What Can I Do about Spirituality & Religion?

“What is spirituality? What does being spiritual mean? For many people, spirituality means feeling at one with that which we call the divine. But when I think of the divine I . . . think of our own most evolved qualities: our profound human capacity for empathy, for love, our striving for justice, our hunger for beauty, our yearning to create. I think being spiritual means being ethical and, in the true sense of the word, moral." ~ Riane Eisler

Spirituality, Empathy, & Compassion

While spirituality is something intensely personal, how can we be spiritual and turn a blind eye to the suffering of others?

In a world where spirituality often means destructive cults or religions based on strict and unfeeling dogma, Riane Eisler offers a vision of spirituality that cherishes our humanity instead of denying it. In partnership, we find a sane approach to achieving spiritual fulfillment. It’s a way of connecting to ourselves and the world instead of cutting ourselves off, offering real hope for our future.

Watch Empathy and Compassion with Riane Eisler
This excerpt is from Link TV’s Global Spirit program "Oneness: The Big Picture."

 

Watch Human Yearning for Caring Connection with Riane Eisler. In this video, Dr. Eisler shows that our yearning for caring connection is not only spiritually based (as reflected by the concept of “Oneness”), but also a visceral, biological aspect of human and intra-species relations.

Principles of Partnership Religion and Spirituality

1. Leaving behind domination-based beliefs
The word “religion” is based on the Latin word “religare,” meaning “to bind.” In a domination culture, we are bound to those ‘above’ us who control us. In a partnership culture, we are bound to one another – and to all life. As we move toward partnership religion and spirituality, we move away from a wrathful male God and hierarchies of domination. We shift from a morality of rigid, insensitive rules that privilege those on top, to a hierarchy of actualization allowing for diversity and the full expression of our evolutionary capacities for consciousness, caring, and creativity. We shift from rote obedience to a 'higher' external force exerting power over us to alignment with our own highest potentials.

“…We are all part of an exquisitely interwoven web of life that is part of a resurging partnership consciousness…Deep inside we all carry this consciousness…it lies behind the profound connection many of us feel with nature.” - Riane Eisler, Power of Partnership, p. 17r4

2. Embodied spirituality and pleasure
Attitudes toward pleasure and pain in the world’s religions reflect where a culture is on the domination/partnership continuum. As we move toward partnership, we shift from a morality based on the infliction and suffering of pain to one that also embraces and celebrates pleasure.

“…Partnership spirituality recognizes pain as part of the human experience. It recognizes the pain of birth, death, illness, sadness, rejection, and other inevitable hurts – and when possible, comforts us. Partnership spirituality also recognizes that pain can bring about psychic growth. But it does not hold that suffering is necessary for spiritual development.” - Riane Eisler, Power of Partnership, p. 188

3. Awareness, empathy, and respect lead to moral action
Eisler urges us to embrace a clear set of moral standards based on consciousness of the world around us, listening to our inner wisdom, and treating others with respect and care.

“A morality for partnership relations has basic standards rather than a patchwork of contradictory rules. Its primary standard is the moral imperative of moving through our lives with awareness, empathy, and respect.” – Riane Eisler, Power of Partnership, p. 195

4. Putting love into action
At their root, all world religions and spiritual traditions emphasize love. Partnership spirituality includes the Golden Rule extended in all directions. Partnership principles support the expression of care and love, including care of self, others, and Earth.

“I believe the voice of love is the real voice of God, of that mysterious cosmic energy that brought us the beauty of stars and sunsets, of caring and creativity, of all that gives joy and meaning to our lives. I believe that we all have this inner voice of love, and we all can help build a world where love is embodied, nature is respected, and our human need for fairness and caring is honored. All we need is spiritual courage....ultimately spirituality is not just talking about love. It is putting love into action.” - Riane Eisler, Power of Partnership, p. 197

 

Teasing Apart Domination and Partnership Elements in the World's Religious Scriptures

Our challenge is to revisit the scriptures of the world’s religions to untangle the domination and partnership stories and beliefs within each tradition. This will help us to raise up the partnership teachings embedded in these texts and identify where domination narratives were inserted in the course of recorded history.

“Sorting out partnership from dominator teachings in our scriptures is one of our greatest challenges. It isn’t easy. There is much opposition, both inside and outside of us. But if we do nothing, we can’t successfully counter the religious hate-mongering regaining strength today in both the East and West. Nor can we counter the rudderless view that there are no moral or ethical standards – that to insist on standards is being ‘too judgmental.’” — Riane Eisler

The Role of Spiritual Leaders in Ending Intimate Violence

Learn about the CPS program, the Spiritual Alliance to Stop Intimate Violence, or SAIV.

Learn more about SAIV

Resources

Read excerpts from Sacred Pleasure: Sex, Myth, and the Politics of the Body

More readings:
Spiritual Courage Adapted from The Power of Partnership: Seven Relationships That Will Change Your Life (2002)
Making Sex a Sacred Pleasure Interview by Jyotsna Sreenivasan for New Moon Network, March/April 1996
Sex, Spirituality, and Evolution: Are We Victims to the Beast Within? Interview by Mark Harris for Conscious Choice, February 1999