The Spiritual Sphere

The most inspiring experience has been my spiritual journey.    This personal journey has  inspired me to develop a spiritual model that encompasses most if not all the experiences we all go through in our lives. I have decided to illustrate it in this page.  This model is not meant to be absolute or exclusive.  It is basically a personal interpretation of what spiritual growth entails.  Some of you may identify with all or part of this model.  Others may disagree partly or completely about my views in this page.  Whatever your views may be, it is acceptable and everyone is welcomed to comment and ask questions about this page.

Let me start illustrating this model by thinking of a sphere.  This sphere I call the Spiritual Sphere, or SS.  Like any other sphere, it is round and three dimensional. It has no corners and no linear surfaces.  It is completely smooth.  Its surface is stretched and has tension, but the center is spacious and fluid.  Then let us visualize this sphere and cut it in different horizontal slices, as if cutting an orange, creating different circles.  However these cuts are not meant to literally mean “cuts” or even divisions.  I rather picture it as ways to separate different horizontal areas of the SS, but not in a cut and dry way.  Each extreme slice, the top and the bottom, represent the two extreme experiences in spirituality, the two extremes farthest away from the center.  These two extremes are the smallest portion of the SS.  They do not have much space as the center of the SS.  They are limited and have the most tension because they have a lot of the surface area, such as two shallow cups. The closer we move away from these extremes to the center of the SS, the more we find space, and freedom to move around.  Each slice represent a step closer or away from the center. The center is where freedom and more space is found, because it has more space, more peace, and this is where we find enlightenment, joy, and therefore, God.

Bottom-Up

Starting from the bottom slice, we find one extreme away from the center, the freedom; away from God. In this bottom slice, the first  piece of self-image says “I am an Atheist” and “Life is what you see”. This self concept and view of the world has no hope for a spiritual awakening or experience.  People in this stage or slice of the SS have already concluded that there is no God and because there is no God, life has no purpose except to live it “as it is” and end everything upon death.  No matter what they hear others say about God, religion, or spirituality, it is not going to affect them in any way, because they already made up their minds.  Now, this concept of life would trigger the second piece of this slice, the feelings.  But in this stage of extreme thinking, the feeling is lack of feeling, or Apathy, about God.  There is no reason to feel anything about the divine or spiritual world, since life is simply what you get, there is nothing more.

They have chosen to be driven solely by human reasoning.  There is lack of  spiritual hope, inspiration, and purpose.  This will ultimately lead to the third  piece of this slice, which is the action.  The action in this case would be to Deny.  People in this extreme slice of Atheism and Apathy simply Deny the existence of God and anything that is spiritual.   Suffering and evil are relative, since everything is caused by random occurrences.  Other people  are perceived as mere “chances”, because life is simply an accident.  Therefore, they are the center of their own lives and they depend solely on their own strengths and wisdom to make sense of life.  They may be inspired by humanism, as opposed to a divine or spiritual intervention. They are usually practical, science driven, and “self-sufficient.”

The next horizontal slice closer to the center is a step closer to acknowledging the existence of God. However, in this second slice, the first piece of self-image represents the concept of “I am a Rebel” and “Life is Unfair”.  People in this second slice of SS acknowledge God, but classify God as evil or non-caring, and prefer not to believe in God at all.  Sometimes they proclaim to be Atheist or Agnostic just to cope with their feelings of Anger, which is the second  portion of this slice.  Because God is evil and unfair, the person then feels angry.  The third portion of this second slice, which is the action, is to Fight.

People who perceive themselves as Rebels, and are Angry, live their lives fighting God and any spirituality. Their lives are restless and combative.  It is difficult for the Rebels to relate to others without being defensive and creating turmoil, unless the other happens to agree with them.  The Rebel thinks that suffering and evil are caused by an evil or incompetent God or religious organization.  Their relationships with those who believe are rather affected by paranoia and a sense of insecurity, since they perceive that they must defend themselves from being “converted.”  Rebels are attracted to revolutions, strikes, and fighting any religious doctrines.  They may be activists and revolutionaries who are eager to reveal the injustices and “absurdities” of churches and any religious organization.

Moving even closer to the center or God, is the larger, more spacious horizontal slice which represents the self image of “I am a Skeptic” and “Life is Mysterious”. These individuals want a relationship with God, but struggle with doubts about His intervention or even His existence.  Sometimes they are believing more, but circumstances lead them to doubt again.  Because of this lack of consistency in belief, the second portion of this slice makes the person feel Confused or Sad, because even though the person wants to believe, their analytical way of thinking or negative experiences in life makes them move away from faith.  The third portion of this slice is the action, which in this slice  is to Question.

