It is popular to speak of spirituality today. Many will say that they are “spiritual but not religious.” I’m not here to make an argument for or against religion, as some religions do, and some do not contribute to a person’s sense of soul. I am here to sound a warning about seeking to be spiritual without first being grounded in the goodness of being an earth-bound creature with passions, distractions, sensations, connections, fears, foibles, and fantasies. For these come out of who we are at our core. They are part of our essence. They are ignored at our perilous expense. They reside in and help constitute what we call our soul.

So much of spirituality is about transcending our present self and situation, of connecting in the light of day to the glories of the divine and all of creation at once and in some grand way. Yet the soul of who we are must first be accepted and embraced so that we do not, like Icarus, fall flat as we rise too close to the transforming light.

If any room of the house were to represent our soul it would be the basement, the root cellar. What is fermenting is stored there, as are the root vegetables of ordinary life which feed our contentment in a way that nothing processed can. The family trunk filled with stories and albums and war memorabilia and recipes and death certificates is found here. What cannot be displayed and cannot be discarded but makes us who we are is kept here. The time to dispose any of this cannot be placed on a calendar but must come out of the beating of the heart.

The musty trunks must be searched, and adolescent letters re-read so that we may finally accept and only then repurpose what we find in the soul’s basement. And while we are down there, we best check the foundation and make sure it is firm and seated well on the goodness of creation. And then, we will have done what is needed to call neighbors to celebrations above. Any impulse to transcend what presently is, by embracing spirituality and spiritual practice, must first make a trip to the life’s undercroft. And only then will proper songs of praise rise in the sanctuary above.