Outward Forms, Human reasoning, and Idolatry

I tend to over-simplify things even though I do not live in a simple manner outwardly.  My outward life is somewhat complex for a number of reasons that I have accepted as a tool that I am called to use for spiritual reasons.  I did not reason my way to where I am; rather, I have found myself mindfully here at a place where it seems the Spirit has placed me.  And the Spirit has ministered and comforted me in this place because it is not where I would choose to be if I were left to my own reasoning.  This circumstance I find myself in outwardly for many years, has driven me spiritually to focus inwardly ever more intently.  Had I used my reasoning and planning abilities, I would be in a different outward place than I find myself.  I would have driven my being to a more simple outward manifestation.  But the outward form of simplicity has not been mine to be experienced.  Instead I have been driven to inward simplicity.  Quaker form would have dictated that my outward life be simple.  But I have chosen to listen to an inward Voice; and not the voice of Quaker advices and queries, nor passages written in any so-called Holy Book. I have known which was the True Voice by discerning which voice spurs me to experience and provide more Love and Light in my and others' being.  That has been my True Guide.

I'm not sure if the prior paragraph makes any sense to you, my reader.  But I offer it as background for the reality I've been shown regarding the place of outward forms. And I include "reasoning and planning" in those outward forms.

I have come to understand that they are all merely tools to be embraced or discarded without attachment.  Used properly they are tools placed in our hands by our 'Source and Life' for the sole purpose of Loving more fully and for Lighting our being with the fullness of the Spirit.  They are for God's purposes to bring others to that same state.  "Others" may be just one person or they could be many.  It is not for me to worry about it, plan it out, or monitor its outcome.  I trust I will be guided at the right time what to do next. 

I will attest to all that the more forms we attach to in our spiritual walk, the more 'lost' we are in danger of becoming.  By "lost", I mean sidetracked from the direct absorption of Light manifested as a fullness in Love.  I have found a 'sign' that sidetracking is occurring; and it is when my ego gets into gear.  The ego is merely an absence of Love and Light at a given moment.  If I am getting angry, anxious, or fearful it is of the ego and it is a moment of not operating from the Presence of Light.  If I get prideful or enthralled with a compliment, again it is a moment of not operating from the Presence of Light.  It is then time to take a deep breath, enter into silence, and pray for the 'Spirit of Truth' to enter my being to show me the way back to Love and Light.

During every moment of attaching onto a form, whether it be Quaker tradition, human reasoning and planning, Christianity, Quakerism, an obsession with Jesus, a label for God, whatever - I have ceased using that form as a temporary tool and have crossed into idolatry. Idolatry keeps us from seeing and seeking 'that of God' in others if they don't also bow down to our same idol.  And I find myself in that idolatrous state many times in a single day.  Idolatry is nothing more than an ego-attachment to an outward form instead of our spirit's attachment to our true Source.  I think this is what the earliest Friends were speaking about when they were suspicious of "reasoning", because they knew how insidious our ego thoughts are as they seduce us into idolatry, and therefore away from 'Light and Love'.

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Comment by Howard Brod on 11th mo. 5, 2015 at 7:35pm

I loved your description of Jesus, Jim, and the beautiful poetry with which you describe him.  After your description, you end it with "The thing is, He is all of these simultaneously.  Awesome!".

And Jesus clearly felt that all of us should likewise be "all of these simultaneously".  Now, wouldn't that REALLY be awesome!

Comment by Kirby Urner on 11th mo. 5, 2015 at 8:20pm

Jim, the conflict you identified was betwixt your views, and those of contemporary liberals who's great sin is to find that of Christ within "Everyman"(a somewhat dated term meant to include women and children equally). 

I was wondering if you interpreted John 15:15 as a plea by Jesus for a peer group more than for servile minions who'd always fall to their knees in his presence (figuratively if not literally), denying his wish for true friends.  The guy liked to drink wine and hang out, including with Roman soldiers and tax collectors, should the opportunity arise.  He had superlative social skills, as one would expect from a great Rabbi, in addition to his mastery of prophetic scripture.

I think generations of royalty who actually do wish to be celebrated as deities (emperors, kings, all manner of temporal authority) have tended to bleep over John 15:15 in hopes of making Christianity more of a tool in some pyramid scheme. Equality is not their cup of tea.

These same historical figures have tended to emphasize obedience to God, and punishment for defiance (as adjudged by themselves), over the call to provide companionship and community to the meek and/or poor in spirit (Matthew 25:40). 

Pope Francis, to his credit, seems to be deliberately playing down the more punitive aspects of Christian rhetoric, reconnecting with a populist base.

Perhaps Jesus was not asking to be treated as a cult figure (as Lord or King) so much as this role has been thrust upon him by zealots for reasons of their own?

The liberal Friend sees in Jesus a self-actualizing individual living up to his true potential, to a degree way beyond run-of-the-mill.  In seeing he's inner circle as true friends,  a peer group, he was acknowledging that each one of us may come into that state of grace we associate with the eternal Christ and forgiveness of sin.

The liberal reading seems more radical to me, as it is less about vicarious and/or mediated experience, and more about taking up our own crosses even as Jesus of Nazareth did, cheerfully and selflessly (in his case). The challenge is to emulate, not to bow down or grovel.

