Spiritual but not Religious
Spiritual but not Religious
Moving beyond postmodern spirituality
by Elizabeth Debold
Standing on the bank of India's sacred Ganges as it rushes past Rishikesh, I am captivated by the river's sapphire sparkle. A living luminosity leaps from its many faceted surfaces, transforming the air, the white rocks on the shore, and even my feet as I look down at them. I turn to look around me and the same luminous sparkle shines from everything: the rocky shore, the bone-thin bodies of the holy men, an emaciated cow, the buildings and hills further on. Surprised, I start to laugh. I've just finished a week of retreat, in silent meditation, and this is my first foray outside the cool, dark ashram and its austere regimen. My perception is heightened—colors vibrate, the rushing river voices a soundless roar, and this extraordinary light suffuses everything. It's alive, I realize; the light is alive. Everything around me, the entire world, is transparent, lit from within. I have the sense that I could simply reach out and tear the surface of reality to reveal this underlying blaze. But the ordinary sense of I-am-here-and-the-world-is-out-there is gone. All of the space between is filled—it's all One—and I am not separate from that. I am completely empty and this fullness is everywhere. I laugh: lightness of being is something of a pun. Years later, I will learn that this perception was a glimpse of the guru mind.
A Western seeker in the East—isn't this a classic scene from the happy hippie days of the sixties and seventies? But this was the nineties, I was in India with my American spiritual teacher, and I'm no hippie. The gold rush days of Westerners going East for enlightenment and the great Zen masters and Hindu yogis coming West that reached a fever pitch in the seventies are now over. Many thousands of flowers have bloomed through this remarkable cross-pollination—an often unacknowledged result of our globalizing world. While the nightly news keeps us aware that globalization has created a world stage for religious conflict, less often do we recognize that the innumerable books on spirituality, the countless martial arts studios, the varied offerings for spiritual retreats and classes in meditation and yoga are also a byproduct of our increased global connectedness. With typical Western ingenuity, we've revealed the mystic heart that beats within the various paths to God or to the Self beyond the self. The burgeoning interfaith movement—often viewed with concern by religious traditionalists—is a result of the growing awareness of the commonality among different faiths. We've cracked the code of these sacred traditions, plucking pearls of awakening from the hard shell of religious ritual and sacrifice. It's a stunning human achievement. And it's a testament to our enduring search for who we are and why we are here.
However, considering this trend within a larger historical and social context, and reflecting on my own experience, I wonder where the current flourishing of spiritual pursuit is actually taking us. Devising individualized spiritual paths from the cornucopia available in today's spiritual marketplace, more and more of us are seeking outside the context of religion. Religio, the root of the word "religion," means to bind—to the Absolute, and also to each other, in a shared cultural understanding of who we are and why we are here. Does this uniquely postmodern spirituality—each of us in a religion of one—have the capacity to bind us into a true global culture? Or do we need something more?
Over the past several decades, the number of people who are seeking—and finding—direct access to the mystical dimension has increased dramatically. Between 1962 and 1994, the percentage of U.S. adults who report having had "a religious or mystical experience" grew from twenty-two to thirty-three percent, and more recent polls indicate that this figure may now be as high as forty percent. While this figure would include the "conversion" experiences that are part of Baptist and other fundamentalist Christian sects, the number of Americans who identify themselves with a traditional religion has decreased, and those who check "none" when asked for a religious affiliation have doubled in the last decade. These unconventional "nones," who, after Catholics and Baptists, are possibly the third-largest group in the country, comprise some twenty-nine million people. According to a 2001 survey, two-thirds of the "nones" believe in God, more than one-third consider themselves religious, and they buy many books on spirituality. Looking at the rise in numbers of people having spiritual experiences and the decline in traditional religious affiliation, it seems very likely that many of those who are now having mystical experiences are doing so on their own, or in unorthodox ways.
