Monday, August 1, 2011

Gnosticism (knowing God) versus Holy Books (learning about God)

When I hear people hold up their holy books as the definitive word of God and declare that all life's answers can be found in their chosen book, what comes to mind immediately is that here is a person who is unconsciously disconnected from the power of life that resides within him or herself. I feel compassion for that, because to surrender your power to decide for yourself how to be as you go through life is to feel a lack of trust and faith in yourself as an agent and creation of God - whatever you conceive God to be. It is to place a physical distance - the dimensions of your chosen book - between yourself and your creator. It is to render yourself a perpetual child of humanity's historical teachings, rather than view yourself as an evolving part of the larger creative life process.

As children, we do what our parents tell us to do without question, without thinking, and are taught that this is good. At some point in our maturation, however, we discover we must step into the fullness of our own capacity and discover for ourselves how to be, what we believe, and what feels right for us to do. We know our parents aren't always going to be standing right behind us, informing us how to act every step of the way. Becoming an adult means we must develop our own core competencies, even though that means we'll make a few mistakes along the way. We accept that challenge, because we know that eventually we must learn to trust in our own abilities to analyze and apply what we know, and what we feel to be true, to every new situation that arises. Only then can we feel any sense of confidence that we are prepared to raise our own children, to build a solid, stable foundation from which they can grow.

So it is in our relationship with God. Evolution, which is woven into the fabric of life itself, encourages us to continue to grow and mature. God wants this for us, wants us to learn how to use the gifts we've been given in ways that improve the quality of life for all of God's creatures on Earth. And although rule books written by the wisest men of their era were helpful guideposts for humanity when we were like children in our mental and emotional evolution, the complexity and constant challenges we experience today - as we move out of species adolescence and take our first tentative steps into species adulthood - have dramatically altered the way we relate to life, compared with how we did things thousands of years ago. Metaphorically speaking, holy books are like the training wheels we attach to children's bicycles. Eventually we are meant to cast them off, to learn how to ride the bike for ourselves without our speed and capacity being impeded by the limitations of the training wheels. That doesn't mean we must surrender or negate the benefits of having used the training wheels; far from it. It simply means we've advanced beyond what they are now able to teach us. To leave them behind - with gratitude for all their support - is the answer.

What we understand about the world in which we live - our perspective on how we fit into the larger scheme of life - continues to advance over time. Our understanding of science has helped us grasp that death is a physical illusion, that nothing in this world is ever lost or destroyed, it only changes form. Science has also helped us realize that what we perceive as "solid" isn't solid at all, it is mostly inner spaciousness, and that it is only our sensory perspective (designed to enable our "solid" bodies to navigate this reality without banging into other "things") that gives our world the appearance of solidity. We've come to realize we are not the center of the universe, but are infinitesimal specks of life on a rather unassuming planet, in the orbit of a very ordinary star in the midst of a massive galaxy that is but one of many trillions of galaxies within reach of our strongest telescopes - and that is only the fraction of the world we are able to view! We've come to understand that nature isn't "personal," and doesn't attack us out of spite or anger, but has its own long established processes and geological activities that we are sometimes, unfortunately, caught up in. We've come to realize that what we do in this world has consequences - always. For instance, there is no place to throw garbage "away," no action we can take that does not reverberate energetically, no damage we can do to this world from which we can walk away unscathed - not on a spherical planet where everything is utterly interconnected in space and time.

There is so much we have yet to learn, so very much we don't yet know, yet we endlessly strive to attain higher wisdom as we continue to evolve. In that larger context, whatever relationship we personally choose to forge with the creative process that is still acting within us, upon us and all around us holds the power to help guide us in ways that are fully relevant to life as we experience it today, as opposed to the limited guidance we're still able to glean from words that were written down long ago to explain life as it used to be to those (and by those) who did not hold our level of understanding.

To turn our attention within, and slowly learn to trust the essence of eternal life (God) that emerges when we quiet ourselves and listen to the wisdom that arises from the wellspring of the infinite inside us isn't easy, any more than that first tentative spin we took on a two-wheeler was easy. It is, however, a highly rewarding process. The best part about establishing and building a personal connection with God (gnosticism) is that we develop our own core competency in relationship to the world. The connection we open is there inside us everywhere we go, and can be instantly accessed in any situation. We don't need to call a "time out" to consult an ancient holy book, or to invest energy figuring out which group of conflicting instructions in a particular book ought to apply to a given situation. When we still ourselves, quiet our minds and open our hearts to truth, it always appears. If we really want to experience miracles in life, this is the place to begin. The relationship we're able to forge with the infinite/eternal within us when we discover we ARE that, manifesting here and now as this, a temporary form, is miraculous.

