Thursday, March 22, 2007

The Path Less Traveled Makes All the Difference

I have invested a good portion of my life as an active Freemason. It is the oldest fraternal society in the world. In fact, it predates all fraternal orders created in the past 300 years. That’s a long tenure of service to humankind and the ideals of manhood. Freemasonry has impacted more than 30 continuous generations of men.

It is not easy for people outside the Craft to understand anything about our fraternal teachings. We have always been a very private society. Indeed, we are a part of the ancient mysteries tradition. We are a secret organization for men, and we have always been so. Our information is closely held; for it can only be transmitted to those who have conscientiously prepared themselves to receive it.

For this reason, we never concern ourselves with exposures of our rituals and ceremonies. Without the proper tools one can no more interpret that which is allegorical than a craftsman can build a house of strength and beauty. Freemasonry, like personal growth and spiritual enlightenment, is a uniquely personal path.

Freemasonry is known as a quiet organization because it was never intended that it have a public face. This simply means that, as fraternal men, while we are to be out in the world actively working to solve the problems of our communities, state, and nation, we are to be doing these things as individuals, and not in the name of Masonry. Yet, Freemasonry itself is not apathetic, but inclined toward individual action. It provides the catalyst for individual inspiration. Freemasonry teaches men to lead a positive and productive life. It admonishes us to live an active social life. Thus, it is a guide for self and societal improvement. It needs no other reward.

We improve ourselves in the name of Masonry so we can improve society in the name of our thoughts and actions. It is this balance, or harmony, that comes from self and social improvement that makes us good examples for others to follow.

Yet, as Freemasons, we also realize one of the challenges the fraternal movement encounters in today’s fast-paced world is how to overcome the perception that our teachings are no longer relevant. The current model for success in life has little to do with what one knows or can do for himself; but it has everything to do with what others see him doing for the larger good. People pay attention to the organizations men belong to when, in their mind, those organizations make a difference in the world. This has always been the central dilemma of our private group.

It is hard for today’s men to invest in the meanings of things, or in the interpretative process required to assign meaning to their life. This is precisely what the degrees or lessons of Masonry are intended to do. And these offer no easily interpretable contemporary context or associations which will enable a man to immediately apply Masonry’s lessons to life. Instead, it adheres to a more reliable and enduring paradigm—one that has met the test of time. In so doing, it addresses a remarkably significant current societal dilemma.

In the contemporary experience of manhood, one is seldom made aware that the achievements of today are the sum of the thoughts of yesterday; that tomorrow’s accomplishments will be based on today’s ideas; that knowledge has an enduring validity. We live in an information-based society which offers little hope for making decisions based on the accumulation of knowledge. Yet, wisdom can only be derived as the product of information and knowledge working together.

Today, it seems almost natural for a man to think forward to the future. It is much harder for him to understand how the past influences it. In the larger picture, it is seldom where we are today that counts. It is where we have been and how where we have been influences where we are going that has the larger impact on our lives.

The teachings of Masonry lay very important groundwork for erecting a path of life that connects the past and present to the future. Here is how it works.

Each of us is taking as well as making a path. There is an important difference. It is easy to simply be on a path. If we do nothing more than live and breathe, we will take a path which will become our life. The problem is that this path alone may not lead us to happiness and fulfillment.

This path may be the path of job and work, going through steps and grades of a pay plan for 45 years, only to retire and wonder if we have personally made any real difference with our life.

It may be the path of home and family, going through the rituals of husbanding and fathering, and wondering in our old age if we really did set a good example.

It may be the path of faith, attending religious services for a lifetime and wondering all along how we know that our chosen faith speaks the truth.

It may be the path of isolation, failing to be involved in service to others or failing to make real friends who can bring meaning and fulfillment to our life.

If we are fortunate, these paths may well bring us financial reward or the security of a home, family, and a spiritual life. But they can also lead to disillusionment. That is why it is so important we also make a path for ourselves while we are taking the usual path of others. For it is the path we make for ourselves that teaches, rather than carries, us.

The degrees (stages of growth and insight) in Masonry enable men to create such a path. Our degrees have been around a long time. They were written for the moral, ethical, social and spiritual interests of men.