These people tend to question what they so much want to believe. They perceive the mysteries of life and God as a barrier to having peace with God.  Knowing would mean total peace.  They often feel divided within, and  sometimes pretend that the doubts are not present just to experience a “piece of heaven”.  Skeptics don’t know why evil and suffering exists, which exacerbates their skepticism even more.  Their relationships with believers are more stable and profound, but still lack full commitment because of fear of being disillusioned.  They are usually cautious, yet are more willing to try relating to others of faith in hopes of finding stability.

From the bottom up, we see a gradual change of spiritual experience.  From being an Apathetic Atheist, to an Angry Rebel, to a Sad Skeptic.  Actions move from Denying God, to Fighting God, to Questioning God.  The actions of the last two slices, the closest to the center, have some relationship with God, the Rebel fights with God, while the Skeptic questions God.  The Atheist, on the other hand, does not want to even have any relationship with God because to him, God is not real.

 

 

 

Top-Bottom

Let us move to the other extreme of the SS and gradually move closer to the center.  On this other extreme end, we have the total opposite of the Apathetic Atheist who Denies God and anything spiritual.  This other extreme slice is also far away from freedom, space, and God.  The first portion of this slice says “I am Religious” and “Life is a set of Rules and Consequences”. These individuals are strictly rigid and perceive life in black and white.  They are consistent in their firm beliefs, but their belief is not based on love , but on Fear, which is the second portion of this slice.  Their fear of condemnation and of being abandoned by God (or any other authority figure) leads them to live such rigid lifestyles.  This Fear then makes the person act by Idolizing.  It is like an addiction to God, and everything that represents Him.  However, since these people are rigid in their belief system, they also perceive other belief systems as evil and as a threat.  So they choose not to associate with others of different faiths.

The Religious believe that they are close to God, but in reality they are not. And the main reason for this is because they perceive God as a being “up there” in heaven,  and not on earth.  They live fearing God, not loving God.  Religious believe that suffering and evil are a direct punishment from a just God. They use rites to feel better about themselves, because it is truly all about themselves.  Relationships with others depend solely on their specific religious doctrines, and they would automatically avoid or exclude those who do not share their faiths and values. It is all or nothing mentality.   They manipulate by using condemnation, which isolate them even more.

The second slice below this first one is another step closer to God, with less rigidity. The first portion of this slice says “I am a Follower” and “Life has a Purpose”.  People in this category have a more accepting view of others, but their view of God and spirituality remains the “only” one.  They prefer to go with the flow as directed by their spiritual leaders with minimal questioning.  They prefer to describe their spiritual lives as relational instead of religious.  This concept leads them to feel Content with their lifestyles, which is the second portion of this slice.  And because they are content, their sense of adventure is lacking, and their way of life is merely a set of Obedience or compliance, which is the third portion of this slice.

These people prefer to comply with minimal resistance, just to keep “the peace”. Their spiritual growth is limited because of their “assurance” that their faith will lead them to God, and they have figured out that their perceived purpose in life is the same as God’s.   They do not initiate much, except what they think is expected of them.  Followers believe that suffering and evil have a “higher” purpose.  They tend to “love the sinner, but hate the sin”.  They are willing to relate to others of other faiths and values, with some limitations.

The third slice closer to the center of SS is where the person says “I am a Searcher” and “Life is a Journey”.  These people have a hunger for “Truth” and spiritual peace, and are not content with simply obeying or idolizing.  They are willing to grow spiritually. They want more of God and they are hopeful.  This hope leads them to feel Happy which is the second portion of this slice.  This happiness is not always present, but they understand and still have hope that they will find what they are looking for. During this “journey” the Searchers then Commute with others and want to learn and relate to others.

These individuals understand better the importance of community.  Their religious beliefs are still firm, but they have a more moderate view of God and spirituality.  Suffering and evil are accepted as learning experiences.  Their faiths do not impede them from having firm relationships with others.  They value diversity more, and are willing to look beyond their own values just to relate to others more.  Their relationships are richer and more democratic.

Mirror Image

Each one of these slices  have an equal yet opposite slice on the other side of of the SS.  I call this phenomena the “Mirror Image”.

The Religious are the Mirror Image (opposite and equal) of the Atheists, in the sense that they strictly abide by rigid religious doctrines, whereas the Atheists abide by strict non-religious “facts”.  However, they are similar as well, although they would certainly deny associating with each other.  They are similar in the sense that in these two extreme slices, the person has concluded, with no room for discussion or reconsideration, that their belief or lack of belief system is the ultimate reality. The Religious feel fear, which usually paralyzes the individual and prevents them from moving forward in the spiritual growth.  Likewise, Atheist feel apathy, which usually also paralyzes individuals because of lack of motivation to move forward spiritually .  They are both “stuck” in their own “hell” , like frozen in time.  The Religious idolizes the fabricated “God” for fear of “burning in hell” while the Atheist  denies God because believing  is simply “a fantasy”.  Neither of them desire any room for improvement or change.  They are both farthest away from Salvation.

