There was a time in Western culture, not long past, when membership of the local church satisfied the need for spiritual community. A large proportion of the community attended services and gatherings regularly, if not religiously!
My own childhood spiritual life centred on the Lutheran Church in Melbourne. The activities of the church were the hub of my world. I was about 13 when, to my discomfort and consternation, I discovered that an innate need for deep enquiry, open discussion and meaningful friendship was not provided under the umbrella of the Church. Consequently, I began a search of my own, emboldened by the energy and optimism of youth. I was certain that I would eventually find that for which I was seeking.
Contemporary spiritual community builds on spiritual experience rather than doctrine or dogma.
This is a familiar story for many people. The problem is not so much about the Church failing in the roles I had hoped it would fulfil, but rather its reliance on doctrine instead of spiritual experience. Jung said that truths need discovering anew and reframing in every era. But according to Jung there are two levels of “truth”. Jung speaks of “the spirit of the time”, a Zeitgeist, that forms our rational minds, morals and values.
The spirit of the time forms our ego-personality and does not concern itself with the deep spiritual inquiry. However, there in another level of truth, and that is “the way of what is to come”.
Jung then speaks of the spirit of the depths that had begun to stir in him, and is most likely to stir in us – at least some of us – in any era. A spirit that “from time immemorial and for all the future possesses a greater power than the spirit of this time” (Jung, C. G. 2009, The Red Book, New York, Norton and Company, p.229). (For a pdf of The Red Book, and audio of Jung speaking to the soul.)
The spirit of the time motivated the personal inquiry that Jung undertook for 15 years. Jung’s inquiry ultimately became the Red Book. His guide was the spirit of the greater archetypal psyche that is independent of the spirit of the times. Nevertheless the greater archetype finds expression through the spirit of the time.
The spirit of the depths
The spirit of the depths is the source of all visions, inspiration and divine bliss hoped for by humanity. This is the Self in Jungian terms. Those who have accessed this depth, through the ages and in difference cultures, have a great deal in common. Mostly independent of the Church, Synagogue or Mosque, people are accessing personal and direct experience. Personal experience is risky because it is out of the agreed-upon norms. This is often framed as personal gnosis.
Gnosis and personal experience
June Singer confirms that gnosis in our present time corresponds with personal experience. This is in contrast to acquired knowledge or the structures of doctrine. She says:
“Gnosis, as first enunciated two millennia ago by heretical sects who refused to be bound by institutionalized ‘truths’, was understood by Jung as a spirit of inquiry that is independent of dogma and that requires confirmation through personal experience and reflection” Singer, J. (1990). Seeing Through the Visible World: Jung, Gnosis and Chaos New York, Harper and Rowe, p 48.
How do we gather together as a spiritual community?
In our digital age, the possibility of gathering together as a spiritual community is greatly accelerated. We communicate internationally with others who are seeking the spirit of depth. Andrew Cohen speaks of this, in a discussion of “The Holy Life”:
“There is something so incredibly life-affirming about the kind of joy and fellowship that emerges when many human beings, inspired by spiritual values and a higher sense of purpose, come together. The Buddha, when asked if association with like-minded people was a part of the holy life, is reported to have declared:
“Association with like-minded people is not a part of the holy life, it is the whole of the holy life.”
The longer I have been teaching, the more obvious it has become to me that the Buddha was right—association with like-minded people is the whole of the holy life. And that is simply because the holy life, the spiritually enlivened and awakened life—if it’s to have any real impact on the world—is about creating and sharing higher values with other human beings.
When insight and revelation are experienced as part of a shared higher state, something truly sacred begins to occur. The potential of a new, more enlightened world emerges here and now.” Andrew Cohen. http://andrewcohen.org
In the spirit of depth and the spiritually enlivened and awakened life, I engage in this conversation. This is a conversation we will be expanding upon through our Jung Study subscription series. Likewise, you will be kept up to date to with psychology as applied to relationships with your subscription to my Relationship Tips in “The Relationship Doctor is in“.
What identifies a viable spiritual community in the digital age?
- Association with others with shared ideals, shared goals and shared actions!
- Nourishing others, and being nourished by others, whether within your chosen community or not. Activism is part of spiritual community. That is enabling other people and ultimately the whole planet, to thrive.
- Here are links to TreeSisters and The Spring, as examples of activism, but the possibilities are endless. Donating time as a volunteer, or giving financial assistance, is an example of spiritual activism.