A continuation of the series "Meetings with an Anonymous Sage."
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In Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet, we read this reply of a sage to a weaver, who said, "Speak to us of clothes"...
Your clothes conceal much of your beauty, yet they hide not the unbeautiful.
And though you seek in garments the freedom of privacy you may find in them a harness and a chain.
Would that you could meet the sun and the wind with more of your skin and less of your raiment.
For the breath of life is in the sunlight and the hand of life is in the wind.
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After 17 years together, we went separate ways, peacefully. Soon afterward, I felt an urge I had never felt, especially having been born and raised in a culture and religion leaving a contradictory message hovering over my life... and body.
That message: part one, the body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, meaning God lived in each person ~ exception clause, in each Christian... part two, beware of the body, it is dangerous, in it is housed all sin, it lusts for evil, so not to be celebrated as holy. So, now we have, it seems, a holy and unholy temple. Interesting.
And, of course, sex was not something to be spoken of in public, it seemed something one could not really enjoy much either, for sex was evil and, suddenly, became holy if two signed a contract ratified by the state ~ this was called marriage, even though church and state were claimed to be separate. Again, interesting. So, here is the oddity ~ some might say absurdity ~, for two temples to celebrate themselves and each other, which is really worship, the state has to give legal permission, two must sign a ratified piece of paper to be housed in the local court house, in a file. Very, very interesting.
Now, do not criticize religion or conservative culture, as though you do not participate in illogical social rites yourself. I have been around liberals enough to witness that often liberals are just as non-thinking, enough so that I once called myself progressive, as in, liberal, and would not dare now, even if I did not know who I am cannot be conservative, moderate, or liberal, not anything.
We humans blindly engage in these mindless actions all the time, we simply are usually too asleep to see it, and if someone wakes up and does see it, we think he or she kind of weird. These we might kill, but usually we politely ignore them as irrelevant and go on our merry, or not so merry, way with our eyes closed to all but truth as we have been told truth is. Now, if someone is accepted as having insight, too quickly it can be turned into a movement with its doctrine and creed, even if it denies doctrines and creeds. And, to see truth for most of us, well, that might scare the hell out of us, even metaphorically so.
Well, back to that unusual and unfamiliar feeling.... I had the urge to go somewhere in the open, take off my clothes, and relax under the open sky. All organic, one might say. "In the open" did not mean where others would see. I was and am no nudist. I do see the body as holy, as sacred, as a temple, and in sex I see this as two shrines embracing each other, and I have never felt a need to share my naked body with anyone except a physician or someone I choose to expose not only my body before, but my soul as well, in intimacy. Neither do I have any interest in viewing other bodies, even if they are temples. A gift my upbringing did give me is respect for the body as holy, and with that comes certain values related to that glorious and fleshly temple of Life.
So, I found a park in Macon, Georgia. Parked my vehicle. Walked about fully clothed, finally finding a place in the wood off a walking path. The day was sunny, lovely, yes glorious. I took of the clothes and lay on the bare ground for the first time in my life, and the ground was more than dirt or grass, but pressed down weeds among the tall grass. Shortly afterward, I dressed and walked out onto the path.
I had listened to the inner Voice, and did what the heart was calling me to do. I did not know fully why, not sure I knew even partly why. And that was the first and last time such an urge has arisen within me.
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This is real intimate. You often share with us what many would say is very personal.
It is not personal at all. I am not speaking as a person, and the body clothed or unclothed is not personal, it is universal. The body on the ground that day, upon grass and weed, was the same body as that supporting it, Earth, it was the same body as that above it, Sky. I share with you what many call personal, for Love shares in fearlessness, for from compassion comes the desire to share not only through words but the freedom to engage what many call vulnerability. Yet, if a tinge of vulnerability arises when saying something I feel needs to be said, as in meditation I let it drop, and I keep speaking. I do the same in my writing. We can frame the inspiration of spirit, as we put it in the frame of thought, but we dare not edit the truth.
How do you see that experience in the park as you look back on it?
I have had 24 years as of now to explore what that meant. I am still, somewhat, bewildered by it, as though it means more than I will ever know. There was that in me seeking to live, to come out of hiding, to be unclothed, uncovered, it appears to me. I see it, also, as an announcement, a portending of changes set in motion by we two saying our goodbyes.
So, it was much more than about the body?
The body aspect, being the most dense aspect, of matter, is the surface of any experience. That level becomes mostly metaphor. In itself, quite insignificant. Most of us take off clothes daily. That in itself was only a detail of a deeper inner summons. Without the deeper, it was only a naked man lying in a wood.
You referred, recently, to the first humans in the Jewish and Christian scriptures, often called Adam and Eve, being naked in what's called the Garden of Eden. You came up a Christian. Do you think that influenced the experience and your understanding of it?
Yes, Life places itself in the frame of our life experience, our past, fitting itself there, to bring us truth that can never fit in our past. Yet, how else can Truth speak with us humans? This is a problem for those who reject their past, such as their religion or culture, rather than honoring it and letting it remain a means of Life expressing itself. One does not have to remain, say a Christian, but one needs to know that the stories, rites, teachings, scriptures, ... of that past, that is still present in the mind and body, and can be useful to be a way of the mediation of universal truth. In some sense we cannot understand, Life chooses our life stories to embody and speak to us through. So, that influenced the experience, I think, as well as studies in Jungian theory and practice I was deeply engaged in through Masters studies in counseling then.
Carl Jung would likely say you were returning to innocence.
