One Common Faith ~ The Story – Part Five

devil

The Story Continues…

{the beginning is here}

My Dark Night of the Soul

I put an image of the devil over there because, even though I no longer believe in an incarnate evil power that acts against and opposes God, I do still believe that our ego consciousness, if not guided by our higher selves, can act like and is in fact a devil—leading us into all manner of immoral, unspiritual, and irreligious activity.

Our ancestors had to face many devils—forces outside themselves that they personified, made into separate psychological entities—nature forces with minds and plans of their own. I feel they also faced the same devil we all have, potentially, within us: the ego consciousness.

Some psychological scientists feel that the ego has not always been part of a human’s character, that it grew in response to the need to specialize our talents to meet increasingly complex social tasks. It still remains a mystery to sincere experts of the mind. It still is the major antagonist on any person’s spiritual path.

As past posts in this series indicated, I began life in the cradle of a serious religious family and, at an early age, began to question the theology I was expected to believe. The initial painful struggle for me was clearing up the mystery about my minister parents’ spiritual authority and how it fit into the Will of God. Aspects of this mystery were cleared up rapidly as my reasoning mind developed but there were emotional issues about spiritual authority that lingered well into my 50s.

There was another spiritual mystery that concerned the apparent exclusivity of the various religions’ Prophet-Founders—the Christians claiming Christ was the only Way, the Muslims claiming the same exclusivity for Muhammad, and, even though less vocal about their beliefs, the Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, and others seemed to have similar theological attitudes.

My response to this impossible situation was to cling fervently to my belief in one God and proceed down the road of secular scholarship to attempt to resolve the issue. I studied all manner of Self-Help approaches, dove into psychology and psychiatry, bore down into the vaults of scientific knowledge, and explored what are considered Occult arts. Along the way, in spite of my belief in God, I wove a path that entangled me in all the pitfalls of merely human learning—pride, intolerance, lack of real justice, rationalizations for purely selfish actions, and many other extremely devilish occupations.

Our ancestors traveled similar roads, repeatedly. The major difference between my personal development and the development of our human family is that I’ve never killed anyone for their religious beliefs…

I eventually, at 42, found my Faith, my solution to the perplexing and devil-like antipathies that have grown up between the various flavors of religion. More on this next time when,

Spiritual Quotes :

“Remember how Adam and the others once dwelt together in Eden. No sooner, however, did a quarrel break out between Adam and Satan than they were, one and all, banished from the Garden, and this was meant as a warning to the human race, a means of telling humankind that dissension — even with the Devil — is the way to bitter loss. This is why, in our illumined age, God teacheth that conflicts and disputes are not allowable, not even with Satan himself.”
‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Selections from the Writings of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 275

“Now a procession passes. The Pageant of the World. Grand nobles and kings, high priests and dignitaries of the Churches, jewelled and gorgeously dressed. They look with scorn on those who believe, saying: ‘Why should we leave our ancient religions?’ They look like devils of malice and oppression. Yet each is miserable. One falls, the others pass on. One is dying, the others take no heed. Another breathes his last. They do not stop by the way.

“The poor who have believed look on sadly.”
H.M. Balyuzi, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá – The Centre of the Covenant, p. 499

For an in-depth and rigorous discussion of the principles explored in this story, reference One Common Faith and Changeless Faith.

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One Common Faith ~ The Story – Part Four

religious_fighting

The
Story
Continues…

Link to the beginning.


More on my spiritual war with religion.

In the last installment, I’d said, “I was known for my spirited discussions about religion, challenging anyone available to prove to me even a shred of evidence that religion was the correct way to worship God…”

Even though I’d had a huge turn-off toward religion, I continued to search for one I could call my own, devote myself to, claim as my Truth.

I should inject a bit of clarity concerning morality, spirituality, and religion.

Having a “moral code” may keep you from reprehensible actions but it won’t necessarily help you transform your consciousness or achieve the heights of spiritual awareness.

