Is spirituality a matter of becoming less or more human?

November 28, 2011 By: Michael Nagel Category: Living with Intention, Mind Body Spirit


Remain true to the earth, my brethren, with the power of your virtue! Let your bestowing love and your knowledge be devoted to be the meaning of the earth! Thus do I pray and conjure you.

Let it not fly away from the earthly and beat against eternal walls with its wings! Ah, there hath always been so much flown-away virtue!

Lead, like me, the flown-away virtue back to the earth- yea, back to body and life: that it may give to the earth its meaning, a human meaning!

~ The character of Zarathustra in Thus Spake Zarathustra

by Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900), German philosopher

For far too many spiritual seekers, their spiritual aspiration is like an iron maiden of virtue whose inner critic spikes ceaselessly stab our all-too-human souls. We envision becoming “spiritual” as transcending our humanity rather than becoming more fully human.

Modeling their behavior according to ideas of spirituality that they have read in books, many seekers I meet are genuinely upset with their humanity. They want to be generous, not stingy; admiring, not envious; loving, not hateful; calm, not upset; joyous, not sad; accepting, not angry; holy, not human. When these seekers experience such human “blemishes” to their spirituality, they become fearful of their spiritual prospects. They struggle with their imperfections with the fury of Lady Macbeth, “Out, damned spot! out, I say!” Were it possible, I think they would cut off their offending parts, if that would allow them to transcend. In short, they do not want to be human.

In this light, such seekers envision spiritual realization as an enlightenment which feels no pain, no sorrow, is free of presumed rebirth, and has abandoned the rest of us, the earth, and its troubles. Such a seeker reminds me of the Leonard Cohen verse, “He was just a dealer looking for a card so high and wild that he’d never have to deal another.” Enlightenment is misconstrued as being just that wild card.

But what if spirituality is a matter of becoming more human, not less? What if spiritual development is not a matter of conforming to external idealized images of how we are supposed to be, but rather a matter of ‘polishing the mirror’ of our psychological reactivities in order to reveal the wondrous human nature that lies within? What if “enlightenment” is not an absence of the human condition, but a radically different way of experiencing it?

And so very much more important: what if the earth needs the light of our spiritual realization to remain true to the earth to help us all during this era veiled in darkness? The earth does not need more ascended masters; it needs more descended masters!

In which direction do you aspire spiritually?

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