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Robert Green Ingersoll
SPIRITUALITY. IF there is an abused word in our language, it is "spirituality." It has been repeated over and over for several hundred years by pious pretenders and snivelers as though it belonged exclusively to them. Bank of Wisdom Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201 15 SPIRITUALITY. In the early days of Christianity, the "spiritual" renounced the world with all its duties and obligations. They deserted their wives and children. They became hermits and dwelt in caves. They spent their useless years in praying for their shriveled and worthless souls. They were too "spiritual" to love women, to build homes and to labor for children. They were too "spiritual" to earn their bread, so they became beggars and stood by the highways of Life and held out their hands and asked alms of Industry and Courage. They were too "spiritual" to be merciful. They preached the dogma of eternal pain and gloried in "the wrath to come." They were too "spiritual" to be civilized, so they persecuted their fellow-men for expressing their honest thoughts. They were so "spiritual" that they invented instruments of torture, founded the Inquisition, appealed to the whip, the rack, the sword and the fagot. They tore the flesh of their fellow-men with hooks of iron, buried their neighbors alive, cut off their eyelids, dashed out the brains of babes and cut off the breasts of mothers. These "spiritual" wretches spent day and night on their knees, praying for their own salvation and asking God to curse the best and noblest of the world. John Calvin was intensely "spiritual" when he warmed his fleshless hands at the flames that consumed Servetus. John Knox was constrained by his "spirituality" to utter low and loathsome calumnies against all women. All the witch-burners and Quaker-maimers and mutilators were so "spiritual" that they constantly looked heavenward and longed for the skies. These lovers of God -- these haters of men -- looked upon the Greek marbles as unclean, and denounced the glories of Art as the snares and pitfalls of perdition. These "spiritual" mendicants hated laughter and smiles and dimples, and exhausted their diseased and polluted imaginations in the effort to make love loathsome. From almost every pulpit was heard the denunciation of all that adds to the wealth, the joy and glory of life. It became the fashion for the "spiritual" to malign every hope and passion that tends to humanize and refine the heart. Man was denounced as totally depraved. Woman was declared to be a perpetual temptation -- her beauty a snare and her touch pollution. Even in our own time and country some of the ministers, no matter how radical they claim to be, retain the aroma, the odor, or the smell of the "spiritual." They denounce some of the best and greatest -- some of the benefactors of the race -- for having lived on the low plane of usefulness -- and for having had the pitiful ambition to make their fellows happy in this world. Thomas Paine was a groveling wretch because he devoted his life to the preservation of the rights of man, and Voltaire lacked the "spiritual" because he abolished torture in France and attacked, with the enthusiasm of a divine madness, the monster that was endeavoring to drive the hope of liberty from the heart of man. Bank of Wisdom Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201 16 SPIRITUALITY. Humboldt was not "spiritual" enough to repeat with closed eyes the absurdities of superstition, but was so lost to all the "skyey influences" that he was satisfied to add to the intellectual wealth of the world. Darwin lacked "spirituality," and in its place had nothing but sincerity, patience, intelligence, the spirit of investigation and the courage to give his honest conclusions to the world. He contented himself with giving to his fellow-men the greatest and the sublime truths that man has spoken since lips have uttered speech. But we are now told that these soldiers of science, these heroes of liberty, these sculptors and painters, these singers of songs, these composers of music, lack "spirituality" and after all were only common clay. This word "spirituality" is the fortress, the breastwork, the rifle-pit of the Pharisee. It sustains the same relation to sincerity that Dutch metal does to pure gold. There seems to be something about a pulpit that poisons the occupant -- that changes his nature -- that causes him to denounce what he really loves and to laud with the fervor of insanity a joy that he never felt -- a rapture that never thrilled his soul. Hypnotised by his surroundings, he unconsciously brings to market that which he supposes the purchasers desire. In every church, whether orthodox or radical, there are two parties -- one conservative, looking backward, one radical, looking forward, and generally a minister "spiritual" enough to look both ways. A minister who seems to be a philosopher on the street, or in the home of a sensible man, cannot withstand the atmosphere of the pulpit. The moment he stands behind the Bible cushion, like Bottom, he is "translated" and the Titania of superstition "kisses his large, fair ears." Nothing is more amusing than to hear a clergyman denounce worldliness -- ask his hearers what it will profit them to build railways and palaces and lose their own souls -- inquire of the common folks before him why they waste their precious years in following trades and professions, in gathering treasures that moths corrupt and rust devours, giving their days to the vulgar business of making money, -- and then see him take up a collection, knowing perfectly well that only the worldly, the very people he has denounced, can by any possibility give a dollar. "Spirituality" for the most part is a mask worn by idleness, arrogance and greed. Some people imagine that they are "spiritual" when they are sickly. It may be well enough to ask: What is it to be really spiritual? Bank of Wisdom Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201 17 SPIRITUALITY. 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. There is no possible connection between superstition and the spiritual, or between theology and the spiritual. The spiritually-minded man is a poet. If he does not write poetry, he lives it. He is an artist. If he does not paint pictures or chisel statues, he feels them, and their beauty softens his heart. He fills the temple of his soul with all that is beautiful, and he worships at the shrine of the Ideal. In all the relations of life he is faithful and true. He asks for nothing that he does not earn. He does not wish to be happy in heaven if he must receive happiness as alms. He does not rely on the goodness of another. He is not ambitious to become a winged pauper. Spirituality is the perfect health of the soul. It is noble, manly, generous, brave, free-spoken, natural, superb. Nothing is more sickening than the "spiritual" whine -- the pretence that crawls at first and talks about humility and then suddenly becomes arrogant and says: "I am 'spiritual.' I hold in contempt the vulgar joys of this life. You work and toil and build homes and sing songs and weave your delicate robes, You love women and children and adorn yourselves. You subdue the earth and dig for gold, You have your theaters, your operas and all the luxuries of life; but I, beggar that I am, Pharisee that I am, am your superior because I am 'spiritual.'" Above all things, let us be sincere. -- The Conservator, Philadelphia 1891. Bank of Wisdom Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201 18