Sunday, November 14, 2010

Myth and "Myth-understanding"

Your religion is full of myths.

Now that I have your attention, let me explain further:

Many of the religious stories we take for granted are myths. Now, many people assume that myths are simply "fairy tales" -- that they are pointless made-up stories. However, this is not the case.

"Myth" is a writing style -- like a fable, or a letter, or a poem, or a parable. In fact, parables and legends are very similar to myths. A myth is simply a stylized story which is meant to teach us a spiritual truth.

Myths are not meant to be taken literally, however. They use symbols and metaphors to convey their message. Often the symbols used in myths are the same as those used in symbolic dreams, and rightly so: they both come from the sub-concious mind. Their message is hidden just below the surface.

For example, in the Gilgamesh story,Gilgamesh faces one of the greatest troubles of his life as his good friend Enkidu lies dying. He seeks out Utanapishtim, the oldest man in the world, for help. The old man had once built a great boat to escape the floods which destroyed the world. The old man was successful in helping Gilgamesh find a remedy which could save his friend.

In many myths water represents the world -- the current state of affairs of people. "Troubled waters" represent problems with the state of things -- in fact, we still use the term today! In this story, Gilgamesh faces his own "troubled waters", so he seeks help from someone who has defeated similar problems. Perhaps this is a message for us, the readers. Maybe, the author(s) of the Gilgamesh story want us to understand that we can get help with our crises from others who have faced similar problems.

In other myths a person may command the "troubled waters" to become silent -- which they do. This shows us that this person is able to solve the problems simply by speaking or teaching. These myths hold greater meaning than they, at first, appear to. A spiritual leader may walk upon the waters, or build a great boat to remain alive as Utanapishtim did in the story above. By rising above the waters the leader is able to keep from drowning in the troubles of his time, as we are supposed to do – being the audience for the myth.

Still other myths may teach us to avoid getting bogged down in the trappings of tradition. A spiritual teacher may attend a festival, when suddenly those holding the festival run out of wine. Well, according to tradition, the festival may require wine. And so the teacher may instruct them to use water instead – the water becoming wine. The purpose of this story is not a literal miracle where the water turns into fermented grapes, but rather that the water symbolically becomes as wine. The point of the myth is that the celebration of the festival is important, not whether there is enough wine to go around or not.

A multitude may approach a teacher to hear his words of wisdom, and those with the teacher may notice that they are unable to fee them all. The teacher may simply state “I will satisfy them”. The multitude leave satisfied, not because the teacher miraculously turned into a taco stand, but because he gave them what they came seeking: spiritual food. Again, the point of the myth is lost if it’s take literally, but becomes apparent when we examine the symbols.

Every faith contains myths. These are the stories that help illumine our spiritual lives. They teach us about our spiritual teachers, our relationship to the world around us, and about ourselves. If we only dig at them a bit more deeply to understand the symbols and metaphors contained within them we can gain a much better spiritual understanding.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

A Matter of Perspective

I believe that religion is shaped by our perspectives. If I live in the desert and you live in the jungle our views of the world would be quite different. I may believe that God is a fierce and demanding God. You may believe that God is bountiful and always-giving. Yet each view would be true, from our certain points of view.

When I began searching for spiritual meaning I began to examine the various beliefs people have concerning God. These can be classified into various ways of conceptualizing the Deity. Some believe God is one. Some believe God is many. Some believe the Spirit of God flows throughout the universe. Some believe that each person, each animal, each plant, each inanimate object -- that all things have a spirit associated with them. Still others believe that God doesn't exist: at least not in a form that can easily be recognized. I examined these beliefs and wondered how they could all be true. I wondered why people would have so many vastly differing beliefs as to what the Deity is.

I then began looking at how the universe works together. I looked at how things are organized. I saw the atoms as reflections of solar systems and galaxies -- spinning as greater and greater wheels. I looked at how our bodies work: how the cells of our bodies do the many things that they do in order that we may survive. And I looked at the thoughts of other pioneers in the religious, spiritual, and scientific worlds. I looked at the works of Carl Sagan, Joseph Campbell, and Stephen Hawking. I looked at theories such as evolution and the Gaia Hypothesis. And, as always, I looked to the patterns which shape the world we live in.

