This is going to be a strange blog post. Strange to write and probably strange to read. It is strange because I am trying to explain something…or I am trying to begin to explain something…that I am only beginning to wrap my head around. A big part, the biggest part, of writing this blog post in my continuing effort to get a handle on this subject. I am also writing this to people who it might resonate with. I am writing it because I want it to inspire others.
This post is about spirituality. I am not quite sure how exactly I define spirituality in this context but I will hazard a try: spirituality is an inner longing for something greater than ourselves. I experience it and know others experience it as an inner calling, as something that must be followed, that cannot be ignored, it steers your life, it is the lens through which you view the world.
If you are one of the people this post is written for then you have likely searched through many different spiritual traditions in the course of your life. If you are one of the people this is written for you have not found any of those traditions ultimately satisfying. I don’t mean to imply that we would or even should ever feel ultimately satisfied with our spiritual tradition…or at least not in the sense of satisfaction that is something like the end of a journey satisfaction. I do not think the journey ends. But I do think it is important, if you are on the path…well, to be on the path. And for that, I think it is useful, perhaps necessary (I think this is likely the case) to have a home in a tradition. If this post is for you, then you will likely have a sense of what I am trying to say here…but what do we do?
I grew up feeling the absence of a spiritual tradition. As I began my search, I began looking in places where there seemed to be existing and ancient spiritual traditions. I looked to the East. I followed this way for almost 30 years. But something has happened that changed that direction…and it has happened rapidly over the course of the last year and a half.
I am struggling to find the correct or most accurate words to use to describe what has been happening to me. The word that strikes me as most accurate at the moment is epiphany. I have been having a series of epiphanies. I mean epiphany as both the manifestation of a divine or supernatural being and as a moment (or in this case multiple moments stretched out over time) of sudden insight or revelation.
(The Knight of the Holy Grail by Anthony Catania)
Here are some aspects of the series of epiphanies:
We have access to a tradition, and it is actually our tradition, it is your tradition. I mean it like this: it was your mother’s tradition, and your grandmother’s tradition, and her grandmother’s tradition…for a long way back. It is your tradition in the sense that you grew up likely learning the stories, getting the broad strokes. You have visited numerous temples and shrines and perhaps even holy places that are, in a certain sense, houses for the metaphysical energies and currents of this tradition. Of course I am talking about the Judeo-Christian/Greek tradition. By this I am attempting to point at what I see as the marriage of key aspects of Hellenistic philosophy with the theistic traditions of the Abrahamic faiths.
Of course, as a modern person, you have likely rejected the tradition of your ancestors. Of course that is what I did. I sought in numerous directions, mainly Eastward, for a tradition, and I adopted many foreign ones along the way. I adopted Hinduism in one or two forms, I looked into Islam, I explored all manner of occult teaching and methods, most significantly I was a Buddhist for something like the last 15 plus years in a dedicated manner. None have have the taste and texture of what I now recognize as my tradition in a way that is beyond accepting or rejecting or adopting…because it just is the texture of reality for me. It is the texture and taste of the culture I grew up in.
Of course I am not talking about the forms of Christianity that are so easily seen through and dismissed by people like you and I. Obviously I am not talking of the Christianity that is fundamentalist, literalist and one dimensional. Obviously.
We tend to snub our noses at “mere” Christianity…those of us who are spiritually minded and have grown up in this culture. We recognize a certain shallowness in the way the tradition has been presented to us…and of course for most of us we have only been exposed to the surface. But we encounter only the surface and think this is the whole thing.
I can remember when I first began to encounter Eastern traditions as they are practiced by people who grow up in the tradition…it is practiced at the same surface level. At the Zen temple where I first studied Buddhism the majority of people raised in that Buddhist tradition engaged with it in a way very different from the way I did, as a foreign convert. There was a laity that was not particularly mystically minded, not really looking at the Mysteries. They were not interested in mediation or Zen. They came to the temple once a week to accumulate good karma…to do the things they were taught to do…bow to the Buddha, lite some incense, drop some money in the collection box. They interacted at a level that seems superstitious….in the same way we grow up experiencing Christianity.
Same with Hinduism. Go to a Hindu temple…most native practitioners are not aiming for oneness with Shiva…they are worshipping Shiva as a sky god. They are asking for things, wanting prayers answered, avoiding taboos, looking for blessings etc. Same with church.
Why then, do those of us who are seekers or practitioners, who have delved deeper into the esoteric side of Eastern traditions, not recognize that our Western tradition has a deeper, esoteric side too?
I think you and I have been missing out on something so profound, and so powerful. I think it is no exaggeration to say that we have been missing out on our spiritual inheritance. We have turned our backs on the most precious thing, the thing that we have always been searching for.
Perhaps the path away is necessary…perhaps it is necessary to turn away and rediscover…at least for some…because we go away and come back as both convert and native…with a fresh, deeper look.