I’ve written many times before about the importance of a mystical sense – or perhaps better stated – a sense of the mysterious as foundational to spiritual living. I speak of living within a spiritual framework that ought to be included with our “scientific” fact-focused deconstructive mode of perceiving and understanding reality.
It is my sense that having been born and nurtured within an intensely religious culture, I have acquired a kind of innate sense of how I want to be “religious” or be “spiritual” or “guided and prompted” in seeking and obtaining a serene way of perceiving and understanding reality.
I want to insert here the following paragraphs that have meaning for me in the sense of how I might attempt to express my internal wiring :
Spirituality means something different to everyone. For some, it’s about participating in organized religion: going to church, synagogue, a mosque, etc.
For others, it’s more personal: Some people get in touch with their spiritual side through private prayer, yoga, meditation, quiet reflection, or even long walks.
Research shows that even skeptics can’t stifle the sense that there is something greater than the concrete world we see. As the brain processes sensory experiences, we naturally look for patterns, and then seek out meaning in those patterns. And the phenomenon known as “cognitive dissonance” shows that once we believe in something, we will try to explain away anything that conflicts with it.
Humans can’t help but ask big questions—the instinct seems wired in our minds.
Performance based churches like the LDS Church of my culture remain in reality children of 19th-century fundamentalist and literalist religious thinking. Such was the only context and language by which Joseph Smith was exposed to scripture. Such was the venue in which he learned to speak the language of religion. The language, writing and venue of how Joseph’s particular form of god-talk was based on the assumptions and speculations of the predominant evangelical voices of his time.
As contemporary believing heirs of that now two-hundred-year old method of believing in God, contemporary fundamentalists in general and Mormons in particular have lives that are not evolved from the higher spiritual explorations of founders like Joseph Smith, but as a highly devolved performance-based religions repeatedly re-defined by less-creative, less-imaginative and certainly more dogmatically inclined ecclesiastical heirs.
What then has happened to the majority of biblically literalist 21st-Century believers?
They today remain stuck in that 19th century perceptual place their ancestors failed to leave behind when they abandoned that rural literal-minded and biblically defined religious world and moved west to found something different.
You can see it in contemporary discussions … churches led by a reactionary hierarchy that seems fearfully obsessed with contrariness to new ideas, new thoughts or new approaches that propose some sort of change – a change that smacks of apostasy-driven concepts too “revolutionary”, too “radical”, or too “modern.”
We hear and read sermons from the officially or self-appointed appointed charismatics posing as prophets, seers and revelators whose shtick seems to be nothing more than ongoing exhortations to sustain what Sam Keen has called a “conspiracy to consider a myth the truth.“
These contemporary American fundamentalist kinfolk repeatedly fall back on verse-quoting or “tradition” that underlies the long term foundation of “old time religion” (again based in the 19th century).
One could justifiably assert that modern bible-based literalists are driven by performance-based theology, policies, ordinances, and so-called priesthood authority – all of which seems to unconsciously assume a nit-picking, record-keeping, hypercritical and intolerant Divine Head of a Patriarchal Order.
… a “Father”, if you will, who presides over mortal reality on conditional terms that require His Divine Satisfaction (Believers more commonly refer to Him as being “pleased”) prior to His dispensing rewards that in reality are pre-defined as blessings.
It looks unfortunately like the following equation:
Obedience + Worthiness = Spirituality —> Blessings
At issue with this is the experience of billions of human beings who, although living intensely spiritual lives, do not know god in such a way.
At issue are billions of human beings who do not have “witnesses” of god’s realities that are defined by false concepts which insist that obedience and conformity are the singular and most important aspects of what it means to be spiritual … and by extension, religiously righteous.
Believers in this culture that is dominated by religious leadership immaturity that asks us to blindly but obediently accept unreasonable notions have to face what all sincere, contrite and broken-hearted seekers encounter. Believers have to recognize and confront the insistence that their reality might not be a true reality and that the god of the false reality will in fact honor the threats and promises made by mortal men against those who disagree with that god’s anointed leadership.
This is what it means to be stuck in that 19th-Century place that gave us religious language upon which an assortment of versions of churchiness that were meant to compete with all the other 19th-century notions extant in the rural America of that time.
I find it totally demeaning for a supposed inspired leadership to attempt to keep believing faithful in line by insisting that obedience and conformity are the only indicators of the real thing – an unfettered and spiritual connection with the Divine.
Understanding the meaning of the concepts of New Testament Christ, it becomes obvious that Jesus left the obedience and conformity-driven Letter of the Law of His Time and went out into the wilderness of his own accord. He did not obtain nor even ask permission, validation nor authorization from those traditional ecclesiastic middlemen of his culture.
He did not need their opinions, their sermons, their chastisement, their stealing of religious authority by any of their definitions.
He did not need them in any sense to find and commune with god.
Neither do we.
We are not required to remain stuck in that 19th-Century place where superstitious and supernatural assumptions keep us tethered in the shallow end of the pool. The unserved meal at the Lord’s metaphorical table has to do with the removal of tight and binding life jackets. Otherwise believers may never learn to swim in the exciting and deeper waters of what is truly and spiritually real.