Please start with the first essay.
God/The Divine/The Creator/The Universe = The Ocean
Spiritual Leaders = Navigators/Sailors.
Religious/Holy books = Maps
Religion = Ships
Religious Followers = Passengers/Crew.
Every now and then I am either asked directly or I overhear this question being asked, “Which religion is the best one to learn the truth about where we came from, what is our purpose and where we are going and why?”
When I was an evangelical Christian, the answer was simple....mine! Now that I have learned the true origins of the bible and the history of Christianity and discovered the lost and/or previously unconsidered weighty perspectives against one religion having all the answers, my response to that question is no longer so simple-minded. The universal truth however is.
The Universe and its Originator exists and they can be explored!
Problem is, passengers (religious followers) are far too presumptuous and prejudiced and premature in their attempt to claim their definition of God/Universe.
Some think they know exactly what this Universal Alpha and Omega thinks of everything and everyone. They even claim to have the inside scoop on God’s future plans and how God will be judging each individual’s heart and how God will decide that person’s destiny not just now but in the future. They have a rule book and a game plan. They actually begin sentences with, “God said this…” or “God thinks that…”
Understanding the infinite vastness of God means owning up to our diminutiveness. It starts by admitting that in the grand scheme of things, we are truly ignorant. It means humbly admitting we just may not be the centre of attraction in the Universe and likewise our conceived earthly saga as presented in its many religious versions could very well be our own notions. It means opening up to the possibility that we are but one, single cell plankton floating in a vast ocean that is God.
That scares many people.
It is the curious, imaginative scientist who learns new things and invents new things, not the apathetic, know-it-all bureaucrat. Religious fundamentalists are the least curious, creative and joyous people on the planet.
Fear is the reason a more honest and humble answer to the question of, “Do you know the truth about Who or What is God/Universe is and what our purpose in it is?” eludes people. Even when the answer should be a resounding, “No, I don’t know!” or a conservative, “You know what, I am still exploring that,” we are so scared of living in a state of constant wonderment and infinite possibilities that we cling to something ready-made and comforting even if it may not be entirely true and/or detrimental to ever learning the truth.
Guess what? That state of uncertainty, overwhelming wonder at our ignorance, awe of the vastness of the Universe and its infinite possibilities is precisely the truest state of being. We actually fear what is the most effectual jumping off point to discern the answers to our most pressing questions about God/Universe and our purpose. It is the curious, imaginative scientist who learns new things and invents new things, not the apathetic, know-it-all bureaucrat. Over-confidence in ones religion is the short cut to stagnation. Religious fundamentalists are the least curious, creative and joyous people on the planet.
I know there are people who think they know exactly what this Universal Alpha and Omega thinks of everything and everyone. They even claim to have the inside scoop on God’s future plans and how God will be judging each individual’s heart and how God will decide that person’s destiny not just now but in the future. They have a rule book and a game plan. They actually begin sentences with, “God said this…” or “God thinks that…” They claim to “represent” God. They hold grudges and pick fatal fights in God’s name (which they also speculate on), with those who choose to walk a different spiritual path than they’ve chosen because they believe God designed the path they are on to be the only true one. There are some waiting impatiently for God to make some dramatic gesture of confirmation by rewarding them exclusively for choosing a particular path while punishing others for not choosing it.
If a Supreme Being that exceeds the magnitude of my loftiest imaginings exists, we can no more know its mind than the nucleoli in plankton can predict the volume of water in the entire ocean. Yet some claim to have God figured out? What nonsense! Unless it is a God of their making, I do not see how that is possible.
Like a speck of plankton in the murky depths, we can only feel just a little of what the actual GARGANTUAN Alpha and Omega of this Universe might be. Even what I am writing now is barely adequate and I humbly admit that I am totally open to revising it depending on what I continue to feel and see on my spiritual journey. At the same time, I advise you to make your own explorations and not depend on my accounts. I am just a fellow journey-maker like you. Read this like you do a travel guide book written by a solitary adventurer, keeping in mind that you need to make your own journey and write your own guide book. In addition, forget believing on faith. Instead, embrace knowing based on personal experience.
Like a speck of plankton in the murky depths, we can only feel just a little of what the actual GARGANTUAN Alpha and Omega of this Universe might be. We can no more know its mind than the nucleoli in plankton can predict the volume of water in the entire ocean.
Try not to be too overeager for definite answers, instant euphoria and grandiose demonstrations. If you read my Forgiveness 101 series, it illustrates so well how great spiritual strides, like the ability to forgive, do not come from some kind of miraculous endowment. It comes from your exploration and hands-on learning as you strive to be more masterful in the Universe. Mere faith/belief cannot compare to knowing something for sure. Religion is about belief in a particular ocean explorer’s accounts, map and ship.
When it comes to exploring the ocean (God/Universe) and learning its truths, we can choose to be a:
Navigator/Sailor – And take charge of our own expedition of the ocean, chart our course, gain mastery of a vessel and the high seas and go it alone or with passengers and crew.
Passenger/Crew- Trust someone else to do the map reading and sailing while we ride aboard their ship and/or work aboard their ship and enjoy the sights and sounds on their expedition, allowing them to share their lessons along the way.
