From a Sermon given Spring Equinox Worship Service March 2017
Last fall we gathered for a worship service that occurred right after the United States presidential election. During that service I talked about the perfect pictures that had dominated the election process and the need for us to construct a new narrative based on greater Truth. Good example of: be careful what you pray for.
Three months later our mass media and our social media are flooded with stories of people trying to figure out what is true and what is not true. As usual, many people are trying to impose their truths on other people. There is nothing new about this. The NEW part is that we are now arguing about who has the right to define truth for our society, our collective life. Many or most of the institutions that we formally accepted as the truth-sayers are now being discredited.
Lots of folks have lots of opinions about whom to trust and whom to distrust as sources of information; as well as what we should all be paying attention to and what should be ignored. Newspapers and television shows are being blasted right and left over the choices they make either to report or ignore various issues or events, the choices within each story of what to mention, what to focus on, as well as what their comments should actually be. Academic institutions, law enforcement, medical professionals and other scientists, segments of our population that have been a go-to place for many decades, are now being scrutinized at best, vilified at worst. Depending on who you talk to, the scientific perspective is either under attack, or finally being put in its place. Educational systems from preschool to college are being gutted and their professionals viewed as having little or no value. And of course, everyone seems to think the government is lying, even people in the government.
Suddenly the deep divisions within our country are not just about governmental policies and other surface politics. Rather, they are about the very nature of our reality, our basic most understanding of the truth. In the process of figuring out who we want to trust, we’re getting inundated by new terminology like fake news, alternative facts, gas lighting, click bait headlines, and the like. What’s going on?
In my opinion, we’re right on track. What I mean by this, is that the fights that are erupting everywhere in our culture these days, from a spiritual perspective are predictable; are vital, even necessary.
We are in the midst of a HUGE epistemological cultural war. Epistemology is a word that comes from the field of philosophy. Epistemology is about investigating human knowledge. Epidemiologists try to understand how we know what we know. What methods do we use to arrive at the truth, and what are the limitations of said methods? All useful things to study, especially these days.
There are many ways of understanding that the word Truth, but the Truth that is most of interest to me, the Truth that I hope to bring us back to, the Truth I pray you will have a better understanding of when you leave here today, is something I sometimes call Truth with a Capital “T.” In other words, God.
As human beings, it seems to be our lot in life to try and make sense out of things beyond our reach. I am always amazed at the hubris of people who think they know everything, have all the answers for everyone around them. I am especially astonished by the religious leaders who think they can speak for God when they tell other people what to think or do. Humans like to imagine that we understand God; and don’t get me wrong, it’s important that we try. But in my opinion we also need to develop the humility to understand the limitations of our knowledge base. We are a part of something bigger that contains and knows the whole of the cosmos. We are part of God, but we are not God in its totality.
The Vedic religions is one of the spiritual traditions that have most clearly addressed the nature of reality. In Hinduism, the world is referred to as the “Maya.” The Māyā is a Sanskrit word that means the “magic show, the illusion where things that are before us not what they seem.” Māyā is the idea that that which exists is constantly changing and thus ultimately unreal. God is the only thing that doesn’t change, the only reality. Every aspect of what we think of as the physical reality is really just a snapshot in time, seen from one particular camera or lens. There are as many versions of the truth as there are forms of life in our universe, which is beyond what we can count or measure. Bottom line: Truth belongs only to our Creator.
As individuals we are but a piece of the puzzle. A chip off the cosmic block. We are not the entire puzzle; nor can we even understand the whole puzzle while incorporated in the flesh. Here at the Church of the Harvest, we acknowledge this diversity of worldviews by referring to the divine by many names: The All-That-Is, Allah, the Creator-of- Us-All, the divine, God, Goddess, the God of our Heart, Nature, the universe, etc. Some of my favorite names for the divine are metaconcepts like Justice, Love, and Truth (with a Capital T). For us puny humans, each of us have our own unique piece of the truth. And it’s incredibly important to all of us that we discover and speak that truth and live that truth to the best of our ability. Some of us are closer to knowing and living and speaking the Truth with a Capital T. But none of us can claim to have the complete picture.
