If we want to change the world, if we want to embrace a new understanding of spirituality; a spirituality that reduces violence in the world, then we have to begin by changing the ourselves. We can only change ourselves by embracing a willingness to change the way we think.
If there is one thing that most describes the human species, it is our ability to be programmed. In the first seven years of a child’s life you can teach a child to believe almost anything. Not only will they carry those beliefs into adulthood, they will fight to the death to defend those beliefs.
We often have no idea how we learned the beliefs that define our lives, or who taught them to us, but through blind faith in what we were taught, we are certain they represent absolute truth.
If we are to change the way we think, we have to be willing to challenge the beliefs that define our lives. We have to learn to defend our opinions and beliefs, not because it is “our opinion”, but “only” when it can be shown to be true.
Blind faith is fine when we are children, but as adults, it is our responsibility to determine for ourselves, the accuracy of our beliefs. We need to carefully examine the beliefs that define our lives, and learn to make our own choices and decisions.
This is especially true in our religious beliefs.
We are told that we need to have faith in the belief that there is a higher power. Most people, myself included, accept this to be true. But faith, by definition, is not absolute proof. We have “faith” in a higher power “without” the proof that there “is” a higher power.
Belief, without proof, is what makes it “faith”.
When we are handed the subjective interpretations of scripture make by other human beings, and are then told to accept, on blind faith, those subjective revelations as “absolute truth”, ……it represents a very dangerous way to live.
The right to determine our own course in life is one of our highest freedoms. So why do we surrender that right when it comes to our religious beliefs? Why do we so quickly assume that a pre-modern person living 2000 years ago, who believed that the stars were simply light coming through holes in the dome that separated us from heaven, has more insight into the interpretation of scripture than we do?
James Carse, in his book The Silence of God, reminds us that “ God speaks through the words in scripture, but just as when Mozart uses notes on the page of music, it is not the notes that Mozart is communicating to us, but rather the music the notes make possible.
Anyone who plays the music of Mozart is simply an interpreter of his music. Those who attempt to interpret religious scriptures are simply “interpreters”. Whether faced with a page of musical notes, or faced with a page of words, both interpreters are faced with an unlimited number of possible interpretations.
The impossibility of arriving at a definitive interpretation of scripture is precisely what makes it scripture.
As the ancient rabbi’s warned, “to know God is to be God.”
Carse continues…”we cannot present ourselves to one another “as” God. Whatever other mode our speaking may take with each other, it may “not” take the mode of absolute truth, or divine authority.
The imperative voice of absolute authority is designed to bring all conversation to an end.
Those who speak to us in the imperative voice would have us cease our discussion and simply accept “their” version of the “truth”. They are telling us to stop thinking…to give up the right and freedom to assume that “they” might be wrong. That is the “voice” of dictators and authoritarian leaders. That is the voice that would have us become sheep.
Why is it that our acknowledged ignorance unites us, and acknowledged possession of the “truth” divides us?
Why is it that those who seek after the truth find themselves in essential harmony, even unity, with other seekers? But those who have the “truth” seem to have a bottomless enmity for those who do not have it, or those who claim to have another truth.”
The more conservative our religious beliefs, especially those beliefs taught to us as children, the more we will tend to inflexibly follow the beliefs and rituals of our chosen religion; the less we will question whether those beliefs are true, and the more we will find ourselves using an imperative voice that assumes to represent absolute truth.
An enlightened, authentic spirituality always reflects a deep sense of “not-knowing”, or emptiness of ego; an emptiness of ego that is never found in an un-awakened primitive ego consciousness. An authentic spirituality makes room for all of creation; all peoples, all religious beliefs, all ethnic backgrounds, all races, all sexual preferences, life styles and cultures.
If we want to create a peaceful, more compassionate world, we must learn to develop a 21st century global spirituality that does not require us to speak to one another with the imperative voice of absolute truth.
We need to find a voice that embraces the diversity of all of our global cultures and their wide variety of religions and religious beliefs.
Tell me your thoughts below.