I am not here to advise you for or against affiliation with a particular ship (religion) or your reverence and submission to a particular Navigator/Sailor (prophet, Messiah, guru, Pope, Mullah etc.). You should know your own mind and your capabilities. I can only tell you the pros and cons of each method of exploring the ocean having experienced both.
The Navigator/Sailor has a great responsibility on their shoulders, whether they have passengers aboard their vessel or not. If their ship runs aground or gets lost, they are accountable. However, they gain great mastery, power and direct real interaction with the ocean. They do not have to put faith in someone else’s navigational skills. They are seeing things first hand unlike the passengers and crew.
A Navigator/sailor can say,
“I have SEEN it, FELT it and NAVIGATED through counter currents. I KNOW it.”
Passengers and crew just have to take his/her word for it.
There is great freedom in being able to chart a course and let ones exploration of the ocean be dictated solely by the currents and your skills. However more self-discipline, self-confidence and self-awareness are required as well as a lot of trust in the ocean’s patterns and respect for its unpredictable power. If the sight of an endless, open ocean from a crow’s nest, uncertain weather patterns, approaching swells and unexpected shores thrills instead of terrifies you, then being a Navigator/sailor is for you. If you are a strong swimmer and trust your instincts when strange waters appear, this is the role for you. If you can conquer your fear of the unknown even holding on to your wheel as your ship descends into the depths of the murky water while your passengers and crew bail in fear, then you are a Navigator/Sailor at heart.
For you the exploration of God/Universe is an adventure, quest and a test of your soul’s abilities, it is likely you cannot think of any other way to go through this existence than being an independent ocean explorer. The tell tale signs were that when you were a Passenger/Crew member you were unbelievably restless and not content with “being told”. You made your Sunday School Teacher pull out her hair! You barraged everyone with questions,
“Did that really happen? What does that mean? What does this do? What is that for? Why do we have this rule? Why do you do that task?”You always found a way to sneak inside the crow’s nest and get an audience with the Navigator/Sailor in charge of the ship and ask,
“How do you read that map? Why did you choose that map and not others? Why do you prefer not to use GPS instead? Why does the map say there is an island here but I cannot see it in real life?”
When you looked at the ocean, it was not enough to just be amazed and comforted by it. You wanted to know the very substance of it. The security of a ship will never compete with your desire for personal discovery even if it means leaping headfirst off the deck into the vast depths of the ocean.
The Passenger/Crew are totally in the hands of the Navigator/Sailor and have to summon up amazing faith in that person/s ability to man the ship. They have to believe in the Navigator/Sailor sometimes even to the point of assigning them powers of divinity. Hopefully, the Navigator/Sailor has earned that trust because the Passengers/Crew have to submit to the Navigator/Sailor’s authority and instruction and obey orders, trusting that it is the best thing for everyone aboard the ship.
Not everyone has this kind of faith. Not everyone can unquestioningly submit to authority. Sometimes being a passenger or crew can be frustrating when you do not agree with a decision the Navigator/Sailor of your ship makes. Passengers/Crew often do not realize a Navigator/Sailor has no time to entertain everyone’s concerns and suggestions, especially during a challenging navigation through a dangerous ocean passage. Sometimes doing what is best for the ship (religion) means disappointing some people and requires passengers/crew to make huge sacrifices with regards to their freedom and personal happiness.
However, Passengers/Crew are free of having to steer, read maps and make crucial decisions. In many ways, they can just sit back and enjoy the cruise once it is going smoothly of course. Often, the Navigator/Sailor is so pre-occupied with the grand picture, he/she misses out on simpler pleasant aspects of the journey which the passengers or crew member have more time to appreciate. While the Navigator/Sailor is pre-occupied with map-reading and scanning the horizon, the Passengers/Crew can look over the balcony and watch the dolphins swimming by and feel the healing spray on their faces.
For them, the exploration is a trip, journey and a vacation from their troubles on dry land.
If you have tremendous faith but very little map literacy or intellectual interest in cartography and oceanography skills, this might be the best way for you to start your exploration of the ocean. If you just want comfort and healing, this is the perfect way to get it. Even tired Navigators/Sailors take a temporary vacation as Passengers from time to time. If simply feeling that ocean breeze, waking up to it every day and watch the waves roll by is enough for your soul’s enhancement, then you can benefit from allowing the priest, pundit, imam, guru, rabbi or shaman to steer the ship and trust his/her exploration path of the ocean. If you are more than happy to unwaveringly believe in their map reading is by Divine direction leading to the best ship policies and itinerary and you are willing to working hard aboard the ship without question, then you are a Passenger/Crew for sure.
There is nothing wrong, per say with being a Passenger/Crew member. It is a very good place to start. For some people, like addicts or the severely emotionally damaged, fearful or disempowered, the structure of an itinerary and ship rules and the security of the vessel is a tremendous help in being law abiding, productive citizens. Not everyone has the courage, intellect, self-discipline, motivation or skills to be a Navigator/Sailor right away. However, at some point, you must take a more active interest in the history, inner workings, higher responsibilities and navigational decisions of the ship (religion) you have chosen to come aboard. You must always continue to test whether it truly helping you to explore the ocean in the best way possible. You must also learn how to swim, read maps, sail a boat and survive on the ocean alone.
In the next instalment, I will tell you why.