Being “spiritual” may bring some measure of heightened consciousness and may or may not have an influence on moral behavior.

Being “religious” can improve the morals, heighten spirituality, and  induce an attitude that aids an individual in working cooperatively to build better forms of social existence.

Our ancestors had a chance to try all three modes of behavior and understanding, over and over again. They, with the help of the Avatars and Prophets down through the ages, built moral codes, devised activities to heighten spirituality, and formed religious societies. Something they also did, that worked against all three forms of social betterment, was to weave highly materialistic and basely human rituals and institutions around the pure forms bequeathed to them by the Prophets. This is what led to the divisiveness of religion against religion—the fighting against the outer forms of worship and dogmatic theologies while ignoring the eternal spiritual truths.

I did the very same thing in my individual development. I’d receive a small bit of the Truth, immediately appropriate it to my personal whims and fancies, project it on anyone willing to listen, and defend it till I’d lose the other person’s respect…

I came from an American-Christian background. I’ve always honored and respected Jesus. I also explored other religions and found cause to honor and respect their Prophet-Founders. The predominant American religious game is to deal out a deck stacked against any religion but the one crafted by either very mortal popes or very mortal ministers. I’d grown up with two very mortal ministers (mom and dad), had them shape my early understandings of religion. How in the world to reconcile my religious birthright of the exclusivity of Jesus with the apparently equal exclusivity of the other Prophet-Founders?

The answer was found after an excruciatingly painful descent into my Dark Night of the Soul.

To be continued…

Spiritual Quote :

“What ‘oppression’ is more grievous than that a soul seeking the truth, and wishing to attain unto the knowledge of God, should know not where to go for it and from whom to seek it? For opinions have sorely differed, and the ways unto the attainment of God have multiplied. This ‘oppression’ is the essential feature of every Revelation. Unless it cometh to pass, the Sun of Truth will not be made manifest. For the break of the morn of divine guidance must needs follow the darkness of the night of error.”
Bahá’u’lláh, The Kitab-i-Iqan, p. 31

For an in-depth and rigorous discussion of the principles explored in this story, reference One Common Faith and Changeless Faith.

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One Common Faith ~ The Story – Part Three

religious_battle

The Story Continues…
{ Part One }
{ Part Two }


The battle begins; more accurately, the battles that make up my war with religion.

I’d accepted the Faith I was “born into” without question up to the point my questioning faculty shifted from the everyday level to the meta-level. I certainly had enough of the usual questions a seeking soul asks as it begins the process of working through the body—the “why is the sky blue” variety. At around seven years old, I began to question the Faith I’d been expected to embrace, silently of course…

Our early ancestors also accepted the various forms of Faith they’d acquired during their struggles with the challenging environment of our mother planet. They apparently didn’t just fashion these early forms of Faith from sheer imagination but were guided by beings more-than-human. From the best available evidence, there were very special personages from the earliest times; called Avatars, Prophets, Messengers, or Manifestations of God—Souls with Supreme fidelity to God’s Will, human-appearing yet endowed with Powers most usually never suspected.

My personal war with religion began not because I disbelieved in God but because of the polar opposition of what I understood of God’s Way and the ways my parents and fellow members of our church expressed their Faith. I must add that my mother was and still is my best example of a human living their Faith. Yet, the fact that she deferred to my father (far too much in my opinion and horribly confusing to my young mind) and that my father, very prone to vent his frustration with those not agreeing with his entrenched attitudes (always at home, not in the church), the fact that he was the religious leader of a community of wayward, struggling humans led to my first religious battles—fought, with much blood and gore, within my young personality.

Our ancestors had similar problems. An Avatar would appear in their midst and convey a morsel of spiritual Truth. The leaders of the tribes and cities would take that pure sustenance and clothe it in very human trappings, weaving rituals around it till it became nothing but a husk, lifeless and devoid of any healing power. I’m sure there were individuals who had internal religious wars similar to mine many thousands of years ago. One thing that’s certain is the religious wars our ancestors, distant and recent, have fought with other tribes, cities, and nations within our human family.

