*Brian Wilcox. 'contemplations of Beauty'. Flickr
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A continuance of dialogues with a sage who did not see himself as a sage, but others did; from Brian K. Wilcox. "Meetings with an Anonymous Sage."
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Said the sage, The truths you seek, these speak of the truth your heart most deeply yearns to appear. As said Kahlil Gibran, in his classic The Prophet...
Say not, "I have found the truth" but
"I have found a truth."
When truth appears, the heart responds with spontaneous recognition, one that cannot be truthfully denied by the mind, even if it is difficult initially for the mind to accept. Even the mind refusing to accept this truth, this refusal is an affirmation, a testimony to the glory of truth.
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You rarely, if ever, speak in what many would call a theological or academic way. Why's this, seeing you're trained as a scholar, a theologian, and taught religious studies in a college?
A telling saying from the late philosopher Edmund Hurssel, in Hurssel: Shorter Works, hit it right on the nail: "Merely fact-minded sciences make fact-minded people." I felt this when I was in the churches serving, most clergy being fact-persons, speaking facts from the pulpit, as well as conformists to the system, like being in the Jesus corp just speaking the same Jesus language as others. Yet, I do not assume this is not true to an extent of all religious systems, or cultural systems generally. As a species, we have few who are drawn deeper than the surface, even though many have experiences of those depths. Simply put, one finds it a challenge to live outside the captivity of mind, the fact-world, not the truth-world, for there is almost no support in societies to do so. We are socialized to live as body or brain, or both.
It seems to me theology isn't surface, for it speaks of God.
Theology is "God-ology," or thought about God, is an ideology, "idea-ology." Theology cannot transcend itself, for it is mental in nature and content. Even if one tries to speak a spiritual theology, it is theology. Once outside the mind, the "ology" is no more, no longer directly applies. Theology can usher one to the gates of Grace, but never go inside; theology is, at best, for the Temple courtyard. Thoughts about are to be burned in the Flame of Love before one kneels at the Altar of Mystery. If you cling to thought about this Mystery, this Godness, you cannot go inside into the Sanctum. Yet, the same is true of all the thought-content of any religion or spirituality. The same applies. For example, what a Buddhist thinks about the Buddha or anything he taught or what any Buddhist has taught, that has to drop, dissolve, be detached from, however you want to say it, or one will merely be self-identifying as a Buddhist. A Buddha is not a Buddhist, a Christ not a Christian. A Buddha does not hug Buddhaology, a Christ does not claim to have a Christology. Jesus would likely find a class on Christology rather boring, maybe humorous, and impractical to his purposes. I wonder if he would recognize himself in most of what the instructor would be saying.
Wow! that's strong. I don't think many persons could accept that, or would agree with you on that. Lucky you're not still in the church.
Not lucky, but thankful. To see this is a gift, not a gotten. And, not strong, really. It is simple, so simple. And the freedom of this most humans cannot accept, it is too liberating, too real, too natural.
Any other reasons why we tend to cling to the assurances of institutions, even when we know they're not being truthful with us?
First, let me assure you, I am not speaking of anti-institutionalism. Institutions are of varied quality, they have a place in the ordering of society, as well as religion. They are present only to be a means for serving, not being served. The problem arises when such systems turn in on themselves, and act as though they are to be served, then, we have the problem. Anyway, anti-institutionalism is another "ism," another ideology. One could write a book on why we humans cling to institutions, many books, could one not? Still, it seems to me a prime motive for clinging to the form of a system in a dependent way is the felt-need to belong. Until you realize you cannot not belong and that the most true, most freeing, most fulfilling belonging is in not finding belonging by being something with others, then, one cannot enjoy the innate belonging that nothing, no one can give one. Systems out of touch with their true purpose only to be a means of good, they need you to belong, to feel that deeply, so they can continue to feel they are needed, or necessary. Such groups create belongers. They need you to feel you cannot live well without them. Yet, you can join them as a means to sharing with others, sharing your belonging with the belonging of others. You can bring a powerful witness to belonging in not belonging, but participating. Yet, once you find belonging as your natural estate, you will never need to seek it from anyone, anything, any group. This is a reason Kahlil Gibran could instruct regarding marriage, in his The Prophet...
Sing and dance together and be joyous,
but let each one of you be alone,
Even as the strings of a lute are alone
though they quiver with the same music.
Another reason for group conformism is persons not being guided to grow beyond attachment to the forms of the group, the words they authorize as being true. The extreme of this in religion is a cult, yet the qualities of cultism apply in many religious and secular contexts. Indeed, a cult is made possible for it has an extreme of what is a lesser extreme in other social systems. Interesting, too, that one can be a member of a religious group who accepts whatever the pastor says, and its members say, as taught, everyone not of their faith is doomed and damned by their god, yet we act like that is not a cult. However, that is common, socially-accepted practice in the society in which I live, as well as present in most parts of the world. So, see, regarding truth in religion, the in-groups define what is true and untrue, what is cult and not, and, of course, they are not a cult by their standards. Truth, reality, cannot be socially-constructed, it is what it is or it is all a sad, meaningless illusion, with us the deluded prop for the fantasies we create.
Who's most responsible for not giving this guidance?
Leadership. Being a leader is a holy role, a sacred one, one with influence for others. I can best speak from the perspective of the churches, due to my background. I rarely found a pastor, for example, that could speak in a transformative way to his or her congregants. Leaders are usually trained, in any group, to be yes-men, yes-women, not to speak in a way that challenges the system. Leaders become leaders in systems by conforming to the system. The idea that these systems, religious and otherwise, including political, are all into seeking truth, where I came from we would call that bull-malarkey.
Today, persons often say, rather, that something said as true is not, that it is full of crap. Simply untrue. It took me decades to face honestly that the churches, with maybe few exceptions, have no interest in seeking truth, only confirming and continuing their own versions of codified, institutionalized propaganda. Truth is not a version, not a code, not a teaching, and cannot be institutionalized. Either a societal system will serve truth, or it will be dismantled by its fabrications. As spoke Martin Luther King Jr., in his Nobel Peace Prize speech, in 1964, could speak forth, "I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality. This is why right, temporarily defeated, is stronger than evil triumphant."
Yet, again, this is a cultural matter, not specifically a religious matter, so I do not agree with those who act like religion is a big problem, while we as a society are not the big problem. Like I have said before, in regard to politicians, we get the politicians that are like us.
So, how would you recommend us to address this matter, in some way that might be a step in the right direction?
Edith Stein, earlier an atheist and Jewish philosopher, became a Carmelite nun and, eventually, died by being gassed in 1942 at Auschwitz. She said, "My longing for truth was a single prayer." I encourage you to contemplate that the search for truth and prayer, in fact, or naturally not separate but one ceaseless venture, and live the truth of her words. What would happen if our leaders sought truth prayerfully, and prayed truthfully? What would happen if enough of us lived in the unity of prayer and truth as the uncompromising devotion of our lives?
*Brian Wilcox. 'Kuan Yin ~ Bodhisattva of Compassion'. 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.