Odyssey / Credo
I recently discovered that I am a man of faith after many years of believing I was not. As a child, I had faith in what my parents and my church told me was true. I believed the teachings without question. As an adolescent, I began to lose faith and, by the time I was a young adult, it was gone. I spent many years grieving the loss of something I was taught was a gift from God. "Faith is a gift," they said. Then what happened to my gift? Did he take it back?
Recently, someone asked me what I was searching for. I said I believed there was
more to this life than the concrete, visible world. "If you are searching," she said,
"then you have faith there is something to find." She was right -
What have I found so far? I can see three main phases in my life search: the Born Again Christian for 25 years, the Rebel for 20 years and the Awakening Seeker for about three years. I could describe many aspects of being a Born Again Christian that you’ve heard before, a lot of it negative, but there was also a lot of good in what I learned. I learned that one’s faith, one’s religion is lived every moment of every day and that, despite the emphasis on rules, true faith wasn’t in obeying the laws but in growing one’s relationship to God. My parents and my church did their best to model this and I saw happy, healthy individuals and a thriving community. As I grew, the theology sprung a lot of leaks but the real reason I abandoned ship wasn’t my disagreement with some points of doctrine. It was because I began to think I had foolishly bought a bill of goods that wasn’t true at the core. Although today I accept there is much Truth to be found in Christianity, I believed then that it was a house built on sand and it came tumbling down in my mind. I grieved my loss for many years and I was bitter and angry, not with God but with those who had perpetrated this trick!
For the next twenty years I was the Rebel. I focused on what I knew wasn’t true, on what I didn’t believe. A saying by the Buddha spoke much Truth to me:
Believe nothing because a so called wise man said it.
Believe nothing because a belief is generally held.
Believe nothing because it is written in ancient books.
Believe nothing because it is said to be of divine origin.
Believe nothing because someone else believes it.
Believe only what you yourself judge to be true.
Although I came across other world views, philosophies and religions, I was always looking for ammunition with which to shoot holes in Christianity. I did not know what I myself judged to be true.
Six years ago I changed my life radically. The absence of Truth in so much of my life was killing me! There was so much incongruity among my thoughts, feelings, beliefs and actions. I needed to save myself! I have done much in the past six years to revive the health of my soul and for about three years I have been on a new quest for Truth. If, as the Buddha said, "Believe only what you yourself judge to be true," then I have found some ways to help me do that. I have learned that Reason, Science and the Natural World are all important in the creation of my Truth. I have learned so much from the teachings and writings of a wide range of other seekers and from the members and activities of a religious community. I have also learned that everyone, in the process of creating Truth, uses their intuition and personal experience and I value these tools very much. I have also come to the conclusion that we all create our own Truth and that Truth is always evolving and changing.
What Truth have I created? I feel like I’m in the kindergarten of this School of
Truth, experiencing many things for the first time and still trying things on for
size. I find I resonate with much I read about Buddhism but I am not a Buddhist.
I find much that is sympatico in me with the Transcendentalists but I’m still not
sure yet what a Transcendentalist is. I have even come across some modern Christian
writings that have taught me the Truth that resides within Christianity but I am
not a Christian. Unlike Pantheism, which means "God is in everything" or "God is
everything," I like the idea of Panentheism which means "everything is in God," that
is, God is everything and more than everything. This definition of God is intriguing
but the word "God" doesn’t work for me anymore. I certainly can’t use the pronoun
He or She -
Many of these elements come together for me in something referred to as the "Evolution
of Consciousness," a relatively new slant on some of the age-
"Why am I a good person?" is a question that brings ethics into the discussion. The question was easy to answer when I was a Born Again Christian but not so easy to answer now. I am pursuing an intellectual answer but, in the meantime, my intuition leads me to do the right thing most of the time because I believe this works best for me and the world in the long run. I will continue to be a good person whether or not I have the theology behind it.
"What’s Love got to do with it?" is another question I want to explore. The idea that God is Love has always intrigued me and I’d like to explore this further with a new set of eyes. I believe the answer will have more to do with my experience than my intellectually reasoned conclusions. In fact, all of these questions and issues need to be grasped and integrated in more ways than just intellectually. I want to incorporate what I learn in a way that changes and realigns my thoughts, feelings, beliefs and actions so that I am in harmony with myself and with the Universe (which might be the same thing!). Some say that the way to do this is not through the body or the rational mind but through the spirit, that is, using contemplation and meditation to experience connection to and harmony with the Eternal, the Ultimate, the Universe. I will be exploring that avenue, when I’m ready, to see if meditation is a tool I want to use in my growth.
In the meantime there are still questions of the rational mind that occupy my attention like "What happens after I die?" I like the Buddhist concept of a wave that arises from the ocean. It exists for a while as a separate identity but it is always a part of the ocean. Eventually, it returns to the ocean and no longer has a separate identity. At the moment, I think that my consciousness, my spirit, is a part of the Spirit of the Universe and like a wave on the ocean it rises to be separate and then rejoins the Eternal Ocean. I think I will go back to wherever I was before I was born, back to the ocean of Ultimate Reality, of Cosmic Consciousness, of Spirit. My individual mind or self or identity won’t survive beyond death and that’s O.K.
This is from "A Course in Miracles:"
The Journey to God is merely the reawakening of the knowledge of where you are always and what you are forever. It is a journey without distance to a goal that has never changed.
This next reading is a Buddhist meditation and, although it is very short, I believe it holds much of my Truth. I am working at understanding and integrating it more by saying it often. Intuitively, I know I can create my Truth within these words:
I have arrived. I am home.
In the here. In the now.
I am solid. I am free.
In the ultimate I dwell.