On religion, faith and direct experience of the sacred
The vast range of scandals, conflict, corruption, oppression and war in the name of God is confronting us more than ever with the limitations and dangers of organized religion as it exists today. In parallel, there is increasing disillusionment with the story of the all-able God like man in the form of father, priest, president, general, CEO or professor who claims to know all, see all and manage the well-being of all. It seems that we are in the midst of the implosion of the monotheistic paradigm - the story of one masculine all-knowing God who alone is responsible for all of creation. Perhaps we are gradually weaning ourselves from the cult of dependence on an omnipotent male, a “big daddy”, to whom we can relinquish our authority and on whom we can safely and comfortably depend.
In our attempt to understand the world, we create stories about it. Strangely, we tend to believe in our stories as if they were reality, and so in turn these stories determine the realities we co-create. The story of one male omnipotent God, responsible for all of creation, who functions through a process of reward and punishment is recognized by many as outdated and as no longer serving humanity. Privileging the masculine over the feminine and over the principle of mutually honoring relationship is at the root of all global crises. It is a disease that arises from disconnecting from parts of ourselves, each other, nature and the sacred that resides in all.
While the notion of the omnipotent masculine emerged from religious concepts and practices, the story can be found at the foundations of our global culture and social structures and it is causing enormous stress and suffering to people and planet.
We do not know the full context in which ancient sacred texts were written. What we do know is that over time, humans have spoken of direct encounters with the energy of God and Goddess as well as of the sacred union between them in various different forms.
Encounters with the divine essence of sacred relationship is often described as moments of expanded awareness, connection and grace when there is a profound encounter with another human or non-human being, and a wordless sense of clarity and love.
Humans will likely never know the full truth about God or Goddess, for we can only grasp existence with our own limited perspectives. Truth is experiential, contextual and always beyond what can be conceived in any one moment through any particular lens. Thus, if we look at the range of spiritual texts and stories, we recognize that trying to locate the divine solely in any particular God or Goddess is simply a limited human attempt to grapple with the infinite mystery.
Defining the divine in any singular form limits the experience of the infinite.
As often described, it can be seen as an attempt to gain a sense of control, comfort and direction in the face of the unknown or an attempt to accumulate power. When men are authorized to define and impose God and “his” will on others, we oppress natural curiosity and the capacity for full embodied resonance with the consciousness of the living world.
The notion of faith itself distances people from direct experience. Children are schooled to have faith in what they are taught rather than to experience the sacred in direct ways. They are taught to believe in ideas that are disconnected from their own immediate experience and are thereby handicapped in their ability to discern that which feels accurate to their innate soul and body wisdom.
Given the infinite nature of the divine, the attempt to define or limit the infinite in any one concept and to take ownership of any particular form of divinity at the exclusion of others seems both absurd and dangerous. Flourishing life on the planet for the most part emerges from loving engagement among aspects of creation.
It therefore seems likely that the divine resides not only in the masculine and/or feminine divine essences but also in the essence of the sacred, loving, honoring and creative relationship between them.
A fear and power driven approach to religion spreads seductive stories that cater to people’s childlike longing to relinquish responsibility and to be dependent on a strong, benevolent, all-knowing being. This approach often involves claiming ownership of a sacred story, crystallizing dogma and encouraging dependence through power and promises of reward and punishment.
Rather than locking the divine into a singular static picture created at some point in history, and interpreted over many years by men, the divine has been and can be seen as an evolving essence manifesting in action and in relationship. The sacred relationship of the masculine and feminine, symbolized in the yin and yang, is a vibration that births the universe including the intricately beautiful living planet that sustains us.
A resonant, sacred encounter with the divine cannot exist where a hierarchical perspective is practiced. Sacred relationship is a vibration that is not located ‘out there’ in some distant heaven attained through hierarchical structures and religious obedience. Sacredness does not “belong” to the initiated or devout. Instead the sacred experience is accessible to everyone with practice, devotion and direct honoring of the masculine, the feminine and the loving creative relationship between them.
Our spiritual stories have consequences. Spirituality has for many years been “owned” by mainstream religion. As we face the consequences of our current religious stories, we realize that these stories are failing to bring greater understanding and health to the world, and in fact are contributing significantly to suffering and destruction.
In the context of global events we see that it is time to extricate ourselves from the dependent model of spirituality and refresh the existing stories with new and healthier ones that value all of life, and integrate the wisdom of interconnectedness. Sacred stories that value all of life and the sacred relationship among all are more likely to cultivate healthy communities and a thriving planet than stories that based on prejudice and privilege, separateness, subjugation and dependence.
Ancient sacred wisdom about the living interconnectedness all of aspects of creation correlate with new discoveries in the world of quantum physics. These stories of the world as a sacred, interconnected living organism are no less valid than any other. They are however more likely to generate healthy loving communities and rehabilitate the planet than religious stories from centuries ago, created and interpreted by men, that privilege men over women and humans over the rest of creation. Stories of complementarity and inter-connectedness are more likely to speak to the heart and intuition of all, than those based on separateness, hierarchy, fear and judgment.
With the implosion of the sole masculine God paradigm, these stories of sacred interconnectedness among all of creation are re-emerging around the world in an organic spiritual movement that honors the planet and all its inhabitants. This movement reclaims spirituality from the grip of mainstream organized religion. It promotes values and behaviors that love and replenish the earth and cultivate a non-meat eating, lifestyle that lives in harmony with the earth. Such a lifestyle honors all beings and their right to live in their natural surroundings safe and free from human exploitation. It encourages learning from a young age, a loving, discerning autonomous and inter-dependent relationship with all that is.
The spirituality based on sacred relationship with all of creation does not encourage dependence on external authorities or narrow frameworks. It is not conveyed by rote learning, unchanging rituals and crystallized texts. It is a spirituality that encourages people to experience the divine through direct experience, by learning to honor and communicate with themselves, each other and nature. Such a spirituality cultivates pursuit of a personal spiritual quest in sacred relationship with one’s immediate and larger environments. The spiritual quest involves connecting and developing ones unique gifts in the context of loving service to the human and non-human environment.
The emerging spirituality is not new. It is an evolution of an ancient way of living in deep resonance and communication with one’s body and soul, other humans, other species, the planet and beyond. With the current disintegration of the monotheistic religions and the lack of compelling religious leaders, a spiritual vacuum exists for many. This together with the vast human and environmental crises we face provide the perfect opportunity for a grass roots spiritual movement of sacred interconnectedness to emerge and flourish.
The global movement is not a religious one imposed by any external authority or attributed to any one God, but a vibrant spirituality emerging from people who have dared to live their own truth, engage sacredly with their souls, their bodies, each other and nature and discover the essence of grace in relationship to all. These people have learned the sacredness of all species and the capacity for sacred communication among species. The capacity for evolved stewardship of one’s own body and soul and that of the community, the planet and beyond are among human intelligences that are now evolving.
The emerging spirituality is one that promises answers to many of the ecological crises and illnesses of body and soul that result from a fragmented hierarchical view of the world. It is an integrative movement that seeks to heal the traumatic splits inherent in the patriarchal paradigm and cultivate health and vitality for the planet and all its inhabitants. It is a movement of liberation seeding radically new concepts for new types of governance, economics leadership, and citizen participation that will ultimately change the way our societies function.