I was known for my spirited discussions about religion, challenging anyone available to prove to me even a shred of evidence that religion was the correct way to worship God…

To be continued…

Spiritual Quote :

“The foundation of all the divine religions is one. All are based upon reality. Reality does not admit plurality, yet amongst mankind there have arisen differences concerning the Manifestations of God. Some have been Zoroastrians, some are Buddhists, some Jews, Christians, Muslims and so on. This has become a source of divergence, whereas the teachings of the holy Souls Who founded the divine religions are one in essence and reality. All these have served the world of humanity. All have summoned souls to peace and accord. All have proclaimed the virtues of humanity. All have guided souls to the attainment of perfections, but among the nations certain imitations of ancestral forms of worship have arisen. These imitations are not the foundation and essence of the divine religions. Inasmuch as they differ from the reality and the essential teachings of the Manifestations of God, dissensions have arisen, and prejudice has developed. Religious prejudice thus becomes the cause of warfare and battle.”
‘Abdu’l-Bahá, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 344

For an in-depth and rigorous discussion of the principles explored in this story, reference One Common Faith and Changeless Faith.

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One Common Faith ~ The Story – Part Two

youth_praying
Our last post began a story about my life and religion. It also set up a comparison between an individual life and the development of our human family. If you’re visiting for the first time, scroll down to the last post to read the first part or jump to it with this link.

The Story, Continued…

When I’d reached my early youth, I had a better grip on the difference between God and my parents; but, that’s not saying I really understood either of them.

Our ancestors entered a similar phase of development when they’d worked out a knowledge of the cycles of nature’s manifestations—lightning, rain, flood, fire, cold, and other regular displays of earth’s powers.

I continued to attend the church where my parents were the ministers, knowing there was an independent Source of ultimate power but still cringing under the manifestations of power my earthly keepers displayed. Mom was a sympathetic soul, though still full of power and command, and dad was a tyrant. Still, in my heart of hearts, I knew each loved me—in ways I wouldn’t clearly realize for many years. The hard part was understanding why they seemed to not understand me

Our ancestors had similar challenges. Even though they could predict when rains or cold would approach, they weren’t clear, in a conscious way, of why these powers were manifesting. The way they coped was to personalize the powers as gods and develop meaningful rituals to appease those gods. Usually, there was a major god who ruled the lesser gods and elaborate rituals to cajole the favor of that supreme power.

I was still mostly behaving and being a good boy at this stage but I’d certainly developed a strong desire for personal time, not just the time spent with friends but time with myself, time to ponder…

Early humanity made a potent space available for a tribal member’s personal time. They ritualized it and created ways to harness the individual’s creativity for the greater good of the tribe—go on the Vision Quest and bring the insights back to us so we may grow with you…

I didn’t realize, even though my parents were ministers, that my personal pondering was my conscious mind talking to my soul. It would be many years before my growing ego consciousness would surrender to my soul and clear the way for a deep and pure religious experience.

The tribe lives for the tribe’s sake. The individual lives within the tribe. Individual urges are shaped to the tribe’s necessities or are eliminated…

To be continued…

As in previous posts in this series, I urge you to reference an important document and a web site that explores that document:

Document: One Common Faith

Exploratory Web Site: Changeless Faith

Spiritual Quote:

“We affirm that a common set of core values is found in the teachings of the religions, and that these form the basis of a global ethic… There already exist ancient guidelines for human behavior which are found in the teachings of the religions of the world and which are the condition for a sustainable world order.”
Bahá’í International Community, 1995 Oct, Turning Point For All Nations

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One Common Faith ~ The Story – Part One

children_praying
In the last post I said, “I want to tell a story”.  I also said certain people wouldn’t like it…

I’m not sure right now how many posts it will take to tell the story. It starts in the dim past and soars into the unseeable future.

