Taking Flak

Nothing invites heated debate more than calling one’s religious beliefs into question. It’s curious that so many people find the need to defend their particular path by attacking those who dare to let their curiosity explore dogma.

I recently wrote an article entitled “The Myth of Equality” which posited that every thing in the creation, including humans, is unique. I had no idea how much discomfort this ostensibly simple concept would cause on both ends of the spiritual spectrum. Several readers commented that “We are God’s children, and are all equal in His eyes” – and that I had best “correct my thinking.” Another person remarked, “How can you speak of equal? There is no ‘we’ in absolute reality; there is only Oneness – I thought you knew that much.”

Apparently I am turning out to be a bit of a disappointment to those who’ve assumed of me things I am not and looked to me as a champion of their beliefs. Let me set the record straight. I don’t claim to know anything I would present as immutable Truth. I’m simply a fellow traveler on the path, imbued with a deep love of All That Is, telling things as I see them.

I don’t select my clothes by their logo. Nor do I embrace a religion or philosophy because of family, community, or the creed’s founder. I’m more of a flitting butterfly, sampling nectar from the most fragrant flowers, then moving on to the next leg of the journey. Existence for me is a never-ending adventure that promises new surprises around each bend. I recently read a message from a man who was planning a forest walk with his son. The father offered a choice of two paths: the old road climbing to alpine meadows or “the road less traveled by,” a rutted track leading into a grove of mossy spruce. His son replied, “I have a better idea. Let’s go where there’s no road at all.” I couldn’t have said it better.

If you don’t mind wielding a machete from time to time or removing the occasional bur from your socks, you’re welcome to accompany me for as long as you’d like. I can’t tell you exactly where we’re going, but I do know the wind won’t always be at our back and the sun won’t always shine upon our faces. I can, however, promise you this: it will be a grand adventure, and when it’s finally done we’ll have songs to sing and tales to tell that will keep the angels enthralled for eons.

This entire business has caused me to ponder why I am so uneasy about structured belief. Here is what surfaced: In the end, any prepackaged concept of God is simply a leap of faith that requires one to barter curiosity for consensus and comfort. Belief, wherever it may lie on the spiritual spectrum, isn’t in and of itself a bad thing. What is unfortunate is the tendency of devotees of any particular way of thinking to find fault with those who walk other paths – or blaze their own trails.

What fools we mortals be? How can we reside within the Great Mystery and think we can grasp, in understanding or experience, even the tiniest portion of it? I salute those of you who are secure in the Truth of your belief. Perhaps in the end you will be proved right and I, well worn from my needless journey through the underbrush, will come sit by your side. But there are more than 10,000 religions on Earth, each offering a well-defined path. How can I even begin to choose among them?  If someone were to hold a gun to my head and force me to proclaim a faith, I would reluctantly admit to being a non-dualistic born-again Taoist who enjoys the illusion far too much to give it up completely.

Like others who devote their lives to the journey of endless discovery, I have been blessed with the occasional glimpse of Oneness. It would defile the grandeur of the ineffable to reduce that experience into words, or to pretend to remain in it while continuing to chop wood and carry water on the Earth plane. It has, however, left me with a feeling of love that extends – when I am relatively conscious – to all aspects of my life. And it has given me a profound appreciation of the great care and purpose vested in the creation and maintenance of the illusion. I have met quite a few “enlightened intellectuals” who look down their noses at those of us who still try to make sense of everyday life. All they seem to seek is the ability to see through the illusion and move on to a higher plane of existence. I say they are missing an exquisite opportunity to gain awareness. Someday perhaps one of them will explain why any of us came in the first place if the entire purpose of being here is to leave.

The larger the question, the closer the answer lies to paradox. Infinity is One; how you experience it is completely up to you. In my current view, each aspect of the creation is but a point through which the Oneness perceives. As pure awareness, we are free (subject to any constraints we’ve chosen to adopt) to flit among these viewpoints at will – each of them offers a unique perspective from which to know the fullness of being. In time one realizes that there is no separation in the Oneness, nor is there equality; there are only infinite varieties of expression.

To those who say we are all equal as children of God, I would reply that the statement leaves us less than who we truly are. In Oneness there is only God; there is no one separate from ourselves to hold us or love us. Nothing can be apart from All That Is – including us. To those who say there is no we, I would reply: True, at the level of absolute reality. But this does not get the wood chopped and the water carried. You and I live in the illusion – it’s part of the Oneness. If we don’t embrace this marvelous two-level reality, we miss the priceless gift for which the illusion was created in the first place: the opportunity to discover and learn.

We’re each given the opportunity to choose our own route through the woods. I ask only that although we may walk separate ways, we grant each other the right to follow our own hearts. There will be plenty of time at journey’s end to share a campfire and compare notes.

Jean-Claude Gerard Koven is a writer and speaker based in Vilcabamba, Ecuador. He was a featured weekly columnist for the UPI (United Press International) Religion and Spirituality Forum and is the author of Going Deeper: How to Make Sense of Your Life When Your Life Makes No Sense, recipient of both the Allbooks Reviews Editor’s Choice Award and the USABookNews.com Award for the Best Metaphysical Book of the Year.

©2004 – 2021. Jean-Claude Gerard Koven / All Rights Reserved.


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