Perhaps the greatest revelation I had came to me one night as I contemplated these various views of the world and of God. I thought for a moment about how the many parts of the universe work together as the cells of a living body: all interconnected and all interrelated. I thought about how a tiny pebble thrown in the ocean ripples across the entire ocean, even as small as the ripples become. I wondered how God could be one and many, formed and formless, spirit and host. And the conclusion I came to was a radical one indeed: that all this is God. My solution was a simple statement: the universe is alive!

I began to understand the universe a living organism -- in fact, the largest conceivable organism. And I began to think of God, not as a being outside and in control of the universe, but as the living and creative force within the universe itself.

And here is where my re-conceptualization of divinity began to make a lot of sense. All of a sudden the many different ideas about God began to fall into place.

God is one: the largest organism which exists. All things are contained within the universe. In fact, "universe" means "one word" -- the one word which describes everything, both the known and the unknown. The Living Universe has countless parts to it: all which effect all else in a continuous chain of actions and reactions.

God is many: the many faces and voices of which the Living Universe is composed. Every person. Every animal. Every plant. Every grain of sand. Every drop of water in every ocean. Every distant star. Every force of nature. All are different aspects, or faces, of the Divine.

God is formed. For all that exist are parts of the body of God.

God is formless. For as all things which exist are part of the body of God, so do all things have part of that Divine Whole within them. That is to say: just as the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle each have a piece of the whole picture in them, so also does each piece of the Living Universe. Just as each cell within a living body contains DNA: the blueprint to that organism, so also does each thing existing within the Living Universe contain a piece of that (w)Holiness. So it stands to reason that every place, every thing, every plant, every animal, and every person -- we each have that same Sacredness within us which is a part of the Body of God. And so there is Holiness every where if we but look for it!

In the Q'uran it is said "everywhere you turn, there is the face of God!" And rightly so. If we can but find it ourselves, our neighbors, and our world perhaps our future history may be a bit less bloody...

Monday, August 2, 2010

The Web of Being

When we are children we learn about the food chain: the fact that life feeds on life and that some life even feeds on death. We learn that nothing is truly created or destroyed, but that everything simply changes form. And so, we learn that the process of transformation is at the heart of the universe and that everything is connected.

Often in life-affirming religions, we learn about the Web of Life: that all life affects all other life. We learn that the ties which bind one to another transcend the food chain; that is to say, our actions and interactions affect all others. It is as though each action we take is a drop in a great Pool of Life, and whose ripples gradually touch every other drop in the Pool.

However, I believe even this is a narrow view of reality. For I see our interactions as affecting not only life, but also those things which we do not normally consider as living. I see the Web as extending beyond our world, including all things everywhere. It is as though a great candle sits at the center of the universe and all things are touched by its light. For even in the turbulent storm of Creation there is peace at the center.

Saturday, June 26, 2010


God is One.

One beginning. One Being. One universe. One reality.

God is Many.

Many choices. Many possibilities. Many people. Many faces.

God is Peace.

Peace of mind. Peace of heart. Peace and joy. Peace and love.

God is Harmony.

Harmony of Thought. Harmony of Being. Harmony of Rest. Harmony of Action.

Some Pantheist-oriented Quotes From The World's Religions

"I am easy of access to that ever steadfast seeker who constantly meditates on Me and gives no thought to anything else."

Hinduism, Bhagavad Gita 8:14

"Pray without ceasing."

Christianity, Bible I Thessalonians 5:17

"Know Thyself."

Greek, Socrates

"The Supreme Reality exists WITHIN."

Hinduism, Bhagavad Gita 6:5

"One who knows the inner self knows the external world as well. One who knows the external world knows the inner self as well."

Jainism, Acarangustra 1.147

"The Kingdom of God is WITHIN you."

