*Brian Wilcox. 'Return of Innocence'. Flickr
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A continuance of encounters with a sage who did not see himself as a sage, but others did; from Brian K. Wilcox. "Meetings with an Anonymous Sage."
Spoke the sage...
Freedom arises internally, not first by changing that outside that we claim causes us to be unfree. If free within, nothing outside can bind us to itself in slavery to itself, a yoke that takes us out of ourselves. So, law, meaning imposed norm of any kind, outside our natural being, cannot either add to or limit our freedom. Law cannot choose freedom for us, we must choose freedom for ourselves. In doing so, we are free of lawful law and unlawful law, we are free in Love by Love, we live by Grace.
What's the relationship of societal expectations and living the Way?
I read, again, recently, an interesting statement in Kahlil Gibran's The Prophet, on the freedom of the wise ones, which spoke strongly to me when reading it. It intimates of the role of law as unable to confine our natural freedom within its dictates. This includes the 'law' of societal norms and expectations, including its vow to prosper us or protect us, if we yield our innocence and freedom up to its lust for power and control. The Prophet spoke...
People of Orphalese, you can muffle the drum,
and you can loosen the strings of the lyre,
but who shall command the skylark not to sing?
What most spoke to you about this?
The freedom of Nature, including each one of us as beings of Nature. Our innate innocence. Our nature is to be ourselves freely, as a particularization of the Universal. We are truly as free, in our being, as that skylark singing, a singing that no law can give, take away, or imprison. The skylark lives the Way, for being itself. We need to be as that skylark, we need to sing our song, meaning our life, our joy, and we need to respect that other persons have their song to sing, their life to live, which may appear much unlike our song, our life. This is the logic behind Gibran saying of parenting...
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.
You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them, but seek not
to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.
When you truly love someone wisely, you want him or her to be free, even as you want to be free. There is only one freedom, and that we invite and inspire others to live and enjoy, even as we are invited and inspired by others likewise.
Once, a member of an evangelical church I served as pastor spoke of a dear friend she had and who was gay, a man she spoke highly of. She asked about how I felt about him coming to our church for worship. I heartily said "Yes," that I would be glad for him to do so. So, he came, and before the worship meeting we met outside. I welcomed him, we talked. After the worship and almost all others had left, we met and conversed, again, in the center aisle of the sanctuary. Before saying our goodbyes, I hugged him, and he hugged me. I wanted him to know he was welcome, as welcome as anyone, in that place of worship. I wanted him to feel that welcome, feel affirmed in a community that belongs in a larger religious sect that often gay persons were and are now not welcome as they are. Being gay was his song, his life, not mine; yet, we are of one life, we sing together the song that includes his and my song, and your song. We are one life. There are many songs in the one song we are and live, together. This is the song of God, the song of Nature.
So, the wise one is free of the societal norms?
He or she is free of law, yes, law as the yes-or-no imposed on our natural estate of love and freedom; this means our true nature is lawless, but not meaning acting lawless or defying law. You were born lawless, you shall die lawless, for being is free of any addition to its innate innocence. Being is innocent, not meaning not-guilty, but innocent as free of both imputed innocence or assigned guilt. Nothing you can do can change the innocence you are, yet those who are in awareness of that innocence wish to live in a manner to honor that in everyone, the same innocence. The wise one lives naturally, not needing to live in consciousness of do-or-don't-do, should-or-shouldn't, these being outside its true nature, so the wise do not need that kind of custodial care that many do. The wise one agrees with natural law, the Way spoken of by Eastern wisdom paths, while the use "natural law" is not really a law, but the way nature naturally is and, so, acts. The Word, or Reason, Greek Logos, as it is in the Christian Bible, Jesus embodied, is that denoted by the wisdom in the Tao Te Ching, that classic of the Way, or natural being. In fact, the book First Corinthians in the Christian Scripture has, "He [Jesus] became wisdom for us." To say, "He became law for us," that would contradict the entire, radical message of early Christianity and would be contradicted by the record of the life and sayings of Jesus. Sadly, Christianity soon became a religion of law, not a religion of freedom, of Spirit. Jesus the wisdom teacher became Jesus the lawgiver. The church, first known as a people, became an institution, with the people not being free to access directly the domain of Grace, but being told they had to go through the institution and those assigned by the church to mediate for the people unfit, unprepared to do so. This is an example of how law can easily replace freedom, dictate usurp Spirit, and, as taught in the Tao Te Ching, such law-fulness creates societal law-lessness, for it contradicts the essence of the human being, the innate right of innocence. Such, likewise, violates the love that leads to love, law-fulness leading, rather than to love, to fear. Only in the environment of unconditional freedom, can unconditional love freely love.