You are all healers, change agents in the great game of life. You no doubt know that the process of healing involves stripping off the delusions about who are, stripping off the ego that protects those delusions, piece by piece, layer by layer, like peeling an onion some people say, in order to get down to the bedrock, get down to the cornerstone distortions that are keeping us from understanding our true nature.
When enough people have stripped away enough old perspectives, sometimes there occurs in society something called a paradigm shift. A paradigm shift is when so much is changing about the basic framework that our cognitive model of how we see the world changes. Most of you will recognize what I mean when I say that a paradigm shift is to a large collection of people such as those who make up an industry or an entire country, what a growth period is to an individual meditator. The U.S. has been in a rather intense and painful stripping process for many months now. The next step, the natural progression is for us is to deal with the bedrock of how we understand our world. We are being called to adopt a more accurate perception of reality, to come closer to the Truth.
We often talk about the world of energy. We offer opportunities for people to come to terms with their individual energy system. We have a meditation community so that individuals can safely learn about sharing collective space with other individuals committed to being responsible about their own energy system. But I’d like to remind you today that energy is not the only component on which you have to get a handle if you want to create the kind of world all of us desire, a world grounded in the unconditional love of the universe. It takes a lot of power to create a world based on love, and real power takes not only energy, but also truthful information.
Power equals energy and information. You can have a lot of energy like what happens for many bipolar individuals, but unless you have the information about how to ground that energy and work within your own body, it is a wasted resource. Or you can have a lot of information like, for example, what is seen in many academic and scientific settings where people have enormous amounts of information at their disposal but lack the energy to bring their insights into the world in a constructive fashion. When you are too much in your head, identifying with the brain, your energy system does not create from a spiritual perspective. Every time I’ve been around institutions of higher education, I am always astonished by how such talented, intelligent people can get so stuck in their analyzers and think that what is really important is fighting each other over academic turf, jostling over who has the most prestige.
For human beings to make it through the next period of time, we are going to need to learn to use both energy and information. We are designed for that and we can operate that way if we so choose. Think about our brains, the operating system that drives our bodies. Human brains have an average of 100 billion neurons, about the same number as the number of stars within the Milky Way galaxy.
Each single neuron has the capacity to create a synopsis or connection with 1,000 other individual neurons.
Two neurons communicating. Photo by Heiti Paves.
Current estimates are that we can handle about 2 ½ petrabytes of information. A petrabyte is a thousand terabyates. A terabyte is a million million bytes. We are walking around with bodies that can process some 100 trillion data points each second. Not bad for an animal like a human being. But then, we were made in God’s image.
You’d think that would be enough to get a lot done. Theoretically anyway. But NOPE, that’s not enough. We need both the power tools and the information about how to use them wisely. We can all attest of periods of feeling completely overwhelmed by all there is to handle in the world, particularly when we are in sensation-rich environments, around a lot of technology or a lot of people to intensify the data stream assaulting our senses. Right now we are densely packed in a world of over 7 billion people, immersed at every moment of the day by technology beyond our wildest dreams, with most of us so stressed that even the brightest of us can barely handle the basics.
When we don’t know how to handle life’s challenges, we tend to use people and organizations as shortcuts in processing information. This is where it gets tricky. We give other people the power to determine what we feel or believe about the world. Many have long since figured out that the best way to control other people is to get them to fear things they do not understand. As our world becomes increasingly complex using our current inadequate cognitive skill set, it is relatively easy for power mongers to generate fear in people; and also alarmingly easy to confuse people. Elections in the United States are now routinely “bought” by corporations and wealthy individuals with the thousands or millions of dollars it takes to spread the viewpoint they want citizens to hold. We are going to need a new cognitive skill set to make it through the next months. Thus the looming paradigm shift.
Luckily the problems that we face are not exactly new, just greatly intensified, so we do have some history upon which we can draw. For centuries humans have been living in the world that overwhelms us with its vast amount of sensory data. We have dealt with our fear and confusion by giving up our power, giving our decision-making to other humans that come along and tell us that THEY know the right answers. Usually it’s religious or political figures that tell us that we should believe THEIR version of the truth.
Every once in awhile, a Buddha will come along that will remind us that everything we need to know is within us, if we just wake from our state of sleeping through life. Every once in awhile a Jesus of Nazareth teaches us to seek God within us, to desire to know its Truth and to listen to it when we find it.
The Buddha lived circa 500 to 400 BCE.