The Followers are the mirror image of the Rebels in the sense  that Followers are committed to continue to comply and assimilate to their spiritual authority, and Rebels are committed to oppose to any authority, especially spiritual oriented.  Followers are content so they do little to “create any waves” whereas Rebels are eager to act aggressively against anything and anyone who tries to impose “their beliefs on them”.  Followers are oblivious to most of life’s circumstances and prefer to be “under the radar”, while Rebels are fully aware of  life’s  “unfairness” and are constantly wanting to strike.  Followers are mostly “idealists” while Rebels are “realists”.

The Searchers are the mirror image of the Skeptics, in the sense that Searchers want to learn by exploring, while Skeptics want to learn by questioning. Searchers observe and Skeptics ask questions.  They are both “scientists” with  slightly different approaches.  They are both much closer to the center of the SS, and have more freedom and more chances to move toward God.  Their desire to know God more can ultimately lead them to a more complete, integrative, and peaceful encounter with Him by moving to the center of the SS.  The Skeptics and the Searchers are also more similar to each other than they are opposite, in contrast to the other two pairs of “mirror images” (Religious/Atheist and Follower/Rebel). This is because the Skeptics and Searchers are more willing to accept a different point of view and tend to communicate and relate to others even more.

The Center

How about the center? People in the center slice say “I am a Servant” and “Life is Holistic”. These individuals have found peace in most of their lives. Their spiritual journey has come almost to an end through the service of others, which leads them to feel Joy as a result. They recognize and accept their suffering.  They sometimes feel happiness and sadness,  frustrations and contentment, fears and apathy, but are constantly experiencing Joy.  Joy is the primary feeling, whereas the other feelings are always regarded as secondary.  They have fully accepted life’s numerous mysteries and continue to strive for an even more holistic experience. Their Joy has lead these individuals to act by Loving the neighbor, the third portion of this center slice of the SS. They desire to help others in need without questioning, and without expecting reward, except the reward given by God at the end of their lives.  Suffering and evil are embraced and experienced fully, without questioning or fighting it.  They please God most of the time, and have truly experience Salvation.

The Servants accept their doubts, limitations, and weaknesses as part of their existence.  They are not afraid to sometimes being angry with God, like the Religious are afraid, but are wise enough not to ignore the presence of God, like Atheist do. They are not content with blindly following others simply because of their leadership or positions, like Followers tend to do, but they also accept their weaknesses and limitations and wisely “pick their battles”, unlike the Rebels who are constantly fighting for justice. Servants are joyfully putting themselves aside so that they can benefit others, without spending so much time and energy trying to identify their roles and purpose in life, like the Searcher tend to do.  Servants have found answers to most of their life questions through the service of others, unlike the Skeptics who are constantly asking questions to try to make sense of life.

The “stage” or “level” of Servant is not exclusive but rather inclusive.  It encompasses every human experience possible, because they experience life in a more holistic way and can periodically go to either end of the SS, always resting assure that the return to the center of the SS is guaranteed and inevitable. Their past experiences as  Religious, Followers, Searchers, Skeptics, Rebels, or Atheists help them to have a better understanding of life’s long journey and because of this, they are wiser.  Servants not only see “outside the box” but also see it “all around it”.  When it is time to suffer, they suffer genuinely, knowing that eventually they will be happy again.  When Servants have worries and fears, their fears do not consume them, because they keep in mind that the fear will be temporary.  Sadness is not allowed to linger until it becomes depression.  Anger is not allowed to linger until it becomes hatred.  Apathy is not allowed to linger until it becomes numbness.  Happiness is not allowed to linger until it loses significance. Contentment is not allowed to linger until it becomes monotone.  Fear does not linger until it becomes a phobia. Every feeling is temporary, except joy.

I mention “almost” and “most” in the characteristics of the Servants because growth is never ending.  There is always room for improvement, always space for growth, always a chance to get even closer to God.  The Religious, Followers, Searchers, Skeptics, Rebels, and Atheists have a hard time accepting reality so they either avoid it, fight it, or pretend that it is not there.  The Servants embrace life as it is, while continue to grow. They keep a balance from moving down to Atheism and up to Religion.  Servants are also the ones who experience integrity the most.  Whatever the circumstances, either a comfortable one or a very painful one, Servants always maintain Joy, which transcends all other feelings.  They can experience Happiness and also Joy.  Servants can  experience Anger and also Joy.  They can feel sadness, contentment, apathy, and fear, and still maintain Joy.  How can this be done?  By always reminding ourselves that, no matter the circumstance and difficulties in life, we are choosing to perceive the “big picture”.  By this I mean reminding ourselves that life is not simply the job that we lost, or the friend that betrayed us, or the child that graduated from high school, or the breeze that caress us in the morning, or the fatigue that we feel after a long day at work.  Life is all of the above.  And when we exclude all of those experiences as individual occurrences, then we obsess and emphasize on them so much that we create unnecessary anxiety and frustration in our lives, because we simply forget about everything else in life.  But when we include all the experiences as a whole, then everything has a holistic meaning and is better received, in joy.

