>Me, myself and I..? Or something more important..?


‘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..?

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4 Responses to >Me, myself and I..? Or something more important..?

  1. Mark says:

    >I certainly believe that searching for this spirituality is more than a ‘self-finding’ exercise. I believe it is about connecting, bonding with people or at least with the spirit within other people. I think we lack that in our everyday lives, the feeling of doing things as a group, communally.

    Everything is rushed and individual. We drive alone or with one or two friends, shop alone, get annoyed by others doing the same. Even television, which once served as a soup kitchen of knowledge and entertainment, gave us a communal topic for Monday mornings, has been watered down into a single act of personal entertainment. SKY+ing our spirituality.

    I was once an avid football fan. I went to hundreds of matches. The group feeling was something so amazing. That is rapidly disappearing. The individual shines through so much more. Individual seats, CCTV, streakers (the ultimate in ‘I’m more important than the game’) have fuelled this notion of ‘a crowd of individuals’. No-one wants to give up their ‘freedom’ to become part of the crowd…or if so, only in a limited way and for a very limited time.

    It’s similar for music concerts or festivals, all of which are ever popular.

    So I think we are looking for connections. Many of us use social networking, because we are anti-social! Or because we have no ‘society’ in our lives.

    We want the concentrated ‘best of everything’ but aren’t willing to put up with the worst, or forgive others who don’t fit the model of what we seek.

    Perhaps we look for justification for who we are? Look for others who share the same traits. Perhaps it is an acceptance for our behavious we seek?

    It may be that we seek a society of ‘us’. Maybe we will clone ourselves and live in groups of ‘ourselves’ where we know what to expect. We will share the same values, look the same, eat the same. Be a group of individuals in the purest sense.

    Spirituality becomes a bond, a mask to hide behind as we share ‘ourselves’ with others.

    This is a real stream of consciousness, I know! A random collection of thoughts!

    Sara, could you advise any good literature as an introduction to the topic of everyday spirituality?


  2. Sara says:

    >Thank you for your stream of consciousness, Mark! Feel free to respond to the other posts too.

    Your idea of a society of cloned individuals sounds creepily like The Borg on Star Trek!

    As for literature on everyday spirituality – well, look out for my forthcoming book with Palgrave (!), but in the meantime, tell me a bit more about what sort of thing you are interested in and I will see if I can think of something that might be of interest.

    Thanks again, and I look forward to hearing more from you…

  3. Mark says:

    I guess I’m into the whole concept of modern spirituality as distinct from organised religion.

    I really feel strongly that spirituality is to be found in nature and would like to read any research/discussion on this.

    Are you aware of any?

    As for the Borg, well, I guess they’d be a happy, spiritually-fulfilled group of Borgs 🙂

  4. Sara says:

    >Hi Mark

    There is a lot of discussion around spirituality in nature – it depends where you want to start I guess, and at what level. From a sort of psychology angle there’s a really interesting paper on the CG Jung Page (http://www.cgjungpage.org) by Medora Woods called ‘The Matter of Place: Does Place Matter?’. There is some background stuff in Chrisopher Partridge’s (2005) ‘The Re-enchantment of the West’, or there are more specifically focused things like Graham Harvey’s (2007) ‘Listening People, Speaking Earth’.

    I hope that gives you some starting points, enjoy your search! 🙂

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