Yesterday, you spoke of two paths. Please share what these are.
Today, let us share one way, the devotional way, or the love path. We can return to the other later, the knowing path. Remember, however, these two are one, as I said yesterday. This will be clear for you, I anticipate, if not already.
What is this love like?
This love can be viewed in two ways, as Love with a capital L ~ I often use it this way ~, meaning the Beloved Himself, Herself, Itself. We shared on that yesterday. In a sense, as the Supreme Being is unspeakable, unwordable, untranslateable, so is love. We can speak of love, with a small l, likewise, for the love in its many manifestations in form. Formless loves through forms.
But would that not be what many call in theism idolatry?
No, if so, Christianity would be a religion of idolatry, making an idol of Jesus ~ possibly, much of it is. This is something Islam is very cautious of, for them, they have no form, Allah is formless, the Formless. The Society of Friends, or Quakers, likewise share this cautiousness about form. Idolatry is worshiping form as the Ultimate, the Real. The form is the shadow of the Real, even as the body you call your body is not you, only the shadow of you. Yet, the shadow is a real shadow, the shadow can be a means of the Real. We with form use form to join with the Formless. So, in summation to your question, worshiping form is not idolatry, worshiping form as the Formless is idolatry. And worship is the essence of devotion, is devotion, is love loving.
Worshiping form still sounds, to me, like misplacing the devotion due the Supreme Being?
Worship means to see and adore the inherent worth of something. Anytime we adore someone or something, that is worship. If I adore the loveliness of a flower, that is worship. If I adore you, that is worship. We worship forms of the Supreme, for we find them worthy in themselves to point to the Supreme. Humans create whole systems of form as means of worship. Yet, again, we worship the form, we have devotion to the form, as form. We, in the West, do not see this clearly as in much of the East. We do not see the logic in the devotion, for example, given spiritual teachers or in the myriad forms of deity. Even Buddhism, a nontheistic path, often teaches many male and female bodhisattvas and many buddhas, not just one. I have attended many worship gatherings in the last decade, gatherings not using forms, rite, and ritual. I have not found the gatherings anymore spiritually-oriented than groups with regular practice of ritual and rite. Posture of the heart is essential, not whether we use form or not, and form is needed by most as a means for and to that posture of heart. This does not mean formless worship is not worship, only that few humans can well-engage it; indeed, refusing form may be a limitation, even a reaction, or a sense that one is advanced beyond it. In the latter, there may be a sense of superiority to all those who worship with form, as though they are underdeveloped, less evolved. Devotion without form is a difficult way to learn to walk, few can walk it, and likely few who claim they do actually do it well, if at all. Form is part of being human, rite and ritual in no means inferior.
What, then, would be a one-sentence definition of the path of devotion?
Actualizing connection with the Divine through expressing love to the Divine. I say "actualizing," for the oneness is already present. I say "connection," though the connection is already present; we cannot make the connection, we can only be part of its manifestation or actualization; we can enjoy it through love. I say "expressing," for devotion requires action, ways to say "I love you," for love loves. If you have a lover, you want to say I love you in action. Love acts. Love does not simply assume the other knows one loves, Love wants to do something to say it ~ meaning put it into a form ~, Love wants to speak it forth into a shape: a song, a poem, a letter, a hug, a night out for a delicious meal, ... I say "to the Divine," for in devotional spirituality, the Divine is approached as an object; unseen Grace, Pure Subject, objectifies as pure object, to invite us home to the heart-of-hearts.
Can only religious means be means of this path?
Yes and No. Religion, in a broader sense is a way of life, of being. In this case the religious one is living in devotion to the Supreme. He or she may not have any association with a religion. In the narrower sense, religious means associated with a religion or with religion. Yet, as I see this, many persons are in a religion but are not religious, while many persons are not in a religion but are religious. Of course, many persons in religions are religious too, for the religion is the way to devotion for them.
So, in the pure sense of religion, any means, of a religion or not, can become a means of Grace. In pure religion there is no differentiation, essentially, between secular and religious. One may worship listening to a so-called secular song, as well as a religious song, for example. The mind differentiates, Love unites. Simply put, Love can love as well in the supermarket as at the sanctuary. Yet, few have evolved to this unification. Few can truly be religious in the sense of the unification of the apparent opposites of secular and religious. In a Christian sense, most Christians really need a church, few can live well without it. Yet, there are followers of the Christ who do not need a church, for them church is everywhere, is everyone, for Christ is everywhere, is everyone.
Can you give an example of worshiping through the secular, in your experience?
I often experience the Divine through so-called secular music. I rarely listen to specifically religious or spiritual music. Sometimes, I feel so much love through listening to a song that few would see as spiritual, and tears of affection pour forth. That is worship. I, also, everyday experience worship of the Formless, the Mystery, through interacting with other persons. Almost all my time is in solitude, but often I will go out for a short time to the nearby town to experience that connection with others as the many faces of the one Face. I may have little verbal interaction, but through persons I inhale the perfume of the Beloved. I can, then, return to solitude with gratitude for that experience of worship. To me, everyone is Christ, everyone Buddha, even if they do not know it.
Can sex be worship, a part of this devotional path?
Not sex in itself. For many persons, sex is merely a biological drive being acted out, even a need for power. In this sense, a genitally-focused sharing, but even saying "sharing" is saying too much for this. Just sex is a selfish act, a self-act, and no self-act can be devotional. There is really no joining there beyond the body. This is not saying just sex is wrong, but it is not communion with the other, the other is an object to be used, as self is an object using the other. Even in wanting in just sex to please the other, one is seeking to please self in pleasing another self. Still, that is self-centered, not true sharing, or communion heart-with-heart. That is body with body, ego with ego. A wise being cannot simply have sex, body with body, not for it is wrong, but for in such wisdom, in such love he or she is gifted to enjoy, sex body with body would be seen as a degradation of the other and self, an act of un-love. Better not to have sex, than have just sex. How can one honor the Beloved and the True Self one is, by simply pleasing the body of another, when one is not a body and the other is not a body?
When does sex become devotional?
Sex transcends, while including, the sexual itself, in seeing in the other the worthiness of the Supreme Lover. Yet, this Supreme Lover is, also, the Lover that essentially is those engaged in the act themselves. You, as person, are not the Lover, yet, you as you, are the Lover. So, in sacred sex with another, you are not really making love, you are loving, you are sharing love. You cannot make love with anyone, though we use that terminology. Through the other and you, love joins with love. That is worship, in any setting worship occurs: Love joins with love.
Is the devotional way the superior way?
Any path that leads you home is your path. We seem destined for a path, and, at times, we may be destined for another path later. It is ignorance that leads persons to claim one path is the only path. There are many ways, but only one Way. Yet, most of us will follow one path the entire life we live here on Earth. We cannot speak of a superior path, however. The Supreme takes on many forms and, likewise, manifests as many ways to our true home. Why should I care what path anyone follows? Why should I judge it? Why should I be bothered that one is a Buddhist, or a Christian, or a Muslim, or an Orthodox Jew, of an Hasidic Jew, or whatever. That of love is from love and leads to love. That is all that matters.
Can someone be on the wrong path for him or her? How do I know when I've found my path?
You cannot find your path. Your path finds you, or, better, is given you. Let us continue here, our next sharing.
May Peace go with you!
*Brian Wilcox. 'A Beautiful Arrangement'. Flickr
(C)Brian K. Wilcox, 2019
The theme of "Lotus of the Heart" is 'Living in Love beyond Beliefs.' This work is presented by Brian K. Wilcox, of Maine, USA. You can order Brian's book An Ache for Union: Poems on Oneness with God through Love, through major online booksellers.