Christianity, Bible II Corinthians 6:16

"Know that you are God's Temple and that God's Spirit lives IN you."

Christianity, Bible I Corinthians 3:16

"As a mother with her own life guards the life of her own child, let all-embracing thoughts for all that lives be thine."

Buddhism, Khuddaka Partha, Metta Sutta

"I am the Self, seated in the Hearts of all creatures."

Hinduism, Bhagavad Gita 10:20

"All you under heaven! Regard heaven as your father, earth as your mother, and all living things as your brothers and sisters."

Shinto, Oracle of Atsuta

"Even in a single leaf of a tree, or a tender blade of grass, the awe-inspiring Deity manifests itself."

Shinto, Urabe-no-Kanekuni

"Any and everything of this universe is all the body of God."

Tenrikyo, Ofudesaki 3.40

"Everywhere You Turn, There Is The Face Of God."

Holy Q'uran, 2:115 (translated)

"Undivided I am, undivided my soul, undivided my sight, undivided my hearing, undivided my in-breathing, undivided my out-breathing, undivided my diffusive breath, undivided the whole of me."

Hinduism, Atharva Veda 19.51.1

"God needs no pointing out to a child."

African Religions, Akan Proverb (Ghana)

"The nature of God is a circle whose center is everywhere and whose circumference is nowhere."

Greek, Empedocles

"Jesus said to them, "When you make the two one, and when you make the inside like the outside and the outside like the inside, and the above like the below, and when you make the male and the female one and the same, so that the male not be male nor the female female; and when you fashion eyes in the place of an eye,and a hand in place of a hand, and a foot in place of a foot, and a likeness in place of a likeness; then will you enter [the Kingdom]."

Christianity, Gospel of Thomas 22 (Gnostic)

En Tota

God is the universe. And here, by "universe" I mean the word as it's component parts suggest: "uni" + "verse" = "one" + "word", the one word which describes everything everywhere, including those things we know of and extending to those things we cannot even begin to imagine. In short, God is part and parcel of all that exists.

And so, to put it simply, as we ourselves are part of all that exists, each of us is also a part of the body of God. That is to say, we each contain but a small part of that Sacredness within us. And so do all people, and all things everywhere.

We need only look within ourselves to find God, or in the mirror, or the eyes of a child, or to the birds, the rocks, the oceans, or the stars. Everywhere we turn we find God. And so, as it is said in the Tenrikyo religion: "Any and everything of this universe os all the body of God." Also, the Greek Empedocles said: "The nature of God is a circle, whose center is everywhere and whose circumference is nowhere." God is within us all, if we will but look.

We find God within ourselves, within others, within nature. Sacredness is everywhere; everything is Sacred. And the only profanity comes from what we do, or what we think. We can choose to bring forth the Holiness within ourselves. We can choose to be a part of the greater picture.

"God within,

God without,

but never without God!"

Monday, March 29, 2010

Of Bullies and Moguls

After watching the political and financial dramas of our time I find my self looking backward to childhood, for those same old patterns are repeated anew in our adult lives. Many of us had to deal with those other kids who would bully us; attack us; torment us; control us. And though we have escaped the pain of these experiences their scars still run deep.

But we must pity those who bully. We must pity that mogul, or that over-bearing politician. For their desire to gain is not based on a desire to have or to access those things they gain. Rather, they are such frightened people that they must control everything around them, lest it all controls them. This greed, of money, power, and influence, is based on extreme fear. And so we never hear of their happiness at their prosperity. Oftentimes we only hear of their sorrows.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Acts Of Worship

Worship is an integral part of spirituality. Yet people often seem to think that it consists largely of talking and praying and singing. In worse cases people believe it consists mainly of groveling!

Worship is an act of faith -- a "payback" to that which we revere -- a fulfillment of our pledge to the Divine. Worship is how we do our duty to the Divine -- trying to live the way our God wants us to. Do we really believe that God wants us to sing and grovel and sermonize? Perhaps we should instead concentrate on those "little things" of the Spirit which give meaning to life.

