Spiritual Autonomy

It's okay to be different

What is the foremost duty of a spiritual path? It is not that we develop as spiritual seekers, but that we develop as spiritual finders. It is not that we develop as believers, but that we develop as knowers. It is not that we share campfires of common belief, but that we each be guided to enter the wilderness of the Mystery, and therein light the fire of our own experience of True Nature.

To enter that wilderness and leave behind spiritual authorities, sacred texts, and communities of belief requires the recognition and affirmation of one’s own spiritual authority and autonomy.

The social scientist, Brian Fay, defines “autonomy” as:

“Autonomy is in fact a more apt term than ‘moral freedom’ for capturing this conception of freedom: ‘autonomy’ means to make one’s own laws and to administer them, to be self-legislating. An autonomous being is one which ordains for itself the principles by which it shall live and is therefore self-governing.”

With regard to spiritual efforts, autonomy infers that a person think for himself, value for himself, decide for himself, designate truth by himself, direct himself, and govern himself. He is his own spiritual authority. “Truth”, as he comes to know it through and as his own experience, is his only master.

Such self-direction is not arbitrary or capricious. Rather it is an intrinsic attribute of Being. The spiritually mature person expresses autonomy as a freedom consistently sourced by the inclinations of True Nature which express through him and as him.

Critics might rebut that such moral freedom leads only to spiritual corruption or moral anarchy. They assert human nature is flawed. “Look around,” they advise. “There is criminality everywhere. Moral laws are necessary to safeguard persons from each other.”

True enough. Yet look again. Here and there also are persons of psychospiritual development whose lives prove the vision that human nature is intrinsically benevolent, as testified to by spiritual luminaries.

For such persons, spiritual autonomy does not serve moral anarchy. Rather autonomy expresses the unbridled freedom of the True Nature which itself is the source of any moral code. As Emerson notes, autonomy is not a calling to dissipation, but to elevation:

“The populace think that your rejection of popular standards is a rejection of all standard…; and the bold sensualist will use the name of philosophy to gild his crimes. But the law of consciousness abides.

“Truly it demands something godlike in him who has cast off common motives of humanity, and has ventured to trust himself for a taskmaster. High be his heart, faithful his will, clear his sight, that he may in good earnest be doctrine, society, law to himself.“

With such heart, will, sight, … and grace, the seeker who would venture into the wilderness of the Mystery will find the warmth of his own fire before he sleeps

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2 comments to Spiritual Autonomy

  • Joan Gunness

    I am so warmed by these words today! And so heartened as I continually confront my own doubts about my ability to demonstrate autonomy. I love how you express autonomy as “an inclination sourced by true nature.” Wow! If or rather, when I contact Being in myself, I too can know spiritual and physical autonomy. thank you Michael for continuing to express these thoughts and point the way for all of us who are seeking to trust and know.

    I love you forever!
    Joan

  • Michael

    Thank you Joan for your kind thoughts. Just a reminder… given that you exist, you are Being, expressing itself through your one-of-a-kind expression as human BEING. So it’s not a matter of contacting something separate from ourselves, although too often we think of ourselves as separate from others. Rather, it may be more learning how to listen more deeply than our clutter of thoughts to what always is present.

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