An endless search

Written by Henryk Skolimowski | Updated: Feb 1 2010, 04:14am hrs
Why the continuous search for spirituality when existing religions provide all the answers Alas, traditional religions do not provide all the answers. Many traditional answers appear quaint and inadequate. We still abide by them, though in the heart they sound phony and outdated.

These answers are especially inadequate in response to the dilemmas and problems of modern technological lifethe stress, diminishing grace, continuous undermining of our dignity and the cheapening in the meaning of our lives. We feel there is something sinister and threatening in the air of our present world. We have never had it so good, particularly the middle class. And yet, we have never felt so peculiarly empty and confused.

Thus we must consider the search of young people, who demand depth and spirituality instead of religion as an altogether new departure. Spirituality has been traditionally within the domain of religion. Now it wants to be independent of it and it wants to cut its ties with religion. This augurs not only a new religious preference, but a quest for a new world and a new sense of life. Something tremendous is happening in our psyche, which questions not only the validity of institutional religions, but also of the whole patriarchal system.

Traditional religions have worn out for three fundamental reasons. The first reason is that they promise spiritual satisfaction and they do not deliver. People, of almost all institutional religions, are not spiritually satisfied and often feel spiritually empty. Hence they search outside the religious framework. Nowadays, this quest is often expressed as a search for a new spirituality, although the meaning of this spirituality is not clearly defined. The second reason of the obvious eclipse of traditional religions is that they turned out to be abusive and controllingpursuing their own quest for power and domination, and not the quest for the amelioration of the human lot. Organised religions had 3,000 years to redeem themselves. And they did not. Moreover, they are partly responsible for the history of wars and hostility among nations during the last millennia. Witness in this context the Gita and Christian crusades.

The third reason for the collapse of traditional religions is more important still. During the last 3,000 years, patriarchy ran amok, ruthlessly suppressing earlier tribal and matriarchal systems. The patriarchal system has run through its male-dominated institutions, of which organised religions were of intrinsic importance. As we witness the twilight of patriarchy, we also witness the collapse of organised religions. They are part and parcel of each other.

Thus we search for something deeper and more beautiful. The old religious structures, as well as the controlling priests and holy men, do not satisfy us any more. The search for individual spirituality is often subconscious and subterranean. But still, the sense of yearning for freedom and a sense of the oppression by the outside world are palpable. The soul longs for inner satisfaction. Society showers us with the plethora of artificial things, which alas leave us empty and lost inside. To express the matter in the simplest possible way, our wellness is continuously disturbed. Our search for alternatives in the present historical context is the search for a spirituality which is independent of traditional religions; it is a quest for wholeness, for wellness, and for these deep spiritual roots in which our integrity, dignity and soul reside.

The writer is an academician. He has just published Let There Be Light; The Mysterious Journey of Cosmic Creativity with the Wisdom Tree