I want to say a few thoughts about Richard Rohr’s daily meditation today about “From Naïveté to Wisdom.” Please click the link to read it. It’s a beautiful simplified perspective of the faith journey: from order, to disorder, and then reorder. I’ve seen this in Mormonism, and in my own life. It is the Hero’s Journey. It is the monomyth. It is the pattern of human life, of the human condition, of psychological individuation, and ultimate reconciliation. It is the spiritual journey back to God, to the One, to Reality.
Many religious people remain in “order” their whole lives. It is a very “safe” place to be, comfortable, with all boundaries and structure already in place for us, and all we have to do is go for the ride. We think we know the “truth,” the “only” truth, remarkably many were miraculously born into this only truth, we think we have everything figured out, and we follow a strict program and a leader who knows exactly God’s will. The problem is that we often ignore many problems, we whitewash them, we cover them up and pretend they don’t exist, we try to explain them away. We kick against the pricks, fighting truth itself. We avoid all disorder, confusion, or inconsistencies, all darkness and unknowing.
We think Jesus did all things for us, and instead of imitating him taking up our cross with him, we worship him as an idol. We think Jesus at-oned with God, and now if we just worship him we will be saved in the “next life.” We have a very literalistic perspective of spirituality and of the scriptures. It all tends to be very superficial, without much true spiritual depth, mystical depth, and can even fight against genuine spirituality, love, peace, and truth. We can come to fight God and Truth, in the name of God.
I feel that many Mormons remain “stuck” in this stage their whole lives, being a very “conservative” people. I was in this space for over thirty years. I thought I had it all figured out, and our job was just to convert everyone to be Mormon, both the living and the dead! This worked for me, until it didn’t. My discovery of evolution as a truth that was undeniable was perhaps the straw that broke this camel’s back. My religion’s almost total denial of this undeniable truth I saw as fundamentally incompatible with God. My religion was wrong, and I knew it was wrong, and I could not deny myself and remain authentic and honest with myself. And so I chose to go beyond the boundary, to jump into the dark abyss, to make a sacrifice of everything I had known. There is perhaps nothing in my life that was so intensely painful, excruciating. I was crushed, crushed. I found that I was that olive in the atoning oil press of Gethsemane.
Disorder is often what happens when people go through a faith crisis. They realize that their religion or church wasn’t as perfect as they thought it was, but is quite imperfect. Problems begin to show up everywhere, tumbling the whole house of cards, shattering the glass house, breaking the “shelf” where we have accumulated all of our doubts over the years. They fall, crash, and burn. It is deeply uncomfortable, even unbearable. Some people find it so disorienting that they rush back to order, even knowing all its problems and then often suffer living in a deep cognitive dissonance.
Other people give up on religion and spirituality altogether. They are completely disillusioned about the whole project. They may even become aggressively anti-spiritual, anti-religion. They might become very angry with their church, with the problematic history, with the cover-ups, the lies, all the warts and darkness become front and center. Everything seems to become awful, a great big shadow, a giant conspiracy, a system of power and control. The religion is viewed as a totally corrupt and evil empire, full of deceitful leaders and falsehood at every turn.
Some Mormons pass into this phase, and either give up Mormonism altogether, or they become anti-Mormon, or even become atheist leaving all religion and spirituality, thinking it’s all just lies, false, superstition, outdated magical thinking, without any particle of truth. Spirituality itself becomes false. If the “church” isn’t “true,” then no church is. I passed through this phase for a time, which was deeply destabilizing, soul crushing, heart shattering, a dark time indeed. I didn’t know which way was up. I suddenly had no worldview. I was in deep unknowing, a void so deep there was no bottom to it. I didn’t become aggressively anti-Mormon, but I saw a host of problems in Mormonism which I could no longer deny, ignore, or whitewash. My soul was sorrowful unto death, and in many ways I did die.
Fortunately, by Grace itself, there is a reordering that comes after the disorder. There is life that comes after this “death,” a bright dawn after the dark night, a very real mystical resurrection, which I think is the resurrection. This is where we find all those greatest gifts that are promised in religion, but which many religious “order” people don’t ever seem to be able to find in their lifetimes, putting them off into a life after life – resurrection, salvation, exaltation, enlightenment, awakening, liberation, redemption. The “afterlife” that is promised in religion is one that we can experience here and now, after our ego’s life comes to an end. We walk straight through the darkness, right through the blazing fire, and it does burn us, it burns our ego right up. The ego is dissolved, it suffers, and it dies. That “natural man” is put off.
We transcend the original “order,” but surprisingly we also come to include it at a higher level. We don’t reject spirituality or religion, but we see them in an entirely new light. We have passed to the other side of anger, of aggressiveness, of polemics. We realize at a deep level what it was all for. We have surrendered ourselves entirely to truth, neither defending what we previously thought was true, nor attacking it as completely untrue. We arrive at a synthesis which brings things to a unity indescribable. All truth is circumscribed into One Great Whole. All truth, inside of religion and outside of it, all religions, all spiritualities, even including all scientific and secular truth. It is all included in God, in Truth.
I think very few Mormons make it to this reordering. As Jesus said, few there be that find this life, which is ironically Life itself, even our very own Life. We awaken to this Life, finally understanding how Jesus was pointing to this Life the whole time, as were every other genuine spiritual teacher in every tradition throughout history. We come to know our Life, know our Self, know our Consciousness, know our deepest Being, and we see its inherent divinity and timelessness in sublime beauty and glory.
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These people are typically disliked by both the people in “order” and “disorder” groups. They are no longer in lock step with the “program” and the leader, but neither are they warriors that attack it with full assaults. They have realized that Life is about Love. It’s all Love. God is Love. Love! We are Life, not the ego-self. We are Consciousness, not the “self” we think we are in the mind that is merely a story, a construction from life’s experiences. God has become incarnate in you, and you are living God’s Life. The Cosmos has awakened in you. The purpose of life is to live it in unconditional Love, unconditional acceptance of the present moment, and to alleviate suffering wherever we see it, to heal, to bless, to lift up, to listen, to be a mirror of the Divine and to reflect that divinity and love into every corner of the world, because in every corner of the world you find your Self.
I feel I gradually passed into this reordering when I learned how to meditate and contemplate. I learned this traditional and ancient form of deep spiritual practice which actually brings one into direct communion with one’s own Spirit, with Consciousness, with Life, with God, and one can see past all of the illusions and delusions of ego, of the thought-filled mind. I came to commune directly with God, even to a profound realizations/revelations/insights of my oneness in God/Reality/Nature/Cosmos/Truth.
I saw “Christ” in me, the “Buddha” in me, that I was One in God, a manifestation of God/Reality, that Consciousness had awakened as the “I” in this body-mind, and that was the true Me, the true Self. And I saw this in everyone else too. Each and every person is a manifestation of God, a Christ, a Buddha, an Anointed Consciousness, a manifestation of deep Love, union, oneness, nonduality. Each and every being is an expression of this universe, an emanation of the cosmos, an incarnation of God. Every one! No one is excluded from this Divinity! I saw it, and I can never unsee it.
I was raised up to Life again, resurrected to Life, to Love, to the deep truth in all spirituality, to our inherent divinity, our oneness in God. I awakened to Life itself, as Consciousness itself, as Love itself, as God. And that God is not exclusive to me, but is found in each and every person who ever was and ever will be, even every living being. And this Godliness continues to evolve, to grow, to seek ever greater beauty, truth, goodness, and love throughout all the world and cosmos, forever and ever.
We are that One!