IF GOD IS “SPIRIT” THEN, BY DEFINITION, GOD IS ABSOLUTELY FREE

God needs this kind of freedom in order to be God. But, if that’s so, then religion and spirit may be incompatible.  Jesus taught that God is “Spirit,” like love – or truth, justice or beauty. But isn’t it true that Spirit can never be experienced by insensate institutions – but only by individual human beings?

Each institutional religion provides a “spiritual” foundation for itself by adopting a set of ideas (orthodoxy) and practices (orthopraxy).  But if God is absolutely free, then how is it possible for people belonging to such an institution to find God simply by agreeing in advance where God can always be found – both in word and deed?  Since God is “like the wind,” always on the move, we also have to be ready to move at any time if we ever hope to stay close to God.

Given that we need to stay on the move in order to be holy, we should resist the temptation to define ourselves in a formal way or to accept any kind of set identity – because, in doing so, we’ll eventually get frozen in place, even though the Spirit will continue enjoying ongoing “play” in the universe.  We also shouldn’t try to define God either because that would only be a futile attempt to “stop” God’s movement (even if only in our minds) – which is impossible.  If God ever “stopped,” and became a stationary idea, image, or name, then God would no longer be “like the wind which blows wherever it pleases,” as Jesus described the nature of God in John 3:8.

What I’m trying to say is that religion may be antithetical to Spirit, that is, to God.  Whenever a person commits himself or herself to a specific religion, they almost immediately abandon (at least for a time) their individual search for God.  Religions offer us packaged “Gods,” and broadcast to the world that they have all the answers to life’s most important questions. But, actually, they don’t have these answers because our questions are constantly changing, we are constantly changing, and God is also constantly changing as well. Consequently, many (or most) of our accepted conventional ideas about religion may be wrong.  If God is “like the wind,” it makes no sense to dedicate ourselves to religious orthodoxy or orthopraxis, much less to church buildings, holy books, creeds, or academic credentials required to become a religious leader.  Unfortunately, we have gotten this all wrong!

The first thing we need is to become as free as possible – in our souls, our spirits, and our lives. Spiritual evolution is contingent upon how much freedom we’re able to attain for ourselves. For human beings, freedom opens the door to attaining everything worth having: the ability to tell the truth – all the time; to love and to be able to actually achieve it; to be as spontaneous as children; to be just – that is, able to do the right thing at the right time; and to end up living lives in “heaven on earth” – experiencing and fully enjoying all the beauty that surrounds us.

With sufficient freedom, even if starting off basically as human animals, we’ll eventually be able to become human beings – just like Jesus, Buddha, and Mohammed and many others have done.

In sum isn’t it obvious that it’s largely impracticable for us to reach God by committing our time and energy to an external “social vehicle” like religion?

This is the principal reason why spirituality is becoming ever more popular and institutional religion increasingly less so.  Religion, historically, has not been able to resist getting itself mixed up with power, with the consequence that people have not been as successful as they might otherwise have been in tasting the “sweetness of spirit” in their lives – the kind of infinite joy that’s potentially available for all of us.

The incontrovertible proof that religions have been “anti-spiritual” in nature is the fact that, in all of them, asking critical questions is strongly discouraged. But how anyone thinks they can reach God without first asking a lot of questions and making many mistakes is beyond me. Why aren’t all questions valid, at least for the asking, no matter how stupid or naïve they might be?

God, like the wind is always on the move – everywhere and at all times. That’s why some religions refuse to countenance any image of God, or even word for “God”. How can you name or picture “Spirit” that, by its very nature, is unceasingly on the move? Humans have wanted to mold and worship a stationary God who’s “dead in the tracks” so they can believe it might be possible to exercise some form of control over such God. Well, even though the managers of these religions have been able to control the language and images their particular religion uses for God – such people will probably never be able to actually encounter, much less develop a deep relationship with the divine.

So, my question is, is it possible for us to start all over again – even though it would be painful to acknowledge wasting so much energy over millennia on a wrong idea – i.e., the attempt to institutionalize “Spirit” – which by definition can’t work? In fact, isn’t it true that the greater effort we put into institutionalizing Spirit, the farther we’ll eventually end up from God.

Let’s try spiritual freedom – trusting in the spirituality of actual individuals. If this happens, it’ll be alright. No – more than that – it’ll be really good!

I promise.

