Sunday, February 05, 2006

From Christian Fundamentalism to Evolution to Non-Belief to New Age Eclecticism to Consciousness and Buddhism to ?

What do you believe about yourself, the Universe, the origins of life, and the Cosmos? Some people seem less compelled than others to explore these issues. They have always been important to me.

I grew up believing that God created me and everything else in the Universe. This belief was held to be "self-evident" and an unquestionable fact of life.

Only a crazy man or woman, or even worse, one possessed by the devil, would question there was a God and that the ONLY path to God was an indirect one through Jesus Christ. Believe in Jesus Christ, follow His teachings on a daily basis, obey your parents, the preacher, your Sunday school teacher, and you were a shoo in for Heaven.

Looking for knowledge and wisdom to guide your life? If you wanted to know the secrets of the Universe or needed a guide for everyday life, one only need read the Bible, considered by most Christians to be either the "exact" or "inspired" word of God Himself.

As a young child growing up in Eastern Ohio, to utter the word "evolution" was considered blasphemous. Man descended from an ape? Think again son. I was born with a natural and deep curiosity about life and what made it tick.

Eventually, my curiosity got the best of me and I began to read certain books (on evolution and other things) buried in the recesses of the public library. I discovered there were other ideas about where the Universe came from and what life was all about. In my junior year in high school, I co-founded St. Clairsville High School's first Philosophy Club. We needed two teachers to serve as advisors to the club. Mr. Voss, our Biology teacher, and Mr. Sharpe, our English teacher, agreed to assume this role. With that, the Philosophy Club was set in motion. That was 1968.

Through the Philosophy Club, I was exposed to poetry, Existentialism, the concept of social justice, and e-v-o-l-u-t-i-o-n. It was inevitable that I would drift from my dogmatic fundamentalist Christian roots. The Philosophy Club created a social context (community of like-minded souls) for my escape.

Needless to say, the contents of our Philosophy Club discussions were never revealed at home, for fear that Mom and Dad would discover my secret plot to withdraw from their teachings and beliefs. It was not until I was safely enrolled at the University of Arizona and taking my first Anthropology class that I announced to Mom and Dad that they were mistaken. Mistaken? About what? Everything I said, but especially about Christianity being the only pipeline to God. They urged me to find a "good" church in Tucson to cleanse my mind and heart of such thoughts. That is exactly what I did. It was called "the church of higher education." Yes, I am referring to the UA, Anthropology, and many other sources of revolutionary ideas.

By the time I had completed my Anthropology degree, I felt cleansed of the unscientific and primitive religious ideas that fed my mind throughout my childhood and teenage years. There was no God. Human beings and all other life forms got here by way of evolution. I was living proof of just that because I was evolving my beliefs and worldview in new directions.

Most of the wounds endured by Mom and Dad and me were healed over time. I am thankful for that. They were who they were, and I was who I was.

For many years, I set aside my curiosity about the cosmos, evolution, God, philosophy, and other things. While I was accepted at several Ph.D. programs in Anthropology, I decided to enter a Ph.D. program in Organizational Behavior instead--a program I never finished because it demanded too much of me personally. I felt indoctrinated. It was an uncomfortable feeling; bringing back the first 18 years of my life and my struggle to be my own person. Why did I need to change who and how I was? I can become an organizational change agent without changing myself. Or so I thought. I jumped ship and decided to work. After all, that is where my education should lead me anyway.

My life shifted to the pragmatic concerns of family and career. What possible value could these esoteric subjects be to my daily life of raising a family and growing a career? I spent the next twenty years in Non-Belief. Actually, my basic belief was that it didn't matter what I believed. What mattered most was what I did with my life. My belief was that life was about doing. And doing I did. To my surprise, my reality started to fall apart. That was 1986. The year before my father-in-law died. In January 1986, my Mom died. I changed jobs. My marriage was in serious trouble. And I didn't have the foggiest idea who I was and where I was going.

It hit me one day that I needed to believe something, and so I was in search of something to believe. Christianity wasn't an option. Nor was Evolution and Relativism. What? I started looking around and discovered New Age Spirituality, which embodied everything from Native American spirituality to esoteric astrology to versions of various Eastern religions. I learned a lot from my experiences in the New Age circle. Most importantly, I discovered that I was most comfortable being eclectic in my spiritual and philosophical beliefs. That lasted for almost 15 years.

In 2002, I took up meditation, which has helped me to move from believing to being. All thought is illusion masquerading as reality. Our minds are out of control amusement parks. Reality in an absolute sense may exist, but it is unknowable to us. We have our experience, our thoughts, our feelings, and our consciousness. We have a responsibility to observe our thoughts, know them, feel them, and consciously decide whether they make any real sense. We should cultivate mindfulness, loving kindness, and compassion for others. Life is not about us. Rather, it is about getting beyond ourselves and serving others.

It's now 2006. I am immersed in the study of consciousness and its role in the Universe. What does consciousness have to do with the Universe, spirituality, and other matters? Everything! Not the least of which is that our consciousness is who we are. It is the subject that comes prior to all else that we experience. In the words of Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj, "I am That!"

Given the controversy swirling around Intelligent Design, Creationism, and Evolution, let me clarify one point: "I am not an Intelligent Design (ID) groupie!" At the same time, I do not believe that evolution even comes close to providing complete answers about our origin and nature.

Our consciousness is the subjective aspect of who we are. While Western science, with its current Materialism-bound methods, is not well prepared to tackle the study of consciousness, we can at least evolve an improved philosophy to guide that science in the future. People like Christian de Quincey, one of my teachers, is well along that path. I concur with the recent observation by His Holiness The Dalai Lama: Spirituality needs the rigor of science, and science needs a recognition of soul and spirit.

Stay tuned. I will be adding further thoughts on this topic in the future. This is just one man's journey to find himself and bring more peace and wisdom to the world around him.

1 comment:

Dan said...

Thanks from all of us, Don!

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