I was clearly a "none," which is rather ironic given that I was raised a Catholic and as a girl thought about being a nun. It was the "none" sense of wanting a deeper ground to my life that led me to Rishikesh. It wasn't that I hadn't invented an incredible life for myself: a family of caring, wonderful friends; a regular practice of Buddhist meditation; a challenging relationship with a brilliant and big-hearted man; and work that drove me, anchored me, and was my emotional center. Passion for my work—about girls' development and women's liberation—was a mysterious force in my life. From high school onward, at each critical life juncture, when I made a deeper commitment to it, the world opened up. The more risks I took, the more became possible, leading me from activism to graduate school at Harvard to an extraordinary women's research group to writing a best-selling book and even to Oprah. Given that my mother had raised me to be a good wife and mother, I was often surprised, and almost in awe, at what was unfolding. Yet my life felt flimsy, as though a sudden gust of wind could sweep everything I had put together off the face of the earth. I often felt fake and hollow, and I began to wonder if having a child would make a difference. But wasn't that an awfully poor reason to bring life into the world? With the help of a good therapist, I had pretty much stopped using emotional drama to add thrills to my life. Instead, I went from one intense project to another, with intermittent bouts of shopping for things that I didn't need. Sometimes a pair of shoes would haunt me for a week.
So I was in Rishikesh to find something deeper. And by following my teacher's instructions during the retreat, that strange sense of separation and constant craving fell away into a glorious realization of the perfect goodness of life. I joined the many millions who have glimpsed ultimate Oneness. Given that the path of the mystic has usually been reserved for a few courageous souls—the "special forces" of the religious traditions—these numbers are staggering. We seem to be on the edge of something significant. But what exactly is it? Some of the New Age's most beloved prophets—Deepak Chopra, Eckhart Tolle, and Barbara Marx Hubbard, to name a few—believe that such evidence is an indication that we are in the process of a global transformation of consciousness. Paul Ray, author (with Sherry Anderson) of the popular Cultural Creatives, has estimated that twenty million people in the U.S. are "in the process of awakening." And he's recently stated that a total of nearly four million people in the U.S. and Europe are close to attaining a stable personal awakening.
While this is compelling news, the real significance of this surge in spiritual experience will depend on how we make sense out of the experiences themselves. Genuine moments of transcendent grace are experienced by fundamentalists, fatalists, and contemporary seekers of freedom alike. However, the fundamentalist sees in the experience an utter validation of a personal relationship to the One True God in which he or she believes. What happens when the religious context isn't there—when we take spirituality out of the traditions and experience transcendence on its own?
Spirituality and religion are like romance and marriage, argues one Unitarian Universalist minister. "Without the traditions and legal structures of marriage to contain it and sustain it, romance is always in danger of flaming out or heading down blind alleys, extinguished as quickly as it first appeared." But for most of us living in a contemporary postmodern context, the very idea of religion may evoke a sense of stricture, empty ritual, and blind adherence to precepts that are out of step with our time. A recent poll suggests that of the one in five Americans who see themselves as "spiritual but not religious," forty-seven percent view religion negatively. Although religion creates a structure for the highest truths that have been revealed to us, providing an ethical and moral context for our lives, for many of us today, spirituality and religion aren't wedded together—they are divorced (and thankfully so). But I wonder if our discomfort with the notion of religion may be partially due to our collective amnesia about the significance religion has had in human transformation.
Where we stand at the beginning of the third millennium makes it difficult to understand the power of religious traditions that were founded two or more millennia ago. Human consciousness has evolved so much that it is almost inconceivable to grasp what life was like as the great religions emerged and then rose in prominence across the globe. Imagine being bound in a rigid social hierarchy to the small group of people with whom you share a language and customs, living in a frighteningly violent and disease-ridden world teeming with demons and supernatural forces. Murder and mayhem are common; demonic forces throw people into uncontrollable rages and lusts. Strange and unpredictable things happen—your child is born deformed, bringing disfavor on your tribe, which leads to a drought that ruins the crops. You don't know why these things happen or whether your people will be successful in appeasing the gods. Skirmishes with other tribes may result in your death or your capture and enslavement. Most of your life is spent trying to avoid the wrath of the gods or anyone above you in the social hierarchy, as you toil in backbreaking labor just to eke out survival. An inescapable parade of horrors is most likely part of your existence: "perpetual war, senseless violence, ritual sacrifice, systemic abuse, and mind-numbing repetition," as Robert Godwin documents in his remarkable One Cosmos under God. And he notes that although roughly one hundred million people died due to war in the twentieth century, it is estimated that if the world was still populated only by tribes, this number would be twenty times larger.