How would this evidence in our spiritual path, our practice?
Often we begin law-like in the Way, over time we relax into the path; we may even relax the rigor of our spiritual practice. This is natural, like a child learning to crawl and, later, running. Life in manifestation is always developmental in capacity. If one cannot move from the earlier, more immature stress of strictness, including dependence on a teacher and spiritual group or religious sect, one is resisting the freedom arising from the path. Yet, we each are different, the path different for different persons, and that is part of the freedom we embrace. No one can tell another how his or her spiritual path will or must unfold, not in any degree of preciseness. One in being true to himself or herself, will be true to all. Still, to act like one must keep with the rigor of spiritual practice and the dependence on a teacher or group, that is not necessarily the truth. Freedom is, however, something we have to learn, adjust to, for it leaves us with a less tangible sense of what to do and when, and how. Many, in fear of this freedom, stay in the sweaty cocoon of first-born religion or spirituality, where they feel all is predictable, safe. Wise ones move to be twice-born, they do not live in cocoons that once were the nurturing place before they developed wings to fly; they fly in the sky, singing their song.
So, what about faith leaders who violate their role or responsibility for those under their spiritual guidance, for example in sexual abuse, which too often happens?
When the power of freedom is co-opted by ego, these things happen. Power corrupts those who choose to be corrupted by power. Also, you said "faith leaders," yet, that one is a priest, guru, spiritual teacher, pastor, lama, rinpoche, or any other faith or religious leader, does not mean the person is what he or she appears to be, claims to be, or others claim on his or her behalf. Likewise, communities that enable these violations of basic ethics are responsible for the harm brought to persons entrusted to their oversight and care.
I read in St. Augustine's Confessions, "Love and do what you will." If we only loved, it seems freedom wouldn't be abused by anyone.
Strictly, Augustine seems right-on with that saying. It, however, is difficult, even impossible, for most persons to apply. How many of us so love that we can do what we will, knowing what we will is of love? And how many persons have the understanding of and devotion to love Augustine speaks of? Until we live from where such a profound truth arises, we need law to constrain us in our lack of love. Ideals may be totally true, totally impractical. Law is needed, until not needed, and many cannot live wisely free of consciousness of the constraints of law without acting lawless. Last, Buddhists stress the union of wisdom and compassion. I would say Augustine leaves us with only one side of the coin, for we need wisdom, or insight, to work in union with love; otherwise, we might act lovingly and unwisely, doing more harm than good, while truly acting in concern for the best interest of the other. I may feel deep love for you, but how to act lovingly for your best interest, that is the matter not only of love, but wisdom.
Could you say more about the idea of our each having a song, but there being only one song?
One of my favorite little tales is of the piccolo. The piccolo is one instrument in the orchestra, a small one, led by a master conductor. Around the piccolo is a din of louder instruments, such as the trombone and symbols. The piccolo thinks, "Amid all this din, my little offering isn't important. I'll stop playing." The conductor, trained to be attuned to each contribution to the symphony, however apparently insignificant in comparison to others, stops the orchestra from playing. He asks, "Where's the piccolo?" See, your innocence, your lawlessness, is respectful of the rights of everyone, the needs of everyone; you, innately, are shaped from love to love. Naturally, you want to be yourself as a contribution to everyone else, and with reverence for the gift everyone else gives in the whole, the song we are together. And the piccolo, realizing this, plays not for he or she has to, is told to, or to get a reward or merit, but for he or she wants to play in communion with the others, wants to be part of the ongoing creation of the cosmic Symphony, the song of Love.
*Brian Wilcox. 'Swinging over the River (no. 2)'. 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.