The Religious base their belief system on Fear, and are addicted to wanting to relieve this Fear, because they want so much to “do good” and be approved by God.  They want to be recognized by God as  good persons.  This automatically makes the person “full of themselves” and are really focusing on their own accomplishments, not on God or the benefit of others.  This is why the Religious suffer from Self-Righteousness.  But as they learn to focus less on themselves and more on others, they gradually move from being Religious to be more like Followers, idolizing “ the ideal God” less and focusing more on the mission that they have on earth.  Moving further down then the self-concept, feelings, and action take a less selfish approach and becomes more focused on others.  This whole process is the process of Humility, because the individual moves from focusing on the self to emphasizing more on the other.  Trying to please a distant God or set of strict rules becomes less of a priority.  God is seen more in the lives of others and in the service to others.   This is where the Servant begins to be manifested.

Moving further down past the center towards Atheist is the process of Hurting. Life’s circumstances and materialism can lead Servants to reconsidering this “God business” and start to question their faiths.  This occurs if the person is not mature enough to keep the faith.  Their focus then moves from serving others, to serving back the self by emphasizing more on the suffering of life and the injustice all around us.  Instead of accepting it to some level and fighting it by the natural act of serving others, the person tends to complain and fight the injustice and begin to be bitter.  This bitterness turns to anger, and ultimately to numbness, or Apathy.  It is also the process of being less mature by thinking more about the injustice of life without taking the responsibility of simply serving others.  The person then becomes more complicated, isolated,  and self-centered.

Moving from Atheist up to the center is the process of Healing. First of all, apathetic Atheist does not recognize any feelings about God, and the Rebel needs to acknowledge that there is a need to heal from the pain; that there is a need to “recover” from the numbness created by the hurt created by others.  But this hurt is more difficult to heal from when it is blamed on God.  This hurt is actually a representation of the gap that people create themselves to distance themselves from others, and therefore, from God.  It is a coping mechanism to protect themselves from continuing to be hurt.  They rather feel “nothing” than to continue to feel pain.  And therefore, moving away from this protection towards the “risk of being hurt again” brings back the opportunity to reconnect to others and find peace.

The more they continue to accept others in their lives to help them heal, the further they move up in the SS.  This process is the same as the process of forgiveness.  Without forgiveness, people are not able to move beyond their personal “hell” of keeping themselves distant from others because of their perceived urgency to protect themselves from being hurt again. This protection also keeps them away from God. But as soon as they start moving up in the SS, forgiveness is manifested, and healing begins.

This is similar to the recovery that members of support groups, such as Alcoholic Anonymous, experience when they accept their weaknesses, and start moving away from their “protection” that they use through abusing substances and using their own strengths.  They start by acknowledging that they truly rely on a higher power (God) and move towards others, by commuting and relating to others who also admit that their lives need healing.   Likewise, people moving up to the center of the SS experience a gradual and continuous process of healing without expecting to be totally healed, like many prefer to think.  Moving closer to God, freedom, enlightenment, charity, or whatever we call it, is a process that never ends, until  we die. The moment that we choose to think that we have reached our “full potential” and that our journey has ended or that we don’t need to grow anymore, that is the moment that, instead of maintaining in the center of the SS and continue to live, we have rather moved farther up beyond the center and towards Self-righteousness.

The migration from one stage to another in the SS does not necessarily follow a linear pattern.  In other words, the Follower does not have to be a Searcher before being a Servant or further down to being a Skeptic or Rebel.  The Followers may go directly to being  Rebels if they allow circumstances in life to drastically change their perception of life and therefore God.  This happens usually when the person experiences a crisis or drastic change in life, such as being diagnosed with a terminal illness, experiencing an earthquake, recovering from an addiction or giving birth (these drastic experiences help to unite people even more and create stronger relationships, but this topic will be discussed elsewhere).  But the most common way of moving from one are to another is the gradual one, or to the adjacent one.  And the most healthy way is moving up or down towards the center of SS, depending on the current stage.

