One of the greatest teachers of all time, Socrates, never taught his students a thing. Instead, he asked them questions.
This form of teaching has come to be known as the Socratic method. It is based on the assumption that, on one level, all of us already know all of the answers. We just need a skilled teacher to ask us the right questions.
The spiritual tradition looks upon the growth of our souls in a similar way. On one level, we already know what is true. What we long for, what we hunger and thirst for, is someone who will remind us of the truth that has long been asleep within our souls.
For me, this is where Jesus of Nazareth comes in. Everything that he says and does has the ring of authenticity about it. Even his challenging and demanding teachings make sense deep within me.
Over the years, I have met spiritual leaders from many world religions. They may disagree on some theological points concerning Jesus, of course, but I have never met one of them who questioned the essential teachings of Jesus.
Jesus, however, spoke mainly about universal truths. There was no way that his teachings could ever have encompassed specific responses to today’s problems or even worldview. Issues like test tube babies, nuclear fission, and acid rain were simply unimaginable in the world view of Jesus. He never saw a car, a train, an airplane. He never saw the picture of planet earth taken by our astronauts.
It is the job of churches and teachers to try to apply the universal message of Jesus to everyday realities. This, it seems to me, is where things often get mixed up. Two approaches, at least, seem to be way off base. One is to try to apply the teachings to every reality that exists today on a literal basis. The other is to try to communicate a message that has nothing to say to us moderns. Because these two approaches are so widely employed, we have the situation that we have today: churches that have largely become irrelevant.
The best solution, is always to let the individual apply the teachings according to their consciences. Our consciences represent the voice of the Divine within us. Christians call this Holy Spirit. This voice is to be taken very seriously, challenging us to accept personal responsibility for our thoughts, beliefs and actions. At the end of our days, each one of us must be accountable for our own lives. It will do us no good to foist responsibility for our lives onto any other person or group, however noble and well intentioned that group may be.
We come into this world alone and we will go out alone. While we are here, Higher Power sends us brothers and sisters along the way, companions on life’s journey. But, when all is said and done, we are ultimately alone. Yet we are not. If we listen to the guiding voice, our Inner Teacher, that still small voice within us, we will always be led in the right direction.
Next posting: A Healthy Ego
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