This came as a message today from a local Unity church.
Rabbi Ram Shapiro says “a growing number of people are not affiliated with any religious tradition and a third of adults under thirty are religiously unaffiliated today, the highest percentages ever in Pew Research Center polling. Most of these people are not dismissive of God or spirituality but simply find religious labels and affiliation too narrow and constraining.”
Rabbi Shapiro continues, “people who are spiritually independent share the same existential questions as almost every other human being but do not confine their search for answers to any one religion. The answers they do find are often those taught by the great mystics of the world’s religions – answers that emerge over and again throughout human history and across human cultures and that have come to be called the perennial philosophy or perennial wisdom.”
So What Is The Perennial Philosophy?
In the 20th century this idea was popularized in the English-speaking world through Aldous Huxley’s book The Perennial Philosophy. Essentially the message is that there is a divine reality that permeates all of creation, and this divine reality can be discovered and realized by us. The essence of the perennial philosophy is common to all the world’s religions, and it is primarily concerned with how we experience this reality. But the nature of this one reality is such that it cannot be directly and immediately experienced except by those who have chosen to fulfill certain conditions, making themselves loving, pure in heart, humble, and teachable.
What Does Spirituality Mean To Me?
Spirituality is a way of connecting with the spirit of all that is. We do this by probing the truth about our existence and by asking ourselves the bold questions: Who am I? Why am I here and how should I live my life? As a spiritual being you have the ability to hear the voice of Spirit, feel personally addressed by it, and find meaning to the extent that you respond to it. The voice of Spirit invites contemplation (the practice of prayer and meditation). The spiritual path (and regular spiritual practice) connects us with all that is, keeps us relaxed and aware as we navigate the waters of daily living and its realities.
True spirituality causes us to face the raw truth of the human condition, meeting it fearlessly with openness to everything and attachment to nothing. Without our attachment to having life show up just the way we want it, there is nothing to lose, and no pain. Why is it then that we experience so much discomfort in our lives? Could it be that when we are disconnected from Spirit, we are swimming against the current of life’s true reality? Are we seduced by the knowledge and popular wisdom of the world around us, satiated by its pleasures, buoyed by its comforts and oblivious to its ability to offer us lasting happiness? How then shall we live?
Just as we long for comfort in our bodies, joy in our hearts, peace in our minds, our soul reaches for both solitude (quiet reflection) and the interaction and support of like-minded people. A spiritual community serves to reinforce what we believe (and often forget), reminds us of the need for daily practice (which we sometimes forget), and affords us the opportunity to make a contribution to another’s life by sharing our experiences. It also awakens us to the understanding that spiritual work is a committed, serious approach to living that paradoxically frees us into the lightness of heart that we call happiness.
“The purpose of the spiritual life,” writes the Sufi master Hazrat Inayat Khan, “is to be happy . . . . The reason why man seeks happiness is not because happiness is his sustenance, but because happiness is his own being; therefore, in seeking happiness, man is seeking himself.”…
— Revs. Austin and Mary Hennessey