Today, I share a meeting with the anonymous Sage, then words from May Sarton, entry "February 2nd" in Journal of a Solitude. These relate, in some way. Sarton's words below could be mused upon forever, beautiful and a sacred revelation they are. In hearing them this morning, something indeed was "given" to me, her words vessels gathered together to form a sublime, heart-touching of revelation. Beauty. But, first, a meeting with the Sage and his usual playful play with words.
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A long-time friend addressed the Sage as to being in religion and being religious.
"You've said that you're religious, but you claim not to belong to a religion. How's that? That's always confused me."
"I can't belong to anything, neither can you; we are belonging. In Life is no separation, only differentiation. An apple doesn't belong to the apple tree, both belong with and in Life. Both are Life."
"Still, in the differentiation can't we belong to something or someone? Say, like a child to a parent, at least until a certain age, or that apple, until it's taken from or falls off the tree? Doesn't the Earth belong to the Universe?"
"No, you can think you do, but you can't. Anyway, where does the parent end and the child begin? Where does the apple tree end and the apple begin? The child is in the parent, the parent in the child; the apple tree and apple belong together, each in the other. When you eat the apple, the apple tree and apple are in you, and you are in them. Someone could say, "I hate my dead mother," and that's saying, "I hate myself," for the mother is in the hater of the mother, while the hater is in the mother. Earth is not merely in the Universe, both are in Life, both are Life. Universe and Earth belong together, for they are belonging."
"I'm still confused a little, this is new to me. Can you put it more simply, in fewer words?"
"How can that which is belonging, so belongs with all, as all, belong apart from all to any one thing or person?"
"I have my name on a church role, and, so, I'm a member of it. I took membership vows. Isn't that belonging."
"Being a member doesn't mean belonging. The others and you recognize a loyalty, membership is only that for you; as you said, a name on a roll, on some book or computer file of names. I'm sure many persons are members of something, like a family, but have no sense of belonging, are even rejected as belonging for not fitting in. Belonging is, so it can't be negated, no one can choose for or against your belonging; no one can un-belong you, any more than un-belong a rock or a river or the sky from Nature. If the Universe is a Uni-verse, it is One-verse."
"I get your point now but am confused about the difference between religion and religious, still. They seem to go together."
"Religion seeks to formalize what can't be formulated, to give shape to what can't be given shape to. Air can be kept in a bottle, yet the nature of air will remain air. Air will not take upon itself the shape of the bottle."
"So, what's religious as opposed to religion?"
"To be religious doesn't mean belonging to a part of Life, like a church or a sangha, which are merely containers at worst, means at best; to be religious means to enter into all of Life, for one is Life. If anything is a container, it contains, while everything by nature is open to Life. Religion, when a container, is suffocating to the spirit-Way, is un-natural, so deadening and deadly. Many dead persons attend churches every Sunday, and I'm not speaking of spirits or ghosts."
"Can one be religious and of a religion?"
"Religion, being compartmentalization in Life, tends to create devotees in which their lives are compartmentalized from Life. So, Islam creates Muslims, Christianity creates Christians, Judaism creates Jews, for example. Persons often don't realize that the path of any faith group functions rightly as the way to open up one in the Way to the Way. Religion is present, rightly, to guide persons in being religious, like a flower bulb opening itself, through roots, shoots, leaves, and flowers, to the myriad things of Heaven-and-Earth."
"So, you don't ever sense a need to be in a religion, as you once were?"
"No. I can't give that need to myself; if I did, that wouldn't be natural, that would be against the Flow, the spirit-of-Things. If the need arises, that's another matter. So, in this natural way, the Way, one has nothing against religion or for it, but there remains neutrality at the sensing level. I can celebrate the good of religion, I can be thankful for those who receive blessing by being part of a religion. I can't, however, be in harmony with either the thought that everyone needs to be in religion or a specific one, as many say their religion is the only right one. I can't be in harmony with the outright criticism of religion as worthless, which many seem proud to parade around, as though they're somehow very intelligent beings."
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And May Sarton...
A good piece by Audin in the Times. I read it while eating a hot dog at the kitchen counter and felt happy. His theme is that we are losing two precious qualities, the ability to laugh heartily and the ability to pray, a plea for carnival and for prayer, the conscious thumbing of the nose at death. I suppose that the only prayer - reached only after all pleas for grace or for some specific gift have been uttered and left aside - is, "Give me to be in your presence." This is really just about what George Harrison, the Beatle, sings in the hit song of the moment: "I want to know you, I want to be with you." Simone Weil says, "Absolute attention is prayer." And the more I have thought about this over the years, the truer it is for me. I have used the sentence often when talking to students about poetry, to suggest that if one looks long enough at almost anything, looks with absolute attention at a flower, a stone, the bark of a tree, grass, snow, a cloud, something like revelation takes place. Something is "given," and perhaps that something is always a reality outside the self. We are aware of God only when we cease to be aware of ourselves, not in the negative sense of denying the self, but in the sense of losing self in admiration and joy.
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(C)Brian Wilcox, 2020
*Photo by sandro biscotti is 'Some rights reserved." No alterations have been made to the photo. Link to Creative Commons license: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/4.0/legalcode .