Can a Creed Foster a Spiritual Life?

September 30, 2011

The word “creed” comes from the Latin credo – first word of the Nicene Creed, usually translated “We believe.” A creed is thus a statement of common belief.

Putting aside the question of the truth, I have three objections to creeds:

  1. Words only give an incomplete description of reality. No matter how many words you use to describe something, your description is always incomplete.
  2. If descriptions of physical reality are always incomplete, how much more incomplete are descriptions of spiritual reality – drawn, of necessity, from an individual’s inner life.
  3. Creeds, for people who accept them, divide the world into believers and nonbelievers – negating any attempt to serve the world without discrimination.

In the early twentieth century, Alice Bailey wrote of the development of “A New Group of World Servers.” Men and women “emerging out of every group and church and party, … not from the pull of their own ambition and prideful schemes, but through the very selflessness of their service.” She states that possession of a creed bars a person from this group.

Early in an individual’s spiritual life, a person gravitates to a group that gives easy answers in creeds and doctrine, but such a group keeps an individual at that early stage. The only purpose I can see for a creed is as a statement that you must question to grow spiritually. If you or I adhere to a group that has no formal creed, we must still question their basic assumptions. Then, we might reach a point where we can say with the Sufi poet Hafiz:

I

Have

Learned

So much from God

That I can no longer

Call

Myself

A Christian, a Hindu, a Muslim,

a Buddhist, a Jew.

(From: “The Gift,” Translated by Daniel Ladinsky)

2 Responses to “Can a Creed Foster a Spiritual Life?”

  1. lukewater said

    Beautiful poem at the end…I adore it. Well written article, I seem to feel the same way about ‘creed’ as I do about ‘religion’, at least, ‘organized religion’, ‘church’, etc. There is no black and white, only shades of gray. Words can help to express us and our world, but they fail to define.

  2. […] Last week I wrote, “The only purpose I can see for a creed is as a statement that you must question to grow spiritually. If you or I adhere to a group that has no formal creed, we must still question their basic assumptions.” But spiritual growth requires not just questioning the beliefs of groups but also our individual beliefs. […]

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