The Meeting House... Woolman Hill (1)
And whom, or what, is one to love? Is one to choose a certain leaf upon the Tree of Life and pour upon it all one’s heart? What of the branch that bears the leaf? What of the stem that holds the branch? What of the bark that shields the stem? What of the roots that feed the bark, the stem, the branches and the leaves? What of the soil embosoming the roots? What of the sun, and sea, and air that fertilize the soil?
If one small leaf upon a tree be worthy of your love how much more so the tree in its entirety? The love that singles out a fraction of the whole foredooms itself to grief.
*Mikhail Naimy. The Book of Mirdad.
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We speak of universal Love, but that is misleading. Love is nothing other than universal. Love does not select whom it will love, for it simply cannot be selective, or it would not be what it is, Love. So, simply to say "Love" is to imply all-embracing.
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The religion of my childhood taught me to see others and treat them as we-and-they - we are the saved, they the lost; we are going to heaven, they to hell; we are the chosen, they the not-chosen; we are the saved, they the damned. This worldview, in whatever form - political, religious, familial, social, cultural, gender, race -, is tribal exclusion. Tribal exclusion is linked with fear, often unconscious, of those who appear unlike-us. Those of this worldview do not really see who others are, only their appearances. They see others as they fear others, not as the others are.
Thankfully, in my late 30s, my embrace of religious exclusion began to change. During my struggle to move to inclusion, there was a central turning point. This shift meant abandoning the exclusion my church had taught and embracing what Christians refer to as universalism - I was then a Christian and attending seminary. Universalism is the teaching that all persons will be enfolded in God's embrace, no one eternally separate from the Divine.
Most Christians do not know five of the first six seminaries in the Early Church taught universalism. Yet, exclusion soon became the official teaching of almost all Christianity. Then, it was Christianity against all the others - all persons of any other faith, all persons of no religion.
Some of my family and I went to a gathering of Native Americans. I had never been to one. Visitors present appeared to be there to have fun, buy items, and be entertained by the Native Americans dancing. I experienced much more. At one point during the dancing, I, standing outside the sacred circle, observed quietly. I did more than watch, I felt. The feeling was not emotional, but the felt-knowing of the heart. This worship was unlike any I was accustomed to, and by men and women who appeared unlike the world I lived in. Certainly, it bore little resemblance to worship in my sect, Southern Baptist. What arose in my mind was, I can translate as, "How can these men and women be lost to God? This is of God, I can feel it."
I returned to the seminary possibly as the sole universalist among the thousands there. I am thankful for that day, gazing into the sacred circle, feeling a Love that welcomes everyone, even those who seem most unlike me in the ways of their worship and the particulars of their culture and belief.
The We of Grace swallows up the I of self and group - in exclusion, the group is simply the collective projection of the egoic, divisive I - erasing the dividing walls between us - walls that were never there anyway. What is left? Love.
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This writing is akin to the writing from yesterday: The Truth the Heart Already Knows. The reason my mind could bow to the truth of oneness at the pow wow was the heart already knew and affirmed oneness. The heart is our deeper Self. The heart never learns, it always, already knows the truth and Truth. To follow the Way of Love, the mind must prostrate before the heart and the Spirit of the heart.
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*(C) Brian K. Wilcox, 2020
*Brian's book, An Ache for Union: Poems on Oneness with God through Love, can be ordered through major online booksellers or the publisher AuthorHouse. The book is a collection of poems based on mystical traditions, especially Christian and Sufi, with extensive notes on the teachings and imagery in the poetry.
*See page 2 for glossary of terms pertaining to this writing.