The teachings of Masonry give us the tools to become better informed, to be more conscious of what is really important, to be aware of what the past gives to us, and to realize how we can use this information in positive and successful ways, thus facilitating our path to understanding, wisdom, and personal fulfillment.

In the overall scheme of things, Freemasonry teaches that the answers to the great issues in life are within us. We can accomplish remarkable things through deep understanding and the sharing of our wisdom with others. When we pass along these many valuable lessons in ways that resonate with the contemporary men in our society, then the past meets the present, and the new path——or, rather, the old path of truth and right and understanding——is laid for the future.

The new man of today’s fraternity can benefit immeasurably by taking and making such a path. Just as the senior Brother is reminded of and intuitively understands what has illuminated his own life, his own path.

Freemasonry is about path-making. It is indeed relevant work for our time—and all time.

The Disharmony of Spiritual Change

I want to think there is a global movement afoot that is bringing spiritual principles to bear on the disharmony of our times. There are certainly hopeful signs that we are beginning to see a period of correction in the collective consciousness that is moving the world to a God-centered kind of unity. But, the same signs give me fear.

It is true that people from many cultures are trying to get together in spirit. There are certainly more spirit-based programs than ever before. There are more universal centers of worship than at any other time in our history. And the "old information" is back and more available than ever. It would seem this data and effort together might move our world to a more loving status.

But, the problem is there are also some bad signs--more violence, more wars, more gangs, more drugs, more hate--less values, less integrity, less tolerance, less compassion, less love. It deeply concerns me.

Everything is moving about the edges of the circle of progress. There is no center from which the real light of Grace is emanating. I fear the result may be the wrong kind of awakening. When I look at history, every awakening we have had has been a move toward more fundementalism or orthodoxy--which has created a more intolerant world. And that has always led to revolution.

In my view, some organization(s) will have to surface which can direct our culture to a different kind of equilibrium. And the guidance will have to be given to our next generation of adults--today's youth. The central problem I see is that we are rapidly becoming a cross-cultural society. Our country is receiving immigrants in record numbers. Many of these people come to us with deep ethnic divisions, age-old religious conflicts, and long hostilities to the point of fragmentation, even within single nations. They have no perspective of, or interest in, cross-cultural understanding. Yet such understanding is crucial to our survival. And that kind of understanding won't just happen on its own. It must be learned. Reconciliation between and among those who have migrated to America won't just occur. It must be learned. And both of these things will require that toleration be learned and practiced. If it's not, then I fear we cannot keep our national identity.

I have seen it in some of the foreign students I have met. They don't understand my personal values, or the culture in which I have been raised as an American. In some cases, I have even seen attitudes which represent a kind of personal intolerance. For instance, I have found male attitudes especially demoralizing to women. It's very much like the red-neck mindset we have in our own country (the old "find her, feed her, fuck her, and forget her" thing--which debases the integrity of womanhood).

So, there may be cultural and personal intolerance in the making.

And, even worse, is religious intolerance. And it is beginning to sweep the country. I'm not sure it can be stopped! The religious right is attempting to legislate how we can think on things, and what our children can read. Haven't we been here, before?!!

The problem with any form of religious zeal is that it shifts people from reason to emotion. Televangelists and right wing preachers are successful not because they have any real credentials; but because they understand the passion they can create from heated devotion and radical enthusiasm. They become convinced they have saved themselves and, having done so, think they have every right to then judge everyone else on the state of their souls. History has clearly proven that any time a charismatic leader decides he has the single answer to salvation, and then declares that the world must come to his same conclusion; will lose all sense of ethics to achieve his mission. He will eventually become an accuser who resents tolerance, abhors intellectual activity, and will literally lead his following to more darkness by preferring schism, hate, and separation; to understanding, reason, and love.

This is a sad litany, but I fear that those of us who "feel there is something in the air" are far more likely to find the above kind of change than the more beautiful and sacred spiritual awakening that our souls are crying for us to experience.

In the midst of all this, one of the truly wonderful things I feel about myself is that I don't confuse the path with the destination. I am on that mystical journey which drives me into myself--to that sacred flame at my center.

My goal is to find the path which allows me to see the flame (have the insight), and live the mystery.

When I do, I will be warmed and ignited beyond the physical. I will have found my connection to the Source...

...and then I will have learned how to live!

Some Thoughts on Faith

Some Thoughts on Faith. . .

