Friday, April 7, 2017

Finding God — Within or Without

“The Arian controversy was really about the nature of man and how we are saved. It involved two pictures of Jesus Christ: Either he was a God who had always been God or he was a man who became God’s Son. The Church’s theological position was, in part, dictated by its political needs. The Arian position had the potential to erode the authority of the Church since it implied that the soul did not need the Church to achieve salvation.”
~ Reincarnation: The Missing Link in Christianity – Elizabeth Clare Prophet

The unanswered question, not only in Christianity, but in all religions, is: how does an individual experience — Oneness with the Universal Spirit — come to pass?

Is it achieved through the practice of energy cultivation techniques that seek to awaken our evolutionary, biological Kundalini forces, thereby ushering in enlightenment? Or is it by salvation, through the intervention of some orthodox religion with its doctrines and dogmas? It's a discussion that hangs over all spiritual exploration, dramatically hi-lighted in Christianity by the 4th. Century struggle between the dissident followers of Arius and the orthodox followers of St. Augustine.

Let’s turn to the Internet, that source of information elitists looks down on, but readily use. And why not? Who says the people can’t manage knowledge in a rigorous fashion, can’t come up with valid definitions and explanations? Let’s see what the WikiNet has to say about Oneness, salvation, and religious cosmology.

In Hinduism we run across the concept of Moksha. “Moksha is a final release from one's worldly conception of self, the loosening of the shackles of experiential duality and a re-establishment of one's own fundamental nature, though this nature is seen as ineffable and beyond sensation. Moksha is achieved when the individual Atman unites with Brahman, the source of all phenomenal existence – through practice of Yoga.”

Here we have a framework to work within. At the same time, we have an empirically proven system – Yoga – which, if successfully practiced, allows you to attain the Oneness state.

As for Sikhism, pretty much the same approach: “According to Guru Nanak, the founder of Sikhism, the goal of the human is to unite with God and for this the Sikh must conquer the ego, thus realizing his true nature, which is the same as God.”

According to Buddhism, “the whole universe is a single, dynamic web of energy. There is no almighty God in Buddhism. There is no one to hand out rewards or punishments on a supposed Judgment Day. Buddhism is not strictly a religion in the context of ‘owing allegiance to a supernatural being.’ There is no savior concept in Buddhism. Although a Buddhist seeks refuge in the Buddha as his incomparable guide who indicates the path of purity, he makes no servile surrender. The Buddha is not an incarnation of God. The relationship between the Buddha and his disciples and followers is that of a teacher and student. The liberation of self is the responsibility of one’s own self. Buddhism does not call for an unquestionable blind faith by all Buddhist followers. It places heavy emphasis on self-reliance, self-discipline and individual striving.”

As concerns Christianity, “Creation now has its end and purpose in Christ. Therefore, and not surprisingly so, Christian interest in cosmology and creation has changed from being concerned with matter or technique to one of relationship, that is, a dependency on the creator not only for his creation but also for subsistence.” Interesting that the author here uses the word “changed,” as in the Christian interest in cosmology and creation has changed from being concerned with matter or technique to one of relationship. What does this mean? It simply highlights the evolutionary aspect of Christian doctrine, how it changed course as a result of the Arian controversy, how it demoted the idea of self-realization in favor of a process that featured the intervention of Church authority.

Again, Elizabeth Clare Prophet: “If Jesus was a man who became God’s Son, it implied that other men could also become Sons of God.” Sound familiar? It should, because it sums up the ontology of most of the other major religions. However, “this idea was unacceptable to the orthodox, hence their insistence the Jesus had always been God and was entirely different from all created beings. The Church’s theological position was, in part, dictated by its political needs. The Arian position had the potential to erode the authority of the Church since it implied that the soul did not need the Church to achieve salvation.”

So, given the fact that Christianity veered away from the notion that by practicing certain techniques (Yoga, meditation, etc.) to attain a state of Oneness, how do you reconcile these various cosmologies? And what’s the point of religion if you can't? Is it only to follow established doctrines, only to conform, not to explore? It seems that the Eastern religions encourage their followers to explore. Whether that's true in actual practice, I don’t know.

The point is not who's a heretic, or who's saved and who's not, or by what means, according to which doctrines; it's examining these cosmologies from the point of common sense.

As far as religion goes, if it's a set of moral standards for daily life, what more do you need than the Golden Rule? “Treat others as you would like to be treated” or its Judaic counterpart, “What is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbor.” Most religions share this ethic of reciprocity. If the world’s population observed it, it's hard to imagine crime or war existing. But that's another issue.

If the goal of religion is enlightenment or salvation, above and beyond a moral code for leading a good life, then the various religions have done a poor job. Wars, pogroms, crusades, jihads, persecutions, sexual molestations, inquisitions, witch-hunts are only some of their failings.

