By Kim Michaels
Do you have inner conflicts about spiritual topics? Do you feel that certain outer doctrines cannot answer your questions? Does it seem like God doesn’t make sense? Is your relationship to God or a religious figure influenced by negative emotions, such as fear, guilt, shame, anger or just plain confusion?
If you answered yes to any of the above questions, then the real question becomes how to deal with the situation:
Do you want to continue living with the emotional pain?
Do you want to give up on religion?
OR do you want to look for a different approach that can heal your relationship to God?
This article will help you discover a new approach to spirituality. This approach can help you heal your wounds and make peace with God and your spiritual teachers. In this section, you will find teachings on how to start the process of spiritual healing. See below.
The Outer Approach to Religion, and the Inner Approach to Spirituality
You can take an outer or an inner approach to finding answers to your questions about the spiritual side of life.
Many people take the outer approach and seek to find answers from a source outside themselves, such as a formal religion, a doctrine or a belief system. There are numerous belief systems that claim to have the answers to spiritual questions. These answers are often presented as formal doctrines that are seen as complete, perhaps even infallible. The outer approach has a couple of limitations:
If you accept an outer doctrine as complete, how do you deal with questions that are not answered by the doctrine? Many people find that no outer doctrine can answer all of their questions about the spiritual side of life. This often leads to an inner conflict and a feeling that God simply doesn’t make sense.
If you accept an outer doctrine as infallible, then all different or conflicting doctrines must be false. This often leads to an outer conflict between groups of religious people. It is a sad, but undeniable, fact that religious conflict has caused more bloodshed than any other single factor.
If the outer approach is no longer working for you, perhaps it is time to look for a different approach?
The inner approach to spirituality
Many people are losing faith in a particular religion or even in all religion. This does not mean that such people no longer care about the spiritual side of life. On the contrary, people often become disappointed with formal religions because they are not getting answers to their questions. The questions demonstrate that such people do care about spirituality.
What if the real cause of this disappointment is the outer approach to religion? What if there really are plausible and sensible answers to your questions about spiritual topics? What if the key to finding such answers is to go beyond the outer approach to religion?
Instead of seeking standard answers from an outer doctrine, you can seek personal answers from a source inside yourself. This inner, mystical or spiritual approach has been practiced by people from every walk of life and from every religion. For example, Christianity has had its share of mystics. One might argue that Christianity was started by a person who did not accept the standard answers given by the Jewish religion.
A journey of discovery
Adopting the inner approach to spirituality does not mean that you have to abandon an outer religion. In every religious tradition you can find many people who practice the inner approach to spirituality within the context and culture of the outer religion. However, when you take the inner approach, you realize that the outer religion serves as a foundation, a stepping stone, for your personal quest for answers. The outer religion must never become a cage that prevents you from looking for answers outside a certain framework.
When you take the inner approach to spirituality, you realize that the spiritual side of life is a complex and vast topic. Most religions teach that God is beyond this world. This world is a finite world, and God might be infinite. How could a finite doctrine possibly give a complete description of an infinite God? So if you truly want to understand the spiritual side of life, is it wise to believe that one organization or doctrine can give you all the answers?
When you open your mind to the inner approach to spirituality, your life takes a new turn. You now realize that life is a journey of discovery, and the journey is ongoing. The purpose of the journey is to attain a higher understanding, but not an ultimate or absolute understanding.
After all, the central idea of all spirituality is that there is a spiritual realm beyond the material world. Perhaps it will never be possible to attain an ultimate understanding of the spiritual side of life while we are still here in the material world? Therefore, why argue over which outer doctrine is the only right one? Why not simply continue to seek for a higher understanding of life?
The need for a higher understanding
Today, humankind knows a lot more about the natural world than people did in the past. Therefore, we can now ask questions about atoms that no one would have thought about 2,000 years ago. One might say that humankind is engaged in a process of gradually increasing our understanding of every aspect of life. Consequently, we can now ask more questions about life, including the spiritual side of life, than in the past.
If we accept that humankind is engaged in a process of increasing our understanding of life, how can we expect that a religious teaching, formulated thousands of years ago, can answer all of the questions about spirituality we could ever ask?
It is a simple fact that the only constant in this world is constant change. If you look at the past, you will see that many religions have vanished, because they could not adapt to the changing needs of their followers. Why do so many religions tend to become rigid?
When you take the outer approach to religion, you see a particular religious doctrine as complete and infallible. If the doctrine is complete and infallible, how could it ever need to change? Therefore so many religions refuse to change and continue to claim that their doctrine can give you all the answers you need (or are allowed to have).
