Tuesday, February 23, 2016

What Is The Religious Spirit?

I am surrounded each morning by many friends.  Most of these friends I have never met, but I feel that I have met them through the books they have written.  Through the years, the writers of the Psalms in the Old Testament have shared my predicaments with me.   It is always good to know that one has company.  They seemed to know, and to feel, way back in their time, the very feelings  I, and all of us, have experienced on the trail of life.  Here are just a few examples:  “…I am weak; my very bones are shaken; my soul quivers in dismay.”  “…How long must I suffer anguish in my soul, grief in my heart, day and night?”  “…My strength drains away like water and all my bones are loose.  My heart has turned to wax and melts within me.”  “…I am lonely and oppressed.  Relieve the sorrows of my heart and bring me out of my distress.”  Have you ever been there with the Psalmists?  

These writers also use violent and unpleasant words, words of vengeance and anger, words of hatred and arrogance against their enemies.  Do we not do the same?  The Psalmists reach into the wellspring of the human heart and give expression to all that they discover there.  They also reach out to the Beyond and express in the language of their day what they experience—“Thou, Lord, dost make my lamp burn bright, and my God will lighten my darkness.”
"They cried to the Lord in their trouble,
and he rescued them from their distress."

The writers of the Psalms describe, in their own unique way, the essential character of the religious spirit.  Alfred North Whitehead, another friend of the written word, expresses this religious spirit of the Psalmists far better than I can.

“Religion is the vision of something which stands beyond, behind, and within the passing flux of immediate things; something which is real, and yet waiting to be realized; something which is a remote possibility, and yet the greatest of present facts; something that gives meaning to all that passes, and yet eludes apprehension; something whose possession is the final good, and yet is beyond all reach; something which is the ultimate ideal, and the hopeless quest.”

How grateful I am for these friends of mine!

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