Miraculously, as if in response to a crying human need, the great religious traditions either emerged or transformed in the span of about one thousand years to embrace humanity in a new vision of the future. This era is what historian Karl Jaspers identified as the Axial Age, seeing in it the dawning of "what was later called reason and personality." We are still indebted to the insights of the sages and saints who walked on earth then: Lao-tzu, Gautama Buddha, Jesus Christ, Socrates, Confucius, Jeremiah, and Muhammad. From approximately 800 BCE to 200 CE, there was a dramatic shift away from identification with one's tribe and toward the development of individual consciousness—giving birth to the first truly individual sense of self. Before this, as Godwin explains, a human being "felt his own impulses were 'not truly part of the self, since they [were] not within man's conscious control.'" Tumultuous emotions, like rage, envy, and lust, were thought to be "a supernatural attack [by gods or demons] from the outside." So, for example, it wasn't your own lust driving you to distraction over an attractive neighbor, but the zing of Eros' arrow. It was only during the Axial Age that human beings gradually began to recognize, and take responsibility for, those forces of good and evil that they had projected onto the gods. As theologian Ewert Cousins tells us, "'Know thyself' became the watchword of Greece; the Upanishads identified the Atman, the transcendent center of the self. The Buddha charted the way of individual enlightenment; the Jewish prophets wakened individual moral responsibility." Practices of inquiry, meditation, petitionary prayer, and confession were developed to give humanity the practical means of cultivating an inner sense of responsibility and, most importantly, a moral conscience.
How many of us postmodern Westerners today think of the moral teachings of religion as a revolutionary step for humanity? I've always related to the basic commandments of the Judeo-Christian tradition as a combination of the quaintly outmoded and the commonsensical. Certain commandments—Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not steal—make such perfect sense, it's hard to realize that they were a radical challenge to people's lack of self-control several thousand years ago. Others—like Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image—are odd remnants of a long-ago time. But for me, the Commandments themselves weren't the real problem—it was the pervasive sense of Catholic guilt, of being in a state of sin. Guilt was a lead weight on the freedom that was lifting my generation at the end of the last century. I was utterly fascinated by the words attributed to Christ in the Bible. I wanted what he was experiencing, his connection with the sacred, not a set of rules to follow. And that desire for contact with the Source unmediated by the doctrines and dogmas of religion is what many of us mean when we call ourselves "spiritual but not religious."
Strange as it may seem to us today, it was the development of an individual sense of conscience—accompanied by the painful experience of guilt—that enabled us to step out of the shadows and begin to author history. As long as we humans felt ourselves to be mere victims of powerful and uncontrollable forces, both internally and externally, there was no way to be responsible or to make choices that would lead toward salvation—in this life or the next. "Only an independent self has the power to recognize its guilt and confess its wrongdoing," write social scientists James and Evelyn Whitehead, and that recognition makes each person "responsible for his [or her] own actions." In the West, Christ's message that every soul was beloved by God created a personal bond between God and each of his people that was the context for developing this sense of responsibility. As Richard Tarnas writes in his brilliant opus The Passion of the Western Mind, "By granting immortality and value to the individual soul, Christianity encouraged the growth of the individual conscience, self-responsibility, and personal autonomy relative to temporal powers—all decisive traits for the formation of the Western character." Christianity —and all of the major religions of the Axial Age—gave each human being a way out, off the cycling wheel of toil and trouble, to reach the salvation of heaven. But this demanded strict obedience to one's relationship to God and to the extraordinary order of God's creation, manifested in the dazzling perfection of the Great Chain of Being. For the first time, we had a moral obligation to bring ourselves in line with that perfection. And if we broke that sacred covenant, thereby sinning, which literally means "missing the mark," we felt guilty, and that guilt propelled us to do right and create a civilization to celebrate God's Kingdom on earth. Each Christian knew his or her place in the cosmos and God's heart and knew that through piety and sacrifice, it was possible to abide for eternity with Him in the afterlife.
I think it would be safe to say that the very lack of that context—the absence of that sense of knowing my place in the cosmos and in God's heart—brought me to Rishikesh. I could no longer find that sense of place in the religion of my youth. As a child, I was deeply moved by the imposing majesty of Catholic ritual. I was in awe of the statues of the beautiful long-haired man nailed to the cross with blood dripping from his wounds and the lovely lady in blue balancing on a globe with a snake crushed under her pretty feet. But that seems like more than a lifetime ago. Twenty, thirty years later, after so many years of schooling, I know too much, and perhaps not enough. My intellect has been sharpened by the objectivity of science and a classically modern education that tells me that life emerged from a random, purposeless process and that science is the key to all human progress. But both the longing in my heart and the inadequacy of science and technology to create a truly just world called that into question. Those of us born after the Second World War no longer stand on the ground that has supported humanity through the ages—religion, nation, the notion of progress, or even family. Thou shalt honor thy father and mother, the Bible says. But my parents each move into the darkening years of their lives alone, while I am free to roam. Postmodernity—the transitional era that we are now in—is my milieu. We postmoderns have seen through, and detached ourselves from, all that has given meaning to human life in prior generations. It gives me enormous freedom. But the price I pay is that I'm all alone.
