Archive for the ‘Christianity’ tag
I have visited a lot of temples in a lot of countries. There is a core within me that is seeking something that resonates at the spiritual level. Because of past sexual abuse at the hands of Catholic priests, I began a search to replace my loss of a spiritual centre in Catholicism. I was fifteen years old and I found myself wandering through so many different churches that still held to Christianity. Months of trying out so many different faiths left me empty and I walked away from hope that there was a place that I could call my spiritual home.
Not long after I got married while going to university, I found a few books called the Tibetan Book of the Dead, the I-Ching and Herman Hesse’s book, Siddharata in a used book store. Not long after that discovery, I bought a damaged small wooden Buddha statue. This was soon followed by an introduction to meditation. For a few months until the start of my teaching career in the fall of 1974, I lived quietly, part-time, in an alternate world of spirituality. Life happened, work, raising a family, and being a member of a community filled in all of my spaces in a good way. Yet somehow, the absence of honouring my spiritual core began to push into my life. My soul began demanding my attention. A community member who was coming to me for counselling, a Lutheran pastor easily saw that spiritual centre pushing out over the course of several months of our work together. As the time for closure approached, he suggested that I become a Lutheran pastor as I had the spiritual core necessary to be a good pastor. At the time, it caused me to chuckle for I wasn’t a Lutheran and had no intention of becoming a Lutheran.
On numerous trips to Europe, I found myself in centuries old cathedrals and monasteries and in each place, I could feel something still lingering of a time long past when those places were real places of spirituality. In the Yucatan, again I found old churches, and Mayan ruins not on the tourist routes that also spoke of deep religious connections. And when I went to China.
While in China, I visited many temples and pagodas, some active in Buddhist faith and many tourist stops collecting fees at the entrance. I could never seem to get enough as each place was different. China gave me time and access to India, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia and Thailand where I wandered and experienced. I knew I was listening and experiencing my own spirituality in the process. It wasn’t about photo opportunities. It was deeper than that.
And now, I find myself looking deeper into Buddhism. There is an honest simplicity in the eight fold path that doesn’t focus on some paternalistic god or on highly debated theology and doctrines. I find myself participating in more than one Buddhist sangas for group meditation and for those moments both before and after group meditation with others who are approaching personal spirituality in the context of Buddhism. Will I become a Buddhist? That question doesn’t have an answer yet, but part of me has been Buddhist since the fall of 1973 when I found a used copies of the Tibetan Book of the Dead, the I-Ching, Siddhartha, and a small damaged wooden statue of Buddha.
I don’t know if this photo connects with the current theme, but for me, it begged to be included. I took the photo at China Dinosaur Park. Though the dinosaurs are all “constructed” and the scene is “staged,” the sense of a time before man, before consciousness. And, I wanted to include the photo simply because I like it for all of its artificialness. After all, even our churches are only artificial representations of what we experience within our human psyche.
Another look at the image changes my mind and I see something arising out of the primordial earth, a trinity of hooks which appear ready to snag and hold fast the unwary, like some trap set by an ancient human race.
“The problem sketched here is particularly acute among the world’s currently reigning monotheisms: Christianity, Judaism and Islam. Here three distinct and transcendent Gods with three distinct revelations – each with absolute claims to universal implementation as the condition of humanity’s salvation, and with immense numbers of devotees – face each other in a shrinking globe with obviously increasing enmity. Though this enmity may be less evident (though not always) in their sacred texts and interpretive theologies, the loss of life attendant upon these faiths, reported almost daily in the media, should make this enmity impossible to be concealed any longer, even from the eyes of faith.” (Dourley, The Illness That We Are, p. 11)
For myself, the draw to any of these “faiths” has been ruptured beyond repair. At this point in my thinking and my life, I don’t have the same hope as Dourley has in terms of Christianity, or any religion, coming to grips with this harsh truth and making the necessary changes to transcend its “present configuration” in order to become a more inclusive assembly of humanity.
Our illness is manifested in our unwillingness to take individual responsibility for our own souls, for our relationship with others. Our illness is pathological in that we make our collective responsible for our individual well-being and in making the “other” collectives holders of all the evil that we refuse to see in ourselves.
When out with the camera I sometimes get lucky. For example, I was out to a site where I was helping with some shovelling work preparing some ground for a cement pad. Across the way was a squatter’s home with bit of a yard surrounded by barbed wire in which a little boy was playing. Soon afterwards his sister came out to run around with him. Neither of them wore clothing. There was no shame, there was simply two children with only the intent of enjoying the moment.
It makes for good photography but one has to take care not to intrude or to present such innocence in a manner that would be taken as an improper and immoral act.
It was with this eye to being careful that I made sure that “sexual” overtones were excluded. And so what is left is thus closer to perhaps and original Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. Only in this case, Eve would be the older of the two. I know, this goes against the grain of everything we hold as sacred in the Christian world. But, perhaps this is necessary. Perhaps it is time to challenge the status quo and to point to something deeper and fuller, something more inclusive and balanced for all of humanity.
“And now we must ask a final question. Is what I have said of modern man really true, or is it perhaps an illusion? There can be no doubt whatever that to millions of Westerners the facts I have adduced are wholly irrelevant and fortuitous, and regrettable aberrations to a large number of educated persons. But – did a cultivated Roman think any differently when he saw Christianity spreading among the lower classes? Today the God of the West is still a living person for vast numbers of people, just as Allah is beyond the Mediterranean, and the one believer holds the other as an inferior heretic, to be pitied and tolerated failing all else. To make matters worse, the enlightened European is of the opinion that religion and such things are good enough for the masses and for women, but of little consequence compared with immediate economic and political questions.” (Jung, The Spiritual Problem of Modern Man, Modern Man in Search of Soul, 1933)
It has been seventy-seven years since Jung published this essay. Yet in all of that time, the picture he has presented here has not changed very much. The Christian God is still in charge in the bastion of the Western world; and, Allah is still invoked in the Middle East in living prayers. If anything, today the fundamentalists on both sides are at worse odds with each other with the Jewish fact of Israel tucked in between them. The “European” attitude, is now the cultured western-world attitude that stands outside of national politics in favour of fat bank accounts to allow them cultured lives of conspicuous consumption.
And modern man? Is there such a thing as modern man as envisioned by C.G. Jung? Is perhaps the hope and wish of those who find an attraction to Jung’s version of psychology simply a way to rationalize their own situation of being out of sync with the world? I know that for myself, it isn’t -as far as I can understand it- a way to explain my own strangeness in this world, my dis-ease with the world. For myself, the words of Jung have resonated with some deep interior aspect of self that is not yet fully conscious within my psyche. Because of that resonance, I accept the validity of these words and see that I do have a part, albeit a small one, to play in this ongoing story of humanity.
And because of all of this, I can forgive myself for following a different drummer, going against the grain of this modern world.