The Future of Spirituality and Religion by William Bloom

I am upbeat about the future of religion and spirituality. But how can I say that in the midst of all the terrible vulgar stuff happening in today’s politics and culture?

This optimism is not just wishful thinking. It is based in clearly visible markers that we can all see if we take the long view spanning many centuries. Remember that nothing is fixed. A cosmic reality is that everything is in flux, always changing. A few thousand years ago for example the global religions of Christianity, Buddhism or Islam did not exist. There is no cosmic law that says they will continue to exist.

Things change. With religion these changes always reflect the culture and society of their times. No matter how pure the original intentions, the reality is that the organisational and cultural form of the world religions reflects the patriarchal structure of an army or imperial government. At the top is the Emperor or chief priest. Then the officers or clergy. At the bottom are the foot soldiers or the congregation, the plebs. Very few women in the top ranks and people with disabilities are invisible.

In our time we can see this patriarchal structure being dismantled. The fabric of religious organisation is transforming. Women priests are one example. The huge growth in people developing their own spiritual practices – meditation, dance, pilgrimage and so on – is another.

Equally important, there has been a worldwide growth in psychology and counselling skills. Talk therapy as an accepted part of mainstream society was unknown a hundred years ago. Today psychology is obviously central, for instance, in early years care, education and health. The best thing about the growth of psychology is that as a species we are learning to understand and self-manage ourselves in a more autonomous and mature way. We no longer give our power away to the first guru or fundamentalist belief that takes our fancy.

At the same time there is substantial research from the World Values Survey that, as people are more educated and their lives become less focused on survival, they then adopt a more inclusive and diverse approach to spirituality. This is all heart-warming news as it results in a reduction in fundamentalism and religious conflict.

Then we have one of the greatest gifts of all – the development of a new and powerful set of ethics. As a spokesperson for the new spirituality I have often met the criticism that we have no roots and no ethics. We are, comes the accusation, lost in a soup of relativism with no clear guidelines. The reality though is that we have a wonderfully deep and strong morality. Let me list the precious elements.

MULTIFAITH CONCORD

Instead of putting the world faiths in competition with each other, we plait the ethics of the world religions together to provide us with an even stronger sense of right and wrong. Do not kill. Do no harm. Be charitable. We honour the Golden Rule of do unto others… in all religions. Our ethical inspiration from the world religions is deepened.

DEEP GREEN ECOLOGY

Our generation is the first clearly to articulate, assert and practice the moral imperatives of a deep green care for all of nature and for sustainability.

LOVE AND AFFECTION

We have the crucial wisdom from developmental psychology that everyone –babies, children, teenagers, adults – need love and affection to develop healthily and to sustain a civilised society. Love and affection are not sentimental affectations but fundamental ethical requirements.

METAPHYSICALLY LITERATE – NO BAD VIBES


And we are also seeing the development of a scientific understanding of metaphysics and subtle energies. We have to watch out for and self-manage our mood and vibration lest it spill over and harm others. Good vibes are needed.

All of these pioneering realities have been seeded in our time. Look forward a thousand years and imagine how beautifully this can all develop. Things may seem difficult right now and we need always to campaign for a better world. But be confident that in the fullness of time things are getting better and all will be well.

williambloom.com

This article was featured in the Winter 2018 Cygnus Review