From its start the universe has been conspiring to help us recognize the Truth whenever we are open to it. Key individuals have challenged the cognitive stronghold promulgated by the religious dogma that is usually a big factor in keeping the Truth at bay. In the sixth century the man we know as the Buddha took the first major chunk out of the entrenched Hindu caste system on the Indian subcontinent. Many centuries later Mahatma Gandhi would convince the British Empire to move out of India and the caste system would be officially eliminated. But way before that it was the Buddha who set the stage of teaching hundreds of people to begin the search for themselves. He told ordinary folks, not only the “untouchables” but anyone below the highest caste, that they did not need the Brahman, the ruling priests to intervene for them in the ways of the universe. He taught them how to turn within, to meditate to find those ways for themselves.
Around the same time, another search for the truth was happening in China. Confucius revolutionized thinking in the entire Eastern part of the globe by bringing a greater sense of individual truth-seeking to how humans should process information. He was one of the first major proponents of the “Golden Rule.” He talked about the important of treating other people well by following one’s own instincts. He maintained that if society fails it is because sacred texts and teachings have been misinterpreted. He told his students that the texts contain the “Way,” but individuals must search for and find it themselves. He helped shift human consciousness of much of the civilized world that was China towards pursuit of the Truth.
Confucius lived from 551 to 479 BCE.
And then, of course we have the Christ, who preached that individuals must first and foremost find their answers within, by finding God’s kingdom within each of us. His teachings have been misunderstood and subverted over the years but periodically, the universe pulls us back closer to the possibility of discovering Truth as Jesus defined it.
Christ Underwater, Key Largo, Photo by Lawrence Cruciana
One such point was the Protestant Reformation around the end of the 15th century early part of the 16th century, when an obscure German pastor named Martin Luther and various of his colleagues reshaped life in Europe and beyond by challenging the Roman Catholic hierarchy.
The statement Martin Luther hand wrote and nailed to a church at Wittenburg in 1517 eventually was reproduced by the new printing presses some 250,000 times, the first such incidence of mass circulation of the written word. His stance spread throughout Europe and led to a movement by religious leaders of many countries to develop their own version of Christianity.
The Reformation is sometimes seen as just political infighting among rival Christian sects, but really it was bigger than just a religious war. At its essence it was also an epistemological cultural war, made more vicious by the advent of new technology, very much like what we are going through today. At issue was who gets to decide what is true and what is not; and how the Truth should be sought.
At the time, Catholicism had become the supreme authority on both spiritual and secular life in Europe. Typically only monks could read and write books and only monks and priests could speak Latin. This was important because Latin was the language of the Bible which was the sole basis for the moral code for society. Therefore, any person in Western society who wanted to live such that they would enjoy success in the outer world; as well as prepare for what they believed was going to happen in the after-world, had to rely on a priest to tell them what to think and feel and how to live.
It was no coincidence that Luther nailed his objections to the way the Catholic Church was doing business in the same time period that Gutenberg was perfecting the oil-based inks, non-parchment papers that could be produced by new water-powered mills, and early printing press machinery that allowed everyday people outside of the church structure to obtain reading materials. Humans were ready for the triumph of literacy. And when we were ready for the gift of greater proximity to Truth, on a physical level the resources appeared to allow for dissemination of knowledge through the written word; and on a spiritual level the information we were getting from our religious institutions made a major shift.
The digital period in human history which started in the last few years is another such evolutionary step in human consciousness. We are right on the precipice. We have been so since the 70s when computers reached into our collective lives. We are obsessed with redefining Truth because we are right on the verge of developing the next huge leap in being able to recognize it. We don’t even know what that truth is going to look like yet.
To get through the next period enough of us human animals have to choose a truer pathway that is savvy about both energy and information. Here are a few clues about how to work with the unlimited amount of energy available to spirit within the context of a very limited physical form, as the world around us goes through an earthquake-like paradigm shift of unimaginable proportion.
Find your own truth. This is actually a little more complicated than most people think. It’s not about what feels right. That can just be a result of unresolved emotions. It’s not even necessarily about what you think is right. That can just be old programming, ways you’ve been taught to think that are unexamined and not really consistent with whom you really are. Finding your own truth requires you to look within yourself, and do so with enough regularity and courage that you learn to distinguish your own voice from that of your mother and your father and your siblings and your friends, your kids, your social models, your teachers and leaders and your country; and even from the parts of you that you have outgrown such as your inner child and your experiences in other lives.
