The other day I found I had to briefly state my spiritual position. I’ve done this before. And there are certain broad strokes that inform my interior life, but the details fluctuate a fair bit. So, I felt I needed to start from scratch and write something anew.
And this is a good practice, I think. In fact there is much made in Unitarian Universalist circles these days of “elevator speeches,” summations of one’s faith that can be shared in the length of time it takes to ride an elevator down to the ground floor. This, obviously, as one friend put it about hers, would require a somewhat longer ride…
Anyway, as I am also a blogger, and this, while not complete (although I took the liberty of emending and expanding a little, and then again a bit more), and even now actually I would argue with myself about some points, still, it becomes grist for my mill, and so I post it. And who knows, perhaps it’ll throw some grain or, at least a little sand into your mill, as well…
I am a Religious Liberal, a practicing Zen Buddhist and Unitarian Universalist.
By liberal I mean using one’s brains and heart at the same time, trusting the human ability to see what needs seeing, to do what needs doing.
At the foundation of my life, spiritual and otherwise, is seeing how we are all completely woven out of each other in a strange, haunting and terrible way where now we are one thing, now we are separate. I believe this insight is the saving vision of the human condition. Without it we are lost and subject to the whims of appetite. With it, well, we’re still lost and subject to the whims of appetite, but we have also been given a conscience, a soul, a perspective that allows our choices to be more healthful.
I believe this insight, perspective, no word quite captures the stance it gives us, can be described in any number of ways. The Buddhist Sunyata works. I’m partial to Boundless. But, I’m also comfortable with God language to describe this. However, I hasten to add I do not believe there is an entity with a human-like mind controlling the direction of things. Rather there is a flow of relationships, each one creating the next things in a cosmic dance. Or, I sometimes think, its a bit like Calvin and Hobbes riding down that hill, a great dash toward an uncertain end…
In the last analysis I believe there is no self in the sense of an entity separate from the flow of things. But there is that now separate as well as that now one. So, its a bit complicated. However caught only within the separate our thinking becomes disordered, and more importantly, our actions are perverted. Still, and very, very important; within that now separate I also believe we have the tiniest smidgen of free will. We can say yes and we can say no. And what we choose is a big part of what is created in the next moment of the dance. What we choose matters. So, that now separate can be precious, wonderful, glorious, so long as we also know that now one.
I believe all religions are false. And I believe some are a little bit less false than others. That is in varying degree each also contains pointers to our liberation, which is our direct, visceral insight into this now separate, now one, and how our choices count. As something completely natural this insight is, of course, found outside the spiritual realms. As someone said, the spirit lists where it will. Still, more often the most useful pointers are found within the so-called mystical threads of religions.However, as to aspects of religions beyond this insight into now separate, now one, I personally am uninterested in questions of first cause or end times. Well, except we are all, always living in end times. I believe the parts of the religious enterprise devoted to healing, in the sense of curing illnesses are simply a hangover from pre-science, and almost completely worthless. I despise the corollary of some religions about how getting right with something will make you wealthy. There are tiny truths in these assertions, but not enough to replace going to a doctor or learning to balance one’s checkbook.
And, more important I find them distractions from the real enterprise of religion.
Awakening to who we are, and learning how to act from that place.
This probably shows my Zen Buddhism.
But, wanting a larger community than what I found in Western Zen, and with a deeply rationalist inclination, I wandered into Unitarian Universalism. I love the UU church. And I believe none of what I’ve written here up to this point is contradictory to contemporary UU thinking. Although, I need to add, what I say is not held by all, maybe not even a majority. But, actually, I even like that my perspectives are not a view held by all. Challenge is good. I’m a great believer in the motto don’t believe everything you think. (Yes, I caught the irony of the statement, thank you…) I’m comfortable with the tension and happy and grateful for Unitarian Universalism and the way it has allowed me to pursue these matters right down to the bottom.
Among my personal challenges to my Unitarian Universalist co-religionists are these points:
I think it hard to see through to the heart of the matter unless one has a regular discipline of sitting down, shutting up, and paying attention. I think having a human guide who has walked the way before an important thing, if not absolutely necessary. (Rant notification: And having taken some coursework and played a bit with a couple of spiritual practices and been given a certificate does not fit the bill for this guide. This person needs to have felt driven toward the depths, tried hard, had their heart broken a dozen times, but continued, wandered through the desert, and finally somewhere found for themselves that life giving spring and then drowned within its waters. Anyone else is a false teacher. Although, yes, yes, even false teachers can help, sometimes…)
And one more thing.
It does seem to me that religious moral or ethical codes often appear to be little more than crowd control. And codes delivered with the authority of God are to be distrusted on their face. But, at the same time, I think we need a container to create our lives that is formulated out of paying attention to how we relate to life and death, how we speak to each other, how we relate to the things of life, how we treat our sexuality and sexual lives and how we choose to cloud or open our minds and hearts. I think these issues are both personal and belong to the communal sphere.
So, we need to see that great nondual, we need to have authentic practices (and perhaps a guide) and we need to walk a path of harmony with what is. Not necessarily taken up in that order, but each aspect seems to inform the others, so all three…
That’s what I believe.
Here I stand.
I can do no other…