The farther we move towards being Religious, the more we are anxious about the future.  We worry and fear about what could happen to us and others, so we tend to be strict and obsessive about things in life, and therefore adopt a more religious lifestyle.  The farther we move towards being an Atheist, the more we regret and feel sad about the past.  Past hurts and resentment tend to make us feel hurt and depressed.  By being more a Follower or Religious, we fear what God “could do to us” in the future if we don’t practice a strict lifestyle.  By being more a Rebel or Atheist, we resent what God “has done to us”, so we prefer to resist or deny His existence. Both approaches are done to prevent further pain.  However, moving closer to being a Servant implies no more preventing to be hurt anymore, but practicing what we are called to do, focus more in the present and serve others.

Servants acknowledge that life is not about them, but about the service of others.  The Religious belief revolves around them, masking it with rules and regulations that they must follow so that they can perceive themselves as “good doers”.  Their fear of condemnation and isolation motivates  them to be strict and rigid about life. The Followers’ lives also revolves around them, by emphasizing on the purpose that they must meet and obey in order to succeed and get an “A” on  the “test” of life and meet their purpose.  Their desire to maintain their contentment and not “rock the boat” motivate them to continue to be complacent and passive. The Searchers also experience life revolving around them, although less intensive than the Religious and the Follower,  because they must find answers to life so that they can feel more at peace.  Their desire to maintain happiness and never feel fear again motivate them to  continue to seek.  However, their lifestyles are much closer to being a Servant and thus less selfish. Similar to the Searchers, the Skeptics also live life around them because the answers that they seek are to finally prove that their faiths are worth having, although they too are much closer to being less selfish.    Otherwise, they would feel anxiety and depression because of life’s difficult circumstances.  Their sadness and confusion motivate them to resolve the mystery of life. The Rebellious also perceive life as about themselves, because they feel they must fight the injustice of life.  Their anger motivates them to act aggressively and bring equality in their lives.  The Atheists also think that life is about them because nothing else really matters.  They are the real center of life and their apathy makes them unmotivated to seek anything else beyond what their physical senses and limited human capacity can provide.

My experience with SS

Personally, I have found myself in all areas of the SS throughout my life.  I have spent more years in some areas than others.  During my early and adolescent years, I have vacillated from being a Follower, Skeptic, and back down to a Rebel.  I was raised in the Catholic Church, which includes rules, doctrines, and devotions.   However, being a child, I did not reach the level of Religious during this time of Catholicism, but did experience being a Follower.  I followed my mother’s dedication to the Church with minimal resistance and doubt.  I went to Catholic school for two years and attended Mass and Catechism most of my childhood.  When I began my pre-teen years, I began to shift slightly to the center of the SS, by beginning to question the faith and doubting God.

Circumstances in life, where I was forced to move to a different culture with different customs and language, made me feel confused and anxious about life in general.  However, I continued with my faith in God through the encouragement of my mother.  The older I got during my teen years, the more I started being a Skeptic.  I migrated from being a Follower to being more of a Skeptic, without experiencing being a  Searcher and a Servant which lie closer to the center.  This usually happens when circumstances in life makes us more aware of “reality” and the pains that life sometimes brings.  My experience as a Skeptic grew more intense as I continued to question God and Jesus.  Questions kept popping in my head about the real nature of the Saints, angels, and even Jesus.  I began to question the validity of certain Catholic beliefs, such as the Eucharist.  I attended several Youth Retreats, but my doubts remained.

Nevertheless, I remained faithful to the church until my late teen years. When I graduated from High School, my life took another sharp turn where we had to move again.  Then my skepticism grew to the point of becoming more of a Rebel.  I was angry at Life, including  God.  I felt I wanted to fight my belief systems, and seriously considered Atheism.  At this point, I met my wife, and she offered to try her church, which was a Pentecostal church.  Out of spiritual desperation, I agreed to visit this new church and became enamored with its new doctrine.  I no longer felt I had to abide by the traditional customs of the Catholic church.  I felt I could still be a Rebel, without having to deny completely the presence of God.  I rapidly became engulfed with the charismatic nature of the Pentecostal church and  followed its new doctrine, which brought me back up the SS, beyond being a Follower.  I became more of a Religious person.  I wasn’t just following a set of doctrines and being devoted to a church. I was actually becoming more strict and conservative in my beliefs, restricting some aspects in my life that were once safe and normal, such as certain music and food.  I became very strict, believing that I was finally closer to God.  But I was wrong. After so many disappointments with church leaders and practices, my wife and I withdrew from the church.