SPOILER ALERT: Meditation greatly facilitates this process.
Obviously, for all of us finding our truth is a lifelong process. But it’s one that you have to choose. Truth won’t seek you out. Look around you at the world. Look at all the people that are choosing to stay ignorant of the truth, thinking that will somehow protect them or make it easier for them.
Animals sometimes think that they are safe when they cannot see others. Human animals no longer have that luxury.
It won’t. Not anymore. It could be argued that ignorance might have served human beings in the past. But no longer. There is no place on Earth anymore where you can hide from knowledge. All you can do, is distort it. And if you want to be one in alignment with the Truth, you have to actively look for it, no matter what the cost. Seek and you shall find; knock and the door shall open.
Second of all, in your search for your own truth avail yourself of the truly miraculous amount of help available to all seekers after the Truth, just for the asking. In the digital age nearly all of human knowledge is readily accessible, sitting quietly waiting for you to discover it, as close as the nearest smart phone or home computer. And not only is the data ever present, the ways to work with it are as well, at least in this part of the world.
If you want to use the scientific method to explore the truth contained in the natural world, you no longer have to give up everything you know, find some obscure castle where you can work in secret and isolation and hope the inquisition doesn’t find you and burn you at the stake. You just have to decide what you want to explore, and enroll in the nearest community college with a program in the subject matter of your choice. You can establish your own community of scholars to help sharpen your critical thinking skills or ability to take into consideration the viewpoint of other cultures. You can sign up for a conference calling and talk to anyone around the globe that will talk to you. If you want to find truth through the more invisible world of faith, you don’t have to accept the viewpoint of just anyone who offers their perspective through a church or new age type class. You can readily find information on how to discern between legitimate truth-seeking and proselytizing or programming and follow the person and process that brings you closest to the divine. You learn how to access your own God-given talent for the Truth rather than give up power to others. And that’s just on the physical side of things.
Energetically, all true seekers after the Truth automatically receive the assistance of the entire spirit world. Insights come not from emotion but through seemingly random ah-ah moments and from the dream world. “Coincidences” hit you over and over until you pay attention to the pattern within which you are exploring. Teachers appear when you need that kind of assistance. Your ego will even trip and take a fall for you when it is too much in your way. Keep your eye on the prize, the richness of the Truth; and it will find you.
Third of all, don’t worry about other people’s versions of the truth unless it is actively interfering with your own. Let people be as deluded as they want to be, unless they are the makers of public policy. Even then you don’t need to call them liar even when they are. Incorporated into the physical, we are all living a lie. If you are fortunate enough to be living a version closer to the Truth, rejoice and fill yourself with gratitude.
You do not necessarily need to try and change the mind of those who are choosing the company of ignorance. Unless they are open-minded, that can be a waste of your precious time. You have better things to do. . .like finding yourself.
Trolls are generally a waste of cognitive resources. . .unless you find it a fun way to spend your time. This one is the famous Freemont Troll under a bridge in Seattle.
There are enough people who rejoice in the Truth that will can use your assistance in accessing whatever corner of it you have figured out. You just need to prevent the willingly-ignorant from harming others to whatever extent you can.
Tuck into a corner of your mind the words of the Christ from Matthew, Chapter 7, Verse 4:
How can you say to your brother: Let me take the splinter from your eye
and behold there is a beam in your own eye?
Like it or not, those who intentionally deceive others for their own economic or political gain, as appears to be the case for many or most of the U.S. Congress and the White House right now, actually deserve our compassion. They are creating their own hell and are truly losing their soul, one step at a time.
Last but most important, defer always to the greater Truth. Cultivate humility. It is your friend. That includes getting comfortable being confused at times and freely acknowledging when you do not understand something, or when you have been wrong about something in the past. As my atheist mother used to say, the truly wise know how ignorant they really are.
As her spiritually-minded daughter, my own version of the truth is this: We will never completely know the mind of the Goddess until we are once again fully reunited with her. But in the meantime, much is given to us when we seek her counsel with all of our heart.
Copyright 2017 by the Rev. Dr. Resa Eileen Raven