Spiritual virtues / values / norms: perspective on alternative spirituality

Auch. That was way too long a title.

Anyhow, I was thinking about some of the responses to my post about the difference between religion and spirituality (and how little difference there is). While I don’t agree with Jan Peter for instance – spirituality is more than something emotional – I do think I know what he’s getting at. Boshemia points out the main issue I think: people don’t like the word religion because it reminds them of all the do’s and don’ts of their church background. For me that’s not such an issue, because I was raised agnostically.

Still – what ARE the ideals inherent in alternative spirituality? I mean – there are values. I don’t mean the long lists of virtues in Buddhism and Hinduism. However interesting, they are too specific to be applicable to all alternative spiritual paths. The coming two weeks (I’ve got 8 posts planned) I will be discussing the virtues or values inherent in the whole alternative spiritual movement. I hope you all won’t be too bored.

Here is my list. I will be devoting a blogpost to each in the coming two weeks:

  1. Freedom and tolerance
  2. Thinking for yourself and not being dogmatic
  3. Gratitude
  4. Finding your own path, not comparing
  5. Generosity
  6. Inspiration and intuition
  7. Environmentally conscious

I would love to hear about virtues or values or norms you think are essential to alternative spirituality. One of the things that connect all (or most) of the above mentioned values is – I think – that in the dichotomy religion-spirituality they would be listed closer to spirituality. (Though I don’t want to suggest only ‘spiritual people’ live by them, obviously)

[I started this series thinking that it was about virtue, but as I wrote about it, and pondered, I found that the word ‘value’ is probably closer in most cases. Some of these are even norms. Words…]

12 thoughts on “Spiritual virtues / values / norms: perspective on alternative spirituality”

  1. I see religion as outwardly focused and spirituality as inwardly focused. In the former you get your guidance from other people, and in the latter you yourself are the ultimate arbiter of what you believe. I see most religions as artificial control/programming methods and not genuine spirituality at all.

    As to values, I’d rank empathy very highly on the list for both. Both should strive toward being more empathatic to all others. Spirituality tends to anyhow, whereas religion tends not to. Be empathatic to all others, that is.

    Religion is often polluted by excessive pride, especially the American Christian variety. Very ugly. And a lack of pride or egotism is important to any genuine spirituality, IMHO. Of course, the more empathatic one is, the more one feels enough love for others to have a desire to limit one’s OWN ego. So in a way empathy conquers egotism, is ANTI-Egotism, so yet another reason to develop one’s empathy toward all other beings.

  2. A concept (not a value per se) that I find very valuable in my own spirituality is that of Duality. The masculine and the feminine sides of the person… Yin and Yang, in all their permutations. This is pretty common to many of the alternative paths in one form or another. In Kaballah for instance we have Chochma and Binah, but also eight other spheres to consider, thus subdividing duality for easier apprehension. Or you can consider things through the lens of the Tetragrammaton, a fourfold division instead of just the two. But it’s all rooted in the two. Which is of course rooted in the ONE.

  3. A person’s own duality, their balance between their rational/intellectual side and the emotional/intuitive side, is I think imperative to the self-knowledge necessary to develop one’s spiritual side.

    Everybody has the lower emotional side. We all get that. We start with that, and develop our intellectual side based on desires generated within the lower emotional side. (Lower = Self-Focused)
    As the intellectual side develops, hopefully it does so on such a way so as to perceive the necessity of developing empathy toward others and other higher (other-focused) emotional modalities. Of course, once the higher emotions are developed, they in turn affect the further development of the intellectual side, shaping it more in line with the higher emotional desires rather than the lower ones. At this point each side starts to shape and mold the other producing a “vicious cycle” of development. Of course, when the situation is one of IM-Balance and not balance, both sides still shape each other but instead produce a “vicious cycle” of deterioration toward egotism.

    We are based in the emotional side, all of us. We use our logical sides like a tool, but we “live” in our emotional sides. All desire is generated there, even the desire to be logical. We think of logic, but we ARE emotions.

    Thus, every single time that you (or anybody) ask yourself a question, it is your emotional (desire) side asking it, and it’s asking your logical/rational side for the answer. Your inner dialogue is one between your emotional and your rational side. Every single time.

  4. Even if you ask yourself if you love someone else, it’s still your emotional side desiring to know, and it’s still asking your logical side for an evaluation of the emotional side.

    Or let’s say that you want to learn calculus. Calculus is totally based in the logical side, but you still *desire* to learn it, and whatever caused that desire, it’s still a desire, and thus an emotion. Evevn if the desire is merely to pass the class so that you graduate. Even if the desire is to be able to solve complex mathematical problems so as to be able to do research. All desire is emotional.

  5. And even before the “I AM” came the desire to utter the words, the “feeling” of “am-ness.”

    We are, at our most basic level, a feeling and not a thought.

  6. Incidentally, I also see the dichotomy of religion and spirituality as a duality, religion being Yang, masculine side, and spirituality being Yin, feminine side.
    Religion relies on thoughts, concepts, words, sayings, gospels, apologists, and verbal appeal to something outside of yourself.
    Spirituality is feeling-based. Or so I see it. It relies on “knowing.” In the sense of Gnosis. It’s personal, private, and no two spiritualities are alike. Real spirituality develops your intuitive side and your higher emotions where religion develops your memory and little else.

  7. And something like religion can be logical-side-based and not real-world “logical” at all. If the logical side in question is a faulty one, incorectly developed by a lack of appropriate desire from the incorrectly developed Yin side. It may be a hugely developed logical side, but not one in conformity with concensual reality due to self-delusion because of internal imbalance.

    A system of mathematics that always produces incorrect results, is still a system of mathematics. A faulty one, but still…

  8. I can’t say much about alternative spirituality, but spirituality in general perhaps. There is a wonderful feeling of peace that comes over me when I even thing of the word spirituality. A connection between something deep in my soul and being a greater part of the universe surrounding me.

    Even though I am but one small part of a great big universe I feel connected to all of the people in it. To their joys, to their sorrows, to their hopes and dreams.

    Spirituality minimizes the “me” part of the world, but it maximized the world part of the me. Does that make any sense at all? Well, it’s just my own personal feeling on the subject.


    Love this place BTW!

  9. I agree with Saint Brian on the difference between spirituality and religion. I’ve always seen spirituality as primarily focused on inner guidance and religion primarily focused on outer guidance. Even spiritual guidance that is external (a guru, self-help book, metaphysical chapel, etc) usually steers people back to their inner selves somehow. I suppose religion strives to do this to some degree, but it depends on the type of religion.

  10. Boshemia: that makes a lot of sense. I like it ‘spirituality minimizes the me part of the world and maximizes the world part of me’ 🙂

    Metaphysical Junkie: it also depends on the place one has IN that religion. A lot of what we call spirituality was everyday practice for monks and nuns, some time ago. Much of it still is (though I’m told church reform did away with a lot of meditation practice).

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