The result of the outer approach to religion is that more and more people realize that the religion in which they grew up can no longer meet their spiritual needs or answer their questions. How can you best deal with that situation?
Some people become angry and feel cheated or manipulated. Others become disappointed and they either give up on all religion or a particular religion. Some people reason that their questions must be wrong, and they stop thinking about spiritual topics. While such reactions are very understandable, they seldom lead to a true resolution of people’s inner conflicts about spirituality.
Is there an alternative? What if the real problem is not a particular religious organization or doctrine? What if the real problem is that the outer approach to religion prevents you from finding answers to your questions about spirituality? What if you could simply look beyond that outer approach? What if you could become a seeker of truth instead of a follower of doctrine?
Answers must come from within
What can you do to find personal answers to your questions about the spiritual side of life? You can begin by recognizing where such answers must come from.
The only way to resolve your inner conflicts about spirituality is through answers that come from a source inside yourself!
Millions of people have sought answers through outer doctrines. While such standard answers might suppress your inner conflicts, they can never resolve your conflicts. True resolution comes from internalizing outer knowledge so that it becomes personal, inner understanding. With all thy getting, get this inner understanding!
Obviously, many people have been conditioned against accepting the inner approach to spirituality. When you take the outer approach to religion, you must reason that only an outer authority can define a true doctrine. Only a particular religious figure, such as Jesus or a church hierarchy, can define a true religious doctrine. How could you possibly know what is true?
The answer is that every human being has an inherent ability to recognize truth. This is the open door which no human can shut.
Why Do I need to Change My Approach to Religion?
The obvious reason is that the outer approach is no longer working for you personally. It can no longer answer your questions, and it cannot heal your inner conflicts about spirituality. Giving up this approach frees your mind to look for a better approach. However, what if there is a universal reason to give up the outer approach?
If you step back from your personal situation, you might discover that you are not the only one who is disappointed with outer religion. In fact, one might consider that it is a sign of our time that more and more people lose faith in a traditional approach to religion. Why is this so?
Many people believe there are certain cycles of change that are occurring in the religious life of this planet. Is it possible that we are witnessing a planetary shift that causes so many people to lose faith in the outer approach to religion? To illustrate this point, consider the analogy of a steam locomotive.
Imagine that you suddenly find yourself in the engine room of an old steam locomotive. Unbeknownst to you, someone has stoked the fire burning under the kettle. As the pressure in the kettle rises, the locomotive begins to move forward. You panic and pull on the brake as hard as you can. The locomotive stops, but the pressure keeps rising. Unless you do something to change the situation, the kettle will explode!
Let us imagine that a new type of spiritual energy is being released from the spiritual realm. It causes the pressure to rise in the engine that drives spiritual change on Earth. The rising pressure creates the need for religious organizations to change. However, people who take the outer approach to religion are afraid of this change. Consequently, they pull on the brake and seek to prevent the locomotive from moving forward.
From an outer perspective, they might seem to be successful, but from an inner perspective, the pressure will simply continue to rise until the kettle explodes. Is this why so many traditional religions are losing members or going through outer challenges? One example of this process might be the exposure of sexual abuse by Catholic priests. Is this simply a sign that the old order is beginning to break down under the mounting pressure of spiritual change?
To change or suffer
If spiritual change really is occurring, how can you best deal with the situation? Imagine what might happen if you take the outer approach and go into complete denial of any need to change your approach to religion. Obviously, the pressure will keep building and if the kettle explodes, you might find yourself in a full-blows spiritual crisis.
An increasing number of people experience that a certain outer event triggers a breakdown that sends them into a personal crises of faith. This might be a personal event, such as the loss of a loved one, but it can also be an impersonal event.
For example, many Catholics have become so disappointed by the Church’s handling of the sexual abuse by priests that they have lost faith in the Church and feel like they have nothing left. Other people have lost faith in traditional Christianity, because Christian churches have refused any serious attempts to reconcile the Christian faith with the discoveries of science.
Blowing off steam
Is there a better approach? Let us return to the steam engine. We have seen that complete denial, meaning trying to prevent the train from moving forward, is not a good option. It will inevitably lead to an explosion. Another option is to look for the safety valve and let off some steam. Many religious people take this approach, which we might call the path of least resistance.
Such people might make minimal concessions to the changing times, but they are not seriously reconsidering their religious beliefs. Most importantly, they are not even considering changing their basic approach to spirituality. Such people are not committed to change; they are simply trying to prevent the kettle from blowing up.