Perhaps ironically, it is that aloneness—the acutely self-conscious, self-reflective, responsible, and independent individual sense of self—that became possible through the spiritual explosion of the Axial Age and the development of the world's great religions. Over the two thousand years since, human beings have taken increasing responsibility for the miracle and burden of being conscious. In fact, when the bureaucratic dogmatism of the Church threatened to stifle the development of independent thought, another explosion in consciousness erupted—what we call the Western Enlightenment. This ignited the scientific revolution that has defined modernity. No longer was God the ultimate Creator and Judge; we took the power of creativity and objective reason back into ourselves. This was an event of enormous spiritual significance. We so often think of the birth of science as a purely rational affair because it has led to such a reductionistic materialism, the belief that all of life can be reduced to random processes inherent in matter. But one only needs to listen to Voltaire to dispel that notion: "Meditation is the dissolution of thoughts in eternal awareness or Pure consciousness without objectification, knowing without thinking, merging finitude in infinity." Voltaire was searching for direct contact with the eternal—for a spiritual, but not religious, enlightenment.
Oddly enough, many of us today who are seeking the spiritual without religion are looking for relief from the world that Voltaire and his brother philosophes have wrought. Three hundred years later, the demand to create and to produce in a globalizing world has cost us our job security and often seems to threaten our sanity. Our constantly whirling minds—the endless internal to-do lists, fantasies about our weekend plans, inner dialogues with different parts of ourselves—are leading us to pop Prozac, hike in the wilderness, lie down on the therapist's couch, or sit alone in meditation. The pressure is only escalating. And we are desperate for a way out—sometimes just simple relief that can be bought on the cheap in a bar. But others of us are looking for something deeper, wondering what is permanent and real in a world where everything is disposable. And so we seek, looking to have some experience of the ultimate that will take us beyond ourselves and relieve us from the uncertainty and confusion of our lives. No wonder that Andrew Delbanco observes in The Real American Dream that "the most striking feature of contemporary culture is the unslaked craving for transcendence."
How do we satisfy that craving? With neither religion nor science nor isms of any kind "organizing desire into a structure of meaning," as Delbanco says, what do we have that meets the depth of our longing for the More that transcends the mundane? We're caught in a postmodern paradox: we desperately long for the embrace of something larger, all-encompassing, and real, and yet all we trust is the narrow bandwidth of the self. Our feelings—what feels right or good or true—have become our compass through life. Significant numbers of us—"nearly four out of ten teens (38%) and three out of ten adults (31%)," according to a 2002 poll by the Barna Group—base our moral choices only on "whatever feels right or comfortable." Guilt, and the sense of being obligated to something other than oneself, is out of the question. It makes us feel uncomfortable. Thus, we are left with nothing greater than the span of our feelings to bind us to life and each other. And so the seeking of pleasure, Delbanco argues, becomes our "last link to the feeling of transcendence . . . the 'last sacrament of the dispossessed.'" Without being accountable to anything larger than the impulse to satisfy our cravings, even our spiritual pursuits can leave us empty. When the Transcendent is revealed to me by the Ganges, what do I do with that revelation of the radiant mystery that imbues creation with life? My heart knows that this luminosity is the face of God, the Ultimate, the Creative Principle. IT is I and all things: there is no separation. My place in the universe has become transparent to me, simply by my uniquely human capacity to know and to recognize that which I witness. This glimpse of the Reality behind reality radically challenges the island of "I" that I have always thought myself to be. I am literally in ecstasy, meaning "unstuck," released from the confines of my separate sense of self and acutely aware of everything around me. Curious, I lean forward and feel a pull. The thought, this changes everything, flashes through my mind. There is something more that I am being called to—an obligation to this Whole. Something higher than my self is calling me to surrender . . . and what do I do? I exult in the feeling of ecstasy, the experience of freedom and satisfaction. The next day, the direct experience of Oneness has faded, and as it fades into memory, I begin to crave that incredible feeling, almost instantly forgetting its significance and what it was pointing to. I just want another blast from beyond, one that will take me to a bliss beyond pain, boredom, and craving again. Nothing has changed. So I keep moving on, craving more. And after the next experience, I will once again move on, seeking another experience. And then one more...