At this point I became back to being a Rebel for a short period time.   I was angry at life’s circumstances and flirted with being a Atheist again.  Then I gradually began a new identity, the Searcher.  I then learned recently that the central meaning of life is to serve others.  It is no longer about me, or the church,  but about those that need me to help them.  I want to relate more to others, regardless of their faith and values.  And I want to do this because I have realized that, since it is no longer about me, I am not going to exclude myself from relating to others simply because they do not share the same faith or values that I do.  I want to “eat with the sinners”.  I want to “forgive those who hurt me”.  I want to “pray for those who persecute me”.  I want to “be perfect as my Father in heaven is perfect”. I am currently in this new stage of the SS; I am currently a Searcher.   Because I want to do these things more but have not fully reached this stage of my spiritual life, I am still where I can see being a Servant in the distant.  This is also where I discovered the existence of the SS itself.  My goal is to ultimately reach being a Servant, where I will embrace every stage of the SS, being aware that going from one stage to another is always possible, but temporary.

Jesus and the Spiritual Sphere

Because of this new perception of my spiritual life, I have then discovered a more accurate meaning of the Gospel.  I believe that everything that I have discovered and shared about the SS accords perfectly with the teachings of Jesus Christ.  Let me explain.   Jesus was a “Rebel” himself, but not against God, but against the human aspect of religion.  He did not fully fit the Rebel of the SS, but rather the Servant.   I read in the Bible that Jesus definitely lived his life as a Servant.  Am I reaching this conclusion so that I can justify my belief on the existence of the SS?  Hardly.  Actually, I discovered the existence of the SS, then I realized it is exactly what Jesus taught, not the other way around.

Here is the reason why. Jesus was truly a Servant by experiencing true relationship and accord with God.   He truly Loved everyone by serving them, even those who persecuted him.  Jesus understood and tasted some of the other phases of the SS, always keeping in mind and returning back to his Servant nature. He briefly experienced being a Rebellious when he perceived God’s unfairness while nailed to the cross (“Father, why have you forsaken me?) and while praying in Gethsemane (“Father, if possible, release me from drinking this cup”).   In spite of these horrible experiences, he remained faithful and joyful.  He also tasted being  Religious when confronted by a Samaritan woman who begged for his mercy, and He mentioned that he did not came to serve “the chosen people of Israel, not the dogs”.  The woman’s response led Jesus to have compassion for her and He then healed her.   Jesus was tempted, but remained a Servant. Most of His life, Jesus lived as a Servant.

The Gospel teaches us that Jesus experienced being a Servant in many ways.  He taught about living the Kingdom of Heaven, which I believe is the central theme of the Gospel.  It includes being poor in Spirit, being meek, being a peacemaker, having a clean heart, accepting our weaknesses, fighting for righteousness  and being joyful for being persecuted for His teachings.  Jesus taught to love the enemy, walk the extra miles, turning the other cheek, forgiving “seventy times seven”, and give importance to the true intentions of the heart.   He also taught us to be like children, be meek, and not worry about the outside appearance.  Jesus emphasized on being honest by publicly revealing the hypocrisy of the Pharisees, calling upon the injustice of King Herod, and rebuking those who tried to kill him.   He taught us to balance our lives,  not live in extremes like the Pharisees did as Religious people, nor the military Romans did as Atheists and Rebellious people.  Jesus was truly balanced man and, therefore, a Servant. He was holistic because he loved and healed every kind of person, from tax collectors, to Romans’ servant, to the most meek and humble people. He did not exclude anyone who was willing to receive his unconditional love.  He wisely confronted the Pharisees and other Religious people, revealing their hypocrisy and true selfish intentions.

Jesus acknowledged that life was not about him, but about those who desperately needed to live balanced lives.  He put his own needs and biases aside, for the sake of those who needed help.  He personally identified himself with those who suffered (“If you do it to the least of these, you have done it to me”).  He came to “Save” those who needed to start a new balanced life, which Jesus called the Kingdom of Heaven, from their selfish lifestyles.    He taught us specific steps to live the Kingdom of Heaven, which are listed on the 5th chapter of the Gospel of Matthews.  Jesus emptied himself to the point of denying his own freedom and safety, allowing others to crucify him on the cross.

This is why Jesus must be our primary example.

Jesus taught about not being overly concerned about what we will eat, or wear, implying that we should not be Religious.  Jesus said that if we “lose this life, then we have found the Life”.   He also publicly criticized the powerful and Religious Pharisees and Scribes that lived in his lifetime because of their strict and rule-driven lives, which they insisted others to live as Followers.  Jesus pointed out that the Pharisees and Scribes remain selfish and self-centered, just like a Religious and Follower would be. Jesus also taught about forgiving and praying for others who persecute us, not hold resentment or feeling sad like Atheist and Rebels would feel.  He praised and welcomed the actions of those who wanted to seek God in a the more genuine way (the Roman Centurion and Nicodemus) like the Searcher does.  Jesus also reached out to those who questioned God but wanted to learn more about Him to minimize their skepticism (Phillip and Thomas), like Skeptics do. He taught and guided people into becoming more like Himself, a Servant.