The problem with this approach is that as long as the pressure keeps building, you will have to constantly let off steam. Some religious people are consumed by the need to defend their religious beliefs against change. For example, many Christians are consumed by defending certain Christian doctrines even though science clearly demonstrates that these doctrines cannot give us a complete understanding of how life was created.
Will trying to stave off change without reconsidering your basic approach to religion really get you where you want to go? Will it help you find peace of mind, or will it simply delay the inevitable crisis
Putting spiritual steam to good use
What if there was a more productive approach? After all, steam has the potential to be converted into work that can make the entire train move forward and reach a new destination, perhaps a better destination.
By looking at history, it is not difficult to see that human beings are creatures of habit and often resist change. For example, one of the major problems encountered by Jesus was that so many orthodox Jews, especially those in leadership positions, resisted his message that a new spiritual approach was needed.
Is it possible that God wants to see change in the spiritual life of this planet? Is it possible that spiritual energy is being released to assist us in embracing this change and making the most of it? What if we released the brake and allowed the locomotive to move forward? Is it possible that it might take us to a better destination?
Obviously, you don’t need to throw caution to the wind and allow your spiritual locomotive to run amok. Instead, it is far better to take a balanced approach and move forward safely. However, to remain balanced on your personal path, you need to adopt the inner approach to spirituality.
All or nothing
When you take the outer approach to religion, you accept a religious doctrine as complete and infallible. Therefore, you inevitably end up taking an all-or-nothing approach to your current beliefs. They must be completely right, so if one aspect is proven wrong, your faith is destroyed. That is why so many religious people resist any kind of change.
When you take the inner approach, you realize that your current beliefs are not complete and infallible. They simply represent the highest understanding that you have been able to grasp up to this point in time. In fact, you expect that as your understanding grows, you will naturally gain a deeper understanding of the spiritual side of life.
The main benefit of the inner approach to spirituality is that it removes the sense that your faith is threatened. Thereby, you can overcome the fear that your faith could be lost. Letting go of a particular religious belief is not a matter of losing your faith and being thrown into a personal crisis. Instead, your life is a continual journey towards a deeper understanding. You never lose a belief; you simply replace it with a better and more complete understanding.
Holding on to the outer approach forces you into the extremes, where you must hold on to existing beliefs out of fear of losing everything. Adopting the inner approach makes it possible to experience a balanced and gradual growth in your understanding of the spiritual side of life.
When you take the inner approach, you don’t throw away or question all of your existing beliefs. Instead, you gradually open your mind to a new understanding of some aspect of the spiritual side of life. You use your existing beliefs as a foundation for your journey. You never lose your bearings and feel like you are in a free fall. Your existing beliefs are a safety net instead of a dead weight that prevents you from climbing the ladder of spiritual understanding.
By adopting the inner approach to spirituality, you don’t run the risk of having your kettle blow up. You don’t have to spend all of your time letting off steam while getting nowhere. Instead, you can move forward in a balanced and controlled manner that allows your spiritual growth to stay on track.
How to Know Truth
There are reasons why so many people take the outer approach to religion and refuse to change that approach. One reason is that the outer approach is an easy approach. If you allow a religious organization or authority figure to tell you what to believe, you don’t really have to think for yourself. When you let someone else tell you what is true, you don’t have to make personal decisions about what is true. This is not only easier; it can also seem a lot safer.
When you take the inner approach to spirituality, you cannot allow someone else to tell you what to believe. You have to think for yourself, and you have to decide what is true. At first, this can seem confusing and even unsafe. After all, how can you know what is really true?
In reality, the task is not as difficult or scary as it might seem. You already have the ability to know truth. This is an ability that is built into your being. It is a gift from God, and you cannot lose it completely. As every ability, it can atrophy from lack of use, but by making an effort, you can develop it to full capacity. The ability to know truth is commonly known as intuition. The teachings on this website might help you realize that intuition is far more than most people expect.
How do you decide what is true?
To begin overcoming your fear of deciding what is true, consider how you came to accept your current beliefs? No one can force you to accept an idea; you must make a decision before accepting any idea. You might not be consciously aware of making such a decision, but the decision was made nonetheless.
Therefore, before accepting your current beliefs, you made a decision. You might have been brought up in a culture that conditioned you to accept a particular religious doctrine as true and infallible. Yet, somewhere in your past you had to make a decision to accept that claim, and you must continually make decisions to uphold your acceptance of that claim.