This is what it means to be one of the dispossessed, to be alone with a racing mind and aching heart, seeking emotional relief within the shallow confines of the self while avoiding pain or struggle or guilt. How many hours of therapy have we collectively clocked to try to find some relief from the intensity of our thoughts and feelings? How much bliss and ecstasy do we need to have before we will be satisfied? Without a larger raison d'tre than the desire for self-satisfaction, we will only find narcissism—an endless hall of mirrors—at the end of our spiritual search. We have come to a "borderline" in our individualistic culture, says philosopher Roland Benedikter, where "we have just two possibilities: go toward despair or go one step beyond."
Even though many of us may understandably long for a simpler time, it's too late. We can't go back. "Radical changes taking place around the globe are propelling us quickly into what can be called the Second Axial Age," observed Brother Wayne Teasdale. After two thousand and some years, a portion of humanity has finally won the prize of an individuated consciousness. Now, argue the Whiteheads, "recent discoveries of the genetic code for life; the globalization of national economies; the growing recognition that humans are responsible for the health of their environment—all these events compel the human community toward a new level of consciousness and conscience." Those of us who benefit so much from our interconnected world have to develop further, to widen our perspective and deepen our sense of responsibility. "The earlier shift was from a [tribal] collective to an individual consciousness," says theologian Leonard Swidler, but as we move toward a worldwide culture, a second Axial Age becomes possible as "consciousness is now becoming global." In such a complex and interdependent world, we cannot develop commandments to cover all of the difficult ethical issues that human ingenuity has led us to, such as cloning, resource depletion, and genetic engineering. Just as the great sages of the first Axial Age launched the great traditions, we need "spiritual geniuses," says Karen Armstrong, author of A History of God, to inspire a new kind of religion—a contemporary moral and philosophical context for making sense of our lives.
Such a new religion would demand that we be beholden to something far larger than ourselves—to the Truth revealed in those exquisite moments of transcendence. "Having developed self-reflective, analytic, critical consciousness in the first Axial Age," writes Cousins, "we must now, while retaining these values, reappropriate and integrate into that consciousness . . . collective and cosmic dimensions." If, that is, we can step beyond the trap of narcissistic self-satisfaction. As Benedikter comments, "Such a step would come from an evolved, rational mind that is aware of something beyond its own activity, beyond the ego—one that rediscovers an objectivity that comes from the void beyond the self where one discovers, as Hegel said, that one is not thinking one's own thoughts, but that the cosmic order is thinking thoughts through me. But you cannot avoid going through the void and the death of your normal self to reach this place."
It's more a leap than a step—beyond solitary seeking by the Ganges, beyond the "spiritual but not religious." The stirrings of spiritual longing in the hearts and minds of so many of us postmodern individualists may well be the first tremors of this second Axial Age. As Cousins says, this "is not only a creative possibility to enhance the twenty-first century; it is an absolute necessity if we are to survive." The spiritual accomplishment of the last Axial Age—the development of a self-reflective individual eager for transcendence—is no longer enough. Now that we can be responsible for ourselves, we next have to take responsibility for the whole of which we are a part. "We need to preserve the holiness of the single 'I,'" Benedikter says, "and form a community where those single 'I's can transform themselves and break through to a critical and contemporary spirituality." Rooted in mystical depth, transcending the narcissistic self, engaging in an ecstatic rationality, we can create a new religious context for an awakening world. A religion that calls us to realize our deepest collective purpose, bound together as the living expression of the mind and heart of God in a cosmic act of mutual Self-creation.
Spiritual but not Religious
Moving beyond postmodern spirituality by Elizabeth Debold
Sages who were already ancient to its composers living in 4000 B.C.
Guide To Hinduism
"The Eternal Religion
Hinduism is so ancient its origins are lost in the mist of prehistory. Many sages are associated with it, but none claim to be its first prophet. Hindus believe their religion has existed forever, even before the universe came into being. They say the truths of their faith are inherent in the nature of reality itself, and that all men and women peering into the depths of their inner nature will discover the same truths for themselves.