[Note--the following musing is not the result of a single setting in front of a computer monitor. I wrote this over a period of time as a continuing dialogue with myself as I was contemplating the validity of my own faith system. I had just completed a rather exhaustive reading of the world's religions, and the pagan beginnings to religious thought; and I was discouraged by the church's seemingly impotent understanding of its role in aiding people to know the basis of their faith, and what the overall religious experience is meant to do for humanity. I cannot say I have completed this work; but it represents my present perspective on my own confession of faith as regards the sacred in my life. I remind the reader that the words are mine; and, while I love'em, they may not represent truth, or wisdom, to you. So, take what seems to have meaning to you, and accept the balance as the musings of one who perhaps thinks too much about these things --Robert G. Davis]

The French author, Voltaire (a freemason), once said, "If there were no God it would be necessary to invent him." It is the view of many intellectuals in our modern society that that is precisely what man has done.

It can hardly be debated that organized religion has created its own versions of God many times over. I think perhaps the reason it is so difficult to personally decide if one is a Christian is because the church has, through the past 2,000 years, invented Jesus. And. regardless of which religion we may belong, since most of us simply follow the faith of our fathers--without ever really studying the relevancy or reliability of that faith--it is remarkable that we can proclaim on the subject at all.

The great question posed by Pilate, "What is Truth?", has always burned at my psyche, and I have spent a considerable part of my adult life wondering about the answer. While I now know that it is not in the provision of man to know, I still feel fairly certain about some things. One of them is that everyone has a religious experience. We are all connected to history; to the history of ideas, to the experience and ways of our ancestors. And, while we have largely desacralized our modern world, we have never totally succeeded in doing away with religious behavior in our lives. Many of our daily or yearly rituals were born in religion. I profess to be a Christian, and Christianity has validity in my mind and heart. But my declaration of faith is built upon Christ as metaphor; and is not tied to the dogma and doctrines of that faith. I am also a Buddhist because Buddhism provides me the understanding to live a life in harmony with all things.

I freely admit that my own faith has little or nothing to do with the function of church. I see little hope for the future of the established church. I'm not angry at the church, although I could make a strong argument it has many faults--not the least of which is its own failure or refusal to understand its mission. But for all its pettiness, its corruption, its emotional conflicts, and its own negligence in establishing an adequate understanding of the message of Christianity--still, it provides an important societal function which enables people to discover that their own life can be improved; can be transcended.

Perhaps the best way to look at the church is to see it as a space different from the ground on which it stands. It symbolically represents a place where passage from one world to another becomes possible. When one opens the door to the interior of the church, he crosses a threshold between the two worlds in which he lives. This threshold then becomes the boundary between his profane and his religious life. It represents an initiatory passage from one form of life to another. Every human being needs such a sacred retreat, or precinct, which enables him to transcend his own profane world. It is in such places that communication with the gods is made possible. It is in such centers that man becomes centered on the moral duties of his life. And if such a retreat space did not exist, the world in which we live would ultimately have little meaning. To the extent the church fulfills its mission as a sacred space, or retreat, for man, we should strive to help it improve. But, like in so many other things, what needs improvement is the model in which its message is delivered so that it can work in our lives.

We already know that, if that model is not improved, our modern society will create its own replacement for it. We have already seen the beginning of this in the proliferation of many little sects and movements; all seeking to offer a more meaningful path to a feeling of sacredness in the life experience. The reason for all this experimentation is that we each need to create this sacred space for ourselves. By whatever ritualistic way we construct it, it reproduces for us the work of the gods. It is important to understand that a fulfilled life is not really possible without an opening to the transcendent. We simply cannot live happily in chaos. So, I think in evaluating our own concept or understanding of faith, it is important that we look at religion and the church as two different ideas; two separate things. The church is a consecrated authority, but it too often fails its religious mission by allowing itself to become more of a human institution than a godly one. One should be careful not judge whether it is valid for him to be a believer based on his feelings about the church alone.

In my own reflection on these things, I took a closer look at the church itself because my biggest disappointment with religion has always been in the apparent failing of this most significant symbol for it. Assuming for the moment that we can agree that the message of Jesus has validity, then the central problem is that "organized" religion is too indecisive, and is therefore ultimately a rejection of the real and pure message of Christ. There is no divine rationale for a divided church. Yet, churches and denominations divide themselves almost daily. And every time they do, they reject the message. It is a sad thing to have to admit that there is much in the history of the church that represents rejection. I can give some examples of a few such major church ideas which represent the rejection of the message.

