David Karchere, the director of the Sunrise Ranch spiritual community where I live, recently posed this question in a talk he gave to the community: “Why do people create religion, particularly religion that distorts the nature of Being?” He went on to answer his question this way: “Behind a convoluted religion is a person or a people that have lost their innocence. They have lost their primal spirituality and have turned to sophisticated manipulation of the world to try to achieve happiness.”
This manipulation implies that they have focused on something external to themselves to give them a sense of meaning and fulfillment. The fixation on externals takes a variety of forms: a system of doctrines and beliefs, an assortment of sacred objects and relics, a set of rituals and practices, charismatic religious figures, sacred spaces, etc. The religious devotee in effect says, “These things make me holy; they give me salvation; they guarantee my eternal security in heaven. I don’t have to do anything; all I have to do is believe in the efficacy of these things.”
In other words, by believing that something external does it for them, human beings have a convenient excuse for neglecting to do the essential internal work in consciousness that activates primal spirituality—the innate, intuitive knowing of the truth of love and of Being with which we are born. They have in essence divorced themselves from their own reality and created a world of illusion where it becomes necessary to posit some external means of personal and collective salvation. The long history of conflict, corruption and unfathomable misery on this planet provides conclusive proof that such an approach doesn’t work and is fundamentally alien to life.
Religion is not the only form this fixation on externals takes. Human beings have also sought personal and collective salvation in such things as politics, science, money, military force and, more recently, social networking. In fact it could be said that religions have been made out of these things—people and organizations absolutely obsessed with bending the external world to their personal and collective will.
In the talk referenced above, David went on to suggest that it’s time to replace the distortions of religion with “primal spirituality.” Many in the world, particularly young people, are awakening to this necessity. As is quite clear from observing their exodus from mainline church denominations, they’re quite ready to jettison religious orthodoxy in the quest for something genuine. But unfortunately the spiritual path they subsequently embark on in many cases involves more external manipulation or, as David puts it, “more convoluted beliefs, more religious fabrication.” Once again a failure to do the internal work required for authentic spiritual fulfillment.
Donna Visocky, publisher of BellaSpark Magazine, describes something of what is required in these words: “An energetic transformation has and is taking place on the planet, and though it has not exactly manifested in our physical world the way we imagined, it is showing up in us. We can feel it; something has definitely shifted in our core, for the energies are calling us to change. We are all being nudged, guided and sometimes literally pushed into becoming who we were meant to be. The change happening on the planet is an internal one and just as Mother Earth is going through her own rebirth so too are we being born again.”
This new birth is a movement back to primal spirituality, from externals to internals. I can no longer look to something external to impart sacredness and provide salvation. I am called to be my own saviour and the saviour of my world. How? By simply being who I am, by returning to my own innate, intuitive knowing of the truth. This is accomplished by expressing in everyday living the qualities of true or divine character with which I was endowed simply by virtue of incarnating on Earth. Qualities such as integrity, dignity, nobility, honour, courage, patience, stability, generosity, tranquility and many more. This endowment of true values needs to be activated; I won’t know that these qualities are my very nature until I give them expression. Their full expression restores primal spirituality and the awareness of oneness with the divine.
People who come to Sunrise Ranch to participate in our Full Self Emergence program or any of our other classes are essentially invited to do just one thing: come home. Come home, not to some external system of beliefs or teachings, not to some charismatic leader or extraordinary organization, not to some spiritual practice or technique that is guaranteed to put you in touch with God and transform your life. No, just come home to your primal spirit, to your inner core, to the bedrock truth of who you are, and experience this beautiful character by simply revealing it in the supportive spiritual context of the Sunrise community.
So surely it is time to break with the fatal habit of fingering something external that we imagine will do for us what only we can do. Religion and all of its paraphernalia must be replaced by primal spirituality if the world is ever to know anything approximating transformation. And it is all accomplished by simply coming home to and relaxing into the truth of unconditional love at our core and embodying that truth in living.
Jerry Kvasnicka, a graduate of Princeton Theological Seminary, has had a varied career as a youth minister, a radio news reporter, a writer and editor for several magazines and journals and a custodian with the Loveland, Colorado school district. Jerry currently edits and writes for the mind-spirit section of the online magazine The Mindful Word. He has lived at the Sunrise Ranch spiritual community in Loveland for twenty-five years. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.