Dividing The Divine From The Doctrine
It isn’t unusual to find that one’s spiritual path is automatically assumed to be of a religious nature. While certain facets of a non-religious spiritual practice do converge and overlap with religious practice, the world of non-religious spirituality offers a plethora of choices that allows each individual to custom tailor thier practice to match thier own faith, beliefs, understanding, and ideals. I tend to sum up my own personal brand of spirituality by saying that I am “spiritually fulfilled, but religiously unavailable” – or perhaps more concesly, that I practice a secular spirituality, meaning that my work with spirit does not follow a religious doctrine.
Secular spirituality is the ability to engage with Spirit outside of a religious context.
The concept of spirituality being lumped in with religion is pervasive enough that I don’t think it bears examining here. Instead, the first step to understanding thier differences may be understanding the very definition of the words ‘spirituality’ and ‘religion,’ which is where I feel the union between the two divides: while religion employs dogma as an authority to dictate its principles as being incontrovertibly true, spirituality opens up the field for formulating those principles and ethics for oneself.
Spirituality is a personal relationship with the divine
My spiritual understanding is that the divine is within and without us – it is in everything, and it is everywhere – it flows through us and around us, from us, and to us. We are the divine, and outside of the universal forces and this planet’s weather systems, there is no higher power other than ourselves.
Within this empowerment, there is a need to accept our own accountability, making the commonly accepted religious notion of the divine serving as judge and jury non-existent. We have the responsibility of making choices and decisions on how to direct our energy to the benefit or the detriment of ourselves, others, and our surroundings. This accountability requires that we adopt self-evolution and heightened awareness as a part of our practice. Understanding and being aware of the ripples we effect establishes the basis for creating and honouring a personal code of ethics, rather than having rules handed down to us by the human representatives of a supreme being.
Whether it is called the golden rule, universal law, the law of attraction, the threefold law, or the 10 commandments, as a secular spiritualist, there is no need to have the general idea of “harm none” spelled out as a matter of dogma – those following a spiritual path of accountability and awareness are able to see that principal in action, and understand it from a place of personal experience.
Finding a place for deities within a secular spirituality
While working with deities may seem counter intuitive to the idea of having a secular spirituality, the practice of studying and understanding the energies and teachings of various cultural deities outside of religious constructs is actually a common occurrence – we all likely know more than a few people who do not engage in spiritual or religious practice, but will display icons featuring deities whose qualities they wish to embody: Ganesh is a common feature on many writer’s desks for his ability to remove obstacles, while statues of Buddha are popular enough to be found at big box home improvement and gardening stores these days! These mainstream appearances of various deities encapsulate the desire to encompass attainable divine qualities such as inner peace, fulfillment, and joy, regardless of spiritual or religious background, or lack thereof.
In the same vein, many who embody a spirituality based in Pagan or Witchy Ways will recognize, honour, and work with deities, even when choosing not to outright worship them. As a secular spiritualist, one might understand the ancient gods and goddess as archetypes, and seek them out for what they can teach us about ourselves. Rather than imagining that these archetypes have the ability to control, create, or manipulate the universe, they become a part of the energy which entwines us all, allowing us to seek thier guidance, strength, support, and self-knowledge on a deeply personal level.
Finding the divine within
Spirituality is a wondrous path unique to each person who walks it. Opening ourselves up to the fact that we are as much a part of the divine as any other part of this universe is an incredibly powerful experience. As we evolve and grow, so too does our own relationship to self, allowing us the flexibility to to go deeper each time we unfold to our own innate wisdom, always moving closer to the unity of awareness. In the words of the psychiatrist Carl Jung, “He who looks outside dreams, he who looks inside awakens.”