Monday, July 1, 2013

Everybody is Right, Even When They're Probably Wrong

      I recently talked with two people who saw documentaries: one said the documentary proved that Jesus was a Buddhist who spent his formative years in India. The other said the facts proved that Jesus was born of a virgin and resurrected from the dead. Two weeks ago someone tried to convince me that there is evidence that Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene, had a baby and never died on the cross. All three were thoroughly convinced they were correct. What is one to think, especially in an age when we are quite literally swamped by myriad points of view on nearly every issue under the sun?

      These days I find myself more and more in agreement with T.S. Eliot and others who have thrown out any absolute trust in philosophy, religion or even history for that matter--concluding that the historian / philosopher / religionist / socio-politician (or student of any of the four subjects) will find the "facts" and subsequent "theory"  they are looking for, if they search long enough. Modern academia seems to be training people to collect data in order to construct nearly any theory imaginable.

      Now that is not to say there is no such thing as more probable evidence, but I have found that most people think their evidence is always the "more probable". The soul seeks neither evidence nor probability, or we'd all be Jesuits. I have found most historians (and philosophers, politicians, religionists and humans in general) to be very selective with their "facts".  Very few of us seem to care about actually considering and genuinely attempting to understand the points of view with which we disagree. Let me repeat: genuinely attempting to understand. 

      But that matters less and less to me these days. Why? Because we live in a world of soul-making--and we couldn't experience, assimilate or truly understand every idea if we lived to be 1000--for many reasons. But there is a time and season of life for those who are moving to at least taste a little of every Big Idea under the sun We will wander into, and I do mean wander, those ideas which want to form something significant in us. For example, those souls who need so called "progressive" ideas will find them; those who need so called "conservative" ideas will find them--or be found by Them. I suggest that the Ideas are alive and often come to us, like Rumi's Guest House visitors:


This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice.
meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.
Be grateful for whatever comes.
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

-- Jelaluddin Rumi,
    translation by Coleman Barks

It is a wonderful arrangement--something, or Some One, for everyone! Such an approach also corresponds with the idea of stages/modes of consciousness--phases and moments in life when certain Ideas take up residence in our developing consciousness. 

     Depending on what dominating mode of consciousness we are in at a given moment, on any "important" issue or topic, each of us will find the "facts" and "theories" we are looking for--to either disintegrate an old personality or erect a new one--most times, both at once! The fundamentalist on the left or the right will find his/her necessary soulful curriculum to support an educational phase of life-experience that requires dogmatic ideas; the skeptic will find his/her wonder-filled doubts confirmed to support their current agitated mindset; and the mystic will see through the old dogma and doubts into his/her own psycho-spiritual condition.  

      And it seems that each of us dwells simultaneously in the various modes of consciousness--even those we claim to reject. For example, I have met conservatives who are more progressive than most progressives, as when they see the effectiveness of hydraulic fracking; and I have met progressives who are more conservative than most conservatives, as when they want to conserve spotted owls and baby seals. We are each simultaneously self obsessed egoists, legalistic formalists, rebellious skeptics and surrendered mystics. Pick a person or situation in your life right now, and you will see yourself shift modes of consciousness. There are many dogmatic anti-dogmatists, and many relative absolutists. The endeavor of becoming fully Human requires the full array of life experiences. This is soul-making.

      Let me say that this relative approach I am suggesting doesn't mean there is no Final or Absolute Truth--I think there is. But it does suggest that all of the little provisional "truths" we find along the way work purposefully to suit our soul for that part of the journey toward The Truth--be that suit formal attire, flip-flops or tattered rags. The danger arises only when one gets pathologically stuck--when the wardrobe stagnates. 

     Lastly, one can usually tell when it is time to let go of an old phase by the subsequent psychological and/or physical pain in one's life--most often anger or contempt for the "other" is a sign that the old mode no longer serves. If I am an entrenched dogmatist, I will "run into" a whole bunch of "stupid and irritating dogmatists". If I am a rigid and agitated skeptic, I will meet all kinds of happy and peaceful mystics. If I am otherworldly mystic, I will develop all kinds of backaches, financial problems and other "this worldly" problems to pull me into another soul-making classroom. Life is funny that way--almost purposeful.

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