential nature of Jesus message – “Love One Another.” Jesus understood that we can not be more whole than we are, but he also knew that people needed to be taught how to recover their identity as God’s creatures, creatures who are made from the same spiritual essence.  Jesus invited us to remember by following him.  A religion like Christianity keeps the dream alive for generations not yet born.  Light  (understanding) encompassed in a belief system has surfaced in every culture, thus world religions had their genesis.   They have become the leaven for the loaf of humanity.

     This course was taught in nine sessions during July and August of 2003.  The main criticism of the course was not with its content, but with the sheer volume of material.  There was not sufficient class time to discuss and consider all the divergent points of view and relevant topics.  The class wanted to linger over certain themes in order to plumb their depths more thoroughly, when my desire was to supply them with a grocery bag full of seeds they could plant in their diverse response mechanisms while living through life's many and varied changes.

     Of the approximate 35 to 45 people who attended the course, nineteen submitted written questions. Comments and considerations for those questions are attached.  I thank the class for their patience with my attempt to create something that might serve their need for a deeper inquiry into their faith and translating that faith into daily training sessions for sharpening their spiritual skills.  There cannot be growth without setbacks and surprises.  Those reading this are encouraged to be very patient with who you are becoming.  You are on your way even though you may not currently believe that.  Hopefully, a person with some religious background and someone with none whatsoever will benefit from what follows.