Thelma Foster says, “Each generation must grow into its own view of God.” K Misenheimer says, “God doesn’t have grandchildren.” No one can give us God, or the proper way to view God, see God, think about God. We find the way ourselves.
In Transformations of Myth Through Time,” Joseph Campbell talks about the quest for the Holy Grail (on pages 211 – 213), and says that the knights decided to enter the forest at a place where there was no path and darkest, most difficult and forbidding. He says that if you are on a path, it is someone else’s path, and our task if to find our own way, not someone else’s way. We can take clues from conversation with others, but we have to take what they offer and translate that, interpret that, in ways that are beneficial to us, and not allow their advice to be a substitute for our own work of discovery. He asks, “By what kind of magic can people put God into your heart? They can’t. God is either there or not their out of your own experience.”
This casts a new light on the realization that Jesus is an ink blot. We all have to see Jesus the way we see Jesus. Jesus cannot be defined for us, or explained. Jesus is not confined to the confessions of faith, limited by the doctrines, contained in the catechisms. The Spirit, you know, is like the wind that blows where it will. “Each generation has to grow into its own view of God.”
No generation can spell things out for succeeding generations. No generation can think that its view of God is THE view of God. Each generation has to free itself of the constraints of previous generations in order to enter the woods where it is darkest and thickest and where there is no path, and make its own way through the wilderness and the wasteland to the Grail, to God.
That’s the bad news. The good news is that we are not alone. The spiritual journey is not a solitary trek. We get to take our friends along. The only stipulation is that they must be true friends. They must be the right kind of people. They must know that they don’t know what they are doing, or where they are going, or even, what they are looking for. They must be genuinely seeking themselves.
The phrase “genuinely seeking themselves” has to be understood on two levels. The right kind of people are those who are invested at the level of the heart in their own search. They can’t be just along for the ride. And, they must be genuinely seeking themselves—listening for their own voice calling them home, searching for the trail to their own heart, hoping to drink deeply from the Grail that gives them their own life. We are all on a quest for the Yellow Brick Road that leads to the Emerald City and an audience with the Wizard whose message is the same for everyone: “Wake up! Be who you are!”
But not, “Be who you are alone, cut off from one another, with concerns only for your interests and ends, wishing only to serve a good which serves your own good. Be who you are in community, in the great company of humanity! Be who you are connected at the level of the heart with one another, so that you have to take all others into account, and none of you can live only for yourselves alone!” THAT’s the spiritual task! Being true to yourself in loving relationship with other selves—with ALL other selves—working out the implications of autonomy through community.
Anyone can be true to herself, to himself, alone in the woods, or in a cave, without having to eat what someone else wants for dinner. Anyone can live out her life, live out his life, quite happily as a self-centered self, with an entourage of handlers wearing white gloves making sure that everything goes her, goes his, way. That is a two-year-old’s idea of having it made. On a spiritual level, it is, as they say in the Deep South, “too shallow to splash.”
We achieve depth of soul by being true to ourselves in loving relationships with other selves. Anyone can give up self by living to please others. Anyone can give up others by living to please themselves. Not everyone can bear the pain of being lovingly true to themselves and lovingly present in the lives of others. Not everyone can bear the pain of loving God with all their heart, and mind, and soul, and strength, and loving their neighbors as they love themselves. The Greatest Commandment has been glossed over with lip service and disappeared by the callousness of familiarity and over-handling. No one lives in its practice. Love God! Love neighbor! Love self! Love your enemies! Work out the implications of love in the smallest details of your life! The Grail sits unveiled and ignored before us all. We have a different end in mind for the journey—we want the Grail to serve us, but we serve the Grail!
And so, the purpose of the journey becomes changing our minds about the purpose of the journey. The purpose of the path becomes waking up to the nature of the path. The Grail is never more than a perspective shift away. All we have to do is wake up, and there it is. But, waking up is the hardest thing to do. Being awake is the hardest thing to be. Want to make someone angry? Tell them to wake up.
We all think we are awake. It’s the rest of humanity that is asleep at the wheel. It’s those people over there who need to wake up. THEY are the problem. Go tell the Muslim’s to wake up. Or, the North Koreans. They’re the ones creating all the trouble. And, we roll over, snoring.
The great limitation of the spiritual life is “each generation must grow into its own view of God.” And, “God doesn’t have grandchildren.” And, the only person we can wake up is ourselves—and we are not even in control of that. At best, we can only participate in the process of our own awakening.
Embracing the life that is ours to live, and finding ways to become fully, completely, lovingly, laughingly alive and awake and aware in it is the spiritual journey. As we do that, we discover that we have discovered the Grail, that we have found God, that we have become ourselves in loving relationship with other selves. All that waits is the revelation of how we might best assist the process of our own becoming, of our own awakening. Here it comes. Pay attention.
That was it. Get it? Pay attention. That’s all there is to it. The spiritual journey comes down to paying attention. We assist the process of our own becoming, of our own awakening, by paying attention. The path is paying attention. The path is waking up. The path is seeing, hearing, and understanding. We participate in the process of our own becoming, of our own awakening, by looking and listening. By speaking to one another about things that are important to us, hearing what we are saying, reflecting on what we have said, and living out the implications.
That’s it. This is all I can do for you. Now, you know all I know, and there is no reason to keep the guy behind the curtain on the payroll. And, I’ll have to find some other way to make a living. I hope it’s not shoeing horses. I would hate to shoe horses. Or, change oil. I do so hope I haven’t talked myself into changing oil.