Mark Greer, a blog I occasionally sneak a peak at has just posted this on his blog. This evening UK TV's channel 4 will be airing a new series entitled "Spirituality Shopper" in which a high power career woman explores various spiritual practices. Giles Fraser of the Guardian had this to say about it. I'm not sure I share Giles Fraser's attitude on this one, particularly his comparison with BBC2's recent series, 'The Monastery'. Some are reluctant to remove priests and dogma and traditions - but this does not sound entirely unlike Quakerism to me, particularly his comparison to BBC2's recent series, The Monastery.
"The former (ie. Spirituality Shopper) offers religion as a subjective experience that fits around our desperate desire to defend our rights as a consumer. The latter (ie. The Monastery) describes religion as that place where our obligations to others are tracked by simplicity, constraint and duty. Without this, religion is nothing more than a last-gasp lucky dip for the feckless and the fickle." - Giles Fraser
Is that really so? I don't think spirituality is a commodity, but it is natural in a consumerist society to shop around. One positive aspect of this may be that people are willing to explore and try new things. It may be that a great openess to the philosophies, traditions and practices from many cultures will lead us to a more open, tolerant society - this can only be good. Religion locked up in churches, controlled by priests is far more dangerous than a few fickle butterflies darting around from place to place. Why is it that some people react so strongly against the uprise in spirituality - is it really shallow, or do people just fear the loss of control that seems to dissipate so readily when we do away with dogma and priestly authority? I could argue, that the monastery is secretive, secluded and altogether absent for vast swathes of the population. For me, true spirituality can never be found in retreat from the world, not even from the world of consumerism in which we live.
Are those open to exploring new frontiers, sampling a variety of taditions really reckless and fickle - or are they bold, adventurous and open? Is there hope for an organic evolution of faith, meaning and relationship freed from the contraints of church, dogma and religion? Every generation has had its reformers, and they have almost invariably had to create the revoluntion outside of and even in opposition to the mainstream institutions of today. I wonder if George Fox were around today and Quakerism started in contemporary Britain would Quakerism be Christian - or would it reflect the pluralism in our society?
I'm not a big fan of the "spirituality movement". I have exactly the same issues with it as I do with churches and monasteries. I worry about a faith or spiritual experience that occurs separately from every day life. New age spirituality can be esoteric, it can be escapist and it can be elitist. True spirituality is not for the erudite mystics amongst us, theology isn't done in the ivory towers of acadmia, faith doesn't grow in a cathedral and spirituality doesn't grow in the meditation centre. As the Quakers say, it 'is not a notion but a way.'
But is it possible to live deeply in the here and now? Is depth, meaning and spirit to be found in consumerist culture, in advertising, in psychology research? In so far as those spiritual types amongst us question the prevailing culture and forge new ways of relating to one another with depth, humity and genuine openess - maybe the revolution is here. A few weeks ago, many Christian bloggers raved about how amazing the monastery was and how much it had to teach contemporary society about every day living. Now here comes spiritual shopper. Will the monks learn as much from as as we did from then, or will they be too caught up in the monastery to notice? Will the Christian community take heed of spiritual shopper or will they be too busy and concerned to defend their own traditions and ways of doing this to open up, receive, grow and evolve?