Conclusion

The Spiritual Sphere is a model that I have developed based on my personal experience.   Life has taught me that, after following certain doctrines and faiths in an attempt to give meaning to by existence, it is actually more effective to stop, slow down, and let life run its course.  Does this mean I do nothing and ignore the  transcendental aspect of life?  On the contrary, it means that I must be honest with myself, embrace compassion and spiritual growth, and do what is right. This involves “loving my neighbor as I love myself”, “turning the other cheek”, “taking the narrow path”, and other practices which I believe reflect the characteristics of God.  Thank you for reading.


16 responses to “The Spiritual Sphere

  • Steve Tanner

    “The Spiritual Sphere is a model that I have developed based on my personal experience.”

    This truly is a deeply personal composition, and I appreciate you sharing this. You provide an excellent example of a person seeking meaning to life through introspection as well as through observation of the world around him.

    “I am currently in this new stage of the SS; I am currently a Searcher.”

    I want to encourage you to work at refining this composition. I believe that, by working to refine this piece, you will discover more of what you search for. It works that way for me anyway.

    I intended to write about something totally different when I wrote my last blog “It Is Written.” The last line of the first paragraph led me down a path I wasn’t expecting. My personal experience suggests that we can turn writing into a tool to help refine our thinking processes.

    Your third paragraph appears important, particularly in providing dimension to the “sphere,”

    This composition exemplifies the conflicts and contradictions I believe reside in (at least) most human beings, and one person’s (your) attempt to understand and resolve those conflicts and contradictions. It is a snapshot of your “inner workings” at this point in your search… your journey. For that reason, I ask that you preserve this post should you accept my challenge. May I also link to it as an example of an individual on such a journey?

    This post is a perfect representation of who you are and where you are today. If you accept my challenge to refine this work, this can be the benchmark by which you assess your future work. Quite honestly, I find what you have written fascinating and hope to see where you might take it.

    • Noel

      Steve, you are more than welcomed to make suggestions about my writing. Now I know who to consult before publishing :-). I followed some of your suggestions which you can see in the post. You are also welcome to link to it as an example of this kind of journey. Thank you for taking the time to read and provide such an expanded comment. Please let me know what other suggestions you may have for me. I really appreciate your feedback. Peace.

  • Steve Tanner

    That is much easier for my eyes to follow. I don’t think I ever really was an Atheist, although there was a time I probably qualified as an Agnostic. I cannot claim to know much about Atheism for this reason. However, I recently stumbled upon a concept where people believe in spirit, but they do not believe in any god, goddess, or a cast of deities. Technically, I think that qualifies as Atheism, but it includes a belief in spirituality. Have you encountered anything like that?

    • Noel

      Steve, my understanding of Atheism, based on what I have learned in life and from reading atheist bloggers, is that spirituality does not exists at all… period. All that exists is humans and physics, and morality is based on what humans have created in their consciousness based on the consequences of behaviors on society (if stealing and killing jeopardized order and development of society, then it was labeled “wrong”).

  • The Center of Our World « Meanderings

    [...] through his personal experience, which falls under the definition of “world” cited above. In The Spiritual Sphere, Noel first presents a model of spiritual concepts, then he relates this model to his own inner [...]

  • Ryan

    Thankyou so much for writing this Noel. I have found it really, really helpful. And I haven’t even finished reading it yet.

    • Noel

      Ryan, I am pleased to know it has been helpful. Please feel free to share your thoughts once you finish reading it. Do you also have a blog I can visit as well?

  • Ryan

    I don’t have a blog atm but I will hopefully one day. I do have a question for you, what are your thoughts on the Old Testament, and when The Bible talks about dividing the sheep from the goats?

    If it was up to me I’d love to just focus on the Sermon on the Mount and model my life on that, but Jesus also teaches other things that really confront me. How do you understand The Bible? do you see it as Inerrant?

    I love the teaching of Jesus regarding non judgement and loving our enemies. But what of His other teachings?

    Thanks, I would be really interested to read what you think.