Triumphalism, which puts confidence in the power and the splendor of the church rather than in the power and love of God; is a rejection. Parochialism, which is too willing to prevent the Spirit from inspiring those who aren't, say, Baptist, or Catholic; is a rejection. Dishonesty, which tries to obscure the human failings of the church organization; is a rejection. Authoritarianism, the worst of all evils, which attempts to compel people to be virtuous by coercion; is a rejection. Stereotyping and scapegoating, which blame other people for what is wrong in the world in the name of God; is a disgusting perversion. Right wing Christian fundamentalism today is centered around just such a mindset.

Pietism is a failure because it confuses the meaning of commitment. Zealotry is a failure because it makes us think we can demonstrate our commitment by forcing a commitment on others. Rationalism is a failure because it ultimately refuses to admit the possibility of the intervention of God in the person of Jesus. The New Age movement is a failure because it confuses being spiritual with penetrating the root questions which all men must ask.

So, is there no wonder there is a crisis of faith in our times?

All of the above are an evasion of faith. We use so many masks and props in the formal ceremonies of Christianity that many folks are no longer sure there is a "wedding feast"--and certainly are not sure they want to go to it! It's a real shame.

Now, given all this discouragement, why and how can I claim to be a Christian?

To me, the Truth lies in the symbolism of Jesus and the gospel story. I will try to communicate to you my understanding about the Myth of Jesus. But, it's not an easy concept to interpret, so bear with me.

It's important to think about Jesus in mythic terms. As you know, to say Jesus is a myth is not to say he is a legend. As Joseph Campbell, the great mythologist, has so aptly taught us, the mythic image enables us to realize that the life and message of Jesus was an attempt to demonstrate the inner meaning of the universe and of human life. Religion, in the context of myth, becomes a set of symbols which provide us a "meaning system" that can answer our fundamental questions about how to interpret the universe. It's critical that we affirm religion in this sense, because to not do so would mean we could not interpret the meaning of problems like death. To not do so would immerse the world in chaos because there would be no motivation for the erudition of the sacred in our life.

How we create our world becomes the archetype for every creative thing we do, by whatever plane of reference we choose. Every construction of our own cosmology becomes a paradigmatic model for society. When our archetypes are defined only by our contemporary human activities, we fail to include the essential basis for truth-the archetypal image has to also meet the test of past generations.

I do not choose to limit my universe to the contemporary human experience alone. History has given me ample warning to know that, whenever we create our own world, then our own paradigm become its cosmology. Any attack from without, then, becomes a threat to the personal model we have built. Our response is to defend our model, even in its impurity. This constant variance in human interpretation of such things will most assuredly result in chaos.

I must therefore believe that the universe was created by a higher force than man; that man did not construct it, that there is hope that, in living a transcendent life, we can, in fact, resanctify the world as the sacred space it was created by the gods to be. For, to not do so will mean there is no hope for happiness. We would be thrown into the reality that time is our only existential dimension. It is linked to our life; hence, it has a beginning and end, which is death. In such a world view, we move only toward our own annihilation. I need to feel that what I do does not always represent a human experience alone, without any possibility of a divine presence. I need to believe that time is more than recorded history; that it can be created over and over again. I need to hope that there is a therapeutic purpose of which is to begin life again. Since life cannot be repaired, it surely can be repeated. This is my paradigmatic model of cosmology, and one in which I believe to be the model for all creation.

The point of any faith is not that man believes in God, or that every man requires the sacred in his life, or even that every man agonizes over these kinds of problems. The point is rather that most of us need some sort of answers to the questions of whether life has meaning; of how good people live; of whether good triumphs over evil; of whether we are capable of establishing relationships with God, or if an unwordly connection is necessary to staying the moral path. Our religious and/or spiritual symbol system is the only thing which enables us to interpret these questions for ourselves.

So, in the model of Christianity, since Jesus is the central symbol, his story becomes a symbol system designed to answer our questions about meaning in our life.

