I was recently sent a quote from a self-proclaimed healer by the name of Matt Cahn that states “the difference between spirituality and religion is that spirituality is pro light and religion is anti sin”. This apparent sage wisdom comes from a man who presents himself as “a spiritual teacher and highly-attuned empathic healer”Whatever that means. And you can be healed by him for the small cost of $395/hour. And what are his qualifications to charge this amount? An out of body experience when he was 8 years old. And what evidence is there that his hourly charge will actually heal you of anything? Well, he does promise the following: “removing all perceptions of obstacles in your life – to infuse all aspects of your living experience with clarity, ease, peace, and love”.
It just seems so easy –just pay him money and he will change your perception. So let me get this straight, it is not your critical illness that is killing you, it is your perception of it? Rather than facing our challenges, and putting effort into overcoming our weaknesses, he teaches just to love everything and be happy. A few hours with him will take away your financial stresses far more effectively than a few hours of creating a budget and then spending the rest of your life exercising discipline to follow the budget. I cannot think of a more destructive message from a scam artist.
A Matter of Definitions
But back to the quote. It comes down to changing definitions to suit the argument. If you are going to compare spirituality to religion, you have to use a religious definition of spirituality. Cahn conveniently does not provide a definition to either term making the quote even more meaningless. I suspect that Cahn has no idea what the religions meaning of spirituality is. But what exactly is spirituality?
In Christianity, spirituality is a personal reformation through the reception of the Holy Ghost. It is when our spirit learns to communicate with the spirit of God. It is referred to as a still small voice (1 Kings 19:12) or a refiners fire (Malachi 3:2). In this sense, spiritualty and religion are inseparable. Cahn, however, turns spirituality into an esoteric wide open range of some kind of inner compass that requires no external standard. There is no need to be bothered with the science of physiology, or to be burdened by any social standards. His spirituality simply involves removing perceptions of obstacles. Rather than addressing your problems as is done in religious spirituality, he teaches to just let them go; no need to build relationships, apologize for past wrongs, seek to understand, exert self discipline or any other threats to your self-absorbed wellness.
The assumption that religion’s only purpose is to eschew sin is, or course, patently false. It isn’t even a talking point. This simplistic model does not lead to understanding, but division. I am unclear how a so called ‘spiritual teacher’ would choose to use hatred and division to teach his form of love.
The value of this wisdom is right up there with John Lennon’s ‘All You Need Is Love’. Unfortunately, John’s form of love meant having an affair on his wife and abandoning his children for his new sweetheart. And no, love is not all we need. It is just one of many characteristics that make the world go round including knowledge, understanding, cooperation, discipline, honesty and so forth. Or the quote ‘it’s darkest just before the dawn”. The sentiment, I suppose, is that we should stick it out because just when it may be at the bleakest, you will find success. The reality is, it is not darkest just before the dawn. It is actually the brightest time of night because the sun is on the verge of emerging over the horizon, It is darkest in the middle of the night. When facing a huge challenge, it is usually darkest at the very start. The further you work on a problem, the brighter light you obtain, and you find the situation gets brighter and brighter until the perfect day. Cahn’s spiritualism says just let it go and it will all work out. Religions spiritualism says if you work on it with a full purpose of heart, with Gods help, you will reach a happy resolution.
Trite simple quotes provide a degree of comfort, but contain no depth of intelligent reason, but simple quotes are the antidote of the new age. The reality is, spirituality is to religion is what math is to school. Religions teach spirituality, they teach light. Consider the following teachings from the Christian religion:
Matt 5:15 let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works
Matt 6:22 the light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single , the whole body shall be full of light
John 9:5 I am the light of the world.
What Matt Cahn does not grasp, due perhaps to his lack of professional training and ignorance of the teachings of the wold religions, is that you cannot be happy without rules. Further, rules are meaningless without consequences for breaking them.
Both the promotion of light and the rejection of darkness is necessary. An effective health professional will both advise on what to do and what not to do. Knowledge includes both good and bad facts. Knowing that sugar is bad will help us far greater than telling us that apples are good, because putting apples in a pie will not keep the doctor away.
The simplistic notion of love and only love leads to aimless undisciplined chaos. Yes, we need to love our children, but we also need to keep them from harm. Yes we need to teach what is good, but we also need to warn against what is bad. Relgions do both, and to claim that they only teach hellfire is a lie used to buttress the types of fantasy truths Cahn espouses.
No, it is not possible to simplify religion as teaching against sin and pretending that spirituality is something separate from religion and the only source of light.
Rules are Good
When people complain that religion has too many rules, what they are really saying is that they don’t like being told what to do. They do not want to feel guilty about any of their life choices. Such demands, however, are not limited to religions. High standards are found in corporations, sports teams, art classes and restaurants. The higher the standards, the higher the quality of output from that organization. Microsoft, GM, The City of London and my doctors office each have rules of things that are permitted and things that are prohibited. Boundaries are critical in establishing a viable, vibrant, and virtuous society.
Certainly there are some fringe religious groups and communities that have some odd world views but painting all religion as bad because of a few strange practices in isolated areas is a pathetic attempt to justify a no-holds-barred lifestyle. Yes, there are the few fanatical preachers who harp on the evils of sin, but they have the same agenda as Matt. They are in it for the money and preaching the lie of an angry God attracts as many gullible sheep as does preaching the ‘anything goes’ fantasy.
We need to seek all truth, and then follow its precepts no matter how uncomfortable it makes us feel.