High spirituality enjoys much acclaim in many works of literature, art, music and cinema; even revolutionaries are sometimes honoured as saints. Some elements of spirituality may indeed be present in these works, as writers, musicians and film directors can be very good at portraying some of the Christian virtues, such as sacrificial love, honesty, conscientiousness, or bravery. Yet, as Feofan the Recluse has rightly said, none of this constitutes genuine spirituality; at best, it refers to living from the soul. For even despite its remembrance of the Lord, the soul’s true desire is to settle its worldly, temporal life, as St. Feofan teaches. He writes: “All it knows is grounded entirely in what is given to it by experience; all its workings are directed towards meeting the needs of a temporal life, and its sensations derive from, and are based upon its visible states and situations. Anything above this that is none of its concern”.
Life in the spirit is grounded in a different foundation. Saint Feofan sees the spirit as a power that emanates from God, knows God, searches for God, and finds comfort only in God. Convinced of its Divine origin by some profound intuition, it is conscious of its complete dependence on Him and feels an obligation to please Him in every possible way, to live through Him and in Him. No-one can attain the level of human dignity in whom there is no movement or action of the spirit».
In other words, to live in the spirit means to be unreservedly connected with God, to seek God and to desire to please Him. This means that a spiritual person will often act against the established customs and conventions, “defeating the natural way of things”. For example, while having a family will be a natural life choice for most people; many who live in the spirit will choose not to establish a family; they will not do so for their own pleasure or comforts of the flesh, but in order dedicate their lives to serving God and people.