Talking about “My Spiritual Journey” (and how difficult it is to find the words)

For a long time I had experienced a sort of writer’s block when trying to find the right words and expression for a short series of videos on my spiritual journey. The main reason, as far as I could discern it, was to do with accuracy – principally, being unable to accurately express something as vast and all-pervading as the direct encounter with spirituality over a whole lifetime, in just as few short words. The task seemed impossible as I thought through it: how on earth (literally) could I give another person any sense of the enormity of what has been experienced? At best, all that could be communicated would be the scantest, most irrelevant and most superficial details.

After all, dealing with spirituality is by nature dealing with the very things that language has not been built up to describe, namely, the non-physical. Yes, we have a developed a whole system of words for abstract concepts, but the spiritual world lies as much above and beyond the world of thought – the natural terrain for concepts – as the world of thought lies above the world of matter. Trying to capture the nature and reality of spirituality and its experience in a rather crude material like “thought” seems just as pointless as like trying to catch the wind in a sieve.

Of course, I was well aware that there was a long and illustrious history of people writing about spirituality and their encounter with “that” in ways that marvelled and excelled, and brought language to its own limits. Yet, the landscapes they had painted, and the worlds they had described, were all coloured by the language and concept-systems of the traditions and religious teachings in which they were embedded. When St John of the Cross talks about his dark night, it is a dark night illuminated and bound by Christian teaching and imagery. For someone sitting firmly outside of the religious traditions, those tropes and concepts and images would not be helpful. I could not paint my own picture in the language of the spiritual tradition, as it seemed to me.

Yet, at the same time, it was not my objective to create a new language for the experience I wished to talk about. I had to find a practical way through the difficulties and not be overtaken by them or prevented from speaking. So, even whilst they remained, and I was left to use words such as “spiritual journey” and “God” in my eventual and resulting videos, I was able to speak something about my experience, since childhood, of encountering spiritual reality. And I was pleased to be able to release the final and third short video this week.

My practical solution: I told a simple story, in three parts, of how I came to the decision and determination to look for and at spirituality in a serious manner, and where that led to. This meant, my own spirituality, my own experience of it. As far as can be achieved in what amounts to a total of 30 minutes of speaking, I am pleased to be able to highlight the main shape of a story of becoming and realisation, and awakening to what is my current truth. What it lacks in detail, comprehensiveness, and perhaps originality in terms of what I light upon, it makes up for in being able to condense in as short a space as possible the “impossible-to-describe” reality of experience regarding spirituality reality.

True, I have side-stepped the thorny issue of language and representation, and I’ve gone for communicability instead of accuracy and precision, using common words and frames of thinking, even though I still feel I haven’t quite said very much about the real nature of the “journey” that I’ve been on, but that work can be for another time. For now, as part of my work of sharing insights into spiritual reality and our encounter with it, I am pleased with the result and feel that it would help encourage conversations with others about their own spiritual journeys, where they’ve been, where they are, and where they see themselves as headed.

 

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