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A friend of mine recently sent me this video of Russell Brand talking about his take on the spiritual life. It’s a fascinating video. Watch some of it, but don’t feel like you have to watch all 11 minutes—I’ve shared some notable quotes below. (Language warning)
Here are some of the quotes I found most interesting:
“It’s through spiritual practice that I’ve recognized my own impermanence, my own irrelevance, the fact that I’m just a person, shuffling through life.”
“It’s good to have access to the infinite consciousness that is available to all people, but, through the five senses, is delineated, keeping us trapped on a material plane.”
“We are, by our nature, spiritual people.”
“Within ourselves, there is an infinite capacity for connection with all things.”
“You can’t define yourself in reference to other, external coordinates. You must define yourself internally, in your relationship with the higher entity. Think of yourself as a manifestation of some higher thing, some higher frequency.”
“I choose to believe in God because I think what that is is the recognition that there is divine beauty in all of us.”
“I recognize the capacity in myself for selfishness, for lustfulness, for egotism, and because I recognize these qualities in myself, I would prefer a culture that did not celebrate, exacerbate, and stimulate the most negative aspects of our species.”
“We just want to be connected to something higher. That could be another person, that could be god, that could be West Ham United. I think the important thing is to have the central tenet of your being love, compassion, and tolerance. Everyone knows that.”
I watched this video for the first time the other day, and when it ended, I couldn’t help but think to myself, “Man. He is so, so close. But still so far away.” Naturalistic, atheistic existential sort of philosophies have always boggled my mind in their inconsistencies, but if you’re not going to be a Christian, it seems to me that this sort of pantheistic Eastern spiritualism makes the most sense.
Brand’s right, isn’t he, when he says, “We are, by our nature, spiritual people.” Whatever you think that is or however you think that manifests itself, monotheistic, pantheistic, or otherwise, it seems to me that humans long for that which is beyond our five senses.
Brand, and countless young people today, identify this longing for the transcendent as a sort of Eastern longing for unity and love that exists eternally within the self and throughout all things. At the same time, Brand makes it clear that he thinks our bodies are nothing more than “sock puppets of flesh.”
I hear him say things like, “You can’t define yourself in reference to other, external coordinates. You must define yourself internally, in your relationship with the higher entity. Think of yourself as a manifestation of some higher thing, some higher frequency,” and all I can see is him inching so close to a right understanding of how we bear the image of God and are accountable to him for all things.
I hear, “It’s through spiritual practice that I’ve recognized my own impermanence, my own irrelevance, the fact that I’m just a person, shuffling through life,” and I want to say, “Amen! Apart from the purpose we find in Christ, our impermanence makes us irrelevant people shuffling through life.”
He continues, “I recognize the capacity in myself for selfishness, for lustfulness, for egotism, and because I recognize these qualities in myself, I would prefer a culture that did not celebrate, exacerbate, and stimulate the most negative aspects of our species,” and I think, “Such great longings for justice, much like we read throughout the Scriptures, specifically in the prophets. But based on what, for him and other non-Christians? Majority preference?”
This spiritual, irreligious faith trend is nothing new. In fact, it’s far too common.
I wrote for Facts & Trends last week:
The latest U.S. religious landscape study published by Pew confirms much of what has been reported about millennials in recent years. But the study also sheds new light on this “spiritual, but not religious” generation and can help churches understand how to reach them.
According to the study, millennials have not completely abandoned spiritual beliefs or practices. Millennials maintain a sense of spiritual peace and interest in the universe beyond what is simply seen on earth.
One of the most interesting data points regarding millennials from this latest Pew survey is the large portion of who feel a sense of spiritual peace and well being, while being less affiliated with religion than any other generation. Most young adults also feel a sense of wonder about the universe.
Increasingly, young people are spiritual in the sense that Russell Brand is spiritual, but they aren’t “religious,” or at least they wouldn’t describe themselves that way.
Russell Brand, and many like him, rightly long for the beyond, the transcendent, the spiritual. But Brand, like others, and even like Christians do at times, look for it in all the wrong places. We look for the transcendent within ourselves. Or, perhaps we look for the transcendent by attempting to disconnect with ourselves and achieve a sort of sub-consciousness that leads us to ultimate reality.
Too often, we look for the eternal in all the wrong places.
For fear of reality, we too easily settle for shadows of it.