Can spirituality really be taught?

Discussion in 'Belief and Spirituality' started by iBrian, Sep 24, 2003.

  1. iBrian

    iBrian Peace, Love and Unity Admin

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    I remember a good friend telling me of how an older sister was paying for various "New Age" treatments.

    Essentially, she was paying to find spirituality.

    My question is: is this actually a realistic proposition? Can spirituality be taught and learned the way an academic subject can be?

    My personal consideration is that spirituality is essential an understanding that must come from within.

    When we are taught things, we often fail to comprehend the subject matter. For that reason we can nod and agree that fire must indeed be hot, and that hot can be a bad thing. Yet we cannot learn what hot is unless we burn ourselves.

    If a person has never seen a mountain before, and you explain a mountain to them, then what does that person actually know about mountains? No doubt they would think they know what a mountain is from just the words of a description - but how would they feel if they actually stood before a mountain themselves?

    This is the conundrum about spirituality - that it cannot be intellectualised. This is precisely why forms of rational thinking will often fail to appreciate spirituality - because it can only deal with the superficial concept of this, rather than the actual necessary personal and intuitive realisation that is necessary.

    But objections aside, can spirituality actually be taught? And if only to the intellect, is that a loss or gain or irrelevant to the question?

    Is spirituality really only learned from within?
     
  2. Elizabeth May

    Elizabeth May Well-Known Member

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    I had a friend who did a type of meditation course spent hundreds doing it. Even they told me after it was a waste of money! There's a big market in selling people peace and hope. I hope that other courses are more decent and charge for costs not profit.
     
  3. Phyllis Sidhe_Uaine

    Phyllis Sidhe_Uaine Junior Moderator, Intro Moderator

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    Your question brings to my mind one of bb's (bananabrain's) "favourite" subjects: the KLC (Kabbalah Learning Center.)

    How many people spend so bloody much money to find something that is so bloody personal and why the fook do they? (sorry for the language.) Spirituality, imho, is a very personal thing that one cannot teach to another, but only experience in and of itself. To me, a good "boogie-down" helps me to experience my spirituality, but to someone else, it might just cause a huge thirst for a tall glass of lemonade.

    To put it other terms, someone might think that Brittany Spears is the best thing since sliced bread, while someone else can't stand her. That, to me, explains my opinions on spirituality.

    Sorry for the rant here. :eek:

    Phyllis Sidhe_Uaine
     
  4. Thomas

    Thomas Administrator Admin

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    Hi Brian -

    Can spirituality be taught?
    Well, the preparatory practices can - ascetic discipline, meditation, contemplation, prayer, and so forth. All traditions, east and west, have a master/disciple relationship as central to the process.

    But these practices are not the thing itself, they are the preparation.

    In your question there seemed to be the notion of someone seeking a spiritual experience.

    This is the great egoic illusion of the modern age: "Because he/she can do it, so can I"

    The Spirit is not the property of the individual, it transcends the individual state and so genuine spiritual experience has its source outside the individual - it is a communion with something 'other'.

    Thus all the techniques are the means by which we 'clear the way' but that is no guarantee that anything will happen - and to set out with the intention of doing the practice to realise the result definitely won't happen - the spirit cannot be bought, bribed or co-erced.

    The tragic aspect is that most people's notion of a 'spiritual experience', achieved through meditation say, is nothing of the sort, but rather a feeling of peace or well-being that is a balanced human state and should naturally be the case.
     
  5. Elizabeth May

    Elizabeth May Well-Known Member

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    So it sounds like selling happiness.
     
  6. sachetm

    sachetm Active Member

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    As an educator, I'll take a shot at this one.

    I've long contended that you can't give an answer until the question is asked. Otherwise, it falls on deaf ears and there's no learning involved.

    That said, a "good" teacher can help create the motivation for students to ask the question.

    I taught 7th graders a social studies/English combo (in Maryland). I discovered that Zen riddles were a wonderful way to encourage questions. Maybe it was the age, but I found that 12-year olds thrive on them. Once, I kept a class busy and thoroughly engaged with a riddle the entire period.