The image too many outsiders have of the Hindu tradition is of primitive, superstitious villagers worshipping idols. As we get to know the Hindus better, we'll see that their understanding of who and what is God is incredibly sophisticated. In fact, their view of the world and our place in it is so stunningly cosmic in scope that our Western minds start to boggle!
Let's enter the universe of Hinduism, an amazing world where inner and outer realities reflect each other like images on a mirror, and the loving presence of the divine is as close as the stillness behind your own thoughts...
You might think it takes a lot of chutzpah (if I may borrow a Jewish term) to claim that your religion is eternal. What Hindus mean when they say this is their tradition doesn't come from any one founding father or mother, from any single prophet towering over the bastion of hoary antiquity. In fact, the first few verses of the Veda, an incredibly old book, parts of which were composed 6,000 years ago, acknowledge the sages who were already ancient to its composers living in 4000 B.C.E.!
Very old Hindu texts speak of a time when it became almost impossible to survive on Earth because of ice and snow. This could be a reference to the last Ice Age, some Hindu scholars believe. Archaeologists have unearthed small statues of goddesses from 10,000 years ago (that's about the time the Ice Age was ending) like those being worshipped in Indian villages today. So even if we're not willing to grant that Hinduism is eternal, we still have to admit it got a jump on the other major religions...
I'd really like to bring home to you the vastness of the time scale Hindus are talking about here. One area where Hinduism and Judeo- Christian tradition agree is in saying that at the moment we're in the seventh day of creation. But according to the Hindu sages, a day for God is a bit longer than our human day of 24 hours.
The following schema was taught to me by Swami Veda Bharati, a renunciate who lives in a tiny ashram in Rishikesh in northern India. He's a devotee of the Divine Mother. (The Goddess is a major league player in Hinduism, and you'll soon see.)
Swami Bharati's time frame, preserved in the Hindu mystical tradition, starts with a day and a night in the life of our local creator god. Years here mean human years:
- One day and night in the life of Brahma is 8,640,000,000 years.
- The lifetime of Brahma is 311,040,000,000,000 years.
- One day and night in the life of Vishnu equals 37,324,800,000,000, 000,000 years.
- The life of Vishnu is 671,846,400,000,000,000,000,000 years long.
- One day and night in the life of Shiva lasts 4,837,294,080,000,000, 000,000,000,000,000 years.
- Shiva's lifetime corresponds to 87,071,293,440,000,000,000,000, 000,000,000,000 years.
- One glance from the Mother of the Universe equals 87,071,293,440, 000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 years...
If you had been around in the third millennium B.C.E., India is where you would have wanted to be. The quality of life was higher there than practically anywhere else in the world. In fact, the towns of North India in 2600 B.C.E. were more comfortable and technologically advanced than most European cities till nearly the time of the Renaissance!
Religious life was vibrant in ancient India. Some of the oldest surviving spiritual writings came from this part of the world. They reveal a religion that was both boisterously earthy and transcendentally mystical—not unlike Hinduism today...
One of the great ironies of religious history is that, although the religions that came out of the Near East—Judaism, Islam, Christianity—adamantly reject most of Hinduism's fundamental teachings, their mystical traditions—the Kaballah, Sufism, and Christian Gnosticism—reflect Hindu insights in almost every detail. Numerous students of comparative religion, from Muslim scholar Al Buruni in 1000 C.E. to the world famous writer Aldous Huxley nearer our own time, have expressed their amazement at the parallels between the major mystical traditions of the world and Hinduism...
Hinduism is by far the most complex religion in the world, shading under its enormous umbrella an incredibly diverse array of contrasting beliefs, practices, and denominations. Hinduism is by far the oldest major religion. It has had more than enough time to develop a diversity of opinions and approaches to spirituality unmatched in any other tradition."
Linda Johnsen, The Complete Idiot's Guide to Hinduism
Alpha; 1st edition (October 11, 2001) pp. 1/77
Gnosis is mutual knowing and being known of and by God
The Gnostic Gospels: Self-knowledge is knowledge of God
The mystic makes contact with the god inside
Hinduism is about exploring the very depths of your own soul yourself
Authors of old Asiatic books claimed ultimate truth was discoverable
But if you do not know yourselves, then you dwell in poverty
The failure to attain direct experience of the truth
The real study, in religion, is first-hand experience of God.
For Lao Tze it is the Tao, in Jewish mysticism it is the Shekinah
Spiritual but not Religious
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