It is understandable that when it comes to religion people want to be “right.” They want their way to be the correct way especially since for many of these people their immortal soul is at stake. This is part of the reason why religion is considered by many to be a taboo subject of discussion. Politricks and sex round out the top three, or at least they used to. These days the internet makes it possible to talk about anything you want and with total anonymity and zero accountability. At the end of the day there are two sides minimum to almost everything but why does the opposing side have to be the enemy? Does it necessarily have to come down to, “I’m right, you are wrong” rather than “we are both right. You are right for you and I am right for me. We both are making valid choices, have a cookie and let's talk about that.”
Much effort goes into making a clear distinction between religion and spirituality but the truth is that you can’t have one without the other, it’s the whole "which came first the chicken or the egg" paradigm. Often, what ends up happening is that spiritualists see religious folks as overly dogmatic and too structured. They often see witless people waiting to be led for the security that’s in it rather than making their own choices and taking accountability for them. Meanwhile, fundamentalists or religious zealots see "new agers" or spiritualists or any alternative religious or spiritual path as chaotic, disorganized and frivolous, nothing to be taken seriously and mostly, wrong. Since their way is the only one true way the presumption is generally that those "new ager etc." types are all going to hell. Rather than looking at the similarities people focus on the differences. When both groups actually do seek common ground they end up going to war over who owns it.
The bottom line is that there are good people and bad people in every group, it doesn't matter which one, it could just be a group of people on their way to the grocery store. Ultimately, we choose who we chill with. If I surround myself with Christians and I am not one I really have no reason to complain about being around to listen to what they believe. Folks from both sides pretend to play friendly with passive aggressive, back handed comments but it’s hardly subtle. The Tao Te Ching says that "Not exalting cleverness causes the people not to contend." That can be taken two ways. One is that keeping cleverness out of it is like asking people not to think, to be submissive and quick to agree. In the context of chapter 3 of the Tao Te Ching that seems to be the idea by the end but just the part I include here can also refer to a specific type of cleverness.
I refer to the type of cleverness that exists in abundance today but not so much back when the Tao Te Ching was written. The type the internet is infamous for. While it's true that people are people and there were likely just as many petty people back in 400BC, it was still a very different time. People would contend face to face with their issues and still there was an order to it, unwritten agreements about proper behavior. Of course it's likely that those guidelines weren't always adhered to but being clever wasn't tantamount to outwitting another person because your insults were more clever than theirs. Back then being clever had more to do with knowledge, wisdom and knowing the difference between the two. Even more so it had to do with actions speaking just as loudly as words since the anonymity the internet provides wasn't a factor.
We share this planet; we all have to live here. It has been said that people are becoming more spiritual and more religious all the time. Some have said people are “waking up.” I agree, it is a re-birth and it certainly isn’t the first, not by a long shot. What happened those other times? Perhaps there are phases that we go through as a whole, as a planetary people, phases that are separate from our own personal progress and whatever phase we are personally in. Perhaps, as a species, we are in an adolescent phase right now (again or still?) where we are stubborn and trying to prove ourselves. We don’t listen and we often fight. We are overly emotional and too attached, sometimes in an unhealthy way, to things that are not serving us well. Just as in adolescence there are cliques, there are those from the “right” side and the “wrong” side of the tracks. Having the right fixings and trappings, the shiniest bobbles, demonstrates status. There is bullying, it may become more sophisticated depending upon the person doing it, but it’s still bullying. People brag, what they brag about may become more expensive depending on the person bragging, but it’s still bragging. There are also geeks and know it all’s who have all kinds of information but no idea how to truly put it to use, knowledge that might never become wisdom.
Whether a youth, an adolescent, an adult or an elder we are overall adolescents when it comes to religio-spiritual unity, as is evidenced by our behavior. Those behaviors listed above are seen in all age groups, it is the prevalent attitude. My plea to the people who are awakening is to take it to the next level, to not just wake up but to grow up. Get over it, it’s all been done, it’s all been said. Let’s come together and see what’s next. Let’s make productive use of our time here. Of course, this is easier said than done, right? I mean, not many Christians will concede to admit that there are many phases and faces of God and of Goddess because their Religion threatens their eternal soul if they do. And there is a reason why one of the biggest celebrations Pagans have is called Pagan PRIDE day. Be proud, you're not afraid of accountability, I get that, really, I do, be proud. But don’t choke on it.
The idea is to unite in taking action rather than unite in arguing over what action to take since no matter what name you give your deity, most say the same thing. We are all equals. I don’t care how many books you’ve read, how many titles you have, how many times you have been to this or that seminar or that you smoked a bowl with the Dalai Lama or dropped ayahuasca with a Peruvian medicine man. In the end, none of that matters. What matters is how we live day to day. I’ve met some self-proclaimed highly evolved spiritual people whose actions betrayed them just as I have seen people who don’t even think about spirituality much at all radiate light through a connection to the cosmic grid that seems as natural to them as breathing. As awakened people we have the same goal, connection, and through that connection a feeling of enlightenment, we all get there in different ways, none more or less valid than another.
This is not black and white. It isn’t either you “get it” or you don’t, there are billions of in-betweens but at the end of the day, we are all in the same boat. We are still all spinning around on this great ball of goof and glory we call Earth. The awakened are seeking connection just as those who have awakened before them have. Answers, or at least a better understanding of the questions we have, are as unique and varied as the people who seek them. The goal isn’t to attain enlightenment as though it were a trophy, enlightenment isn’t a thing you have, it’s a thing you connect to, it’s a state of being you can connect to in moments. It's always there, connecting to it is a choice. Those moments are opportunities to learn and grow and receive guidance. Embrace those moments, they aren't meant to last. No one walks around perpetually enlightened, that would be exhausting and it’s utterly unrealistic.
How connected we are is demonstrated through our actions. What matters is whether we take it to the next step and allow our knowledge, innate and learned to become wisdom through action, through practice. That is why it is called a spiritual practice. One can spend their entire life learning and growing towards connection with their idea of spirit. There are no awards and no trophies and there is no end to the journey. Ones behavior in church isn’t what is of concern; behavior in day to day interactions with others is what is of concern. Just because you “get down” spiritually at a yoga retreat or lead your group in an inspirational prayer doesn’t mean that the next day you won’t be dishing out the road rage on your way to Starbucks to get a five dollar cup of coffee in a paper cup.
The road to being spiritually connected isn’t a dead end. There are many paths, many pit-stops and much to learn along the way and if you can’t learn something from every being you encounter then you aren’t paying attention.
"Unity can become nothing more than separation in disguise. There are as many things to unite over as there are things to fight over and they are very often the same things. What confounds me is that more often than not folks seek common ground only to fight over who owns it."