    I disagree with Thomas' contention that spirit is a certain thing with certain properties. Each person, IMHO, has a spiritual side--one that seeks to know and understand self and its relationship to the Universe/God/whatever. The lines between self, non-self, other sides of self, etc. are not so easy to discern, IME. Or maybe I'm not as picky about what does and doesn't constitute spiritual development. From my perspective, almost all growth has the potential for a spiritual element, just through the opening up of self to incorporate something new.

    Teaching and learning spirituality is the old case of leading the horse to water but not being able to force him/her to drink. The teacher can do the leading or offer the water but the student has to accept and drink it before any kind of movement or growth--spritual or otherwise--is possible.
     
  7. Thomas

    Thomas Administrator Admin

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    Hi sachetm - Your last sentence throws your whole premise into doubt, doesn't it?

    The notion of the spirit as a 'certain thing with certain properties' I would dispute. My point is that, in the Christian tradition, the Spirit is from God, not the individual (unlike the soul, which is individual) and:

    "the spirit bloweth where it will, and none can say from whence it comes or where it goes."

    The Way can be taught, and this is the function of the Guru, the Spiritual Director, the Geront, Staretz, Shaman, Medicine Man, depending upon one's tradition (and one's God parents for example, if baptised) but the individual has to make the journey, no-one can make it for them, or give them a journey neatly pre-packaged.

    Where I fundamentally disagree, along with Brian's initial point, is that it 'Spirituality' can be packed, packaged and sold like a commodity.

    And that there are a huge number of people out there selling spirituality.

    Thomas
     
  8. emong

    emong Well-Known Member

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    Is being shown the way the same as being "taught"?

    I was struggling for a long time to recapture my lost spirituality when, through a series of sessions with a councelor for reasons other than those of a religious in nature, I was introduced to Zen meditation practice. This was suggested as a means to control anxiety and anger which had become an unbearable workplace routine.
    Oddly enough, although it brought back feelings of spiritual attachment to the rest of the universe, it also convinced me to leave the place of employment which had caused the anger and anxiety in the first place.

    So as to the question: Can spirituality be taught?
    I believe it is always there but needs an outside influence to be nutured and devulged.
     
  9. bgruagach

    bgruagach eclectic Wiccan

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    I think it was Dion Fortune who described spirituality as having essentially two sets of "mysteries." The "lesser mysteries" are those which are most definitely taught, and include things like the history of the particular philosophy/school, how things are done, what the philosophy entails, etc.

    People who join groups, take classes, buy (and hopefully read) books, etc. are in the process of being taught the "lesser mysteries" of one or more philosophical systems. If they stick with one of them, or are lucky to find that one of them just "works" for them, they might get to the point of really learning and internalizing one of those systems. At that point they're considered to have mastered the "lesser mysteries."

    "Lesser mysteries" might or might not involve information which is kept secret from outsiders, depending on the particular group. But the point is that these are all things that can be taught. They are "the Way" I guess.

    The second set of mysteries, the "greater mysteries," are the ones that aren't taught. They're the ones that come from within, or are the result of some sort of spiritual connection that an individual makes with the Divine. Not everyone is lucky enough to experience these. Dion Fortune commented (I think it's in "The Training and Work of an Initiate") that one can be an excellent student and master the "lesser mysteries" and yet never feel the calling which is the start of the "greater mysteries."

    The "greater mysteries" are "the Experience." And I don't think it's necessarily a single experience that is common to all, or even common to many. I suspect it includes a wide range of manifestations and experiences but they all come down to a very individual, personal communion with the Divine.

    There are many, many different "Ways" taught, many different religious and spiritual philosophies out there. And there are scam artists in pretty much every community willing to relieve others of their cash in exchange for teaching or providing "the Way." I see it all the time on television in the form of evangelists of all types whose essential message usually boils down to "Send me money and I will provide the Way." It's certainly present in the New Age community. If we look through history I'm sure we can come up with examples of this sort of thing in pretty much every religion out there. I would wonder if mandating specific tithes and sacrifices even counts as this sort of scam, at least in some circumstances.

