Pic of the day: The first Christians referred to their religion as "God's Way" or "God's Road". But why would God need a road?
I don't really know what color to assign to this entry, white or gray. It will probably make sense only to people with a scientific mindset, and yet it is about spirituality. This makes no sense to some people, who insist that science has disproved spirit. This is oddly amusing, because these people tend to practice the things they don't preach: Free will, creativity, transcending their instincts for the benefit not just of their future selves or their genes but even random strangers. In so far as they don't look for meaning in life, they even create such meaning. All this belongs to the realm of the spirit. It is like someone who claims the road does not exits, but still walks on it. We must conclude then that if spirit does not exist, something else exists that has roughly the same properties as spirit. This something else I will for the duration of this entry refer to as "spirit". ^_^
Some people experience the spiritual dimension of life more directly than others, as if they could sense it to some degree. These people are usually introverted by nature. This is not necessarily the same as being shy. A shy person may be very much extroverted, paying mostly attention to what he can see and hear and sense. Many shy people are even social, in the sense that they feel the need for company, but are too shy to seek it out, perhaps even to accept it when freely offered. None of these are introverted, and even among those who are, some are preoccupied with other things than spirituality. But even so, there have been mystics for as far back as recorded history goes. Not all of them are recorded, but their work can be seen in the traditions of their people. And here is the paradox: These mystics are eerily similar regardless of time and distance. And yet there is a distinct evolution in their messages.
Perhaps the mystics really do see things the same way, but the people they talk to are only able to understand according to how far their culture has come at that time and place?
When I was younger and listened to theologians talk, I noticed that most of them believed in a gradual revelation. These were Christians, so for example they believed that Abraham (or the people who actually lived at that time) had a personal relationship to God, but still did not know all the things that Moses did. (Or whoever compiled the Law... the name is not the point here.) And later, the prophets explained the law, refined it, illuminated it. After this, suddenly Jesus came with a much more complete revelation. (Most Jews would dispute this, obviously.) But, officially, that's where it stops. Since Jesus is generally held to be God, by most Christians, his revelation must necessarily have been complete and final. Never mind that Jesus said otherwise. (He is quoted as flat out telling his disciples that they could not bear all the things he had to tell them, so he would leave the rest to the Spirit of Truth.)
Unsurprisingly, other religions tend to have the same problem. When writing becomes widespread, it becomes easy to collect a canonical scripture which is then said to contain the complete revelation of God. Jesus took the scribes of his own time to task: "You pore over the Scriptures, thinking that in them you will find eternal life". Things haven't changed much, have they? Today we have the New Testament too, but it hasn't really changed in 1900 years or so. Islam has the Koran (Quran) which is so holy that the physical books are considered worth dying or killing for. Hinduism has more competing scriptures, but there too the respect for the Ancients is such that no one would consider adding anything except commentary.
Of course, the commentary can get quite extensive and eventually change the whole meaning. But this is a completely different process. These changes have been made by theologians, not by prophets or mystics. They tend to make things more complicated rather than more simple. The distance between God and man grows so wide, there is need for a whole caste of middlemen to tell you what God really means, not to mention to tell God what you need. You pay, they pray. But the spiritual reality becomes distant and untouchable. It becomes... unreal.
Was it really meant to be this way? Not according to Andrew Cohen and Ken Wilber, who discuss the evolution of enlightenment in a lengthy dialog in What is Enlightenment magazine. It is vaguely disturbing to see such touching agreement between two people who each is considered a cult leader by their opponents. Usually cult leaders hate each other on sight, don't they? But these people have kept intersecting each other's fields of expertise for something like 10 years and still cooperate like a pair of newlyweds. Disturbing.
It doesn't help that they make sense, at least to me. Of course, I myself was shocked when I first read the hint that God might be evolving. This was in Carl Gustav Jung's book Answer to Job. Jung had the good grace to make it clear that he was not talking about God as such, but the God-image in the human mind. And this had most assuredly evolved since the early days of Yahwe's relationship with a certain desert tribe. Jung was sure that this was still going on. Most notably, he foretold that the Iron Curtain, between eastern and western Europe (which he saw as a continuation of the schism between the Orthodox and Catholic church) would come down really soon now. He died when I was still little, so he did not get to see even a hint of this. But he was still expecting it to happen, because the conditions in the soul of the Christian world were changing to allow it.
Ken Wilber is equally precise, in his very different terminology, to make clear that the timeless spiritual reality – Nirvana – is not evolving. What is evolving is the experience of enlightenment itself, which happens in the meeting between that timeless non-material realm and the physical world, which is not 3-dimensional but 4-dimensional: Time has been forgotten for too long, but is an essential part of reality. Since part of enlightenment that takes place in our changing world, the total experience must also change.
This is an interesting thought. If enlightenment happens when the natural world and the spiritual world interact, but only the natural world is changed, then it follows that over time the natural world should be more and more influenced by the spiritual, until in the end it becomes completely permeated and saturated with it. This end result is indeed predicted in holy scriptures, including the Bible.
Conversely, if we follow a model where the enlightened people withdraw from the world and focus solely on getting out of here, "liftoff for Nirvana" in the humorous jargon, then that is nice for them. But the world is not really a better place without them, and the timeless and unchanging spiritual world is not really enriched by their arrival, since it was already perfect and anyway is timeless and unchanging, remember? So that's not a very good thing to do. Instead, enlightened people should stay in the world, interact with it, and keep the spiritual essence flowing into our universe.
This, to bring us back to my own thoughts from the beginning, is pretty much the engine that drives religion forward. Not the pondering and footnotes of countless theologians and philosophers, but rather the occasional open window through which the Light can shine into the world.
But who is capable of this? Usually we are so full of ourselves that barely the faintest glow can be seen through us.
Visit the archive page for the older diaries I've put out to pasture.