This freedom from intermediaries (e.g. priests, cult figures), in relating to God, is a common theme in American literature as well, especially in the transcendentalist tradition.  The title No More Secondhand God comes to mind, authored by a great nephew of Margaret Fuller, herself an early promoter of Emerson and Thoreau as editor of Dial magazine.  I see Quakerism deriving some of its latter day expressions from this tradition.  Continuous revelation means it doesn't all come to an end (in terms of openness to new teachings) with the Bible or any other singular book.

Comment by Howard Brod on 11th mo. 5, 2015 at 9:21pm

I think Evangelical Friends see the recorded words of Jesus below as a statement that Jesus is special because they hang on each word literally.  Liberal Friends tend to read these words in the same mystical spirit that they were uttered by Jesus.  When understood in this spirit, Jesus' words are an entreaty to his listeners to emulate his same relationship and unity with "the Father" that he had.

John 14:11,12,20-23 -  Believe Me that I am in the Father and that the Father is in Me. Or else believe Me because of the things I do. 12 For sure, I tell you, whoever puts his trust in Me can do the things I am doing. He will do even greater things than these because I am going to the Father.

20 “I do not pray for these followers only. I pray for those who will put their trust in Me through the teaching they have heard. 21 May they all be as one, Father, as You are in Me and I am in You. May they belong to Us. Then the world will believe that You sent Me. 22 I gave them the honor You gave Me that they may be one as We are One. 23 I am in them and You are in Me so they may be one and be made perfect. Then the world may know that You sent Me and that You love them as You love Me.

Comment by Jim Wilson on 11th mo. 6, 2015 at 10:56am

Again, I'm not sure how to respond, Kirby.  You see Jesus the way you do.  I don't see Jesus that way.  How to proceed is a mystery to me.  We can quote scripture to each other, but that doesn't seem like a fruitful way.  Both you and Howard appear to believe that you have connected with what Jesus really meant, whereas others, from your perspective, have missed the true meaning.  I am not so sure of myself.

Basically, I would have to fall back on my own experience of the inner light.  My experience is that the inner light is not an essence or a true self or a higher self.  It is a guiding grace and its source is 'beyond', or 'transcendental'.  It is not an aspect of my personality or an actualization of a shared human potential.  At least my experience of the inner light is not consistent with those kinds of explanations.

Perhaps another approach to this discussion would center on our respective views of human nature.  My view of human nature is that it is, in some sense, flawed; and when I say 'flawed' I mean essentially flawed.  Because of this I believe in the necessity of outside assistance in order for human beings to awaken to love.  In other words, love is a gift from the Presence of Eternity rather than an actualization of human potential.

Comment by Howard Brod on 11th mo. 6, 2015 at 12:19pm

Whether we label the Light "outside assistance in order to awaken to love" or "an actualization of human potential", likely the results are the same.

Comment by Kirby Urner on 11th mo. 6, 2015 at 12:24pm

Greetings Jim.  You're helping me solve my puzzle (you predicted puzzlement) and I thank you. 

Probably it's just a matter of where to draw the line between the Christ and Jesus.  You probably recall how St. Francis referred to his own avatar as Brother Ass. 

In choosing to join Creation as a fallen mortal, to enter the dollhouse as it were, God was taking a pretty big risk, and if He'd still had a vengeful bone in his body, per the God of Noah, that would've been it for our World right then.  Bye bye humanity (Lucifer: "do it!"). 

As it was, there were rumblings, the sky darkened and so on.  The Planet of the Apes (aka Earth) was not fun.  Lucifer to Jesus:  "they didn't deserve you then and they won't in the future, never go back!"

I appreciate that the Christians took the one decent good man who was ever among us, in the most radical and courageous way, and made him the titular head of some church, but it will do no good in the long run, to appease our Lord in that way. 

Our species seems doomed to not make this Earth a paradise apparently (not His fault), which is entirely within our power to do.  But we whine and we moan and if God tries to help out in person, show us how to get along, we nail him to a tree. 

So do I think humans are a great species? Hardly.  I call myself a Quaker Animist in my urge to distance myself from these ugly-to-me creatures (these Asses as the good saint saw them).  I miss the Angels.  At least we still have ETs.  :-D

Note:  I usually keep my latent misanthropy in check and look fondly upon my fellow Apes, er Humans, but I figure I should let it out of the bag on occasion just to show I think we're lucky to have a forgiving God.  We don't deserve Him.

Comment by Forrest Curo on 11th mo. 6, 2015 at 1:18pm

When I was ten or so I'd visit a relative's place by a large mountain lake; when I wasn't in the water I'd be digging holes in the sand -- because some inches down there would be water; and the more I dug the more water would flow in, and the more the sand around the hole would be undercut, fall in, widen the hole.

The water in the hole was, of course, lake water. It was not "other" than the water in the lake. It didn't look blue, didn't stretch for miles across or end-to-end; there were no waves. I couldn't put an inner tube into it and float around. But really, the lake stretched a considerable distance through the surrounding sand and ground; it was only the part available to human vision that ended at the shore.

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