    We are all seekers searching for "the Experience" through a variety of "Ways." Some become involved in exchanging money in the hope of gaining what they seek in return. I think the only thing we can really do is try to educate people in general, to help it become common knowledge that "the Experience" is something that we attain individually and cannot be bought or sold, while methods and techniques and philosophies can most definitely be taught and received in exchange for money. But it's unlikely that any specific philosophy, technique, or method will have a 100% guarantee to lead to spiritual fulfillment for 100% of the people who try it. And often the best teachers are those who do not expect or ask for money or other consideration to share information with seekers.

    In at least part of the modern Pagan community there is a saying that "silver spoils the gift." The idea is that if you have to buy lessons in religion from a teacher, chances are you're not dealing with a worthwhile exchange. Religious teachers are encouraged to accept the role of mentor as a gift to the Divine and to the community. I know it's not the way everyone sees it (and not even everyone in the Pagan community) but it is present.
     
  10. Susma Rio Sep

    Susma Rio Sep Well-Known Member

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    Meaning of spirituality

    Can spirituality be taught?

    I think before I or anyone can teach spirituality or before the very question of teaching spirituality, the meaning of spirituality must first be understood.

    In Christianity I seem to understand spirituality as detachment from worldly concerns and concentration in God and in non-material things like the world coming after death, like heaven(?).

    The desires of the flesh, the lust of the body, and the pride of life, seem according to classical Christianity to be the opposite of spirituality.

    It seems so simple before, but now I am also not so sure what exactly spirituality is all about.

    In Buddhism the essence of spirituality I seem to understand consists in not giving in to one's bodily and earthly desires. Desire is the source of sorrow, and liberation from it is spirituality(?).

    For the present, I would understand spirituality as a negative concept: detachment from the desires and needs of the body. But there is a positive aspect, union with God. Now, that is a problem with Buddhism, since there is no God(?) in Buddhism.

    So many question marks. Forgive me, but everything, every statement invites a question and another question.

    Susma Rio Sep
     
  11. Vajradhara

    Vajradhara One of Many

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    Namaste Susma,

    thanks for the post.

    hmm... i think i see why you're having trouble here....

    Desire is not the source of sorrow, ignorance is.

    ignorance is what casues the defilements which obstruct your perception of the buddhanature.

    so what is one ignorant of? one is ignorant of the buddhanature within. it's likened to a poor man that has a small wooden shak. unbeknownst to him, however, underneath his dirt floor is a large nugget of gold. if he were to simply dig a bit, he would find riches unimagined. same thing for us :)
     
  12. Susma Rio Sep

    Susma Rio Sep Well-Known Member

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    ignorance can be peace and bliss

    Dear Vaj, may I redact your words into more simple essential statements?

    1. Ignorance is the source of sorrow.

    2. Ignorance prevents or limits one's perception of the Buddha-nature.

    3. The third paragraph is a bit hard to redact into simple essential statements. Anyway, here we go:

    a. You are ignorant of the Buddha-nature hidden within (you?).

    b. Look for it within (yourself?).

    c. Looking within, you will find it, and the find will gladden you.

    d. Buddha-nature will gladden you.


    I think I will have difficulty in accepting that ignorance causes sorrow; maybe when ignorance has been lifted by knowledge, as when one was ignorant of having thrown away a diamond ring and then realized what he had done.

    In my limited readings of Buddha's teachings, I seem to have the impression that the conquest of desires or the acquisition of impassivity toward desires is liberation from sorrow, because desire unsatisfied results in sorrow, as when one is frustrated -- that is one principle tenet of Buddha's teachings.

    Susma Rio Sep
     
  13. Rev. LKKP

    Rev. LKKP Member

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    Mmmmm.. this is a good topic. Can one teach spirituality? No - though you can teach a student a means to find their own brand of it. On the same note - can you teach someone to paint inspired art? No - you can only teach them the techniques they can use once inspiration comes of it's own accord. What they get out of it is up to them, not the teacher.

    Should the teacher charge for it? Once again, that depends. Is the teacher expected to be available nearly full time - or are they teaching exclusively and are their techniques and lessons of a long duration? Do they have several students that each take up a portion of time that they can't spend in a mundane job? Then yes - by all means they should charge - they have have to eat and keep a roof over their head. Most seminary schools feed, clothe and shelter their teachers from a fund the congregation provides; is that wrong considering that they are expected to be available 24/7? So why would it be wrong in this case? If the student is asking for their knowledge in such an in depth fashion, they obviously feel it's worth the money.

