Do you need a Religion to be Spiritual?
It seems to me, that religion essentially involves the masses. Whereas developing spirituality, that’s really an individual expression of creativity, and understanding of deep ideas. The two, at least from my perception can not really exist separately the one from the other.
Bob Schmidt opines: “Religions attempt to teach man how to achieve spirituality and salvation”. As an observant Jew, I honestly can not comment upon other religions. Historically, the religious teachers of human society included the cream of intellectual knowledge. During the Dark Ages, the kings and princes lacked knowledge of how to read and write; the priests they maintained libraries, which only they had access to and could possibly there from learn. Throughout the Renaissance, the priests controlled public education.
Church abuse of power, coupled with extensive corruption resulted in the Protestant revolt and the Reformation. The printing press and an awakened hunger for knowledge eventually transformed the “secular governments and aristocracies” to include secular populations which rejected both Catholic and Protestant domination of society. Within the US Constitution the concept of separation of Church and State gives expression unto the growing power of secularism in Western societies.
Bob further defines spirituality as “that which is thought of as the better or higher part of the mind”. His definition appears influenced by the eastern schools of spirituality which emphasize the mind’s central role in spiritual development. Torah spirituality by contrast emphasizes emotional development within a persons’ behavior. This concept of spirituality the Talmud refers to as “Derech Aretz”.
Michael Leonard opines: You need no religion to be spiritual in my eyes I can’t tell you what’s right or wrong, because I do not know the real truth”. Torah spirituality views “Truth” as one of the 13 holy attributes. By the way I learn the distinction between an accurate statement and truth, accuracy applies to the thing in question. “Truth”: the life of the bnai brit soul depends upon the strength and reality of truth’s influence on how a person chooses to behave among his people.
Torah spirituality holds the vision of a people possessing the ability of living together without attacking, oppressing or violating the dignity of their chosen people. The Torah religion, commonly referred to as Judaism, has developed the religious forms of worship, specifically – ritual Halacha. Halacha permits a mass society to involve themselves in outward expressions of religious faith and to communicate therein their alliance they share together with their people.
During the terrible 2000 year exile/galut of my people from our homelands, our leaders employed “halacha” as the vital tool by which Jews could maintain their ancient cultural identities. By way of contrast, the uprooted black slaves, within 3 generations they had lost their native cultural identities. These abused peoples eventually embraced the religions that had originally enslaved them!
Judaism codified Halacha directly from the Talmud. These religious codes, (during the exile Jews could not openly discuss a Constitutional Mandates or Torah as a political idea) defined the correct religious actions/behaviors that an observant Jew should embrace. For example, the codes could determine what qualified as kosher food. But the halachic codes, as a rule, did not delve into their spiritual significance. Study of the spiritual significance of halachic rulings required a mastery of the Midrashic disciples.
The Zohar, which served as the “Bible” to Cabbalist Jews during the Middle Ages, this “spiritual” book employed the style of the great Midrashic texts. The spiritual disasters that so demoralized the Jewish peoples of living in Christian and Muslim lands, the teachings of Shabbetai Zvi’s false Cabbala (this translates as Tradition), coupled with the Bogdan Chmielnichi’s Cossack rebellion against Poland. This barbarian murdered entire Jewish populations in Poland and the Ukraine! Rabbinic Judaism reacted to these twin disasters by limiting formal Torah education unto the halachic codifications.
But spirituality, especially upon a mass social scale, hard times such as wars and economic depressions can sometimes produce an internal hunger within man to search for meaning and value. In 1658 Chmielnichi died, in the chaos and aftermath the Baal Shem Tov labored to restore the surviving demoralized Jewish communities in Eastern Europe. This great spiritual teacher fathered all the Chassidic movement who teach a simplified Midrash unto this very day.