We must accept or reject the story (or message) of Jesus on the basis of whether or not it answers these most fundamental questions. To me, this is the real test of validity of faith. If we reject the message, then we must also ask if there is a different symbol system that will enable us to find the answers. If we accept it, then it must also lead us to believe that everything will be all right in the end. It is on this ground that we accept or reject Jesus--not on matter of papal infallibility, or the virgin birth, or the existence of angels, or whether or not the church has anything relevant to say about social reform, etc.

The reason I accept Jesus and believe in him is because I believe in God, and I believe that Jesus is God Incarnate, and thus is, himself, every man and woman. It is suggested even in the beginning. Human nature did not begin with Adam, but existed forever in Jesus. the Archetypal Man, the eternal Christ. The incarnation was God's commentary in Genesis, "Let us make humankind in our own image, and according to our likeness..."

You see, from the beginning there had been a second person in the Trinity--a Christ whose nature included the man-type. The plural form is used to represent the male-female principle of the creative form. Also the Trinity--God, the father; God, the son; and God, the Holy spirit.

The likeness does not imply a physical similarity to God, but that we are a reflection of God's glory. This concept is explained in the sephirah of the Kabbalah (which, although Jewish, is the best description of the nature of God I have ever found). Man refers not to the physical, but to the intellect. The origin of the word "man" means "mind." God created "mind" in its own image. So, the Divine archetype formed our intelligent nature--our ability to reason, understand, imagine, and think--all attributes of the Divine Intelligence, God--the Three in One. To me, the power and truth in this idea is extraordinary to contemplate. I have found it in all religious symbol systems the world has ever known.

And this idea that Christ is an agent in creation is confirmed in several scriptural passages (Colossians 1:16, Ephesians 1:10, Philippians 2:6, 1 Corinthians 8:6, Colossians 3:11, 1 Corinthians 15:24-28). But it becomes clear in the Gospel of John--the last of the early biographies of Jesus. The prologue begins with the words, "In the beginning was the Word" (Greek, meaning Logos, the creative and controlling principle of the universe)--that which turned the void (chaos) into order (cosmos). It is called the En-Sof in the Kabbalah. The significance for Christians of John's prologue is his suggestion that Jesus and Logos are somehow one, that what took human form as Jesus had always been ultimate reality. The creation myth then, incorporates this new sense of Jesus' divinity.

Christ is the ideal, representative man (incidentally, Adam is the concrete, imperfect type of the archetype). In Christ, the pure archetype is imparted in man. As Christ is the image of the Invisible, so we are all transformed into the same image. It's not too much of a stretch for me to visualize that God (an ineffable idea) used the human form to communicate the essence of Its message to us--which is Love. And, without providing the way in which this message could be transformed into human terms, there is no way we could have ever understood it.

Since God is undefinable, it seems necessary to me that It should most appropriately have used a vehicle which would have been knowable and capable of being understood by our kind. To believe that Jesus was the first-born of all creation, that creation is affirmed through him, that he himself was in the beginning, and through him the vehicle for the meaning of God was expressed as we are capable of understanding it, is to accept the message of Christianity.

Because of Jesus' journey on earth, we all carry within us the "plan of the Perfect," as Plato said. Thus, to believe that God would manifest Its essence in man through Jesus, means that that same spark of the Divine is also within all of us. As Jesus was God, so we are all God, and capable of the same glory. Of course, this is also the Royal Secret in Freemasonry. And I believe this with all my heart. If you can accept this, then all that is left to understand is the message of Jesus. Because everything else in the New Testament is borrowed from other, older traditions.

I think there is yet another failure of the church. It has always feared (and refused) to teach us from whence it came. Yet, Biblical scholars and historians of religion know that the story of Christianity is a synthesis of beliefs and doctrines which had their origins in other lands and among various peoples. They were all combined to make the gospel of Jesus. I think this is what it means when they say Christianity is a world-affirming religion--not that it is prevalent in all world societies.

