The Stages of the Soul and How Fundamentalism is Holding up Evolution
In Have you heard the true tale of the Bedouin named Mohammed Ali, Read more... I related the true tale of the Bedouin named Mohammed Ali and his 1945 discovery of what has become known as the Nag HammÃ di Library; a collection of ancient texts that were buried in the wilderness under the cliff of Jabl al-Tarif in Egypt, just above the bend of the Nile, north of the Valley of the Kings, across the river from the city of Nag HammÃ di, near the hamlet of al-Qasr, apparently for safe-keeping.
These ancient compositions written in Coptic and Greek are now available in most every language. These ancient texts offer NO new answers; but they do provide us with a glimpse of Christianity at its very roots, and it was most diverse indeed.
Many of the texts were considered Gnostic and banned by the church Fathers during the reign of Emperor Constantine and were ordered to be burned. Gnosis is defined as knowledge discerned intuitively, and intuition is anathema to fundamentalists who prefer doctrines and dogmas, easy answers and who see black and white, but not shades of grey.
Today's scholars agree that it is very possible the sayings in the Gnostic gospels are closer to the words Jesus actually spoke than what is found in the canonical gospels.
Two thousand years ago, there was lively debate about who Jesus was, and why he came. Churches before Emperor Constantine legitimized Christianity were hot beds of individuality and not the institutions that have become big business today.
Jesus said he came that we would have life to the full; abundant life [John 10:10] and that takes deep thought, wrestling with The Divine and then taking action.
"To think deeply in our culture is to grow angry and to anger others; and if you cannot tolerate this anger, you are wasting the time you spend thinking deeply. One of the rewards to deep thought is the hot glow of anger at discovering a wrong, but if anger is taboo, thought will starve to death."-Jules Henry
The first mention of Israel in the Bible is in Genesis 32, when Jacob wrestled, struggled and then clung to the Divine being and was then renamed Israel.
Jesus also was never a Christian; in fact the term 'Christian' was not even coined until the days of Paul, about 3 decades after Jesus walked the earth as a man. Jesus was a social justice, radical revolutionary Palestinian devout Jewish road warrior who rose up and challenged the job security of the Temple authorities by teaching the people they did NOT need to pay the priests for ritual baths or sacrificing livestock to be OK with God; for God already LOVED them just as they were: sinners, poor, diseased, outcasts, widows, orphans, refugees and prisoners all living under Roman Military Occupation.
What got Jesus crucified was disturbing the status quo of the Roman Occupying Forces of his time, by teaching the subversive concept that Caesar only had power because God allowed it and that God preferred the humble sinner, the poor, diseased, outcasts, widows, orphans, refugees and prisoners all living under Roman Occupation above the elite and arrogant.
The early followers and lovers of Jesus were called members of THE WAY-being THE WAY he taught one should be; Nonviolent, a Peacemaker and one who did the will of the Father. "What does God require? He has told you o'man! Be just, be merciful, and walk humbly with your Lord." -Micah 6:8
We are not just body and mind, we are also spirit; a trinity in one flesh that will decay and whither away. When any part of the human trinity is out of balance, so will ones life be. Life is a journey and the best trip one can embark upon, is by going within and wrestling with The Divine; and thus become Israel on the way.
"I said, you are gods: you are all children of the Most High God."-Psalm 82:6
The bumper sticker actually did get it right: "We are spiritual beings having a human experience."
According to the 1987 classic, The Different Drum: Community Making and Peace, Dr. Scott Peck defines the spiritual life as fluid and that one may pass back and forth repeatedly through any of the four-probably more-stages of the soul.
Stage one upon this journey -that begins from within-is essentially our infancy in the spiritual life. Like a wild child, a person in this stage reflects the inner chaotic and anti-social, unregenerate soul that is interested only in its own self-satisfaction and ego, much like the stereotypical spoiled child.
Stage one people may claim to love others, but their behavior reflects they love their own pleasure, money, power, prestige, and security above any other. For stage one people, it really is all about them.
Stage two souls seek to "let their light shine" and will live virtuous lives and do many good works. They also can be judgmental of others, self-righteous, rigid of thought, cold of heart, legalistic concrete literal thinkers and may even be guilty of a lukewarm faith. They want to do right and they even may desire to love and please God, but have not yet fully opened up to the Inner Light, as Joan of Arc did when she challenged church and state and persisted that she had intuited God within -even while being fried.
Jesus said, "You shall know the truth and the truth will set you free." -John 8:32
Stage two souls have not yet been set fully free and prefer the security of a higher human authority than themselves for guidance. They submit to institutions, scripture, dogma, ritual, ministers, or gurus. This is the most appropriate stage for older children and most adults who live busy lives just trying to keep bread on the table and a dry roof above.
The difference between a stage one and stage two soul, is that a one wouldn't even notice a neighbor in need, while the two has awoken to the fact that we are to be our neighbor's keepers and they will respond to a friend-and like the good Samaritan, even to a total stranger in need.
Most theologians would agree that the opposite of faith is not disbelief: the opposite of faith is fear. Stage three souls have not just fearlessly awoken, they have evolved! This evolution has led them to the realization of what Christ was really talking about in the Sermon of the Mount AKA: The Beatitudes which sound like crazy promises, but are all about waking people up to The Divine within themselves and all others!
A stage three soul may well reject Christ as God, but often agree with the philosophy of Jesus, which Thomas Jefferson laid out when he weeded out the miracle stories from the gospels and clarified the teachings and ethics of Christ in: THE LIFE AND MORALS of JESUS of NAZARETH
1. Be just: justice comes from virtue which comes from the heart.
2. Treat people the way we want to be treated.
3. Always work for PEACEFUL resolutions, even to the point of returning violence with COMPASSION.
4. Consider valuable the things that have no material value.
5. Do not judge others.
6. Do not bear grudges.
7. Be modest and unpretentious.
8. Give out of true generosity, not because we expect to be repaid.
9. Being true to one's self in more important than being loyal to one's family...those who think they know the most are the most ignorant!
A stage three soul will see that a neighbor is everyone on the planet and not just those who think and look the same and are born in the same geographical location. Stage three's are seekers, doubters, skeptics, agnostics and frequently adults who grew up disenchanted with institutionalized religion. Their inherent intellectual curiosity leads them to seek their own way towards the Mystery of the Divine through philosophy and the study of multiple faith paths choosing and discarding according to their "inner light."
Stage three souls often become activists for social justice and reform and the increasing wave of humanitarian secularism verses the bondage of religious dogma just may be the way to change the world as we now know it.
It has been said we are all called to be mystics in the market place and a stage four, such as Thomas Merton and Rumi give voice to that experience of the curtain being lifted and seeing through the glass a bit less darkly.
A mystic can best be understood as one who is in love with the divine mystery and is viscerally connected to the unity of all creation. Mystics are not navel gazers, they feel the pain of the world within their hearts and grieve at what humans do to the other when they have no clue that The Divine is within the other as much as within themselves.
God is beyond concepts and mystics have detached from their concepts of God-not by their own efforts, but by the invitation and action of God upon a willing and simple soul in love with Pure Being, AKA: God for lack of a better word.
The mystic fool, Saint Francis, the leper kisser of Assisi, was so head over heels in love with God in everyone and all of creation that most people of his time considered him crazed, or at least, extremely eccentric. One needn't be a mystic or move beyond stage two on the spiritual journey to do what is good and right just because it is good and right.
On that foundation alone people of faith, agnostics-and even atheists can surely find something to agree upon.
Or would only a mystic see that?