    And while yes, there are many New Age Metaphysicians out there of the 'give me 49.95 and I will teach you the Light method of Zozo' variety, there are just as many who aren't like that - you just don't hear them advertise on tv or in the magazines or on the Net too much because they prefer less hype and more substance in their lives. Just as there are many different Christian preachers ministers and pastors out there who aren't into fire and brimstone and fundamentalism - the main ones you hear about (at least in the US) are of that type for they are the loudmouths.

    Now, in Wicca and Witchcraft, the standard rule of thumb is no charging for teaching the craft to your students, but how often do most covens meet? Usually once or twice a month - a few once or twice a week - tops? Much easier to hold down a mundane job - but students are still expected to contribute something - whether it be toilet paper to replace what they use at the Covenstead or the next bottle of ritual wine. If that same coven were to be teaching 5 days a week - could the teacher hold down that job? Only by short changing her students - one reason that covens tend to be small and take students only after the student has adequately demonstrated that they are sincere and dedicated.

    The average metaphysician doesn't demand that level of dedication - they are merely helping teach someone a different way of looking at spirituality than one they currently have and different techniques to help them find their own way. A coven expects you to either continue in their tradition and pass it on (and yes, that is in the oaths you take at initiation), or go into a solitary state should you decide to part, keeping the coven knowledge to yourself.

    Each have their own way - and their own benefits. And just as a High Priestess in a coven is generally taken care of by her students in her later years (and contrary to popular belief, that is a standard traditional practice and expected) in some ways being repaid for her dedication by her students, so most metaphysicians cannot expect that for themselves - the pay they received while teaching the student has to be set aside for retirement like any mundane paycheck would be. Different means of coming to the same end - a secure old age in return for passing their techniques on to their students.

    And to dispel one further misconception about the average metaphysician; often, they are not acting as teachers, but as counselors and psychologists of a different stripe - they not only look at the mental state of their 'patient' but the spiritual state as well, and strive to assist the whole person in ways standard psychology ignores. And they tend to charge far less than most psychologists, while providing the same service.

    Just another side of the story to ponder..

    Lin
     
  14. Stormdancer

    Stormdancer Member

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    Before I read the others posts, my personally opinion after years of studying ancient texts and myth and trying to find a common source,
    no,
    Spirituality cannot be taught.

    Now after I read the other posts on this subject I might change my mind.
    :)
     
  15. Stormdancer

    Stormdancer Member

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    To me, a good "boogie-down" helps me to experience my spirituality,

    OH MY goodness gracious there is nothing BETTER, Phyllis !!!!!!!!

    it is a communion with something 'other'

    Thomas, I think we are all a "part" of the "whole" essence of that "other" separated only by our inability to comprehend or perhaps tap into, or be one with all that is.

    WE are one with it, we just don't realize it.

    Every breath we take every second of every day we are walking and talking spiritual beings.

    Life is a spiritual experience.
    but then,
    When I think about it,

    If I don't realize I am a spiritual being and I walk though life with blinders on, until one day someone explains that I am a living breathing soul, and I experience some sort of spiritual awakening, this is being taught, in a way.

    I believe it is always there but needs an outside influence to be nutured
    Emong, YES.

    Desire is the source of sorrow, and liberation from it is spirituality

    Yes, it is my understanding, Susma, that they do teach this although I love the Buddhist philosophies, I tend to agree yet disagree with this aspect.

    I think desire and fullfilling desire can be great! It is all a part of life.
     
  16. Stormdancer

    Stormdancer Member

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    opps , I almost forgot,
    and,
    " ignorance can be bliss........"

    :)
     
  17. Vajradhara

    Vajradhara One of Many

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    Namaste Susma,

    thank you for the post.

    if you don't mind... let me rephrase your redactions to be more inline with actual Buddhist thought...

    1. Ignorance is the source of dhukka. dhukka is usually translated as "suffering" however, it's more persuasive than that. the word literally means "thirst" or "craving".

    2. dhukkha prevents realization of the Buddhanature.