We should worship by lying in the grass; by helping the lady to her car with her groceries; by helping someone who's hurting; by simply listening to someone who needs to talk. We should worship from our hearts, and not from our mouths. We should worship through the acts of the Spirit, not the expectations of the mind!

Doing good things is an act of worship. Do good things not because you think you should, but because you feel you should. Worship should be a spontaneous act, not rehearsed -- it should flow freely from the heart. How we live our lives should be a Holy Sacrament. And everything we do should reflect the Sacredness within us!

A Kind Word...

Our world is so screwed up today. Each day, as our world gets smaller, we build walls between ourselves. We hurry off to our workplaces in a mad competition. We focus only on the things which make our lives unpleasant. We lash out at strangers on the street -- and the ones we love!

Our mindset is based on the belief that we are the separate beings we appear to be. And yet this is far from the case.

Spiritual teachers have been trying to teach us for millenia that the Divine -- that is, that God -- is to be found within each of us. From the Hindu teaching of "That Art Thou!", to the words from the Holy Q'uran: "everywhere you turn, there is the face of God!", to the teaching of Empedocles: "The nature of God is a circle whose center is everywhere and whose circumference is nowhere!", -- and from many other teachings -- we learn that God is everywhere we turn, even in the face of a stranger, even in the face of the mirror. If we could simply embrace God wherever we turn we could learn that we are all a part of that much greater Divine Power.

A smile. A kind word. A thoughtless gesture. Giving what little we have, or even giving a little of what we have. So long as our actions come from the heart perhaps we can put an end to this senselessness!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010


Each one of us walks a path. Our path determines who we are and what we will become. This path is shaped by our choices and by fate.

A path is a means of getting from here to there. In our spiritual lives we walk a path which can lead us to our spiritual goal -- whatever that may be. We may be walking the road to heaven, or to Nirvana. We may be searching for completion, or simply looking for meaning in our lives. Whatever it may be, our spiritual path can lead us there, if we will but let it.

The road to Spirituality can be travelled in a number of ways. We create religions as vehicles to help is travel it. Religions are methods we use to help us reach or spiritual goals. As they are created and shaped by people, religions offer spiritual tools based on a particular mind-set, or point of view.

The danger in religion is focusing on the vehicle, rather than the road; focusing on the religion, rather than the spiritual goal. This is akin to a person who has a car he is very proud of. He invites friends over to look at his new car. He revs the motor and turns on the radio. But his car never leaves the driveway! He focuses on the car, but forgets the road entirely. He will never get to work. He misses the point of the vehicle entirely.

Religions contain tools we can use to reach our spiritual goals. These come in two forms: personal and community processes -- or Inner and Outer processes. Inner processes focus on the individual. And Outer processes focus on the community.

Inner processes focus on personal spiritual development and interaction. These include meditation and prayer, among others. Through these processes the individual has a very personal spiritual experience which can have the effect of shaping his/her spiritual growth. These processes work spirituality on the individual level.

Outer processes include worship services and other community rituals. These are the processes where the individual "gives back". These processes work on the community level.

Inner and Outer processes are like the breathing process: we take in and we give back, just as we breathe in and back out. On a spiritual path we first experience our own spirituality and then we share it with others. That is, we connect with the Sacred and then we help others to connect with it, also.

Friday, January 1, 2010


Oftentimes people wonder why I'm "always so happy" -- even when I'm not feeling well. It makes me wonder sometimes. And the only answer I can offer is that I have a positive outlook on life.

I try to understand the complex interrelations of all things: how we are all interconnected and interdependent. I understand that the Web of Life sustains us all and helps us to grow. I know that there are no worthless, no useless, lives lived within the Web.

I know that life is not a game of heaven or hell determined by our ability to follow a list of arbitrary rules. Rather, we create our own heavens and hells as we live, for we are the most critical judges to our own behaviors.

I understand that the universe works through balance. I know that for every pain there is a joy -- and vice versa. I know that for every breath in there is a breath out, and for everything given, something will be taken away.