I can give you some examples:

a) The use of water for baptism, the savior born of a true virgin mother, the vivid concept of heaven and hell, the belief in demons, the universal judgment--all derived from Persia as a contribution of Zoroastrianism.

b) To the Catholic faith, the trial by ordeal, use of excommunication, prohibition against conversations with heretics, pilgrimages to shrines, severe sanctions against remarried women, degrees of legality in marriage, scripture revealed to official hierarchy alone--all derived from Brahmanism.

c) We must practice brotherhood, charity; before God all humanity is equal, we must love our enemies, rid our minds of anger, turn the other cheek; there must be a conversion to see salvation; religion should be separate from civil government--all of these tenets came from Buddhism.

d) The last judgment; the immortality of the soul; communion with bread and wine; that only through a mediator between God and man can salvation be possible; that Sunday is the Sabbath day; that December 25 is Christ's birthday--all of these came from the Rite of Mythra.

Egypt gave the world the God-man savior. Persia filled us with fears of hell, the hope of heaven, and the last judgment. The Jews gave us the priest-state. The Buddhists gave us renunciation, which made sex, family, wealth, labor, and comfort into crimes. The Greeks gave us democracy. The Essenes were Pythagoreans who provided the religious synthesis which Jesus absorbed--the God-man sacrifice and resurrection.

Therefore, since so much of the Bible is not original, and its words not literal, then the important question to ask is: What is the common element in all these traditions that brings validity to us? The answer is that religion is the study of myth. Man has two ways of expressing meaning. He can do it by using concepts and ideas which he develops himself, or he can use symbols and images through stories which convey meaning to him. In fact, one becomes wise by using both rational thinking and symbolic thinking. The stories of the Bible are not all meant to be literal; many of them convey a hidden meaning which direct us to investigate the darkest and brightest sides of our own nature. The synthesizing emphasis of all the mythic images outlined above is that all saviors, past, present, and future, were incarnate gods. This is the central reason I can accept the Jesus myth as an affirming testament of faith. Through the mythic interpretation of the stories represented by Jesus’ life, I can discover myself. I need only study their meanings. And if the traditions and belief systems of Christianity also offer me ways that I can associate them with all the other mythic systems in history, then all that's left is the message. And, in a human sense, the message is equally important.

And the message of Jesus is Love. The point is as relevant today, as it ever was. Unless we believe in the Supreme Being, the Heavenly Father, the Really Real, who has created in us, in our genetic map, the Divine ability to love to a point of unworldly generosity, we human beings would simply otherwise be incapable of being generous in our love of others. What Jesus is saying is that unless men are prepared to commit themselves to the vision of a divine love that he came to preach, they will not be able to love one another.

Selective compassion, which is so common to all of us, has nothing to do with the message. We must strive to see the world from other's perspectives. The white racist must strive to understand the black's militancy--the black must try to understand the racist's fear. The old can't write off the most repulsive of the youth culture--and youth must understand that the generation gap is not a virtue, but a barrier. Scapegoating, no matter how popular a human activity, is not permitted in the message of Jesus. We are only villains to ourselves. There is no such thing as a "little bit of hatred." Any cause which allows just a little bit of wrong to infiltrate it will ultimately be destroyed by it. This message is taught so often in the degrees of the Scottish Rite, which is a ritual and mythological system which attempts to discover the synthesis in religious forms, and, thus, the universality of religion..

Jesus was saying that we must be stubborn about the point of unconditional love. His message is absolutely meaningless unless it produces men and women who respect and reverence their fellow citizens.

If we accept the gospel of Jesus, we reject nothing that is good in the world. We are to go about our lives with no fear. What we do is much less likely to distinguish us from others than the way we do it. The way we do what we do is the way of the man who has found the meaning of existence. This is the message. Accept it, and you accept Jesus. The details, the opinions and authority of the church, and the community of Christians; none of these really matter.

If we do not see many Christians whose relationship with their fellows is a reflection of the message of love as told in the sermon on the mount, or as reflected in the good Samaritan story, the reason is not that Christianity has failed. The reason is simply that there haven't been very many Christians.

The church doesn't matter. Those who persist in judging the message by membership and leadership of the church, have set up criteria which Jesus explicitly rejected. The best the church can do is to facilitate the message. Again, it offers a symbolic sacred space that enables man to understand that he lives in two separate worlds and he has an inherent duty to connect his being to both. Everything else about the church is historical development. The Christian faith hangs upon a historical revelation. That revelation is an incarnate god in historical time that guarantees the validity of all older religious symbol systems. The history of religion only adds new meanings to the symbol, but it cannot destroy its symbolic structure.