You will find many religious people who will reject this idea. They claim that they follow the only true doctrine there is. This is not a matter of opinion or a personal decision; it is simply the only truth. If you think about this more closely, you will realize that there is no absolute and undeniable proof that a certain doctrine is true. Even a spiritual leader such as Jesus did not convert everyone, and the reason is that people have free will and that they make decisions based on their current level of consciousness.
Therefore, the acceptance of a certain doctrine is not a matter of an undeniable proof, it is a matter of a personal decision. That decision is inevitably affected by your current understanding (people often cling to what is familiar and makes them feel comfortable) and your current level of consciousness.
To grow or not to grow
If you take the outer approach, you accept a certain doctrine and declare it infallible. It follows that you will never come to accept any understanding that is beyond the doctrine. Therefore, you could never be part of a spiritual renewal. Imagine that everyone in ancient Israel had stuck to orthodox Jewish doctrines. The Jewish authorities rejected Jesus, so any orthodox Jew should have done the same. Consequently, Jesus would never have attracted any followers and Christianity would have died with him.
When you take the inner approach, you accept the fact that your current beliefs are not final, complete or infallible. You made a decision to accept your current beliefs, and that decision was based on your current understanding and level of consciousness. You also recognize that you are following a systematic path that leads you towards a deeper understanding and a higher level of consciousness. As you move forward on that path, it is only natural that you will receive a higher understanding, and this might cause you to go beyond your current beliefs.
The simple fact is that you are constantly making decisions about what you think is true, even if it is a decision not to question your existing beliefs. This is what is illustrated in Shakespeare’s play Hamlet. Prince Hamlet was facing a difficult situation and did not want to take action. Yet, by not acting he brought about his own death. Therefore, not making a decision is still making a decision.
The essential point is that you cannot avoid making decisions, so you might as well make the best of it and learn how to make constructive decisions. You might fear making decisions about what is true, but all fear is a fear of the unknown. Once you understand what influences your decisions, you can quickly learn to consciously make the best possible decisions.
Fear and love
What causes you to accept a certain idea? There are two forces that influence your decisions about what is true, namely fear and love. When you take the outer approach, your decisions are based on fear. You are afraid that you cannot know truth on your own, so you allow an outer authority to tell you what to believe. You are afraid of making a mistake, so you want someone else to decide for you, but that is still making a decision.
When your decisions are based on fear, you are reluctant to open your mind to any ideas that seem to go beyond your existing belief system. Therefore, you tend to cling to your existing beliefs as if it was a matter of life and death. How can you escape the clutches of fear?
When you bring light into a room, the darkness disappears. When you bring love into your mind, the fear disappears. You might have heard the expression that “perfect love casts out all fear,” but where can this perfect love come from? What if it comes from a higher part of your own being?
A central theme on this website is that your mind, or being, has several levels, or layers. Some psychologists embrace this idea and talk about a lower mind that is the seat of the negative aspects of human nature, such as fear, and a higher mind that is the seat of the positive qualities, such as love. What if you have a higher part of your own being which is capable of telling you what is true?
If you were brought up in a traditional religious culture, this idea might be new to you, but was it new to the religious leader who inspired your culture?
Let the higher mind be in you
Is it possible that some of the religious leaders of the past were very familiar with the concept of a higher, more spiritual part of our beings? As an example, let us take a look at Jesus.
Jesus said, “He that believes on me, the works that I do shall he do also.” Saint Paul admonished people to “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus.” Have you ever considered what these statements truly mean?
How could you possibly do the works of Jesus? How can you let Jesus’ mind be in you? Incidentally, what kind of mind was Paul talking about?
What if a part of Jesus’ mission (not his entire mission, but part of it) was to demonstrate a path that all people have the potential to follow? This path leads to a higher state of consciousness in which you have moved out of fear and embraced a higher spiritual understanding based on love. You have literally allowed a higher mind to be in you, as that higher mind was in Jesus.
If you look at the mission of Jesus, you might realize that he delivered a supreme example of a person who is applying the inner approach to spirituality. He did not claim to have outer authority, such as the scribes and the temple priests. Instead, he claimed that he received his teachings from a source inside himself.
In fact, Jesus was constantly opposed by those who took the outer approach to religion. They refused to let go of their existing beliefs, and therefore they rejected the higher understanding offered by Jesus. Would you reject a higher understanding coming from inside yourself? Why not open your heart and let that mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus? What do you have to lose but your fears? What do you have to gain but perfect love?
If you did not grow up in a Christian culture, do not despair. This website will demonstrate that virtually every religion contained teachings about the inner approach to religion and the possibility to attain a higher state of consciousness.
Copyright © 2009 by Kim Michaels