Spirituality, Religion and a Language for the Soul

November 8, 2021

Guest Post by Rabbi John Crites-Borak
Launching Leaders Advisory Council

When we see God’s vision for us and live according to the spiritual guidance we receive, we are aligned with the divine. —Launching Leaders: An Empowering Journey for a New Generation, p. 61

Head, heart and guts. Every successful journey requires three aspects of being: the intellectual, the spiritual and the physical. Each of us embodies them in a unique ratio. The stronger they are, and the more balanced the ratio, the more prepared we are to chart the course of our lives and achieve our goals. Public and private schools provide physical and intellectual education for all students, but where does one go to develop his or her spiritual aspect of being? My own journey to the soul may be instructive.

I rejected God and religion early in life. I mocked believers as intellectual and emotional cripples. Religious institutions, I claimed, produced only hypocrites, people who failed to meet the standards they preached. God is love? Nonsense! “John,” a close friend asked in my early 20s, “are you really an atheist?” Yes. “In that case, I have a question for you. Just who is it you’re so angry at?” The question caught me out. It revealed a great flaw in my reasoning: I was furious at God even as I denied His existence. If I was angry — and I was — Who was the object of my fury. God? I was in a relationship with Something. I could no longer claim to be an atheist.

I would be spiritual, but not religious. Religions, with all their rules, boundaries and limitations, were the problem. That lasted several years. Then I heard someone ask Dennis Prager, a religious Jewish thinker and author, if spirituality is enough. Mr. Prager’s reply changed my life. He said, “Religion is to spirituality as language is to thinking. Religions give us the way to organize, develop and express what goes on in our souls, just as language does for what goes on in our minds.”

The idea intrigued me. I conflated soul and mind. Were they separate and distinct? Then I contemplated life without language. What if I could not read and write? What if I could not converse? Most distressing of all, what if I had no internal dialogue? How bleak and meaningless life would be! Had I misunderstood religion? Was religion the key to accessing, developing and expressing my spiritual aspect instead of an ill-fitting straight jacket?

If so, which religion — which ‘language of the soul’ — would serve me best? Which would be the ‘native tongue’ of my soul? I wiped the slate clean of all my judgments and prayed for guidance. I sampled many: Pentecostal; Roman Catholic; Buddhism; Christian Science; Native American Church; Christian & Missionary Alliance. My search led me eventually to Judaism, which I embraced at age 40.

We need body, mind and spirit to be fully successful and joyous in our professional careers and our private lives. The ‘language’ we choose for relating to the God of our understanding strengthens and guides us in every journey.

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