So in thinking about modern spirituality, I have come to the conclusion that perhaps it has forgotten what it’s all really about. It is quite clear to me that, shrouded in new age fantasies and home-grown theories about the origins of life, there exist three fundamental goals of spirituality (admittedly, among others): (1) to reconnect with one’s natural environment, (2) to reconnect with deeper, core aspects of one’s self, and (3) to live in the moment and/or experience sensations of “flow” in one’s daily reality. What has me bothered? The fact that all of these things are regularly experienced by practically all other species on Earth. The first of these is a given: Other species have no need to REconnect with the natural environment because they are already connected and innately intertwined, thriving on their ecological interdependence. The second goal may be more difficult to grasp, but it is undoubtedly there, disguising itself in the form of “instinct” and a level of knowing that requires no reflection or contemplation. Other species are undeniably connected with core aspects of their existence – instincts and drives which serve as guiding forces for their survival (instincts which, truth be told, spiritual beings yearn for). The third and final goal is quite obvious and readily accomplished by other members of the animal kingdom, as time is a construction of the human mind. The butterfly knows no concept of minute or hour, knows no past or future existence, experiencing only NOW. Likewise, the herd of zebra surely experience a sensation of “flow” as they veer north over an open plain, deeply and intricately connected with other members of their species in ways we may never fully grasp. These last two, time and flow, go hand in hand, flow being a commonly reported aspect of experiencing the moment (at least, among humans, but it can surely be said about other species). The flock of birds or school of fish know all too well.
Spirituality, then, is not a human development whatsoever. It is not the product of our superior intelligence, nor is it the product of our self-consciousness. It is, quite simply, our attempt at reconnecting with the natural world and a part of ourselves that we have long forgotten. Once this notion is digested, it further becomes clear that our intelligence and self-consciousness serve as impediments and barriers to this desire to reconnect. Both constructs – intelligence and self-consciousness – have invented time and removed the “now” and the “flow” of our lives; have produced unnatural environments and allowed us to both rationalize and sterilize our ecological interdependence; and have led us to the perception that our instincts and drives are somehow irrational feelings that must always be forfeited to logic and reason, essentially leading to the loss of self-connection that we so desperately desire.
The answer? Strip it down, remove the frills and the bells and the whistles, take out the garbage and the self-indulgence, and expose spirituality for what it truly is: humanity’s attempt to reconnect with the natural world. No goal should be greater, as no goal can better lead us to all things we desire.