“Spirituality, when pure, connects us to the Godhead with infinitely more efficacy and grace than does religiosity.” ~Tom Robbins
First, let’s define our terms. What is the Godhead? The Godhead is a divine nature or essence (not the religious trinity version). What is religion? Religion is an institutionalized unquestioning system of beliefs held to with ardor and faith. What is spirituality? Spirituality is a vulnerable questioning intimacy with an infinite, unknown, and interconnected cosmos.
A religious person is in a codependent relationship with God; they are dependent upon a divine lawgiver for their salvation. A spiritual seeker is in an interdependent relationship with the Godhead; they understand that they are a finite aspect of an infinite interconnected whole—the Great Mystery.
Religion claims to have all the answers while spirituality questions all claims. Religion is reactive intimidation while spirituality is proactive meditation. Religion has “faith” in a destination while spirituality allows the journey to be the thing.
Religion is about holy obedience to a deity declaring divine law. Spirituality is a holistic connection with an interconnected cosmos wherein universal laws bind everyone. The former is dogmatic. The latter is cosmic.
If that’s not enough for you, here are seven other important differences between religion and spirituality:
1.) Spirituality is flexible and cosmic; religion is rigid and dogmatic.
2.) Spirituality is liberating (courage-based); religion is authoritative (fear-based).
3.) Spirituality is painful growth; religion is comfortable stagnation.
4.) Spirituality is open-minded; religion is close-minded.
5.) Spirituality is interdependent; religion is codependent.
6.) Spirituality speaks a language older than words; religion speaks a language limited by words.
7.) Spirituality is driven by curiosity; religion is driven by certainty.
Number seven is the pivot point for this article. It’s where the battle lines have been drawn as it is the most distinguishing component in the war between religiosity and spirituality.
Indeed, certainty is the fly in the ointment. It’s the failed fulcrum that swings an individual from open spirituality to closed religiosity. The moment one becomes certain is the moment one loses the underlying essence. It’s the moment one becomes disconnected from the divine nature of the Godhead.
A moment of certainty is a critical moment, an existentially dangerous moment, because once certainty sets in, it is almost impossible to pry someone out of it. The only thing powerful enough, the only thing with enough leverage to reopen the mind, is curiosity.
Therefore, it is of the first order of importance that the spiritual individual remains vigilant on the path by always keeping curiosity ahead of certainty. There is no greater responsibility to truth.
In the search for truth, the worst thing a seeker can do is believe in any given “truth.” For once they believe in a “truth,” they give up the Truth Quest. They give up their spirituality.
Most people will make the mistake of defaulting to a “truth.” Inadvertently sacrificing the spiritual Truth Quest. They get hoodwinked by the pretty design of the “truth.” They get conned by the words written about it. They get brainwashed by the politics of it. They become indoctrinated by the dogma of it. In short: they fall prey to the blind beast of religiosity.
But as Bruce Lee wisely stated, “All fixed set patterns are incapable of adaptability or pliability. The truth is outside of all fixed patterns.”
Thus, a spiritual person is never fixed in a set pattern. They keep curiosity ahead of certainty and the Truth Quest ahead of the “truth.”
What to do if you find yourself on the wrong side of the war:
“Things which matter most must never be at the mercy of things which matter least.” ~Goethe
First, you must ask yourself: Will I be honest with myself? And now that I realize that I’ve been mistaken, will I cease being mistaken or will I cease being honest?
Answering this question will make or break you spiritually. This will be a painful process. Waves of cognitive dissonance will come crashing down upon you. You may even experience a Dark Night of the Soul. But nothing is more important than transforming this pain into providence. Nothing is more important than answering this question honestly.
As Daniel Dennett said, “There is no polite way to suggest to someone that they have devoted their life to a folly.” Especially if that someone is you.
The next step is to cultivate curiosity as a seed of imagination. Plant that seed into your blind belief or rigid worldview. Allow the seed to feed on the compost of your certainty. Allow the curled question mark inside to fatten itself on the fodder of your so-called answers. Allow it to put down roots. Allow those roots to break apart the hardened soil until it becomes a lush loam for planting more and more seeds.
Plant as many seeds as it takes before the robust stalk of your courage rises up. Then use that courage to challenge all things. Use it to be ruthless, circumspect, fierce. Wield it like a sword of truth. Use it to clear the path, so you can finally see, so you can finally feel, so you can finally breathe.
Then, take a leap of courage out of faith.
This is the moment of flourishing for the human spirit. Curiosity is the seed that leads to the stalk of courage which leads to the flowering of the Soul. This flower is the thousand petalled lotus of the crown chakra in full flutter, a fountainhead of imagination and curiosity. When it blooms, the Truth Quest lights up. The path reveals itself. The cosmos reconnects. A language older than words sings its primordial song. Nature and the human soul unite in ecstatic union.
The spiritual force of all things comes into stark perspective. The answer reveals itself: the only answer is to question. The truth reveals itself: everything is connected to everything else. a peacefulness descends, filled with hunger and satiation, light and darkness, somethingness and nothingness, life and death.
Poised on the highest branch of the Tree of Knowledge, your soul detached but connected to all things, you see how petty your tiny religiosity was. How it has shrunk into a pebble in the grand scheme of things. You feel how unnecessary the fear that kept you attached to it really was. You feel your ego’s petty attachment to it dissolve. As your spiritual powers burgeon across the cosmos. You realize, once and for all, you are the universe perceiving itself. You are the Godhead, and the Godhead is you.
As Shunryu Suzuki said, “I discovered that it is necessary, absolutely necessary, to believe in nothing. That is, we have to believe in something which has no form and no color—something which exists before all forms and colors appear... No matter what god or doctrine you believe in, if you become attached to it, your belief will be based more or less on a self-centered idea.”
And so, you question the Godhead ad infinitum.
About the Author:
Gary Z McGee, a former Navy Intelligence Specialist turned philosopher, is the author of Birthday Suit of God and The Looking Glass Man. His works are inspired by the great philosophers of the ages and his wide-awake view of the modern world.
This article (Spirituality Vs. Religiosity: The War Between Curiosity and Certainty) was originally created and published by Self-inflicted Philosophy and is printed here under a Creative Commons license with attribution to Gary Z McGee and self-inflictedphilosophy.com. It may be re-posted freely with proper attribution, author bio, and this statement of copyright.