14 January 2011

Freethought Friday #6: Spirituality

Robert G. Ingersoll1833 - 1899

From "Spirituality", which I would recommend reading -- it pained me to post only part of Ingersoll's description of what he or I might call authentically human spirituality. The full text is rather short in comparison to the longer speeches and essays.

It may be well enough to ask: What is it to be really spiritual?
The spiritual man lives to his ideal. He endeavors to make others happy. He does not despise the passions that have filled the world with art and glory. He loves his wife and children -- home and fireside. He cultivates the amenities and refinements of life. He is the friend and champion of the oppressed. His sympathies are with the poor and the suffering. He attacks what he believes to be wrong, though defended by the many, and he is willing to stand for the right against the world. He enjoys the beautiful. In the presence of the highest creations of Art his eyes are suffused with tears. When he listens to the great melodies, the divine harmonies,he feels the sorrows and the raptures of death and love. He is intensely human*. He carries in his heart the burdens of the world. He searches for the deeper meanings. He appreciates the harmonies of conduct, the melody of a perfect life.
 He loves his wife and children better than any god. He cares more for the world he lives in than for any other. He tries to discharge the duties of this life, to help those that he can reach. He believes in being useful -- in making money to feed and clothe and educate the ones he loves -- to assist the deserving and to support himself. He does not wish to be a burden on others. He is just, generous and sincere.

Spirituality is all of this world. It is a child of this earth, born and cradled here. It comes from no heaven, but it makes a heaven where it is.

* Emphasis added by me.


Baley Petersen said...

This is a wonderful description of a HUMANIST spirituality. There are many who would argue against it, though. Even protest the emphasis of wife and family. Obviously one doesn't need to have a family and fireside to be spiritual. Ingersoll is certainly a Humanist as well as a Naturalist...but he doesn't have the market on spirituality, I'm afraid.

smellincoffee said...

Happily, no one has the market on spirituality! The full point of Ingersoll's essay, or brief oration, is that the good things in life are natural, human -- they aren't to be found in piety, supernaturalism, or dogma.

(As for the wife and family: though I tend to think of Ingersoll as a progressive, when doing a biography of him I realized he's a nuanced character, conservative in some respects and progressive in others. I'd described him as a creature of the 18th century, living in the 19th century, with the moral outlook of the 20th century.)

Ahab said...

I can fully embrace this understanding of spirituality. Loving one's fellow human being is a source of great meaning, moreso than simply obeying arbitrary rules from an invisible deity.