8 principles of spiritual literacy as inspired by the Hasidic masters

I diverge briefly from my normal posts about marketing with this post because I caught wind of a new book by Dani Shapiro called Devotion that seems to touch an important topic for many people. The book outlines a woman’s search for spiritual clarity (author’s note – I have not read the book – but it’s going on the list :)). In an interview on The Today Show the author comments that she was brought up in the Orthodox tradition which she “abandoned” when she reached adulthood and replaced with “nothing”. She explained how in her mind, Jewish religious practice was an all or nothing proposition. Most sensitively she described that her search was motivated by a desire to answer her children’s questions about spirituality with answers that demonstrated depth of thought. This book emerged out of her recognition that she wanted to fill the spiritual gap for herself and for her family.

I feel a kinship with her, similarity in name aside, but because I too was brought up Orthodox. Not just Orthodox mind you, but I was raised in a Hasidic Rabbinic family – the ultra right wing of the Jewish spectrum. Yet, unlike Dani, I did not abandon my upbringing even as I pursued a wonderful career in technology marketing. I was fortunate that my family, the Hasidic Rabbis from Europe, were trained to be spiritual masters so that under their tutelage I was trained to understand the fundamental principles of being spiritual.

They taught me their legacy of “spiritual expectations” (note I don’t say beliefs) that transcended any religion or religious practice so that I could construct a functional model for the spiritual seeking soul. These expectations frame the spiritual seeker’s quest to an actionable set of principles which apply no matter what religion (or lack thereof) you were raised in. While these ideas represent my interpretation of these spiritual concepts – it is inspired by the lessons I was fortunate enough to have been taught by them.  I pay homage to their wisdom as I share this list with you.

1) There has to be a conscious choice to be a spiritually sensitive being. It can not be assumed that this is a goal everyone strives for. It is not. Do not assume that because you are seeking spiritual vigor – everyone shares your enthusiasm.

2) Rituals are the physical training ground for the spirit. There’s a wonderful Hebrew phrase: “Mi-toch lo’ lishma ya’voh lishmah” – translated to mean roughly, “From non devotion comes devotion.” In other words, the rituals won’t always evoke an “ohh” spiritual glow, but over time they do. When I first started to light candles on Friday night nearly 30 years ago to mark the beginning of the Shabbath, (you start lighting candles when you get married), it didn’t seem to make much of a difference. Now, though when I light my Sabbath candles, the atmosphere of the room is noticeably changed. Once the ritual becomes part of your being; that frees energy to fully exploit the value of the ritual. There’s no more wasted energy worrying about “when” or “how” to spiritually train – that was all taken care of once you accepted the sanctity of the ritual. Without the impetus of religious sanctity – sticking with any ritual practice that is substantive enough to deliver the spiritual goods is really really really hard.

3) Accept that to be a spiritual being requires an investment of time. There’s no shortcut. The rituals of the ultra religious of all traditions are designed for success because they eliminated the hassle of figuring out the nitty gritty details of how to be spiritual, letting the focus be on the spiritual work. By contrast, how successful would anyone be creating their own rituals and then sticking to it? There are more bad jokes about the futility of keeping New Year’s resolution than I need to make my point.

4) There is no such thing as “sin” with the moral sting we all associate with that word. The Hebrew word “Het” means more like, “Oops, missed that time – try again”. In my world, when you committed a “sin”, you were “reproached” for it much in the same way one might speak to a young child who, when they are first learning to catch a ball, misses. “Oops – not quite – try again.” No guilt. No shame. Just an expectation that you could do better.

5) Spirituality is not something you are but something you do. Spirituality can not be thought of as a cloak we don at certain times and then discard when it is inconvenient. It is reflective in how we act – all the time.  For instance, I must light my candles every Friday at precisely the proper time no matter what. If I miss it – I can not light later in the evening because there’s no “do-over”. Being spiritual means that if I feel that my ability to light the candles on time is in jeopardy, I will re-organize my entire day to ensure I can fulfill this ritual on time.

