Who is Spiritual and Who Isn’t?

By Alice Wheaton

When someone says, “I am spiritual.” or “The work I do is spiritual” what does that mean? Does it mean that God has a clipboard and notices, and then checks off, who is spiritual and who is not? Does God have a sliding scale? Is the homeless person who begs for money less spiritual in God’s eyes (as you understand God)? Does being spiritual mean someone who is a seeker for answers and if so answers to what…the alleviation of the pain and suffering of others or erasing the discontent with one’s own life? Or does it mean someone who gives, even though they don’t have enough for themselves? Is there a possibility that one person can ever be more spiritual than another? For instance, in God’s eyes (again God, as you understand God to be or not to be) does The Dali Lama receive five stars and ordinary schleps receive only ½ a star? Who decides? If we attend a Spiritual Retreat are the leaders more spiritual than the participants? Or is exaltation the real exchange…the audience adores and the Spiritual Leader gets to be adored? What if, neither the desire to be adored nor the desire to exalt, is spiritual? Can our weaknesses be as spiritual as our strengths?

What if a workshop leader, who considers him or herself to be a Spiritual Teacher, is hired to present a two hour training session twice a month for three months, to a window manufacturer… the participants are the hourly workers and  paid much less than those in the front office. And yes they are a cynical difficult bunch.  They smoke, swear, tell sexist jokes, and will call a spade a spade…some abuse one or several substances. Sitting still is difficult for them as they do their job by moving around and their restlessness shows before an hour passes. They are the labourers in the plant and proud of it…but wait, what if this workshop leader believes, “I only work with spiritual people?”  With this attitude, would this workshop leader be able to ‘teach’ this group anything or would he or is he or she in judgement and therefore separate from the students?  

Can we be of service if we see ourselves as more special than our students? Can the real teachers in any situation (think prisoner and Chaplin) be the students instead of the teacher? Can the belief, I am spiritual lend itself to, and breed, spiritual arrogance and spiritual competitiveness? Doesn’t either of those states indicate a perceived lack in one’s spirit? Is that what the spiritual quest is all about…filling the gaps in our spirits, even is no gaps exist? 

There is a whole market developing about teaching us spiritual principles and how to live a spiritual life. Are the “spiritual teachers” promoting to their own advantage? Are these teachers really ordinary humans with no more of a direct link to ‘the Source” as anyone else but they happen to be able to (and enjoy) presenting in front of a crowd so to do that they position themselves as a Spiritual Subject Matter Expert?  Is it their job/professionquestal responsibility/ to lead their supplicants to the spiritual waters and sit back and absolve themselves if these supplicants choose not to drink of the knowledge?

In the example training opportunity at the window manufacturer, do you think that the workshop leader ever came to see that it is spiritual to work with anyone? And what a privilege it is to have been involved with a team that works to manufacture a product to bring light to homes, buildings, and lives? Without these rough and ready people working in the back of any manufacturing plant, wouldn’t our work load be greater? Without these manual labourers, where would we have the time to develop our knowledge and skills to offer to our audiences? 

Who amongst us then, is less or more, spiritual than the other? Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we all saw ourselves not as leaders but as trusted servants operating with a servant’s heart, desiring to be in the service to others no matter who they are and how they show up in our lives? 

Isn’t it wonderful to live in a country where we have the democratic freedom to question without fear of political or religious retaliation? 


Alice Wheaton is a best selling author with books translated into ten languages. She is a consultant, and speaker, working tirelessly to help bring out the best in others.

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