According to the Encyclopedia Britannica, spiritualism is the philosophy of higher reality, which has been variously defined by different philosophers in such terms as “immaterial reality.” “A universal mind”, “a supreme being”, “a spiritual cosmic force”, “an infinite personal God”, etc. Spirituality is an elevated state of intellectual awakening. It is a higher level of consciousness. Our world is, in fact, a dual world – a world of ‘material things’ and a world of ‘inner meanings’. When one raises oneself to a level where material things become secondary and inner meanings become of prime importance, then one can be said to be a spiritual person.
Spirituality has great importance for every man and woman. From mental peace to human values, it has many aspects to it. Since spirituality is interwoven in the human personality, it also has a deep relationship with our lives: spirituality and human values are interlinked. If spirituality was absent from our lives, there would be no human values. From the moment I have discovered spirituality as supreme truth, I can safely say that the whole of my life has been a journey towards spirituality.
Spirituality as a philosophy has been sustained and developed by many great thinkers over a period of five thousand years. Some of the greatest of these spiritual philosophers, such as Plato and Aristotle, came from Greece. In our present time also there have been many spiritual philosophers such as Descartes, Bradley, Bergson, etc., in the western world, and Aurobindo, Rajagopalachari and Radhakrishnan in India. These philosophers and thinkers have put forward various schools of spiritual thought to the people of the world. The main objective of the various schools of thought was to come to grips with reality.
The Search for Reality through Spirituality
Man is a born seeker. His quest in life is to find the reality. Every human being regards himself as incomplete until he has found that supreme principle by which he can explain his existence in this world. He wants to discover the purpose of his life. This inquisitive nature is due to man’s urge to come to grips with reality—an urge such as is found in every human being, the difference between one individual and another being only one of degree: in some, the urge is weak; while in others it is strong. It is true that everyone is a seeker, but why are only a few its finders? This is because, where seeking is instinctive, finding is the outcome of one’s own conscious effort. In their conscious effort to find reality, people have looked towards different sources – philosophy, mysticism, science and especially spirituality. In this article I have taken an objective view of the different schools of spiritual thought to see if they can help a seeker in his search for reality.
Here, I would like to make an attempt to describe the main schools of spirituality in a simplified manner, so that it may be understandable to all, and to see which of them can help man in his search for reality or truth. Although many schools of spiritual thought have come to exist, here I would like to take five basic concepts. They are as follows:
1. One concept of spiritualism is that of man-oriented spirituality in, which the target of the spiritual quest is to be found within one’s own self. According to this school of thought, reality is located inside our own personality and we have to simply look inside ourselves and establish contact with our inner self to find a treasure of spirituality. Since man is a limited being, looking for an unlimited reality inside a limited being is not possible.
2. Another concept of spiritualism is that of monism or the oneness of reality in which the creature and Creator are a part of the same reality and the target of the spiritual quest of man is that the creature (man) is to merge with the Creator (God). This concept only leads to a reality which is spirit and not a live personality.
3. A school of spirituality that has gained popularity is that of meditation in which the target of the spiritual quest of man is that he receives spirituality in the form of ecstasy. According to this concept man should leave the material world for the non-material world and by stopping his thinking process, concentrate on certain objects or recite certain words or chants or mantras – thus receiving spiritual nourishment in the form of ecstasy. Since meditation is heart-based and science has discovered that the heart is nothing but a blood-pumping organ, meditation leads only to a type of anesthesia.
4. Still another concept of spirituality is based on the concept of tasawwuf. This is the spiritual school based on meditation in Muslim history. According to this school of spiritual thought, to receive spirituality, man should concentrate on and activate certain points in the human body, which according to them are centres of spiritual nourishment. In this way, the entire human personality can receive spiritual sustenance. It is found that tasawwuf has no basis in Islam
The Islamic school of spiritualism is based on the Quranic concept of spirituality or Rabbaniyat. This system is based on the duality of reality or the concept of monotheism. According to this concept, the creature and Creator are separate from one another. According to this system, the target of the spiritual quest of man is that the creature – man – discovers and realizes God – His Creator and makes contact with Him. This concept of spirituality is the true Islamic concept of spiritualism.