The resurrection doesn't matter--it's from an older tradition, validating the myth. It can't be confirmed by historical fact. Even biblical scholars agree it is too much a leap of faith that a human being can be risen from the dead. The meaning of the resurrection, and not the fact, is what is important. And the meaning of the resurrection is a transcended life.

Again, it is all symbol. It represents a greater event. It is the vindication of the kingdom, a symbol that nothing can stop immortality. It is God's love that is the event, the cause; and the new, or transformed life, is the effect. We need only to believe in love to accept the gift of a new life. The resurrection is merely the event that vindicates the message of love.

And our focus must be on the whole message.

To follow Jesus is to think of ourselves as freely and generously offering our lives in the service of others. To live respected, so that we may die regretted. Our life should be seen as an exercise in gift-giving. The question Jesus would have us ask ourselves is, are we giving hope and love to the many people around us? We are called to give life--to give life to others by giving our own lives to them. The idea is to teach others how to love by the power of our love. It's a pilgrimage of the conscious acceptance of the Divine will.

I think it is valid to be on the hero quest with Jesus. His is the journey of all heroes. It is the same journey we all seek. It is the journey we also teach and strive to understand in the world's great myths; and in our own symbol systems. Don't worry about the theological details, organizational structures, or historical verifications. The issue is the same today as always. Do we want to go on the pilgrimage? Do we wish to trust the Absolute? Do we believe the claim of Jesus to be one of the guides for the pilgrimage?

In the end, religion is a quest for self knowledge. It is a hope for immortality in which every new birth, every life lived, is closer to the Source in understanding. It is an insight that human life is not felt as a brief appearance in time between one nothingness and another. Life is preceded by a pre-existence and continues in a post-existence. And, while little is known about these two transcendent stages of human life, the history of religion has shown us they are known to exist. Hence, for religious man, death does not put a final end to life. It is but another modality of human existence.

Even more, science has confirmed that all of this is, in fact, ciphered in the cosmic rhythm of things. We need only to decipher what the cosmos says in its many modes of being, and we will understand the mystery of life. This is why both the study of religion and science are important. The two together provide clarity beyond doubt that the cosmos is a living organism, which renews itself over and over. As our brains continue to develop into a collective consciousness with all other beings, we will come to understand that consciousness and intelligence derive from a mathematical root which has always been known in the cosmos. The mystery of our own inexhaustible appearance of life is bound up with the rhythmical renewal of the cosmos.

Since I plan on participating in the unraveling of this mystery, and being part of the rhythm of my own immortal transcendence, it seems to me that to strive to live with love, balance, and harmony in my life is to work at being a microcosm of the infinite macrocosm. When I place myself into the perspective of being a religious man, believing that the world exists because it was created by the gods, and that the existence of the world itself "means" something, "wants to say" something, that the world is neither mute, nor opaque, that it is not an inert thing without purpose or intelligence--then, for me, the cosmos "lives" and "speaks" to me. I form a part of the divine creation, and I find in myself the same sanctity that I recognize in the universe. My life is homologized to it. Then, as a divine work myself; the cosmos becomes my paradigmatic image of human existence. And that is the only paradigm that will ultimately free me and my world from chaos.

So, as long as I believe in a god-created universe (and I must because I cannot see the almost infinite number of complex life forms organizing themselves from random chaos), that order in the cosmos was pre-arranged by a supernatural power and intellect, that such power is manifested in me so that I can ultimately have cosmic awareness and existence myself. It is my mind which is eternal, and since none of these things can yet be known in my present reality because my brain is still evolving, then it is not irrational that I have faith--faith that I am a part of the cosmos, that it is not bigger than me, but is connected to me and includes the equation which will eternally guide me to improvement. Of all the faith systems in the world, the model offered by the Jesus myth offers for me the necessary metaphysical connection to lead me to cosmic happiness, order, and harmony. Jesus works for me because he is both historical and divine. Through him, I am able to access that sacred space; he is the threshold, or door, which links me to my spiritual side.

To follow Jesus as a model for an incarnate God, and as a reflection of us, is to recognize our true selves in what Joseph Campbell called "the wonderful song of the soul's high adventure"--a journey into our own unknown to discover our relationship with the overall significance of things.

To me, it is a pilgrimage worth making. And that has made all the difference.