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'.

Views: 504

Comment by Keith Saylor on 10th mo. 31, 2015 at 9:02pm

Amen ... A wonder of wordcraft.

Comment by Jim Wilson on 11th mo. 1, 2015 at 10:08am

Friend Howard:

I appreciate the sincerity and clarity of your post.  But it also comes across to me as unkind and judgmental of those who adhere to forms, who find in forms their way and their peace.  I wonder, for example, if you would consider Benedictines to be idolators?  Or would you consider Amish to be idolators?  Would you consider serving tea in a cup idolatrous?  Or would it be better to simply pour the tea into your open hands, thus freeing the serving of tea from adherence to idolatrous forms?

The idea that an adherence to a form causes us to be unable to see that of God in others resembles saying that if I plant tulips in my garden I won't be able to appreciate daffodils.  I don't think that follows.  And the conclusion that we must put aside all forms is rather like taking a scythe to the garden and cutting down every plant, leaving only a barren field.

I don't want to be misunderstood -- It appears that you have found an approach to the spiritual path which is  bearing fruit for you and I would not want to interfere with that.  I only hope that you can broaden your understanding to recognize the efficacy of other means; formal means that guide people to true peace.

Comment by Keith Saylor on 11th mo. 1, 2015 at 11:21am

Hello Jim,

 Yes, a conscious anchored in and a conscience formed by outward forms (that is, similitudes, replicas, ecclesiastical forms, practices, institutions, theology, etc.) does, by your own admission, look or rest upon these various outward forms (whether ideological or material religious objects) to mediate between themselves and God. That is, they are objects through which worship is addressed. Your analogues work well within the context of a conscious anchored in and a conscience formed by outward forms. However, they miss the mark when you use them in the context of a conscious anchored in and a conscience formed by the unmediated and direct experience of Presence itself illuminating the conscious and forming the conscience. 

I understand that the message of being, meaning, purpose, and consciousness anchored in and informed by unmediated Presence itself will, in the very act of speaking it, strike those, whose conscious is anchored in and conscience formed by outward forms, as judgmental in the sense that some of us are not merely saying there is another different way, but that there is a way more efficacious. I appreciate you highlighting this. I do not speak for Howard. However, I will openly admit to you that I am suggesting that there is a more efficacious way than adherence to outward forms. With the said, and while sharing the message is important, I do not support imposing that message on others through outward principles, rules, institutional coercion, etc.  Mine is the laying down of the message and that is all. 

Comment by Kirby Urner on 11th mo. 1, 2015 at 4:23pm

I would agree that a selfish / egotistic notion of "a plan" or "program" is typically less savvy than a more optimized leading from the Holy Spirit, the more reliable guide.  Prayer may serve as a strong expression of intent towards some desirable end, but how one gets from here to there is not for the ego to obsessively micro-manage; best to get out of the way by letting the way open. 

A willingness to inwardly attend to intuitions, as well as to test them experimentally, is intrinsic to Quaker practice.  Letting go of one's "internal control freak" may test of one's courage.

Prayers for developments that need not prove directly gratifying to one's ego, in terms of netting it credit and praise from others, are the more easily answered.  Finding ways to "take credit" may end up frustrating, even sabotaging, a potentially positive outcome.

A willingness to both surrender to, and to acknowledge, a "leading" may smooth the path to a plan's realization.  Serving a purpose and intelligence greater than one's own past reflex-conditioning (which includes habitual patterns of thought) leads to self overcoming i.e. self transcendence.

Comment by William F Rushby on 11th mo. 1, 2015 at 5:23pm

Well put, Kirby, well put!

Comment by Howard Brod on 11th mo. 1, 2015 at 5:35pm

Well said Kirby - perhaps better than I expressed it.

Jim, I am just offering a warning from my own experience of formerly behaving as though outward forms are the way to God - in essence a mediator to God.  And when you experience these forms as a "mediator" (whether you are aware of it or not), it inadvertently separates you from others because the forms indeed become your idol - what you are really worshipping. 