    3 a. sentient beings are ignorant of the Buddhanature within themselves.

    b. it is not somewhere else and it is not something that you gain from another. it is something we already have in full and complete measure.

    c. if you realize Buddha nature, you are liberated from the cycle of samsara.


    in our view, the universe is explictly causal, cause and effect. however... your statement is a bit imprecise. ignorance causes delusion, not sorrow. delusion is one of the causes of suffering, not the sole cause.

    there is a 12 linked chain of this (12 Links of Interdependent Co-Arising). perhaps you've not had a chance to review this information yet? it is, in essence, the Heart of the Buddhas teaching, to borrow from Thay.

    i'm happy to go into all of that here... however... i think that i'll start a new thread in the Eastern Thought Forum to fully expound on this. please join me there for a continuation of this conversation.
     
  18. metro_tramp

    metro_tramp Member

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    For me, it seems the question 'can spirituality be taught?' is best answered with a nice rounded Mu!
    It's like learning to drive - You can buy a car and just sit there for a few days/weeks trying all the different pedals and levers 'till you've figured it out - its pretty hard, and will take a lot longer than normal, but it can be done with the right frame of mind.
    You could read a load of books on how to drive, the highway code and all that - this'll quicken things up, but you still need a car and some roads to practice with.
    You can get a teacher - now, some teachers are crap and will charge a lot when they know nothing, some will know a lot and charge a lot, and some will know a lot and teach you for free; but teachers seem to be the quickest (and perhaps surest) way to learn - you get feedback on how you're doing - you can ask questions about driving that books might not answer, or that you dont know how to answer yourself...

    But all this depends on the person. You could try all three methods and still be the worst driver known to humanity. Or you could go for one lesson and it'll all click straight away. Or you could sit straight in the car... well; you get the idea...

    So really, teaching can be good if you got a good teacher, as can 'self-help', as can intellectual learning. But in the end it all depends on what mix works best for you within the cosmos.

    I personally like all three..

    Every one of we 6 billion people is different, and so it makes sense that there are 6 billion different paths to spirituality...

    I disagree with those who say 'some have it, and some don't' - assuming we believe in spirituality (and we all seem to agree that we do..) it can only make sense that everybody has 'a spiritual side'. to say someone is without spirit would be the same as saying they half-exist or something... yeah, a lot of people have a hell of a lot of dirt piled onto their real self, but if they didnt have a real self, they wouldn't Be.

    all is one, one is all, and all that...

    so yeah. i reckon; MU!!
     
  19. Marsh

    Marsh Disagreeable By Nature

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    Can spirituality be stifled?

    Personally, I see an individual's spirit being on par with their body, and so to me the idea of teaching someone to become spiritual is the equivolent of teaching someone to grow a third arm: not possible. We all have a body, and with it comes the ability to use it or not use it. I think the same is essentially true for one's spirit.

    However, I think that it's entirely possible to teach someone how to exercise their spirituality, and in doing that to improve the sense of spirituality that they already possess. The question is, of course, what is the spiritual equivolent of a bench press?

    I'm not an expert on spirituality by any means. However, in the last 5 years of my life I've found myself growing increasingly spiritual. I've found some causes that seem to correlate. The exact causes, though, aren't really material because they were personal causes; there's more than one way to build strength. The point is, however, that religion was not one of the causes of this renewed spirituality.

    One of my biggest criticisms of religion (in general) is the way that all of them, at least to some degree, claim to hold a monopoly on spirituality.
     
  20. Sacredstar

    Sacredstar Well-Known Member

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    Esoteric knowledge as always been taught and handed down orally for 1,000's of year's. When knowledge is lived by the aspirant, it can then be integrated, through integration of the experience it then becomes wisdom. Hence why esoteric knowledge was shared slowly to give time for integration.The sad thing about today is that in this throw away society people can jump rapidly from corner to corner without going inside to sit down and integrate the collection. Hence the term workshop junkies! They get off on the high and don't want to come down......but if they integrated they would be on a high all the time.

    Dear Brian

    Well a treatment sounds like a healing treatment not learning spirituality as such. Is that what you meant Brian?

    Love beyond measure

    Sacredstar
     

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