I ask myself: Am I a spiritual person? Are you? I am more a free spirit and not really religious. Still I think of myself and of each of you as essentially spiritual.
I have friends who no longer go to church: ‘the church alumni society’! They have given up religion but not the spiritual. My atheist Humanist friends run a group for survivors of church. I see their spirituality in this. The spiritual is not limited to religion but how are we to think of it?
In the gospels, Greek pneuma refers mostly to the Spirit of God and to unclean spirits in people. But St Paul acknowledges the human spirit, in communion with the divine [Rom 8:16]. Jesus prays that his disciples will be one, like he and the father are one (Jn 14:21). Connectedness is a spiritual experience eg when we converse transparently and trustingly across a café table, or are sexually intimate. Deep human connection has a spiritual aspect.
Motivation is also a key spiritual capacity. Luke speaks of the spirit and power of Elijah in John the Baptist motivating his prophetic preaching (Luke 1:17). We know when our spirit flags because of depression or anxiety, our motivation dies. But hard times can also generate spiritual strength. On the ABC News about the fires, Michael Rowling asked: ‘What’s the spirit like among the evacuees?’ We are spiritual when a sense of purpose channels our energies to make a difference, despite difficulties.
From Buddhist tradition we have the idea of equanimity, an inward steadiness and consistency. The spirit of Roger Federer is a great example of endurance and grace in the sporting world. St Paul encouraged young pastor Timothy [2Ti 1:7] 7 that God gives a spirit not of fear but of power, of love, and of a sound mind.
We have been taught that inwardness and contemplation is the true spiritual path. This may help some. But in Jesus we see that oneness with the divine means a grounded earthly journey of table fellowship and solidarity with all humanity.
We will find a spiritual unity with all who follow Jesus’ self-giving way regardless of their culture or belief. To do so will be our spiritual wisdom.