Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Spiritual But Not Religious (SBNR)

Spiritual but Not Religious (SBNR) is the title of a current Tricycle Magazine article, which I glimpsed passing through the checkout line at my local Coop. Before reading the article, I immediately started to ruminate on its theme and thesis, thinking I'd take a whack at same on this blog, not so much as a rebuttal — I hadn't yet read the article — but as an alternate take on the topic, which most people agree has become a mantra, if not a bromide.

Its ever evolving course shows up in the following Google Ngram query as a narrowing of, and also a decline in, the usage frequency of Religion, as well as a rapprochement of the two, spearheaded by an uptick in the Spiritual.

My guess is the thesis of the Tricycle article is that interest in formal religion has decreased significantly over the past 100 years, but of all religions, Buddhism is the least “Religious” and the most “Spiritual.” Which may be true… True or false, could you imagine the Pope bragging about how spiritual, as opposed to religious, Catholicism is? I can’t; it’s not in their DNA.

And yet, I don’t know if my guess is accurate, nevertheless here’s an explanation for why people have become more “spiritual:”

1) It’s a sign of the times. It’s hip to be different; it’s hip to explore the newest. Due diligence be damned, if it’s first in the Google rankings, go for it. Choose ideas from various methods and persuasions. No rules; make your own.
2) There are so many new religions, sects, new-age persuasions. Sects, based around the worship or teachings of a single person, abound. Many pay only lip service to established religion.
3) The Internet allows access to thousands of competing ideas. Someone mentions a new trend, look it up on your iPhone. Google yourself into a new set of beliefs, after all there’s a stodgy aspect to your parents’ established religion.
4) From sex scandals to embezzlement, the frightful corruption surrounding religion has not only driven church members away from their traditional religion, it has driven them away from organized religion altogether.

Being spiritual is an inclination, like becoming a baseball fan or a lawyer. You’re drawn towards it. Heaven knows why. If someone asked you why, you’d be hard pressed to give a
cogently coherent reason. Religion is also an inclination, mixed in with a dose of environmental and social programming passed from generation to generation. The programming and societal indoctrination obliges you to pass along adherence to your offspring and even, in some families, pressure your child to become a priest or minister.

One hundred years ago, you’d stick to your parents’ religion. Today, they may not even have a religion. Whether they do or not, you’re no longer expected to stick with the religion you inherited from your parents. You’re free to follow your own inclinations.

It is reasonable to believe that a child born into a religion in this world, say in China, were he to be born in Afghanistan, would not adhere to the religion of his original environment?

As the new age progressed, SBNRs seem to be looking for more radical practices, often acting like thrill seekers. Many are now focusing on kundalini, much to the general chagrin, as things don't always turn out the way one wants. It is a solitary endeavor; there are dangers attached.

Kundalini is not an inclination; it’s a biological process, an expression of consciousness, and as such, an instrument of great power and energy. That you might be interested in activating kundalini does not guarantee you’ll be able to. Yes, there are methods, but success is never certain. The likelihood of its randomly striking someone who’s never heard of it and is totally unprepared appears to be greater than the likelihood of your willfully activating it.

Consciousness envelops and drives the universe, its biological processes and evolutionary impulses. Kundalini acts like psychic fuel, driving evolution forward.

At this point (see image below), I realized Tricycle wasn't posting the full article, only a come-on, to the their website, so I headed back to the store to purchase it:

The article, I discovered, is not one, but a series, of which I've read the first two. Here are some quotes from the introduction by William B. Parsons.
"Walt Whitman announced this shift in 1871 when he observed that the 'spirituality of religion' would issue forth only in the 'perfect uncontamination' and 'solitariness of individuality' — an utterance that signaled the move to an unchurched, nontraditional, even anti-institutional orientation towards the divine."

"Carl Jung proposed that religion was not outside us, in institutions, but inside, in the very deepest part of our unconscious. In fact, the essential truths at the heart of organized religion can be known by diving deeply into the self. Terms like 'peak experience,' 'self-realization,' and 'individuation' are all legacies of this approach."
The articles endorse my thesis that 'direct experience' is what SBNRs are searching for.

Perhaps, the writer also remembers that Carl Jung was one of the driving forces behind the rediscovery and legitimization of The Secret of the Golden Flower, one of the first books to bring the theory and practice of 'energy cultivation' and 'direct experience' to the West — a book with a clear, concise roadmap for activating kundalini.

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