Why is it important for as many of us as are willing to do so to go within and connect with our truths? Because in life, no two situations are ever exactly the same. Every moment offers a confluence of different people, different times, different energies, different relationships, different histories, different outcomes. As tempting as it may be to cling to a "book of rules" that will inform us how to behave in every situation, it doesn't take most of us long to realize life isn't quite that neat. There IS no rulebook that will give us the definitive truth on how to BE in every situation, or how to think or feel about what is happening right here, right now. There are guideposts, yes. Approximations we can turn to. Insights that have been gleaned by others who have gone inside themselves and made their own deep connection with God. Interpretations of language by experts we can occasionally consult. But there are no fixed rules for life. There is only life, challenging us at every turn to step up and live it, fully right here, in this now. When those who have stepped into the truth as it is now come into relationship with those who are using an ancient book to inform them about the truth, conflict inevitably arises. That's because the past cannot inform the future from a place of genuine wisdom, for it does not possess the experience that is present in this moment. Past can only inform the future from its own historic perspective, which ends as of the writing down of the past. Thus, calling upon the past to inform us is like expecting the child we used to be to tell us how to behave as an adult. We can glean lessons from our childhood, yes. We can recall specific moments and act upon specific insights that are reflective of those past experiences. But we can only do so from the perspective of the adult we are today. Certainly we don't believe that the untrained, highly limited mind of the child we used to be should fully inform our behavior, without us adding our adult wisdom to the decisions we choose to make. That would be a far too limiting way for us to function.

Expecting our chosen rule book to provide all life's answers is equally limiting. Even "Thou shall not kill" - which seems like a pretty straightforward law - has asterisks attached! Thou CAN apparently kill if the other person is trying to kill you, or is harming another, or in the context of war, or (at least as some believe) out of vengeance or to mete out justice. And what exactly does "kill" mean? Does it refer to the tissue that is an as-yet unborn child? Does it limit itself to that which is already in existence as a separate human being? Does it apply to gently assisting another in their passing over to death if they are suffering beyond redemption? These are not questions for which any book offers real answers.

These days, I prefer to personally step into each new situation that arises with "don't know" mind, and then invite Truth to enter and inform me how to be in THAT given moment. I concern myself much less with how others are choosing to be, and instead focus on doing what I know to be good and right and true in the given moment - which becomes a full-time job once we commit ourselves to it. Nowadays I'm usually far too busy making sure I'm living in full integrity with my own inner truth to concern myself with how others are choosing to live. And as well read as I happen to be, because I genuinely love both reading and writing, no book I've come across yet contains the insight, the flexibility, the wisdom, to do that hard work for me, because words are dead. They cannot adjust to life, bend for it, flow with it, change as it does. They are fixed representations of what was alive at that time. We cannot breathe life into words, no matter how hard we try. Words are only thoughts that lived in a mind that lived in the past, reflecting the reality of the individuals who thought them. Even these words you're reading right now are already dead on the page. Our world has evolved beyond where it was when they first arose in my mind in the present moment. To carry the written word into the future and try to breathe life into it now, to expect those words to be utterly relevant to your own reality in this brand new moment, instead of CREATING YOUR OWN THOUGHTS is to waste your God-given gift to connect with life as life, to feel and think and experience life for yourself.

Knowledge is what we glean when we turn to the words of others to instruct us about how life is. Wisdom is what we gain when we enter into the experience of life for ourselves. Knowledge is two-dimensional, thus doesn't truly exist. Wisdom arises in the three-dimensional realm, which is where humanity lives. This doesn't mean we should throw away the compendium of collected human knowledge; far from it. Value lies within it, particularly as pointers from the past and important lessons around mistakes already made and overcome by the men and women who came before us. The key is to appreciate knowledge for what it is, a history of the journey of human ignorance to a place of higher understanding, and not the whole Truth of life, which is infinite and eternally unfolding.