I offer this warning in love and not judgment - please believe me.  At one time my mediator was my particular faith tradition's interpretation of the Bible which I eventually cast off, then it was Christianity as my mediator which I eventually cast off, then it was only the person of Jesus as my mediator which I eventually cast off.  I should have viewed all of these as merely suggestions or models for my own unmediated experience with God.  And what is God?  He is experienced as simply Light and Love.  Why not place our being to align with 'that of God' within us; align wholly with Light and Love.  Wouldn't that be better than aligning with a book, a particular religion, a particular person no matter how holy that person may be.  Why not view all of these as wonderful helps sent to us by the Spirit in an attempt to aliven 'that of God' within us for our own direct unifying experience with God and all of creation. God is timeless and expansive.  His being cannot be confined to a book, a holy person, or a religion.  His being of Light and Love is unchangeable - but what we humans perceive and experience as loving does indeed change with the passing of time, cultures, and circumstances.  No book or teaching taught thousands or even hundreds of years ago in a different culture and time can accurately guide us as to what is loving for us today in our world, in our time.  But the eternal unchangeable Love and Light of the Spirit can.  It will guide us unmediated if we enter into silent communion with it and open our hearts to it.

This casting off of forms as my mediator does not mean that I don't use all of these as tools on occasion for increased spirituality.  But they are used as directed and mediated by the Spirit of Light and Love, which is the pure Source of our Oneness; our pure essence of being.  They are not used in and as of themselves.  And still, I slip into the old idolatries often, and need to seek again the Spirit of Truth to bring me back to the unadulterated Love that is our true essence. 

From my vantage point now, I see that I was not using these forms as temporary tools for increased spirituality (which is what I think you are properly endorsing, Jim). Rather, they were used by me as my mediator to God; my end result; in essence my God.  And with each form as my mediator, an implied separation from others was subtly occurring within me; an ego separation from others at some level. 

Comment by William F Rushby on 11th mo. 1, 2015 at 11:13pm

Howard:  Jesus Christ is not a form, but a person, the very son of God.  The Bible states repeatedly that He is our mediator; it is through Him that we have access to God. http://bible.knowing-jesus.com/topics/Christ,-The-Mediator

Comment by Howard Brod on 11th mo. 2, 2015 at 7:42am

Dear Friend Bill,

I don't wish to offend you.  However, the Bible is not my idol; nor are the people who wrote its words.  So, I am not inclined to worship it or what it says.

The very essence of Jesus is the essence of us all.  We just need to recognize and experience that.  He himself invited us to do so.

The great sin of Christendom has been the perpetuated teaching that the Light that was fully within Christ is not similarly fully within us all. The implication of this teaching is that we are unable to have a direct relationship with the divine.

Wrapping the ministry of Jesus into Judaic sacrificial rituals was a meaningful and powerful metaphor understood by ancient peoples (both Jewish and non-Jewish) to gain a following of disciples (who believed in the necessity of sacrificial rituals).  Those sacrificial rituals have no meaning to us in our modern world; nor does the metaphor of Jesus as the sacrificial lamb to mediate a cleansed relationship with God.  In fact, the practice of sacrificing living beings to a god is viewed as barbaric and disgusting by most in our modern world.  Such distractions are a prime example why no form should become a poor substitute for direct access of the Living Love and Light that IS.

Comment by William F Rushby on 11th mo. 2, 2015 at 9:46am

"When all my hopes in them and in all men were gone, so that I had nothing outwardly to help me, nor could I tell what to do, then, oh, then, I heard a voice which said, "There is one, even Christ Jesus, that can speak to thy condition";[30] and when I heard it, my heart did leap for joy."

From George Fox, An Autobiography

Comment by William F Rushby on 11th mo. 2, 2015 at 10:23am

For *George Fox: an Autobiography*, see http://www.strecorsoc.org/gfox/title.html

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