Friday, May 29, 2015

Spirituality Is Not All the Same

This Chinese Character  is the one we use in Korea for the Holy Spirit and spirituality in general. This doesn't fit our Christian understanding of the spiritual. Korea's shamanistic history shows itself in the way the icon expresses the spiritual. The top part of the character is the  icon for rain, the three mouths  are said to express the rain falling and the bottom character is the icon for sorceress who  dancing, asks for rain.

A seminary professor who teaches spirituality begins a series of articles in the Peace Weekly on the subject. He has the need to speak about spirituality with the modifier Catholic, because of the possibility of misunderstanding, due to the shamanistic understanding of spirituality in Korean history.

After the second Vatican council we use the word spirituality often in our teaching. Not only within Christianity but even outside of religion altogether. But the professor makes it clear that in Korea the word does have a context that is different from what we would understand by the word. In Korea the word would  mean marvelous, magical, and strange. The context in which the West understands the word is missing. He admits this is also changing in the West. The Church in Korea started using the  word regularly about 20 years ago. He says it is not an exaggeration to say that  Christians are forcing a Christian meaning on to their past understanding of the word. In Korean society all feel no restraint in using the word spirituality, which he says requires we be attentive to this reality.

The shamanistic history of Korea will continue to influence the native religions and those  from the outside and society. This common denominator  probably is the reason that Koreans have a good feeling towards the practices of other religions.   

Spirituality as used in Korean society does not have the Christian meaning of the word. If we do not understand the Christian meaning we will easily, without any discernment, have an eclectic acceptance of other religious beliefs, and the possibility of losing our faith. 

We have in recent years accepted a great deal from what we have learned from anthropology and psychology in our spirituality which is a good but we have to discern otherwise spirituality can be just the results of what we have learned from psychology.  Our spirituality becomes  a hodgepodge of the teachings of many other religions and ceases to be Christian, consequently, he concludes the need to use the  modifier Catholic when he speaks about spirituality.                 

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