Religions are touchy; they don't like criticism. Ever hear of confession? Sounds like 1984. Big Brother, permanent inquisition. Ferreting out the great menaces — heresy, doubt, individual initiative, the inquisitive mind. Not only in the Christian religion, but in other religions as well. And let's not forget the other major orthodoxies: Marxism, Fascism, Communism, Psychiatry; they also fear deviant thoughts. Heck, we even speak of Democratic or Republican heresies as deviations from mainstream politics. The Church of Scientology uses the term squirreling to denote its heretics.

Better to accept the governing teachings of one's chosen religion without questioning. But what are the governing teachings? According to a NY Times article about a test on basic religious knowledge, most true believers don't know very much about the teachings they, as members of their given faith, are supposed to know. In fact according to the test, they know less than non-believers about their chosen faith. It's almost as if people don't care what they believe. Instead of, Let me explore and find the answer for myself, they say, It's too much trouble, just tell me what to believe in.

So if the majority doesn't really understand what they believe in, why should you bow to pressure from those who don't know have a clear idea of what they believe in? According to Bill Maher, 15% of the American populace are atheists-agnostics, non-believers. Yet, according the the poll cited in the NY Times article these non-believers know more about the various religions than their own adherents do; they scored better on the test.

How is that possible? Most non-believers were once believers, or were at least exposed to certain beliefs by their parents. Once they began to doubt, they ran the precepts and doctrines they were taught through logic and fact checks. That means they studied the various religions in order to substantiate their claims and found inconsistencies and anomalies along the way. Which was enough to turn them into non-believers. That doesn't mean they've stopped looking for something to believe in; it means they have applied Ouspensky's dictum of questioning everything you see, hear, or feel. Not a bad credo to live by.

So what about the believers who scored poorly? What does that say about them? Must they know a lot to be saved or awakened? Or is fervor and zeal enough? It depends on what you're trying to do. If you're trying to speak in tongues or become carried away by other Pentecostal practices, then you probably don't need to know all that much. You do what you do on faith and you try to enter into the spirit of the moment; exhaustive doctrinal knowledge is not necessary. If on the other hand, you are interested in the mystical proposition, that of "merging with the creator" or spiritual awakening through meditation practice, then you have to find the Path that suits you, and that demands study, not the least of which is the study of the self.

Where does that leave traditional religion? Somewhere in a vast, yet vague, middle ground with nothing much to do except debate points of dogma, lording it over the rest of us — non-believers, mystics, and Pentecostals alike — who tackle spiritual practice head-on. Yes, they probably know more that we do. But without a true spiritual practice to follow, they have a lot of time on their hands, so they set themselves up as bodies of judgement, judging you and your dedication. Are you truly dedicated? Are your thoughts pure enough? Are you a doubter? A squirreler?

Do you really need someone examining your thoughts, judging you for them? Not if you obey the Golden Rule, you don't. That's all the religion you need.

Traditional religion has failed. Why? Because it's largely a political creation; the people involved in actual religious practices are few and far between. Like the army or big business, only 20% are down in the trenches doing the work; the rest — the 80% — are politicking your future, deciding whether to include your name in this months "to be downsized" list, checking on the purity of your commitment. Yet you cling to the mainstream, in hopes of escaping immanent danger. What danger? That is never revealed, all the better to keep you afraid of the future. Shouldn't this spur you to take it upon yourself to discover the truth?

Arius - Wikipedia ©

Contrast the traditional approach with the Arian
* notion that teaches men can transform themselves into Sons of God. What's the common sense difference between the traditional and the mystic path? Well, for one, to follow the Arian path you don't need an army of supporters, supernumeraries, spinmeisters, and sycophants. By and large this work must be done alone — with you, yourself, at the helm. Two, since you're on your own, there's no one challenging your approach; no one calling you a heretic, no one blaming you because you doubt. You don't have to conform. So, adapt a pragmatic, empirically scientific approach to finding the truth. Challenge everything you see, hear, or feel. Refuse to take the word of some institution or individual many times removed from the source. Armed with an ethic of reciprocity and a meditation method like GFM, and perhaps, a touch of Yoga or Tai Chi, seek and find the truth by yourself. If you do, your path might look something like this:

You don't have to feel guilt and you don't have to contribute money, No one's going to get burned at the stake because you meditate in the quiet of your own room.

Look at the growing numbers of those striking out on their own path. Compare them to the numbers of those leaving conventional religions. And not just for reasons of disillusionment, sexual molestation and the lot. People are tired of top-down, people are reading and thinking more. People are experimenting with everything from tattoos to the personalization of religion – the self-awakening process, self-realization. Can the truth — the Way, the Path, whatever you want to call it — only be handed to you from without by some authorized representative of orthodox religion or can you find it within by using your wits and trusting your eternal nature?

* Arian, used inclusively. Encompasses early Christians and others who believed through spiritual practice men could attain union with God, much the same way they believed Jesus and other adepts had done. Gnostics, Siddhartha Gautama, Pathagorians, Neoplatonists, Catharists. Sure there are differences among these groups, but by and large they sought awakening or union with God through personal practice. I call it Merging with the Creative Superstructure of Life.

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