Monday, September 3, 2012

Walking Through Religion & Then Beyond It

"Recognizing that "the divine" and "the holy" are human concepts, where must we look for them? Surely it must be in life, not in some realm apart from life. So I will search for them only in the midst of the human, the known and the mundane. Religion in the past was a search for security, but security is something I no longer recognize as a virtue. I must seek to embrace insecurity as one of the essential marks of our humanity and strive to help people understand that it is no longer a vice, but a doorway into a new understanding of our humanity. The religion of the past sought to locate meaning and purpose in an external deity. That effort succeeded only in robbing life here and now of its own intrinsic worth, meaning and purpose. The religion of the past sought an answer to the unique human awareness of death by postulating a realm in which death is overcome. I seek to find a doorway into the eternal by going deeply into this life. My search for "heaven" will cause me to turn to this life, to its very depths, for that is the only place where I now believe we can hear the echoes of eternity. In that search I believe, we will discover that the word "heaven" points not to something external to us, but to something that is part of us.
I will seek to understand what our deep and natural interdependence is with all of life and indeed with the entire universe. I will look into how we can be so small and so insignificant when compared to the vastness of the universe, but can at the same time be the only living creature that can with a finite mind embrace, contemplate and interact with the vastness of space. Do these dual realities make us too small to be of any ultimate worth or so incredibly wondrous and mysterious as to cause us to believe that we were made for eternity?
The time has come , I believe, for us to turn our spiritual telescopes around so that we no longer look outward for meaning or God, but begin to look inward. That is not to walk away from God, as the fearful will scream; it is, I now believe, to walk into God. The path is internal not external, for it is identical with a walk into ourselves, and that is a journey that we must never refuse to take.
I do not want to walk away from religion so much as I want to walk through religion and then beyond it. I want to walk into things that religion has never known. I do not want to abandon the wisdom of the past, but neither do I want to be bound by that wisdom, since wisdom is itself ever-changing. The turn from the deity above to the deity within is an enormous shift. It is, however, the only pathway open to us. We enter it with new, and shall we say great, expectations."
~ Bishop John Shelby Spong, "Eternal Life: A New Vision"