Re-languaging Spirit and Spirituality

Jun 18, 2021 by

Re-languaging Spirit and Spirituality

Language is always a problem in trying to communicate spiritual concepts and ideas because we are dealing with experiences of the divine that can be interpreted differently by every individual. In any system of thought or cultural milieu, a vocabulary develops to communicate in that sphere, whether it is medical terminology, the world of music, education or religious thought. Each develops its own ‘jargon’. In this short article, I will illustrate this via Christianity, but the same can be said of any of the major religious and spiritual viewpoints. They all speak their own language.

Spirituality stems from human experience of the divine. We then try to put into words this numinous experience. The experience itself can be of several types

  • Being taken up in a feeling and knowing of such awe and wonder that we know we are one with everything, and are held in love. It is the mystical experience of being at one with the Divine, unity awareness, oneness.
  • Receiving or becoming a channel for messages from subtle realms by visions or voices.
  • Intuitive understanding coming from subtle realms

These are normal human experiences, although not felt by everyone, but experienced by some for millennia, and something possible for anyone to have, given the right conditions, the right psychological and spiritual development. The experiences are then interpreted in the understanding of the time and culture and context of that person. So the articulation of these experiences takes on the clothing of the religious and moral system of the time. The problem is, we can mistake the clothing for the inner human spiritual experience, which leads us to imagine differences where actually none exist. Language is tricky.

The language of liturgical Christianity tends to come from the biblical and medieval world-view of a three tiered universe. In this model, humanity has its fragile existence in the middle layer of the firmament, the earth, and above us are the heavens, where God and the angels live. Below us is hell or the underworld. We are all aware that the universe is not like that, but much of the language reinforces it still, as in the Lord’s Prayer, “Our Father, who art in heaven”, which tells us that God is still “up in heaven”, distinct from us. The old language was about separateness, exclusivity, patriarchy, Almighty, Lord and Master, duality, tribal thinking. It defines who is ‘in’ and who is ‘out’. It sees humanity as fallen, not inherently divine. It is about divine transaction, not human transformation.

But the new spirituality is developing its own language, partly scientific, partly spiritual. The core of it seems to be that we are all part of the One Consciousness which holds everything in being, permeates everything and is the One Life ‘in which we live and move and have our being’ – to quote St Paul! We are all one, not just with the rest of humanity, but with the whole of the biosphere. As Dr. Jude Currivan says in her book ‘The Cosmic Hologram’, “Consciousness isn’t just something we have, it’s what we and the whole world are.”

So the language that is emerging around this new spiritual story includes these sorts of words– oneness, interconnectedness, consciousness, source, Gaia, energies, non-duality, transcendence, transformation, awakening, awareness, evolution, initiation, gender equality, inclusion, ecology, interdependence, unity. But there are strong crossover points with traditional faiths, connecting words between the different views. The connecting words are mostly qualities, such as love, respect, honour, kindness, goodness, peacefulness, will-to-good, heart, compassion. Professor Neil Douglas-Klotz has done some very good work in looking at the Aramaic words that Jesus would have spoken, but which were written down in Greek. Aramaic is a much more poetic language with many more shades of meaning, which his work expands into. Here is a worked example of the Lord’s Prayer translated directly from the Aramaic that Jesus spoke, based on the ideas of Neil Douglas-Klotz in Prayers of the Cosmos.

Our Father who art in Heaven, hallowed be Thy name. Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For thine is the Kingdom and the Power and the Glory, forever and ever. Amen.

O Breath of Life, flowing in all creation, may the light of your presence fill the universe. Your way of being come, your desire be done, in this and all realms of existence. Bring forth the nourishment and insight we need for this day. May forgiveness of self and others be our lived reality. Liberate us from all things that bind us and deliver us from unhealthiness. For you are abundant life, creative unity and glorious harmony, through all time and beyond. So be it.  

In my own book, Blue Sky God: the Evolution of Science and Christianity, I tried rewriting several of the traditional prayers of the Anglican Church, putting them into 21st century language. Here are two examples:

The Collect for Purity

Almighty God, to whom all hearts are open, all desires known, and from whom no secrets are hidden: cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit, that we may perfectly love you, and worthily magnify your holy name; through Christ our Lord. Amen

God of all compassion, whose presence within sees our heart’s desires and hidden secrets: let your energy and light flow, so that we may know your breath of life in our inner beings, and show heartfelt praise in our lives, as did Jesus the Christ. Let it be so.

The Confession

Almighty God, our heavenly Father, we have sinned against you and against our fellow men,
in thought and word and deed, through negligence, through weakness, through our own deliberate fault. We are truly sorry, and repent of all our sins.
For the sake of your Son Jesus Christ, who died for us, forgive us all that is past;
and grant that we may serve you in newness of life, to the glory of your name. Amen.

God of all Creation, in whom we live and move and have our being,
we acknowledge our separation from you within, our self-centredness
and hardness of heart towards others and ourselves.
We are truly sorry, and ask that you would help us to move beyond our minds into the heart of your loving presence. May we be remade in the image of Jesus the Christ, the divine human,
that we may know fullness of life in the energy of your love. Let it be so.

We can be creative, it is why we have minds! Creativity allows modern expressions of timeless truths, which can hopefully reach new generations to inspire and encourage young minds in spiritual exploration.

Don MacGregor

[Don’s new book, Christianity Expanding: Into Universal Spirituality, was published on 30th October 2020 and is available on Amazon. Click here]

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