Religion is organized spirituality. Nothing more nor less. The purposes of the organization of spirituality into any form of controlled civil dynamic are broad.
Consider the above along with an appreciation for what the term ‘spirituality’ means, when approached alongside other common terms such as physicality or mentality. Spirituality merely deals with the spirit of things and religions the world over organize these dealings into approachable, practicable solutions.
Consider also that there are over four-thousand religions, religious branches or schools of thought and folk-religions throughout the world. Consider also that the organization of spiritual teachings into communities, schools, churches or empirical control mechanisms depends on the human agenda. The human agenda exists anyway. It exists as a lone path-walker; it exists when walking in tandem with others. It exists if you are a follower, a leader, or a creator. The only time the agenda does not exist is when you are unconscious. But generally, everyone’s got an agenda, or we die.
Call a rose by any other name and it is still a rose. Buddhism is a religion. Taoism is a religion. So is Shinto, Confucianism, Suwanism and any other body of wisdom to which an ism may be attached. We don’t like to call shamanism a religion. Call it a practice, a path, a tradition, an ancient system of knowledge held sacredly by a few connected naturalists… Sorry, Shamanism is a religion, too. Religion is organized spirituality. Shamans organize, too.
And yes, there are lone shamans. Lone witches. Lone monks walking in the wilderness.
There are power-mongering, fear-instilling, depraved and maligned adherents to the tenets of every religious path. As are there on every lone path of the spiritual, physical and mental. Human is as human does after all.
And often we will find the good in people, too. And those good people may follow the way of Buddha or the way of Christ. They may be simple yogin on a simple path. Solitary witches living off-grid in a cozy home next to a brook in warm field on yonder plain. They may be priest of church, or just some guy bowing down to a crumbling wall, seeking within his tribe’s tradition the answers to his own inner spiritual callings. And once he himself has gathered his own thoughts on the matter, begun a practice according to the ways of the billions who have practiced before him, begun to take note of the various approaches to his spiritual development, looked out into the world to see how it mirrors and models his own approach and seek guidance from the wind and the bird and the neighbor on the corner. As soon as begins to organize himself in an approach to personal development, well, now he’s gone and done it. He’s religious. Carrying on with his works religiously, whether he’s put a name to his system of life or not.
Religion is but organized spirituality; the two terms are not at odds, though one may prefer one organization over another, deride one organization overly much, or choose not to organize in any way, shape or form for fear of being caught up in the patterns established by organization itself, and then poof, you’re a chaos magician.
…is a Saiva Tantrika, Gyana Yogi and founder of Uma Maheshwara Yoga & Ayurveda. David has an MA in Semiotics, lives in Japan with his family and works as a coach in L & D, devoting his time to developing science-based tools and programs that help people reach the fullest potential of the human condition.