A Practical Need for Spirituality
Some years ago when I was doing the research for my spiritual memoir, Divinely Inspired: Spiritual Awakening of a Soul, I came across quotes from biblical commentators that have made an indelible impression on me. Back in the 1990s when I had no spiritual resources and faced Bipolar Disorder at age 50, I swallowed two-hundred pills and came within a hairsbreadth of departing this earth. If not for a Divine miracle of God coming to my wife Marcia, I would not be here today. You can read about it in Divinely Inspired; that is, if you are so inclined. I summarize the quotes, “In the time of extreme crisis, a person becomes incapable of calm reasoned analysis. His greatest strength at such a moment is the instinct he has developed through all his years of living and striving. It is too late when the awful moment comes to make the preparations or develop the personality to cope with it. People who have failed to develop their spiritual resources before extreme crises strike will not have the resources to conquer it.” I had an agitated depression that was of such severity that I could not sit still for more than a few seconds. My only respite was the two hours of sleep that followed my sheer exhaustion each day.
In the world we live in today, there are a lot more extreme crises taking place because of the economy. People are losing their homes, jobs and marriages, stealing, and falling into clinical depression. The stress factor is enormous and I wouldn’t be surprised if we see increases in the rates of deadly diseases like cancer, which itself can be classified as an extreme crisis. Suicide may be just waiting in the wings. Another biblical sage offered the following quote, “In the modern world, we are intimidated by sounds and messages. Some we ignore, others we hear, a few we assimilate, but only a rare one in a lifetime changes us.” My hope is that this message helps you begin or continue your journey on the spiritual ladder. If you are an agnostic, there is hope for you. If you are a hard core atheist, I suggest that you read both of my titles, Divinely Inspired and the Messiah Interviews, and then temporarily abandon your intelligence for faith and belief in God. Of course, God gave us His gift of free will, so it’s your choice. Thank God, I have made mine.
What is Spirituality?
I’ll tell you what it is not. It’s not religion although I am proud to be Jewish and part of my religion. In biblical times, God used his prophets to convey messages to the forerunners of the Jews, the ancient Israelites who were in a constant struggle to not fall off of God’s spiritual ladder. As the prophet Isaiah in Isaiah 29:13 said, “These people draw near with their mouth, they honor me with their lips but their heart is far from me.” You can spout all the piety you want about how good a person you are and how you pray to God multiple times a day. However, if your heart is not a pure flame of spirit that is honest and true , then you are not spiritual.
In my humble opinion, religion does not offer salvation. Spirituality does. Religion can be, if it is a part of our spirituality but not the other way around.
There is so much grief in the world because of religion. We cannot solve the global crisis of spirituality and bring peace to the world, because everyone is operating with a different playbook. What we can do is take the less traveled road and allow the spirituality buried within each of us to emerge. We need to ignite our ‘pintele yid’ in Judaism or our ‘kernal’ in Buddhism. God has purposely hidden this spark in our Divine soul so that we can have the joy of discovering it on our own. If you have ever felt that you are leading a meaningless life and that you are not important, you won’t any longer if you ignite your flame. It will give you something that money can’t buy and you will have a lot more than wealthy people without spirituality. As the great Chabad Lubavitcher Rabbi, the Rebbe Schneerson wrote, “God did not make one useless thing in this world.” Also, you add to the world by being spiritual. Then you can be a truly good person. The Rebbe again, “All that add. They add to Him.”
Spirituality is therefore something inside of you that allows you to act with a humble heart and be a kindred spirit and beacon of hope for those within and outside your inner circle of family and friends. Spirituality is an appreciation and gratefulness for life and the gifts that God gave us in the world we live in. When you have it, you don’t have to flaunt it. It’s inner peace where you are defenseless, non-struggling, and tensionless like a river flowing and bouncing off the rocks in the water or like the deer that frolic hither and there. It’s a respect for every living creature and for nature. If you attain spirituality, then you become more precious than gold. Some who have a natural spirit like my wife Marcia are indeed fortunate. Others like myself have to constantly move toward spirituality brushing aside the thorns blocking my path.
When you have climbed high enough on the ladder, you realize that it’s easier to climb right back up when you fall off the ladder. Belief in God helps you on your journey because if God recognizes your efforts at righteousness, He is right there with you assisting you as you slide backwards. You taste of His wine and not only His fragrance and have a right to expect his aid if you call out to Him. However, you can attain these elevated heights even if you don’t believe in Him. The consequence may be that you will smell His fragrance but not be offered His wine. God is Omniscient, all knowing, and sees all.
When you are spiritual, you see people without spirituality differently and like the river pushing away from the rocks, if their arrows are aimed at you they are deflected. You also unexpectedly find yourself being with and enjoying people who also have discovered the golden elixir of spirituality. The old saying is true , “Birds of a feather flock together.” As the days, months, and years pass, you see yourself differently and you grow wiser. Job said it best, “Days speak and a multitude of years teach wisdom.” If you are a believer, you see God in the shadows and know that your destiny is in His hands. When things are good, you praise and honor God and when they are bad and you are crushed and beaten, you still sing to Him.
How do I Begin?
There are a plethora of spiritualists out there with how to guides, so I’ll just give you the direction that I took for my climb. I have been at it about ten years ever since Divine miracles entered my life. I have been so very fortunate to receive His Splendor. I feel honored for God coming into my life. In the Torah, God tells Moses that He will offer His blessings to anyone He pleases even to a sinner that does not deserve it. I am and was that sinner.
