From my earliest forays into the spiritual (which formally began in high school, though I had been thinking on these matters since early adolescence), after I had started my survey of the world’s religions and their key figures, I had recognized that there was a strong similarity among all of them. A very strong resemblance in the case of Jesus and Gautama Buddha, but one also easily recognizable, for instance, in the sayings and actions of Lao Tzu, and Moses, and a host of others. From this, a working hypothesis emerged: that all these figures had, in some supreme MOMENT, apprehended the Godhead, the True Reality, the Truth Behind the Veil. For lack of a better phrase, they all experienced an overwhelming Religious Experience, in which, for one brief shining moment, they were at one with the wordless expanse and glory of the Infinite Being.
But, being finite (as we all are), the Infinite could not be “maintained”; they were forced to return to the Here & Now. And they were then required, by the power of their experience, to somehow relate that experience to their fellow human beings. But (and here’s the crux of the matter), they only had the symbols and myths and culture in which they lived to translate the Ineffable, the Wordless, the Beyond Description. And so, each key figure attempted to translate the essence of their experiences using the ideas and notions familiar to them and their listeners. Jesus spoke in parables that are steeped in Jewish culture and history. Siddhatha used the symbols and metaphors available in Hinduism. And so on.
The actual experience is, I believe, the same, and forever incapable of accurately transmitting to their listeners. The message that they deciphered from the experience, the way of life they all urged, is also fundamentally the same: we are One, Love unites, there are consequences for our actions, give aid to those who need it without regard to recompense. Reduce the Self and listen for that “small, still voice” that speaks “when your heart is strangely warmed.”
Some claim that, in the fullness of time, we will all come face to face with the Inevitable and experience this fullness individually and as a conglomerate whole. The religions that adhere to an “arrow of time” world view, wherein there is a Beginning, a Traversal, and an End to everything, are most likely to consider this apocalyptic notion. Whether the Veil is ever lifted, in our lifetime or ever, is debatable. Is there an End of Time, where all is resolved for eternity? “There are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in our philosophies.” Ask Horatio; I know not.
There does seem to me a slipping backwards at work in our present world, a tendency, in the face of a world that appears ever more terrifying, to relapse into fundamental literalism. Not just in Christianity, for there are similar trends in Hinduism, and of course the other religions “of the Book”. But I do believe that the overall arc of history is towards enlightenment and (if you will) a revelation. Towards unity among all peoples. Consider how the long story has evolved: from isolated tribes in prehistory to villages and cities, coalescing into small kingdoms and then larger kingdoms, then empires, ever ebbing and flowing, but always moving inexorably towards a global culture.
Now, thanks in part to technology, our interconnectedness is truly amazing. This blog, Facebook, Twitter, etc, are all examples of how that interconnectedness works. We all know, more and more frequently, what happens everywhere, all the time. This global neural network is staggering in its import. We have not yet learned how to manage such a maze, and the capability seems at times daunting. The arc of history may point toward a global village, but it does not guarantee it will ever exist.
It is easy to despair, hard to hope. But keeping our eyes on the prize makes it possible.
© 2016 Chuck Puckett