The story won’t have a lot of detail but it will have a lot of emotion. The beginning is my early time on our earth as well as the early time of our human family. It’s very easy to see the stages of an individual’s life mirroring the infancy, youth, adolescence, and maturity of humanity.

Before I launch into the beginnings, I want to give the links to a document and a site that explores the document—they’re the immediate stimulus to my needing to tell this story.

The document is One Common Faith—a deep and scholarly exploration of religion (that’s the reason some folks won’t like this story…).

The web site is Changeless Faith—dedicated to a multimedia learning process that dives into One Common Faith  and helps you connect with it in a personal way. {if you’re not the type of person who regularly reads deep scholarly documents, I’d recommend starting with the “Companion” part of the site rather than the “Document” part—you’ll get a simpler introduction to the concepts and appreciate the full document much more}

The Story

I was born in 1946 to two Christian ministers—mom and dad. I feel lucky to have had such an early introduction to serious religious life. I’ve felt conflicted about the deep problems I’ve had to struggle with to unravel the mystery of Who God really Is—mom and dad or the Ineffable, Unknowable Creator.

I think our earliest ancestors had a somewhat similar problem. The members of our human family who lived during our infancy had to struggle to co-exist with the powers they encountered and they developed various theories about a Power that ruled over those powers. Lightning or earthquakes are powers (so are mom and dad); why do they happen and what causes them? Later in the story, we’ll look at the scientific understanding of this issue but it won’t be easy to leave behind the ultimate Mystery about the Origin of our life and struggles in this earthly home…

I went to church four or five times a week. Our early ancestors worshiped in the constant cathedral of nature.

I trembled and uttered inner prayers that my soul wouldn’t be damned by my parents. Our earliest ancestors shouted and danced to appease the gods—inner and outer.

I asked my Sunday School teacher questions she couldn’t answer. They went to the medicine woman and were instructed to perform rites they weren’t expected to understand.

I mostly behaved but grew up to be quite impulsive and rebellious. They did what they had to do to survive and sometimes killed the members of other tribes.

To be continued…

Spiritual Quote :

“It is a great mistake to believe that because people are illiterate or live primitive lives, they are lacking in either intelligence or sensibility. On the contrary, they may well look on us with the evils of our civilization, with its moral corruption, its ruinous wars, its hypocrisy and conceit, as people who merit watching with both suspicion and contempt. We should meet them as equals, well-wishers, people who admire and respect their ancient descent, and who feel that they will be interested as we are in a living religion and not in the dead forms of [many] present-day churches.”
From letter written on behalf of Shoghí Effendí to the Comite Nacional de Ensenanza Bahá’í para los Indigenas de Sur America, September 21, 1951

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One Common Faith – Introduction

onecommonfaithI want to tell a story.

If you have a decided opinion against religion, you won’t like this story.

If you rigidly cling to one human expression of religion—feeling all other expressions are wrong—you won’t like this story.

I decided to tell it because I had an online friend recommend a site about an important document that discusses what’s wrong and right about religion—making clear sense of the tangled religious history we humans have created.

I’d already read the document, One Common Faith, and found the presentation of it on the site, Changeless Faith, a valuable and intriguing way to deeply understand a document that, all by itself, could be a major challenge and a difficult message to read and comprehend. The site is interactive and multidimensional.

I urge you, sincerely, to check out the site, Changeless Faith.

I recommend patience and an open mind.

