Spiritual: When Words Go Bad

The word spiritual gets tossed around willy-nilly these days. Worse there is an endless supply of people offering to guide you in being more spiritual. They are well intentioned but misguided, assuming the best, I’ll label it idiot’s compassion.

The seed for this post was from recently tossing spirituality into a thesaurus. One of the words I found was unfleshly. Thinking it was a peculiar word I clicked it.

From Merriam-Webster:

Unfleshly : not carnal : spiritual

Knowing I am not all that literate, I clicked on carnal and there were the turning words:

Carnal : relating to or given to crude bodily pleasures and appetites

If I have learned nothing else from practice, it is that whatever realms or realities we experience or master on our journey, we do it in a human suit and that comes complete with crude bodily pleasures and appetites. Therefore, whatever this life journey is SPIRITUAL is NOT the word for it.

Sure, the initial phases of inner work are driven by the desire to seek out the spiritual, non-carnal, non-dual … aspects. However, this is not the long tail of the journey. As it says in one of my favorite works, ‘To encounter the absolute is not yet enlightenment.’

Unfortunately, most seekers never get more than a hint or short glimpse of the non-dual. Thus, I guess I understand the prevalence of the word spiritual, it is the whole of their journey.

Spiritual fits with many views that are taught these days … you can beat these appetites and they will never bother you again …. So I guess these people are technically correct using and aiming for spiritual. More troubling are the new-agers who harness those exact appetites in the name of spirituality to make you richer, thinner, sexier … whatever.

I am not alone in this understanding; the mystics and saints often speak directly to the natural arising of appetites. At a high level they have two approaches for integrating them:

1) Non-attachment or non-grasping; just let them go. Acknowledge their arrival; well hello old friend ‘whoa, would you look at her’. With the understanding that this thought does not serve you or her at this place and time. Then you say, ‘thank you for pointing that out’, knowing that another thought or feeling will be along very soon.

2) Transforming the energy of the appetite into a virtue or grace. Right now, in the US of A we are split 50/50 on an immature cultural transformation of greed. The pure appetite of greed for self-preservation is … why should I pay for anyone else’s healthcare? And the other side is harnessing greed energy just as firmly … we will take money from ‘fill in the blank’ and have healthcare for all.

If you are going to seriously journey inwards, make sure you are being led by someone who understands more than the seeking phase.

I am happy to have this clarification. Words can be very powerful and using the right ones can have a big effect.

May your life go well.