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THE NECESSITY OF FREEDOM IN ACHIEVING SPIRITUAL EVOLUTION

The more I think about what’s required for us to evolve spiritually, the more I have ended up thinking about freedom.  In Diner Mystic, I included a Zen quote by Lin-Chi, that says:

“O you followers of Truth! If you wish to obtain an orthodox understanding of Zen, do not be deceived by others.  Inwardly or outwardly, if you encounter any obstacles kill them right away.  If you encounter the Buddha, kill him; if you encounter the Patriarch, kill him; … kill them all without hesitation, for this is the only way to deliverance.  Do not get yourselves entangled with any object, but stand alone, pass on, and be free!”

At the time, I thought he was right, but hadn’t yet thought all the way through just why he’s right.  Ultimately, I have come to the conclusion that the essential nature of God is freedom – that it’s impossible for God to exist without absolute freedom.  Any ideas that we have of God that are less than this, or that restrict God’s freedom in any way, are just plain wrong. It’s difficult, however, for human beings to think clearly about a God who has this kind of absolute freedom – because it’s difficult to think about what possessing that kind of freedom would mean for human beings themselves.  Without this freedom, God is not God and, equally so, without it, it would never be possible for human beings to discover their true selves.  It’s that important!

I intend to address this issue of spiritual freedom more fully in my next post.

SPIRITUAL EVOLUTION

Isn’t it becoming clear that evolution in the material world has taken us just about as far as we’re going to go – and that this obviously will not be enough?  Sadly, our prospects as a species are probably going to be pretty dim if that’s all we’re ever going to have.

Only by humanity evolving spiritually gives us a good chance of surviving “over the long haul”.

If that’s true, the main issue is how to do it – how can we evolve spiritually? We’ve had the benefit of some pretty amazing spiritual teachers, long ago, who arrived in the world and dedicated themselves to helping us – and this certainly has had a largely positive effect – but now, spiritually, we seem to be stalled – just drifting.

So what’s the next step?

Most of us believe that the only real path available is that of material evolution – i.e., we need to become even more intelligent and harder working – which, after all, gets us into a top universities and, ultimately, allows us the best chance of entering on important and prosperous careers.  Yet this path, if continued over an extended period of time, could actually lead to the separation of humanity into different “species,” distinguished by high IQs and broad cultural knowledge, on the one hand, so that only highly intelligent, hardworking manipulators, and, ultimately, maybe even self-programmable computers, as opposed to spontaneous, loving, truthful, and just human beings, will eventually end up inheriting the earth.

I think it’s time that we make a conscious choice as to which evolutionary path we should take. For example, in Diner Mystic, I wrote: “Spiritual evolution … enable[s] humanity to escape the hard steel rails of material evolution.  Spirituality won’t necessarily increase our intelligence, or our ability to manipulate the material world, but it could eventually evolve us into an entirely different type of humanity – the kind envisioned by Jesus, Buddha and Mohammed.”

Let’s take that path and relinquish a materialistic one that ultimately ends up in a non-human, non-God kind of world!

Would You Be Kind Enough To Call In Now?

For the ancient Greeks, there must have been a time when the name “Zeus” suffused people with awe, especially when gazing up at rugged Cretan mountains and seeing frightening flashes electrifying the night sky, along with hearing deep-bass rumblings rolling out into the distant horizon like huge heavy metal balls.

When Roman civilization succeeded the Greeks, however, “Zeus” got translated into “Jupiter,” and the numinous began to fade in light of this new rapidly-expanding world power. What were “gods,” then, compared to people’s actual experience of Roman world power – the power relied upon by successive Caesars to justify declaring themselves to be “gods”?

Today, in America, as Rome’s successor empire, “God” has gotten as dim as the evening star – barely visible through vast metropolitan conurbations of “light haze”. When any of us ever does bother to look up from our ongoing daily affairs, we usually only see the spiritual equivalent of phosphorescent streetlights.  All the earlier “bright-line” moral/spiritual distinctions set down by the ancient spiritual masters, prophets and saints are no longer clearly distinguishable by us through this society’s electronic media haze.  Tragically, the numinous – that is, the direct individual experience of the “Holy” – is no longer even imaginable for most of us.

Why am I talking about a Nineteenth/Twentieth Century “God” who’s apparently already started on “his” count-down to retirement, on the way to becoming just another of civilization’s memory-relics?

Isn’t it true that the entire Western religious infrastructure, along with all the people supporting it, has now entered a process of irreversible collapse – and is rapidly becoming part of the past?

The main question for us, now, is: does anyone out there know what’s coming next? Who might be capable of spotting incoming bits of joy somewhere out there on the horizon traveling fast enough and hard enough to break through our protective-concrete traditions and bring us a hint of fresh spiritual life?

Who’s out there and, if you are, would you be kind enough to call in now?