I pray I haven’t lost my Internet audience…

As an introduction to the next few posts discussing concepts from this document, here’s an outline of the major sections:

History’s Turning Point
Disillusionment with the Promises of Materialism
The Progressive Globalizing of Human Experience
Humanity’s Current Needs Overwhelm Established Religions
Bahá’u’lláh Recasts the Entire Conception of Religion
Progressive Revelation and the Failure to Understand It
Religion’s Unity of Purpose
Religion’s Shaping of Civilization
Enacting the Principles of the New Age
The Power of Unity: The Model of the Bahá’í Community
Disunity and the Persistence of Evil
The Unfolding of the Bahá’í Global Community
The Day of Fulfilment

My upcoming posts about the ideas of One Common Faith won’t be a detailed exploration of all those topics—Changeless Faith does that. I’m going to choose just a few topics—topics I can relate to current cultural issues that I feel are critical to understanding the failures of humanity in its response to past religions and a hopeful and promising way to practice religion and not lose your spirituality…

Spiritual Quote:

“Religion should unite all hearts and cause wars and disputes to vanish from the face of the earth, give birth to spirituality, and bring life and light to each heart. If religion becomes a cause of dislike, hatred and division, it were better to be without it, and to withdraw from such a religion would be a truly religious act. For it is clear that the purpose of a remedy is to cure; but if the remedy should only aggravate the complaint it had better be left alone. Any religion which is not a cause of love and unity is no religion. All the holy prophets were as doctors to the soul; they gave prescriptions for the healing of mankind; thus any remedy that causes disease does not come from the great and supreme Physician.”
‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Paris Talks, p. 130

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Are You Political ?

politics This post is a huge departure for me. I normally use news clips, personal commentary, and spiritual quotes to address the issues of our culture.

I work hard to keep the discussion valid for a global audience even though I live in the United States of America.


Well, today, in America, the news is all political, all presidential, all pervasive…

I’m sitting in my favorite café and will attempt to do some “live” blogging—writing without forethought, as events unfold. I’m not going to cover what’s happening on the TV but what’s happening with the people around me…

Here goes!

It’s quarter to six and the only people in the café are me, a woman getting ready for a Mary Kay meeting in the back room, and Sam, the owner. Sam just said he hopes to finish his work soon so he can sit on the couch, in front of the big-screen TV, and “get involved”…

Another patron arrives and promptly settles on the couch and begins working on his personal letter-writing…

Five till six: Two more patrons, getting ready to play a war-game…

Five after six: Talk is starting to percolate—”when will the pundits start projecting a winner…?”

Sam just made a personal pronouncement about why this election will be a nail-biter: the candidates are so radically different—not politically but as far as their characters are concerned.

{ personal aside: I hope readers in countries other than America will make comments on this post ! }

Five till Seven: Sam is on the couch!

Five after seven: The war-game is heating up and Sam looks happy with the first projections.

{personal aside: the confrontational, partisan rhetoric from the television is starting to get to me…}

Seven-thirty: Both couches inhabited; it’s starting to warm up…

Eight-fifteen: Laptop in use on the couch; spirited discussion begins; the couples playing games start a new one…

Eight-thirty-five: Cell phones in use; discussion tones down…

Nine-ten: Some folks are heading home to sleep; willing to see what happened in the morning…

Nine-thirty: Much discussion of the difference between the various projections of the winner—MSNBC, Fox, Google…

{personal aside: Amazing how excited people can get over media projections…}

Eleven o’clock: Obama projected as winner; one women running outside, cell phone to ear; the rest of the folks look a bit shocked; then, most everyone leaves the cafe…

McCain concedes with impeccable grace while his followers shout rude comments, Jesse Jackson in tears, and three people remain in the café…

Obama gives acceptance speech…

My enduring impression will be the blending of skin color on the stage and the hope of human harmony as Joe Biden joins him and the two families stream in while Mr. Obama clearly shows how humbled he feels to be elevated to a position of leadership in our crisis-riddled world…

Spiritual Quote:

“…the breeding-ground of all these tragedies is prejudice: prejudice of race and nation, of religion, of political opinion; and the root cause of prejudice is blind imitation of the past—imitation in religion, in racial attitudes, in national bias, in politics. So long as this aping of the past persisteth, just so long will the foundations of the social order be blown to the four winds, just so long will humanity be continually exposed to direst peril.”
‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Selections from the Writings of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 247

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