I’ve used a number of Christian references in my Blogs over the last four plus years and have been asked if I am a Christian.
I never really understood Christianity until I studied the Tao. That’s a hell of a statement! But the way that Christianity seemed to be preached, taught, and presented was all unintelligible, nonsensical, flawed and depended on a mindless acceptance of someone else’s interpretation. There seemed to be no soul in it, no spirit, just a lot of meaningless words signifying nothing, shame and punishment all punctuated with the phrase, “Thanks be to God”. And most of all, none of it matched my personal experience. So I ignored it for over thirty years. I continued a spiritual search, but without a clue as to what I was searching for. All I had was the irrational inner knowledge that I would know what it was when I saw it.
As I wandered down this meandering path I met many teachers, some religious, some spiritual, some fitting neither category such as my Marine Corps Drill Instructor. Hell, I didn’t even know where the path was sometimes, but I always managed to stumble back on after tramping through the brambles for a while.
Slowly I put together an image of reality, an inner map if you will, that would help me to make decisions when I encountered crossroads, forks, or dead ends. Slowly I began to see through the veil of misunderstanding propagated by most of the religious leaders and followers I’d encountered along the way. Slowly I began to trust my own internal guide, my own intuition, and my own sense of meaning. And though from time to time I continue to wander off the road feeling stupid and emotionally shut down my process of soul-making (now there’s a Jungian concept if ever there was one) goes on.
One night back in the 70’s while trying to decipher a section of Lao Tzu’s the Tao Te Ching and comparing it to H.B. Sharman’s Jesus as Teacher it dawned on me how much traditional Western thinking had screwed up the meaning and significance of Jesus’ words and how certain Christian mystics (read as Augustine) had sent the whole shebang running off in the wrong direction.
After that realization the teachers came rushing into my life, literally stumbling over each other to walk with me e.g. Thich Nhat Hanh, Krishnamurti, Deepak Chopra, Hermann Hesse, The Course in Miracles, Carlos Castaneda, Paolo Coelho, Carl Jung, Thomas Moore, the Gnostic Gospels, Marcus Borg, Thomas Merton, James Hillman, Ram Dass, Joseph Campbell, and Bishop Spong to name a very, very few. As I read and pondered, the words of the New Testament of the Christian bible started to make some sense. Through this growing filter of reality I began to see the path I was on and had an inkling of where it was taking me and the best part was that I now wanted to go. I now had a relationship with the God-of-the-path, walking side-by-side discovering as we went; It in I and I in it.
I attend a church because it’s a place in which to give of myself and it’s a place full of teachers when I’m open to them. It’s a place with a soul and it allows me to walk my path without shame. It’s also a place where I can plumb the depths of my own unconscious and find the gems of my being. For me the light that shines through the Mandala-like stained glass window embedded high in the stone wall above the altar is a metaphor for the light that’s growing in me.
My understanding of the life and meaning of Jesus may be quite different from most due to the influence of the path I’ve been trodding, but these folks seem not to care, content to walk a different path yet still willing to hold my hand as we go. For many, the dogma isn’t the purpose, nor is the history, ritual, or tradition the point. Like me they’re here to discover who they are, why they’re here and what to do about it.
And what about the Tao? The Tao loosely means “The Way,” not a specific way, not as in a rigid exclusivity, but as, in essence, the way of “what is”– the natural order. The Tao Te Ching is translated as “to become one with the Tao.” When I walk with God, I walk in the Tao. It is an experience, not to be found in words, or prescribed belief, or in translation by another other than through your own experience. It cannot be taught, though there are those who can point you into places where you might discover it and using tools that have been found by others to ready yourself for the discovery.
I can hear Jesus talking to me through the words of Lao Tzu. To me they are one in the same and they are leading me home. Thanks be to God.