6) Often, people confuse being a “good or moral person” with being spiritual. They are not the same thing. Morality is often culturally based and evolving – slavery being a good example, whereas spirituality transcends cultural influences.  The work of spiritual masters from 3,000 years is as relevant today as they were in their day.

7) I do not “expect” that there is a God (breathe everyone). Here’s what I know for sure. There is the world of the “known”; the world we can measure, touch and analyze. Then there is the world of “kaddosh”; usually translated to mean sacred or holy, but actually meaning “other” or separate – the world of the “unknown”. This “unknown” state is often referred to as God.

8)  Everything in the universe changes including the world of the “Kaddosh”, the “unknown” and the world of the known. In fact, the world of the unknown is quickly flowing towards the world of the known so that soon these two worlds will emerge into one. That is the spiritual singularity – when there is no more “unknown” a.k.a. God. When might this singularity happen? Who knows, but often people think the time of the Messiah is that singularity moment. I’m not so sure but here’s an interesting little tidbit. According to mystical Jewish philosophy, the world will “evolve” into another form of existence by the year 6000. We are currently in the year 5770 of the Jewish calendar, so that gives us about 200 years until the next cycle. That plunks us right into the time of Star Trek. I like the synchronicity of that because that fictional show gives us a glimpse of how different our understanding of life will be in 200 years. Perhaps in 200 years our spirit, mind and body will be better aligned and free to evolve …

These Hasidic masters understood spiritual power and mastery. It is my legacy from them which I share with you so you can create the spiritual house that best suits you.

Judy Shapiro

Advertisements

8 Responses

  1. Judy, Thank you for your post. I discovered it while researching some of the wordpress functions. I was raised very Catholic, in fact, I spent almost 3 decades in the convent. So much of your experience resonates with my own. I’m currently studying Kabbalah (along the lines of Judaic mysticism, not-so-much “magical,” which is all the rage I guess.) I agree with your assessment of ritual, sin and spirituality.

    Right now I’m having a hard time with “labels.” Why do we have to define ourselves in terms that are restrictive? Am I a Judeo-Christian Catholic who grows through Buddhist mindfulness meditation and study of American Indian spirituality? Or what?

  2. Hi – thanks for your comment.

    Ah — you hit the nail on the spiritual head when you question our attachment to labels.

    It is not a spiritual requirement but a cultural/ tribal need that is probably, evolutionary speaking, non productive anymore. But rituals do require some infrastructure support (e.g. church or synagogue etc) so that’s why labels are still around and they still divide us. I think the time of spiritual singularity will be when we can finally break free of that silliness. (Unless of course, if you believe the ‘rapture” – in which case this point is moot 🙂

    Judy

  3. What a load of crap.

    • Feel free to disagree — but a bit of intelligence would be welcome. Want to share any?

      • There’s no meaningful content there to agree or disagree with – it’s all pointless feel-good waffle. I’m sure you’re brilliant at marketing.

  4. Hello Knockgoats,

    I must be terrible at my job because I neither intended to convince or not convince anyone of anything and yet I convinced you this was crap *sigh*. The point that I failed to communicate is that learning how to be spiritual requires “an education” which I was fortunate to have had (you?). I apologize if it appeared to be “crap” or utterly pointless.

    But before you dismiss what these people had to teach, I’ll ask that you read one family’s story of survival. https://trenchwars.wordpress.com/2010/04/25/the-best-9-lessons-in-social-marketing-mastery-i-learned-from-my-yiddishe-grandmother/

    These lessons I learned from these people is how precious the humanity in all of us is. I do hope to convince you that surely that is the best spiritual lesson of all.

    Judy

    • “Spiritual” and its cognates are possibly the most inane words in English: they mean whatever anyone wants them to mean. I came here for one reason only: you came and pimped your blog at Pharyngula. It is perhaps the dullest, most pointless blog I have ever come across. I’ll leave you to your pointless wittering.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: