It’s a very good question, for the word is bandied about quite indiscriminately, but nobody ever says what they mean by it..
I’m not aware of any generally accepted definition, not even one that’s widely accepted.
What is a ‘spiritual person’?
- Some people mean someone who’s into joss sticks, open toed sandals, cheesecloth shirts, tie dies, that sort of stuff, gaia, energies. Others call them away with the fairies.
- Some people mean someone who is serious, moves and talks slowly and rarely smiles and says they think a lot. Others call them lazy shirkers.
- Some people mean someone who goes to church every day and pontificates about keeping the rules. Others call them sanctimonious hypocrites.
- Some people mean someone who puts on a permanent ‘I’ve found Jesus’ smile and who patronizes and condescends to those who don’t. Cambridge University CU members come to mind. I find it difficult to resist the urge to poke their eyes out.
I think spirituality is a looking out: a recognition of the fact that we’re not in control, that we’re at the mercy of something infinitely bigger. That we are, in a word, contingent.
I think spirituality is a looking in: an acknowledgement that the faces we present to the world are merely masks that could be otherwise, and that an inner journey calls us to search among this detritus for the Divine core—the ground of our being.
I think a spiritual person is one who acknowledges all this; someone who lives life to the full as best s/he can and helps others to do likewise; someone who is fully aware of his or her own strengths and weaknesses; someone who is in no doubt that s/he is no more and no less than a creäture of this earth among many other creatures, and someone who knows that s/he is here today and gone tomorrow.
Two pretty awful, and therefore quite funny, medical student aphorisms:
- If you talk to God you’re a Christian. If God talks to you you’re a schizophrenic.
- Neurotics build castles in the air; psychotics live in them; psychiatrists collect the rent.
I’ll get my coat.