Spiritual Angst

JOSEPH CAMPBELL, THE GREAT MYTHOLOGIST, says that “religion is a defense against a spiritual experience.” It seems to me that the vacuousness we see in American culture and the media these days are also defenses against a spiritual experience. As people become more and more afraid to “go inward,” their aversion becomes more desperate and frenzied. I see a nation of people frantically distracting themselves with anything and everything to avoid facing the truth—the existence of their own immortal souls, the death of their mortal body, and the brevity of life on this material plane.
The violence on television nowadays is unconscionable, sitcoms show explicit sex scenes, and pornography is easily accessibly on the Internet. Most of the recent highly-publicized shooting sprees have been at the hands of young people on anti-depressant drugs, and the rate of suicide in the US military is staggering. Sensitive people who feel they do not fit into the world they were born into see themselves as “insane,” when in fact it is the society that surrounds them that is “insane.” These people perceive a world that has nothing to offer them. They have a deep sense that something is lacking, that there’s something more . . . but the existence of our spiritual side is denied on all sides—unless we are lucky enough to find a small pocket of spiritually enlightened people, such as a Universalist/Unitarian meeting house or a 12-step meeting.
For those in existential anguish, there is nowhere to go, no one to turn to—no spiritual haven, no learned elder, and most probably no kindly, understanding family member—and it’s especially critical in schools. Teenagers feel they have nowhere to turn. Pharmaceutical drugs are not the answer, and organized religions, which at one time ministered to the soul, are now little more than social clubs. So what is the salve for existential angst, beyond drugs and suicide? Maybe we can instigate the idea of a Spiritual Officer in schools. But no, we can’t do that! There is the separation of state and religion in this country—no prayers in school, nothing that smacks of “religion.” So what is to be done to “save these souls”?

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