I understand that the Divinity -- that God -- is the living universe. I understand that all things which exist everywhere make up the body of God, and that we are all a part of It. And so we each contain a piece of Holiness -- of Holy Spirit -- within us. That is not to say that we are gods, but that That which makes God Sacred and Holy -- a Piece of That is within us all! And so I ask, how can we treat each other with such disrespect as we do? How can we be so hateful and hurtful?

Each of us is programmed with the survival instincts of millions of years of evolution, and therefore selfishness and fear are at the core of our being. Yet we can overcome both with compassion and understanding. We are no longer simply another animal species, but we have yet to transcend our animal nature. We like to think of ourselves as higher than angels, and yet we treat one another as though we are worse than devils.

So long ago, we came down from the trees, we stood upright, and we began to make sense of the world around us. We stopped simply reacting to the world -- as animals do -- and started acting on the world: making changes to everything we touch. We stopped thinking of ourselves as animals, and thus we threw ourselves out of that Garden of Eden. And so, instead of simply existing, we began living in a state of blisses and pains.

And now we are governed by passions and by rationality. We feel and we think. Too often we let either our feelings or our thoughts overwhelm us. We react too easily. We fail to show compassion. And the world is a darker place for our dilemma. It seems that until we lose sight of our own self-centeredness we will never really achieve peace.


During the Cold War, there was a sense of paranoia created by a world now living in the uncertainty of the nuclear age. The space age was opening up and two superpowers were constantly at odds, trying to decide the politics of an entire planet. The natural reaction to this was simple: the public became paranoid.

First, the Roswell Incident made people suspicious and fearful about alien creatures. Then in the 1950’s and 60’s the science fiction and horror movies made their fears seem more concrete. In fact, during the height of the Cold War the science fiction media was obsessed with bug-eyed monsters who were bent on the destruction of the world.

As calmer times emerged in the 1970’s the public’s paranoia began to turn to conspiracy theories: often involving the government. Such beliefs as the hiding of secret technologies from Roswell, conspiracies involving the Bavarian Illuminati, and so forth, ran amok. And today, many of these conspiracy theorists abound: especially in our modern world filled with the uncertainty of terrorism we’ve been introduced to in the past decade.

As with any conspiracies, I always have to ask those who believe such things: “To what end?” If our government is lying about Roswell, or the 9/11 attacks, then why? If a small group of scientist-minded individuals has been countering the Catholic Church in secret for millennia with a bent on destroying the world: then to what end? And what will they do next?

It seems paranoia is a quick attempt to lay the blame at another’s feet when things don’t go the way we want them to, or when we’re fearful about the future. Over the years, I’ve known many in my own life who have had the same reaction on a more personal level. I’ve known a man who believes the government (or a secret organization) is secretly sabotaging his life and his employment prospects. I’ve also known a woman who believes many people who used to be a part of her life are constantly plotting against her. In each case I have to ask again: to what end? Do people such as this honestly believe that the government, or former friends and family members have so much free time on their hands as to constantly be turning their attentions to causing the misfortunes of another? Is there some form of coherent evil at work here that would drive a group to get some sort of sick pleasure out of causing such pain?

In each of the cases above, and in other similar cases, I have been close enough to the individual in question to make a few discrete observations. It seems that these people simply make bad choices in their lives. And when things take a sour turn, they look for a scapegoat to blame these bad decisions on. They may believe the world is plotting against them. Or perhaps they are cursed!

In any case, the most successful curse is one placed upon oneself. And the countercurse is just as simple: if things in your life are not turning out the way you want them to, look at the patterns in your life. Look at the choices you are making. Are you doing the same things over and over expecting better results? Are there ways to break out of those “bad” patterns and make better decisions. Are you hanging out with the wrong people, or dating the wrong kinds of people? Are you turning down jobs that aren’t good enough, waiting for the perfect one to fall into your lap rather than taking what’s available until something better comes along? Are you letting other people tell you what you should be doing in your life rather than making decisions on your own?

The only way out of a mess of our own making, is an escape path of our own doing.