Spirituality Without God
Spirituality Without God
Can you have spirituality without God? I ask this question because for two thousand years people in the West would have replied, "Obviously not". The question would have seemed absurd, a complete contradiction in terms. Now, however, more and more people seem to think that you can and maybe even should for a spirituality without God is actually a higher thing than one with him. The idea of God is a limitation on pure consciousness runs the story. I shall go into that in a moment. But first the question to ask is, why would anyone want a spirituality without God? Why would you not wish there to be a being of boundless love and wisdom behind all that is?
Part of the answer clearly is egotism and intellectual pride. This is a result of the fallen consciousness that will not submit and wishes to be God itself. It is the old non serviam. We want spirituality without God because we want complete autonomy and that is the ego.
What about Buddhists, you say. They have no need of God. I actually think they do but I would also point out that Buddhism arose in a completely different culture to that of the modern materialistic, narcissistic West. There was much less sense of individuality and much more theism of a largely ritualistic kind that had sunk into formality and dogma. In this context the philosophical insights of Buddhism were greatly enriching consciousness openers. They swept away superstitious cobwebs and introduced an abundance of useful spiritual practices to enable the human mind to transcend its psychological limitations. But Buddhism had its own limitations and the absence of God was one of them.
For God is real. He is not an illusion or lesser reality. He is the Creator and you cannot reach real spiritual understanding without acknowledging this in some way. This is why both meditation and prayer are important. I am not saying that Buddhism is a false religion but I do see it as an incomplete one and especially so for modern Westerners because it does not sufficiently take their core problem, which is a strong sense of self, into account. That may seem a decidedly odd thing to say since the essence of Buddhism is the denial of the reality of self. However, in practice, if people deny the existence of something intellectually they make no real attempt to purify and ultimately sanctify it. I mean by this that if you theorise that self is an artificial construct which is fundamentally unreal you will not see the need to dedicate your self to God and do his will, and that is the fundamental spiritual task and the only one that puts us in right relation with the universe and its maker, this being the relation of love. Not compassion, which is a human thing, but love which is divine.
'Remember the Creator' is one of the most important spiritual teachings there is. It is simple and to the point, and it is a teaching that Western Buddhists need to learn if they would find a true spiritual understanding and not remain locked in the ground base of their own being, failing to see that root consciousness is not God. That is perhaps less likely for those who follow the Mahayana form of Buddhism for there the sense of God has crept back in, in a certain way. However even they need to open themselves up to the full reality of a Creator and personal God in order to become aware of the complete spectrum of spiritual reality and live the life that God intended for human beings, a life in which Creator and created have a full relationship based on love.
As for the belief that the entry into the pure consciousness of absolute being is a spiritual state that transcends any condition in which the sense of self remains see the next chapter for a piece that expresses the opposite view. In brief, though, the idea is that God creates human beings and the whole world of becoming in order for life to grow and expand in love and creativity through the integration of being and becoming, the One and the Many, rather than the rejection of one for full focus on the other. After all, why does God create or, if you prefer, why is there something rather than nothing? If Nirvana were the goal and the personal just a stain on the pure whiteness of being why would anything ever need to have come about? Indeed, how could it have done so unless a personal God was there from the beginning or, better put, before the beginning? The personal is not an illusion or lesser reality but the very point of life and expressed being. Yes, we must realise our oneness with God but in that oneness there always remains the individual for relationship and the creativity that comes from that, not entry into absolute being, whatever that might be outside of philosophical theorizing, is the purpose of our existence. And when you think about it, isn’t it better that way? This is not wish fulfillment but a response to a true and correct intuition within us. A response to what we are.
And those who think that ultimate reality must be pure oneness with no differentiation within it (as opposed to the three in oneness of the Trinity) should reflect on the fact that if it were that's all it would ever be. There would not be the possibility of creation or even illusion.
The point I am making here is that any genuine spiritual awakening in the West should be theocentric and that Buddhist or non-dualistic type spirituality, popular amongst materialistic intellectuals drawn to some kind of spirituality, is insufficient. Let it be an introduction to higher truths but it must eventually be superseded by the full acknowledgement of God or a nascent spirituality will remain grounded or sidetracked into a concern with self-realisation. What was right for the ancient East at a certain time is not right for the modern West except as an initial aid to turning away from materialism. Spiritual awakening can easily be derailed and it will be unless it has God at its centre.