  • Ryan

    sorry, that was more than one question :)

  • Noel

    I was raised in the Catholic church, and then converted to a Pentecostal denomination. Now, after much disappointments with the church, I have evolved into a more inclusive, flexible, merciful way of living a spiritual journey. I consider myself a Reflective Christian. I believe that the Sermon on the Mount is the “main thesis” of the Gospel. Jesus was a Jew who was raised in the Jewish tradition of sacrificing animals and following the Law. But He learned and taught that the Law was not liberating, but a reminder of our sins. He taught us to live liberating lives, against old traditions, which is why he was considered by many as an evil man. And I also think that He was not the only human who had received this revelation from God (anointment). Jesus taught a new and refreshing way of living, through mercy, forgiveness, peace making, fighting for righteousness, being meek, and having a clean heart. He liberated us from the stagnated ways of the religious lifestyles. This is what I understand from reading the Gospel now. Many Christians would not accept this, because it does not reflect the traditional doctrine of today’s church. The church itself has evolved, and so has the interpretations of Bible verses. I don’t know who God really is, like most Christians claim. But I am certain about one thing, that God can be reached only through mercy, love, service, justice, and all the things Jesus taught (which is why Jesus said he was “the only way”). I am no longer excluding other religions simply because they are not Christians. I no longer believe we go to Hell if we don’t “accept Jesus”. Jesus was tough on some of his teachings (lust, hatred), not because he regressed back to the Law, but because he warned us that living the Kingdom of Heaven was no easy task either. Denying the self (the ego) is required in order to live the self-less life that Jesus was teaching. But he was also adamant about forgiving 70×7, loving our enemies, eating with sinners, and other actions that would reflect the Kingdom of Heaven. Sorry this was a bit long. I appreciate your comments. What specific teachings from Jesus confront you? I hope I answered your question, although I don’t claim to have all the answers. Let me know what other thoughts you have.

  • Ryan

    Also, I see people on YouTube who seem to be truly living out the Gospel, and following The Holy Spirit.

    And it’s really confronting and uncomfortable, but I do wonder if maybe they are on the right track.

    Like this guy for example:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rSXYXhlHuqE&feature=plcp

    I went through I period of watching quite a lot of his videos. I’m still not sure what to think.

    He’s made numerous video’s and most of them are really short, but I found them really interesting (and uncomfortable) because it seems like He is truly trusting God. On His YouTube homepage he also links to other people that also talk about their faith and testimony. There seems to be this whole movement on YouTube.

  • Ryan

    Thanks for answering my questions, I myself have been jumping all over the place in regards to belief. Only recently have I openly shared with a friend that I want to surrender to Christ again. Whatever that means? Im not sure what to think. The Bible talks about not being luke warm, but I find myself in moments of doubt. I have so many questions. I think that the problem is I don’t trust God enough. I think the problem stemmed from me not trusting that God loves people more than I do. That He is just and will be just to others.

    What challenges me the most is that when I read the Bible Jesus seems to call us to serve Him with everything. Not just when it is convenient or comfortable for us. He seems to require us to give Him all of us. And that means we have to trust Him. I haven’t yet given all of myself to trust. I mean some people give up watching television or entertaining themselves and dedicate what they have been given by God to instead Love Him and Love people.

    What did you think of that guys video? He’s made a lot of them :)
    I sometimes wonder if the reason I struggle with trusting God is because I haven’t given all of myself to Him. I’m still holding back. Maybe that will change.

    Anyway thanks for sharing your thoughts

  • Noel

    Ryan, you should follow whatever your heart tells you. When you mention about feeling “uncomfortable” and “confronted”, it may mean that you are called to do something about it. In my personal experience, I have been careful not to believe blindly when people claim that God told them this, Jesus told them that. I don’t rely a lot on what people say God tells them to do, because it is a bold statement, plus this kind of claims have been used to justify so many injustices in human history. Anyways, just go with what you heart says, but always welcome doubt as a tool to learn more.

  • Ryan

    Noel, Thanks :) I’ll continue searching.

  • rosross

    You raise some interesting concepts here although, perhaps by necessity, they are often simplistic.
    Some of the most balanced, grounded, contented and even joyful people I have met and known are atheists or deeply religious so spirituality is never cut and dried. Then again, I am assuming your experience of religion is based in the United States where Christianity in most, if not all forms, is far more fundamental than you will find anywhere else.
    But, in terms of offering perspective and common sense on what is a complex and often emotional subject, I can only say, well done and the world and Christianity would be a better place if there were more of it.
    Perhaps I should say that I gave up religion long ago and chose to stick with what I perceive as God and to formulate my own spirituality through drawing upon all and any sources.

  • Val Boyko

    Noel, First of all that you for stopping by my blog http://www.FindYourMiddleGround.com. I’m glad that we found each other … and not surprised. :)
    Your thesis is fascinating and captivating. I may not agree with all of your interpretations, but, like you I am drawn to the center.
    To me, this is our Middle Ground. We don’t need gurus, priests, rabbis, Imams, or philosophers and teachers to take us there. I believe that the more we come into the present moment and accept what we find there, the more we awaken to our spirit and connection to the divine consciousness within us and all around us.
    I look forward to visiting with you. Namaste.

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