Travel in the Spiritual Worlds
The Synergy Between Spiritual Practice (Spirituality) and Traditional Religion
One distinction that is often seen in public discourse on contemporary religious issues is the distinction between spirituality and religion. New age followers often say that they are interested in spirituality and not religion. Implicit in this approach is the view that traditional religions are lifeless, antiquated (appealing only to previous generations), and rejecting of direct religious experience.
Modern religion became more rational as it practiced the "social gospel" to compete with science for relevance to modern life. Rational religion emphasized uniting and renewing communities, and supported ethical or service activities for improving the world. Church meetings and picnics, running religious schools, hospitals, and soup kitchens, and converting nonbelievers to the true faith in order to adopt them into the group became the dominant religious activities. Such modern community oriented ideals and activities replaced the patristic and medieval monastic ideals of seekers going into the wilderness or monastery cells to seek visions of God.
People seeking direct insight into the Truth, the nature of God, or being itself were forced to look outside religion. They became spiritual seekers rather than joiners of traditional religions where faith was the primary religious virtue and direct experience was an impossibility (the time of prophets was over). An exception to this trend was the Christian Pentecostal tradition which emphasized personal experience of the Holy Spirit. Pentecostalism is a recent addition to Christianity and has only entered into the cultural mainstream in the last decade or two.
Religious seekers were interested only in spirituality, and not religion. Much of their seeking activity involved spiritual practice (individual prayer and meditation) rather than liturgy. The primary community for them became the New Age seminar rather than the church meeting. When they were quasi-religious, they were nondenominational accepting religious symbols and narratives pragmatically. If a symbol or a particular world-view from a religion or self-help philosophy worked to produce a greater insight, direct religious experience, or personal growth and satisfaction, it was adopted. When it stopped working, it could be discarded and another substituted.
Religions and religiously oriented philosophies became like suits of clothes to be worn for a while, put away in the closet, worn again, and finally thrown away when they became stained, moth eaten, or no longer stylish.
The philosophy of Spiritual travel presented at this site tries to find a middle ground between the spiritual and the traditional religious world-views. Spiritual travel focuses on a practice directed towards a class of experience called out-of-body experience, which is extremely broad. It then narrows the field by requiring that the ultimate goal of such travel be spiritual experience. It thereby avoids the goals of some psychics who use out-of-body experience to seek primarily power, excitement, entertainment, or authority over a group of followers or students.
Spiritual travel therefore satisfies the New Age individual's desire for practices that seeks direct transcendent religious experience.
However, the spiritual goal requires the kind of spiritual framework and spiritual symbolism that is embodied in traditional religious systems to support and enable the spiritual traveler to reach this spiritual goal. This encourages the individual to return to traditional religions and their symbols, and to look at these symbols in a new and expanded way. The religious symbols become doorways to spiritual or heavenly realms, or ladders through the heavens.
In many traditional religions, the doorways had become locked and considered dangerous. Even for more experientially oriented believers such as Pentecostalists, these doorways are closed because they focus on immanence (the Holy Spirit comes down to earth), which usually excludes transcendent religious experience. During spiritual travel, the doorways function in the ways they were intended to function. They open up the heavenly worlds to the traveler.
In support of more traditional religious loyalties, it is important to adopt a symbol system, and work with in a consistent way in order that it may become charged and alive with meaning . It can then function properly during spiritual travel. It is therefore important not to change religions lightly. Consistency is a virtue in religious practice, and too much change is a threat to empowering the practitioner's chosen religion. Religious conversion can still occur as the individual evolves and changes, but too much mixing and matching can drain the life out of spirituality, even as it has the virtue of educating and expanding the individual's knowledge of other cultures. For those who are attracted to more than one tradition at a time, this consistency can also be found in following a consistent spiritual practice even if it mixes symbol systems.
In the above-mentioned ways, the philosophy of spiritual travel unites the function of spiritual travel (direct transcendent experience) with the forms of religious tradition (scripture, ethics, religious symbolism, group ritual, and narratives) to produce a unified whole - a means of access to transcendent religious states using the mechanism of out-of-body experience. There is a synergy between the two where both support each other in a mutually beneficial way.
The spiritual travel approach makes one requirement: that all religions be respected as valuable and useful pathways to the heavens. This is religious universalism. This has the effect of limiting the religiously based conflict between cultures, which leads to war and strife. Using this approach, cultures may be still in conflict but they cannot use religious ideals to justify and exacerbate such conflict.
The use of spiritual travel in traditional religions will certainly be a source of change. This is especially true in Western religions where divine revelations have ceased, and the cannon (inspired scripture) is closed or finished. Spiritual travel will lead to visionary experience which will effectively reopen it.
Introduction | The Geography of Spiritual Travel | The "Travel" Analogy | Leaving the Body in Spiritual Travel | Spiritual Travel Versus Dreams | Sacred Light | Sacred Sound | Psychic States | Spiritual Travel in Western Religious Scripture | The Self in Spiritual Travel | Returning to the Physical Body | Near-Death Experience | Navigation During Spiritual Travel | Spiritual Matter | Method and Techniques To Induce Spiritual Travel | Shamanism and Spiritual Travel | After-Death Experience | Spiritual Travel as a Rehearsal for Physical Death | Beyond Spiritual Travel | Conclusion
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