- Your first challenge is to abandon your intelligence if you have no faith. Once you make this leap, your intelligence can stand alongside your faith. Famous scientists like Einstein and Newton did it. I too am a scientist. However, because of Divine Providence (Divine miracles), I did not have to abandon my intelligence. I immediately became a believer. If you can’t do this, then just resign yourself to being an agnostic or atheist and do the best you can at being a humanist. My own feeling about agnostics, despite what they say, is that they are atheists with subliminal fear of God. They will cry out to God at times of extreme crisis. The hard core atheists are not able to do this because they cannot swallow their pride or are anti-God because it’s the only way to rationalize away their hidden sins.
- At the beginning and even when you are half way up the spiritual ladder, you will have doubt. Make it easy on yourself. Don’t initially attempt to resolve your doubt in a church or synagogue. Instead, start to talk quietly aloud to God on solitary walks. There is ample evidence in the Bible that it’s okay to be respectful and at the same time challenge God. Do not expect answers in hearing His Voice, like I was fortunate to hear, but if you hear His Voice, consider this a rare blessing. Stay the course even if you see no change in your life. Ultimately, I believe you will and when it happens you need to recognize that it was a gift from your Creator. In the Bible, King Solomon says that God will return to you if you return to Him. If God sees some future potential in you to becoming spiritual, even if you are not right now, He will answer you.
- If you don’t see any changes say after three months in what you are asking of God, then you need to begin to take steps improve your moral character. You need to ignite the spark of your soul’s pintele yid. It is close to being extinguished. You can begin to act righteously. God is at all times giving us moral tests and He is keeping a scorecard of our decisions. Those decisions will determine whether we are admitted into the Messianic Age at the End of Days, as I outlined in my spiritual novel, the Messiah Interviews. We all know the difference between right and wrong. It’s choosing right over wrong. Often, we cannot see past our feelings. We can’t help that because of our upbringing. Be conscious of the following improvements to get your climb up the spiritual ladder activated:
(i) If no one is hurting you, you have no
right to hurt them.
(ii) No one has the right to physically, emotionally or mentally abuse anyone else – your spouse, your children etc.
(iii) Look up the Ten Commandments (see my books) and try to follow them as best as you can.
(iv) Be charitable. If you do not help the pauper when he cries out to you, God will not hear you when you cry out to
Him. Actions speak louder than words, so carry out some action even if you don’t mean it. Gradually, you will feel good about giving to someone. If you cannot afford giving money, then offer kindness through your words.
(v) Try to be more God-centered instead of self-centered.Look to the old adage. Light a fire to warm a room instead of wearing a fur coat and warming only yourself. Do some kind deeds. Show mercy and be compassionate.
(vi) Be honest and sincere in your heart. God sees your intent. He values truth in your heart more than anything else. Don’t cheat or steal in business or in life.
(vii) All God wants is to be recognized that He is the One and only God. Honor Him by thanking Him and be grateful for the gifts he has given us.
(viii) Treat each other with respect. You don’t have to like a person. You just have to be courteous unless that person is abusing you. Then by all means say something that provides him or her with a message to back off. Obviously, this won’t work on a global scale where man’s treatment of man is abhorrent.
(ix) Be grateful for what you have. We often look somewhere else while we have it right in our own backyard.
(x) Pray in silence when so inclined. Continue to pray aloud. God hears you either way but there is something cleansing about expressing aloud.
Benefits of Spirituality
All of the above seem simplistic, and they are. They worked for me. Honestly, I feel that the rest that you do like going to a church or temple and praying is the tinsel. Practicing the religion when you are spiritual is a good thing. What deters us is what Shakespeare wrote in Macbeth a long time ago, “The attempt but not the deed confounds us.”
When I was about 80% up the spiritual ladder, which is where I like to think I am today, I believed that there are no coincidences. Everything happens to me for a reason and God determines my non-moral outcomes, when I act righteously in my moral decisions. For example, in the Bible, Jacob prepares for his meeting with his enraged brother Esau. Yet He knows that the outcome of his rendezvous is dependent on God. Jacob never took his righteousness for granted and I and you won’t either when you feel that inner flame of spirituality. I know how hard it is get the messages of my books out in a sea of books and a bad economy. I also know that my success is dependent upon God. And I’m not measuring success by fame and fortune.
There is an old saying. God helps those who help themselves. In life, I do everything I can and then when I am absolutely stuck, I go to God and ask for His help. When I became spiritual, I was glad whatever way a situation turned out because that’s the way I now believe it’s supposed to be. I never appreciated nature, but now I love to walk in the nature preserves near our house in Florida. Being spiritual means I want to make decisions that God would approve of. It also means that I have an unshakable faith whereby I not only know that God can cure me of an illness but that He will cure me. The verb tense is very important. I have converted uncertainty to certainty in my faith, trust, and love of God.
They say that God can save you from the forces of nature, but He does not interfere with man’s actions against man. Yet, I have done womb regression therapy and God saved me from an abortion attempt. It’s funny that the higher your personal desire to ascend the spiritual ladder and the higher you climb, the more you stumble. Ironically, the more you stumble, the easier it is to get up again. God has the most demanding standards for you to gain a foothold on the highest rungs of the ladder. Only a few in our history have been able to reach such heights. The Patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, Moses, King David, and Jesus found themselves at the top of the ladder. There were others in the non-monotheistic religions.
This simple path that I have outlined is not an easy one. You have to invest more than your deeds to become spiritual. You need time, energy, and endurance in a life that is most certainly challenged to its full capacity. Those who reach heavenward may sow in tears but they will reap in joy climbing the spiritual ladder. My last suggestion is to take baby steps. Don’t be afraid. God will hold your hand.
Jerry J. Pollock is Professor Emeritus at Stony Brook University. You can learn more about the mission of the Third Temple, Jerry, and his books by visiting the nonprofit website at www.shechinahthirdtemple.org and surfing the attached Blog. You can email Jerry at jerrypollock.bellsouth.net