by Pastor Tom Thresher
It is clear that faith is changing in the 21st Century, but it’s not clear how.
One direction appears to be Interfaith and its mystic cousin Interspiritual. It’s difficult to explain interspiritual, but the basic idea is that there is a common core to which all the world’s faiths point. As different as faiths are, the mystics claim they are truly different vehicles to a common awareness that transcends words.
The clearest articulation of that common core is called the Perennial Philosophy. My favorite statement of this understanding comes from Aldous Huxley. The Perennial Philosophy, the core understanding of the world’s faiths, refers to
- The metaphysic that recognizes a divine Reality substantial to the world of things and lives and minds;
- The psychology that finds in the soul something similar to, or even identical with, divine Reality;
- The ethic that places man’s final end in the knowledge of the immanent and transcendent Ground of all being…
This all sounds very intellectual. In part, I use this quote because of the eloquence of Huxley’s language, an eloquence we seldom hear these days. But more important, is how these few lines capture the essence of all the world religion’s mystical core. Let me briefly unpack them.
“The metaphysic that recognizes a divine Reality substantial to the world of things and lives and minds.”
Metaphysics refers to that which is beyond the physical, even beyond the invisible world of thought, symbols and language. The claim is that all the things in our world and in the universe, all the lives over all the earth and across the universe, and every thought or feeling of every creature throughout time emerges from this divine essence, here called Reality, elsewhere referred to as God. Science says there’s just stuff; the Perennial Philosophy says the essence of all stuff is divine. The implication, of course, is that our bodies, our thoughts, our earth, all life, and everything else are sacred… God in a particular form. The kingdom of heaven is here, now.
“The psychology that finds in the soul something similar to, or even identical with, divine Reality.”
Those questions that plague us — “what is my purpose?” “why am I here?” “where are we going?” — all of those questions that boil down to the central question “Who am I?” are answered here, very simply.
The core of your being is God, divine Reality.
Any more questions?
“The ethic that places man’s final end in the knowledge of the immanent and transcendent Ground of all being.”
And what is my destiny? Direct knowledge of myself as the Ground of all being, God.
This sounds heretical to a Christianity that points to Jesus as the exception, the one and only true son of God, the only Christ. But even the gospels that made their way into our bible suggest otherwise.
“He [the Christ] came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who did receive him [open themselves], to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God [to awaken] — children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God. (John 1:11-13).
The Gospel of Thomas, an early collection of Jesus’ sayings, is even clearer:
Referring to his Christ nature (or Buddha nature if you prefer): “Jesus said, ‘It is I who am the light which is above them all. It is I who am the All. From Me did the All come forth, and unto Me did the All extend. Split a piece of wood, and I am there. Lift up the stone, and you will find Me there.’" (Thomas 77).
In other words, divine Reality is the core substance of all that is, it is who you are, it is where you are going.
As we explore what it means to be a faith community in the 21st Century we are challenged and supported by the mystics of all persuasions, sacred or secular. It’s good to have such faithful companions!
Many Blessings … Tom (MAY 2013)
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