‘What we need to understand here is
the moral force behind notions like
self-fulfilment. Once we try to explain
this simply as a kind of egoism, or a
species of moral laxism, a self-indulgence…
we are already off the track’
Charles Taylor (1992) The Ethics of Authenticity
There is a debate in the social sciences I wanted to share with you. Some might say it would be best left where it is. However, I am going to try to give it an airing here because I am interested in your thoughts.
There is much criticism, amongst social scientists, of contemporary forms of spirituality. They see it as nothing more than self-obsessed navel gazing, the product of a society of individuals obsessed with nothing but themselves. For others however this argument is missing the point. For them there is something beneath the veneer of self-obsession which is about a moral ideal we seem to have lost sight of. They would suggest there is a reason people are ‘looking within’ – and that reason is to find the moral compass that guides human actions and notions of what is right and wrong.
Alister Hardy suggested there is an innate spirituality in the human race based on a relational consciousness which has been maintained because it serves us well in terms of survival (this is a spirituality quite divorced from any cultural articulation of this into ‘religion’). So this might also suggest that we have an innate moral drive to connect beyond the immediate state of isolation we find ourselves within by virtual of being individuals. And that ‘self-spirituality’ therefore isn’t an end in itself – i.e. reflecting that we are merely self-obsessed and don’t want to look any further than what we can find within ourselves – but that self-spirituality is in fact a process which leads us back to that innate inner drive to seek out our connection with others.
All around us we see examples of people embarking on ‘personal journeys’ to ‘find the real me’, and the process itself, the ‘journey’, becomes the end in itself, rather than it being a means to an end. Or alternatively it is presented as a process to engage with in order to become a ‘better person’, a ‘better’ worker, a ‘better’ mother, father, lover… there is always room for improvement and always the threat that we just might not be ‘good enough’.
Have we have lost sight of the purpose of being in touch with the inner self?
Is it all about the self?
Or is there something more?
Are those who follow a path to inner spirituality solely engaged in that soul-searching for the purpose of getting to know ‘themselves’, or are they engaged in that process in an attempt to get in tune with that innate essence which is in fact shared across all other individuals, and once awakened can serve to reunite and reignite some sense of transcendence or significance beyond that individual self?
I guess basically I am asking – are you in this just for the journey, or is that journey actually going somewhere more significant than yourself..?