C.G.Jung / Philosophy / Spiritual

Confession of an unchurched spiritual and religious person.

For the past decades, steps forward to my Self (as defined by C.G. Jung) or spirituality have always been attempted at moments of incipient crisis time or when I had time to take a breath. None, though, has been really followed through. The ability and given a chance to switch my career to a lower gear and the turmoil of the death of my mother, both last year, triggered the next leap.

I started seriously to question my belief system and state of my individuation. For that reason I went back to psychoanalysis theory C.G. Jung) and its connection to religion and mystic but also digging deeper in catholic credo and history. Subsequently I started a blog, which initially contained only my private notes as a scratchpad, but also opened additional avenues to other blogs. I stumbled over one article with title: “Am I Religious or Am I Spiritual?” – A very popular question in the US.

Well, good question. Similar to my question I have been pondering; do you believe in a (personal) god? Don’t get me wrong, I answered to myself the question 20 years ago, after I stepped out of a tent backpacking at Mt. Rainer. Just like C.G. Jung the conclusion was: “I know God exists.” Jung said that on more than one occasion.

“Am I Religious or Am I Spiritual?” Maybe that is a question, which I should ask myself first? One of the biggest assets of the Catholicism is, religion and spirituality are not as separated as in Protestantism for some reason. “Bells and Smells, said a Benedictine monk and C.G. Jung emphasised the big psychological benefit of the confession.

Going after the headline “Survey: 72% of young adults ‘more spiritual than religious”, this seems to mean rarely or never:

  • pray with others, and pray by themselves either,
  • attend worship services,
  • read the Bible or sacred texts.

To my surprise this would indicate I am religious.

As an article in psychology magazine pointed out for personality tests, by checking the “atheist” box (if there actually were one), you’ll be waiting a long time for your matches. But if you describe yourself as “spiritual but not religious” your chances are markedly improved (though the problem now is that you’ll see a lot of new age types showing up). Why?

Despite the fact that more and more people are comfortable “coming out” as atheists, the word is still very much associated with being immoral, or at the very least agnostic. That is to say in the US. The results of a survey in a German news magazine suggested than 80% could happily check the “atheist” box. It seems, Atheism is in Europe the belief of the masses, Voltaire is even more dead than god to them.

Enter the word “spiritual,” which is becoming synonymous with claiming all that is good in a religious person, without the religion.

spiritual (spîr´î-ch¡-el) adjective
1. Of, relating to, consisting of, or having the nature of spirit; not tangible or material. See synonyms at immaterial.
2. Of, concerned with, or affecting the soul.
3. Of, from, or relating to God; deific.
4. Of or belonging to a church or religion; sacred.
5. Relating to or having the nature of spirits or a spirit; supernatural

Ignoring (4) and (2) – dictionaries adapt slowly – what exactly, does it mean to be just plain spiritual? One obvious interpretation is (5) taking the word literally: if you are spiritual you believe in spirits. A second possibility (1) is that spiritual is meant to indicate someone who devotes energy to cultivate “spirit,” as opposed to just being concerned with “material” things. That’s a pretty Gnostic definition trying to become  pneumatics the highest order of humans.

A third interpretation would be: pondering philosophical or environmental questions and reflecting psychologically, behaving ethically ant otherwise correct and compassionately, and also nurturing ones aesthetic sense through arts and blogs. Okay, by that definition, I am also spiritual. However, by this definition, almost everybody is spiritual – some more than others.

By the way, although I would not check the “atheists” box, I would happily check the humanist box (assuming one or more is allowed). I do suggest that we value the separation of church and state the mutual benefit of belief and rationality since the Renaissance and even pagan Hellenism. As I indicated, in addition I would need to check the “mystic” box.

Besides holding a degree in applied economics I’m just an average engineer who tends to check facts and does not believe anything not seen or touched. Working as a management consultant did not help either. Lets do a (googled) quadrant:

According to this quadrant I am a mainstream believer.  On the other hand, I attend Catholic mass and routinely check in a Catholic monastery for a few days (sometime with my family), although technically not being affiliated with any religious organization. I am attracted by Taoist thoughts and my wife is Buddhist. On the other hand I like the pope, the global institution and the absolute moral system of the Catholicism not to speak of their powerful symbolism and mystic. I cannot relate to New Age, although having lived for five years in California where  I learned to meditate at Big Sur. On the other hand, I connect easily astronomy and modern physics with Astrology and C.G. Jung’s Synchronicity which is not far away of “The Dancing Wu Li Masters” – a popular New Age book.

I come to the conclusion “being spiritual but not religious” does not make a lot of sense – to me at least even if I am legally “unchurched”. I can relate to an intelligent professing atheist; we may have fewer than we think however ,  but lots of empty check boxes.