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Woodcut by Tom Killion

The kabbalists through the centuries would always prelude a physical act with an incantation that declared the act as one of unifying the Godhead with the Shechinah, Creator with Creation, God Transcendent with God Immanent…

Spirituality is as much about the body as it is about the soul. The physical universe is more than merely an arena in which we evolve spiritually, it is the very means by which we evolve spiritually. It happens here. It happens not in the Garden of Paradise, but in the Garden of Paradox. The body is not only a vehicle for soul manifestation, it is a sacred facilitator of soul realization…

No person, no retreat or workshop, no book, no teacher, can transmit spirituality to you, can unravel for you the layers of ego and id that hide your soul self. No one but you can do your own spiritual work, and no one person’s spiritual work resembles in any way that of another. Each of us is here for reasons unknown to our selves, let alone to others. Each of us is a mystery unique from any other person’s mystery. As Martin Buber wrote: “The mystery of another lies deep within him, and it cannot be observed from without” (Die Stunde und die Erkenntnis, p. 155).

— Notes on Jewish Spirituality, By Winkler, Gershon

We are an unknown quantity to ourselves as well as to others. Discovering the world as we go through our earthly existence involves finding and living our “why.” Why do we come here, what are we to do with this opportunity, what is the deeper meaning of this event we call our life? We are born into a mystery. In our secular and too-practical culture, we focus on satisfying the transitory needs of ego and physical necessity. If we have a religion, it’s usually full of answers we give perfunctory allegiance to although we are unchanged and unchallenged in our hates and destructiveness.

What we don’t want is to be bothered with questions that would cast doubt on our way of life or on who we are. We want simply to live safely. Our peace of mind is expensive, though. The world could go to hell while we are refusing to disturb ourselves with questions about the implications of our spiritual callousness.

We are a people who don’t know much about the connectivity of all life or about what our role in that fabric of life might be — individually or collectively. The realization that the world we inhabit is a sacred paradigm in all its details contradicts our puritan suspicions about physicality. Treating the physical world as we do, including our own bodies, is a daily sacrilege.

If our so-called spirituality isn’t going to help us live both spiritually and materially, it’s pretty useless, it seems to me. A spirituality with depth would approach the mystery of life with more reverence and more wonder and acute questioning. It’s not sacrilegious to question. It’s an engagement with the mystery of everything. We like to be done with the act of questioning as soon as possible. We become atheists when we can’t make our inculcated beliefs conform to logic.

We’re uncomfortable with mystery, with unanswered questions. I prefer to keep looking, keep wondering, keep appreciating the beauty of the mystery given to us. As soon as we stop doing that, we have gotten stuck. I think we are meant to grow and keep growing. We are less evolved than we think. We are spiritual children. It takes a lifetime to learn basic lessons.

Reviewing the state of affairs in our earthly societies, we see that some are more equitable and thriving than others, based on how much care and compassion is built into the system. How are we Americans doing on that score? I’d say we have a ways to go.

Written by

I occasionally write fiction and also about creativity, loving, language learning and travel. I’m a longtime painter and reader.

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