Saturday, March 24, 2012
Neither do I. Whether we call it God, Spirit, intuition, or conscience, we all have our own guidance system. Yet I've seen many intelligent, educated people become blind followers. Do you know anyone who gets their "news" from sources as unreliable as forwarded emails, "viral" Youtube videos, or Saturday Night Live?
In a recent interaction with a friend, I was astounded once again by how someone I know is open minded and intelligent could be easily swayed by societal pressure. She posted something on facebook which she'd gotten from another friend (a re-post that had been making the rounds.) She added this comment: "This is why you can't ever trust any drug companies, hospitals or doctors!"
I pointed out that her comment felt a little strong. Actually, I called her a bigot. I admit, that might not have been the best way to handle it, but I felt a volatile word would get her attention, and it did.
Her response was, "I'm not a bigot, but doctors don't get any training in nutrition. How can I trust them?"
I didn't point out that saying any entire group of people shared a specific trait was indeed bigotry. I just told her what she said about doctors having no training in nutrition sounded like propaganda. Yes, I know - another volatile word.
She said, "It's not propaganda if it's true!" and with this comment she posted a link to the Harvard Medical School Curriculum where indeed there was not one single class that dealt with nutrition. "See," she said, "They don't teach nutrition in med school!"
I posted a link to the Cornel Pre-Med program in which one can find several classes that deal directly with nutrition, with the comment, "That's because they have to know this stuff before they can get in to medical school."
Her reply, "Jeez, Sharon. I just want to post some shit on facebook."
I left it alone at this point. My need to push my belief that we all need to be able to trust doctors with our lives at times and that the propaganda she was spreading was bringing fear without any just cause was pushing me to behave in ways that were outside of my integrity. Osho, an Indian spiritual philosopher, would tell you that truth is truth no matter what we believe. We can't change what's real, we can only change our perception of what's real. Neither her post nor my inflammatory words would change truth. While I felt very much as if I was right and felt determined to prove it, it is not my responsibility to force my beliefs on others. If others want to find truth, they will.
As I've matured, I've come to a place where I try to live in integrity and admit my mistakes when I see them. I recently had to send an email retraction to about thirty people because my first email was sent out before I knew the entire truth. In our need to fit in it seems we can sometimes jump on the bandwagon without looking to see if it's actually carrying a band, or possibly is instead full of manure. I suspect we can all say that we have fallen into defending a position we were not entirely certain of, at some time or another. There have been times when I - like my facebook friend - have been more concerned with protecting my self-image than the truth.
Anyone, and therefore any leader, is capable of making a mistake. Not all are willing to admit it. Religious leaders are not exempt. Maybe they have come to know great truths. Maybe they have a great desire to spread this wonderful knowledge to everyone. Even so, that desire can be the exact thing that leads them astray. When spreading the word becomes more important the the word itself, things can get misconstrued.
I've found a spiritual path that works for me. The fact that it's right for me does not mean it is the one-and-only path. So - even if you're 100% certain that someone else knows where they're going, can you be certain it's where you should be going?
I'm not saying we all need to reinvent the wheel. We can listen to what others have to offer and learn a great many things but all the while we need to be checking our own compasses. We may forget we have one, but it's always there. The doctor who is treating me may be very knowledgeable AND he can make a mistake AND this doesn't mean that we can never trust anything a doctor says. This is where that inner guidance comes in. Whether a little glimmer of the universal truth is coming from a minister, rabbi, shaman, or yoga instructor, a street prophet, college professor or bartender, we can listen, evaluate and then assimilate only that which feels in line with our own inner guides.
One of the things my inner guide tells me is that humility may be the most important trait in any teacher. If my teachers are driven only by the desire to pass on truth and not by the need to have others believe it, I feel safer in trusting what they say. From my experience, it seems as if our greatest spiritual teachers (think Moses, Jesus, Krishna, Mohamed, Buddha, etc.) did not tell us they had the one and only answer. They preached love and acceptance and their own version of "stay the coarse".
Over time, their words have been translated by others who have been translated by others who have been re-translated and re-translated and so their words have come to our modern ears through many folds of interpretation. In some cases the original message is so misconstrued it's completely lost in the darkness of time.
Two examples of this are the words “sin” and “evil”. These words, from ancient Aramaic, were actually archery terms.
An archer aims his arrow at a target. Whoosh! It just misses the bulls eye.
A spotter calls out, “sin” to indicate that he was close, but missed his mark.
The archer aims again. This time he misses the target altogether.
The spotter announces, “evil” because the archer's aim is way off.
That was the original meaning of sin and evil. Were they judgments of character? Did they indicate that the archer was being led by the Devil? No. They were objective terms. Being “evil” didn’t indicate a need for punishment. It indicated a need for a change in coarse.
If you were to read the Bible, the Talmud, and the Koran, applying the original meaning of the words “sin” and “evil,” how might your interpretations of these ancient texts differ from what you might hear in a place of worship?
I believe these kinds of misinterpretations have led us to our modern-day belief in dualism. We take it as a given that there are opposing forces of "good" and "evil" pulling at us, all the time. I think there is only one force, sort of like gravity. Nothing is suddenly going to take hold of us and pull us off the planet. To do that, we have to work hard to defy gravity.
In ancient times, "Earth-based" religions were practiced all over our planet. These Native Americans, Australian Aborigines, African tribes, and Pagans and Shamanic belief systems in Europe and Asia did not teach dualism. There was no God-and-Devil battle. Instead, there was a universal spirit that lived inside each of us and in everything around us. Spirit could be found everywhere and you were either seeking it, turning towards it and following your true path, or you were turning away. If you were turned away it was of your own doing, and therefore was easily corrected. You simply opened your eyes and found the right coarse. No exorcism necessary. No punishment required.
I also like the common analogy of God or Spirit as light.
The word darkness describes only a lack of something, a nothingness. In my knowing, "the Devil" is like darkness. It doesn't really exist. It's only the absence of light.
When darkness surrounds me, I turn on a light and the darkness disappears. By tuning in to my inner guide, I can shine my light in front of me and safely navigate around obstacles, find doorways, and make conscious, educated decisions. If someone tells me I'm going the wrong way, I can look around and determine whether or not it's true.
There's no need to fear darkness because my inner light is always there. All I have to do is remember to turn it on.