I agree that there is more to religion and spirituality then I have stated so far, and I like the idea that spirituality is, among other things, the conscience of religion. But then I would ask, “Where does this conscience come from?”
It can’t come from religion itself, for then it couldn’t act as a corrective. It must come from outside religion. We might say it comes from God, but, unless we define God (which leaves us only with god), this affirmation says nothing. Yet I cannot deny my experience (and that of many others) that when I find myself aware of the Presence of God (whom I define as the source and substance of all reality), I feel myself completely integrated with the whole of life and overwhelmed by a sense of love for and from all things. From this nondual perspective I understand St. Paul’s teaching that there is no male or female, Jew or Gentile, slave or free in Christ Jesus.
It is also important to note that spirituality isn’t passive or quiescent. The spiritually infused person is a prophet speaking truth to power, and willing to follow conscience all the way to the cross. When Jesus says, “take up your cross and follow me” he isn’t inviting people to the Rapture, but to the crucifixion. He is saying and living the fact that spiritual awakening engages one in the hard and dangerous work of justice. Justice and spirituality are two sides of the same coin of God-realization.
I am intrigued by your notion that it could take centuries for religions to turn the bend toward greater unity, justice, and compassion that is the hallmark of post-tribal globalism. I don’t disagree, and this brings me back to my position that religion is a social device concerned with power more than truth, fear more than compassion, and control more than justice.
Religion doesn’t necessarily lead people in a new direction. Most of the time it simply creates a god who sanctions the direction in which the people are already moving. This is why true prophets are always a threat to the religious. Jesus, to mention just one example, often saw past Jewish tribalism and pointed toward a global spirituality, but Christianity, and I realize this is a gross over simplification, ended up reinforcing it under another name.
As for despair, I admit to it. Conventional institutional religion as we know it, i.e. Bronze and Iron Age worldviews with their attendant biases, phobias, and mores cannot move human consciousness to the more inclusive level of experience needed in the 21st Century. But while I despair of religion I do not despair of prophets. I place my hope in those contemporary spiritual pioneers in every religion who have “turned the bend” and left behind much of the madness that passes for faith today. These post-tribal prophets speak to humanity as a whole, and for the earth herself. They sift through the old and find and release the timeless truths buried there. They may be Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, or Buddhists by birth, training and even affiliation, but they are not limited by these labels, and are in fact practitioners of the perennial wisdom that flows through all faiths and is bound to none.
I prefer to see myself as a Jewish practitioner of this perennial wisdom, and I would dare suggest that you are a Christian practitioner of the same.