Innocence, and with it freedom, that is part of the message of nakedness, true. A Jungian might identify nudity as an archetype, I would not oppose that. Yet, we cannot literally return to innocence, we can only discover innocence now, and as a result of the unfolding of the Path. We can never return to the Garden of Eden, if there was one, and we cannot as metaphor. There is no innocence, nothing, in the past, only in the eternal now. If innocence arises to you, it does for the past is no more, having been preparation for the emergence of what has always been and is timeless isness. You are here, always now, so innocence is always here, now. That simple. Please do not complicate it, or let the mind translate it as something mystical. Innocence is as close to you as you are to yourself, fully embodied with the body.
As to the metaphor of nakedness. Nudity signifies coming out of hiding, not being ashamed of yourself, being willing to expose yourself in a world where most persons take refuge in the sense of being a person and from the glory of Life in a personality cocoon. No wonder so many are suffering depression, living in a safe cocoon is a depressing of the Life energy. Life is meant to flow. We are meant to be open windows.
Going back to the Garden image, the scriptures refer to the first couple by "they were naked and unashamed." Later, after shame and guilt enter ~ and the two go together ~, the man and woman cover themselves from the god by putting on fig leaves. So, in a Jungian sense, we have been socialized to cover ourselves, to be guilty for just being alive, to be ashamed of ourselves before what we call "God," as though there is something radically bad, even pervasively evil, about being human, being here on Earth. We feel undeserving. A friend told me recently of this sense of shame that she had enjoyed such an amazing life, when many do not. See? We struggle even to tolerate Glory, and we tone it down with our many so-called reasons to stay busy, so distracted from the splendor of Life. Of course, the extent of what I say, how many live this way, is an exaggeration, but how much of an exaggeration? Likely not much, and partly for we need to stay asleep for those in power to remain in power, those with almost all the wealth, to keep their wealth. They do not want the common people ~ though we are all but common, we are majestic, we are godness ~ to get out of bed.
Much of the church assisted in this, of course, teaching such nonsense as infants born sinful, needing to be baptized or they would burn in a hell, and total depravity as our natural state, meaning we are born completely perverse. Many of the church even taught Jesus was crucified for God was so angry with us; so, Jesus says, "Alright Dad, I see you're kinda really pissed off with your kids down there. They've offended you big time. So, have me killed instead, so you can get over your rage at them. Then, you can smile at them again, and get that angry scowl off your face." So, to be approved by a god and go to some heaven after death, we must, according to this, become unnatural. An interesting teaching that we must be not-natural to be holy, to pass the test. What taking off those clothes and lying in that wood exposed to the Sun said to me, was the opposite of so much I had been taught was true.
You experienced innocence?
Yes, only for I am. You could say, rather, "You experienced yourself." We are often separate from the truth of ourselves, in a fabricated, socialized fantasy that has zero truth . The human, as all nature, is naturally, meaning in its essential nature, good. We are good, for part of the Good, and the Good can only create good and is creating it moment-to-moment.
Then, what about sin, bad, evil?
In the sense in which you use it, such is not. Only the Good, True, and Beautiful can positively be, or is. What you call evil is an absence, not a positive isness, not a fullness, a presence. If God were absent, you would have Satan, but Satan would only be a way of speaking of the absence of God. In Buddhism, dukkha, "suffering, dissatisfaction, discontent," is only the absence of Nirvana, so it is not. God is Reality. Nirvana is the only place, a placeless place.
What does this today have to do with love, which you speak so much of?
Love leads you into total intimacy with yourself, as you are, as you were given to be in Nature, not as anyone has said or says or can say of you. So, to love others, be denuded, meaning disrobed of all but yourself, reject anything anyone has ever said of you, what you would call good or bad. This is like someone once said, I do not recall the writer, that the route to know God is to know yourself. People inquire, "Who or What is God?" or "Is there a God?" One might better inquire, "Who or What am I?" and "Is there even an I, at least as I have been told by others?" Know yourself, and you will know God; know God, and you will know yourself. They are one, though different.
Could your teaching discourage others from the effort of becoming good?
No more than nudists will be streaking down the streets of cities all over the world now. You cannot become good. Good is not something opposed to evil, or not-good. Good has no opposite, that is why we call it innocence and purity. Good is harmony, for it is not in tension with anything, so harmony being its nature, itself. When a child comes into the world, that child is the incarnation of innocence, and remains so until the body releases the essence at death. You are not a person, so trying to be good does not apply to you. Wake up to this! or you will be trying to be good the rest of your life, and failing at it. Being yourself, you are being good, for you are the Good being itself. But you cannot become anything. One can read the Tao Te Ching, and there see how a sage speaks of how the pursuit of good leads society to misbehavior. If people are truly natural, they need no law to behave rightly, so naturally, among others and to Earth.
Are you amoral?
I am not not-moral, nor can I say, "I am moral." When we act from our true selves, we will live moral lives without any idea or goal of morality or being moral. My prime concern is not with law or morality as taught, but with truth as untaught. This truth is our essential being, and in that we are already free, already innocent, and in Love. No one can teach us how to be ourselves, anymore than one can teach a tree to be a tree. We need to see truth as not separate from ourselves, or we have again created a split in Reality ~ here I am, there truth is. Not so. Here I am, here truth is. Truth is what is natural, what is Nature, and all life forms seen and unseen is Nature, not only what I can see or quantify by the senses. When we unclothe the worlds of our thinking about the worlds, we see only truth, we see the beauty of nudity, that all is naked and free as each is.
I feel some shame of my body. I mean, I wouldn't feel comfortable exposing my body to public view, it's far from perfect surely. How do we embrace your teaching, and know we seem unable to be this free with our bodies?
First, the body cannot be imperfect. As to the shame, befriend the shame. Do not try to deny it or overcome it. Shame, when rightly seen, is an expression of Beauty. In the primal nakedness, shame itself is that nakedness. Do not inquire now what this means, simply become fully intimate with the feeling shame. See what happens.
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*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.