The gaze of the priest. A column by Eric de Beukelaer.
While rationalists see religions and spirituality as relics of the pre-scientific world destined to disappear, many are rediscovering that man is a religious animal and that spirituality is a challenge inherent in his condition. The opposition between Sigmund Freud (1856-1939) and his disciple Carl Gustav Jung (1875-1961) on the subject of the unconscious, illustrates this debate: “While Freud conceives it as a kind of cellar, where all our repressed desires would rest in the dark, Jung conceives it as an attic where a soft light filters, that of our aspirations towards the sacred. […] The question of the meaning of spirituality appears to Jung as a fundamental anthropological dimension, whereas Freud sees in it only neurosis or illusion..” (Jung by Frédéric Lenoir, Albin Michel, p. 57).
Religion ? Spirituality? What are we talking about ?
Religion is a message with claims of global meaning, to which a community or an individual gives his faith. Sapiens, the bestseller by atheist Yoval Noah Hariri, explains that the unifying discourse of religions is the vector that allows large groups of humans to federate into civilizations. Religion is a polymorphic phenomenon. It can be natural (thus shamanism), revealed (Judaism, Christianity, Islam…), philosophical (Buddhism, Stoicism…), political (Marxism, fascism…), economic (consumerism…).
Spirituality – it – designates the free and authentic taming of the issues of meaning, which cross our desires and emotions. This intimate discipline is a cousin of the artistic process. The advent of modernity, consecrating the awakening of subjectivity, sealed the alliance between religion and spirituality, because without inner life, religion alienates rather than it flourishes. A religion without interiority connects. The one who nourishes the soul, frees and accompanies on the path of life.
The dominant religion today is consumerism, with marketing as a catechism, advertising as a sermon, fashion as morals, shopping malls as cathedrals, and Black Fridays as holidays of obligation. Consumerism and its cult of looks are a religion of exteriority. Spirituality has no place there, except to be recovered as a consumer product with a view to providing wellness. This absence of interiority is observed even in altruistic places. Let’s look at our mega-hospitals. The corridors of these temples of health stretch for miles and offer quality medicine that is unique in the world. What a contrast with the modest size of the chapel or the spiritual space within them. This illustrates an imbalance between care for the body and the soul. However, both depressed patients and stressed caregivers would have great need of places of prayer, silence, music, reading… Ditto in our schools, our nursing homes, our businesses… There remain the churches. Many are unfortunately closed for fear of vandalism. The lack of spirituality is felt even in politics, with the fracture between supporters of the universalism of reason, both on the right (liberals) and on the left (socialists) and zealots of the particularism of passions, on the right (identity) as left (wokism). This division between activists with similar political sensitivities is a pressing call for more interiority in society. Only spirituality allows us to believe in the universal without denying the particular; to celebrate reason by integrating the passions.
The humanity of a civilization is measured by the place of the spiritual within it. Recognizing this does not necessarily lead to believing in a transcendent and creative God. This is the result of a very particular act of faith. I will address this question in a future column, devoted to the future of Christianity.