The word “religion” comes from the Latin and means-essentially- “reconnecting.” The idea is that, on one level, we are already fully connected to God. However, our consciousness of that connection is inevitably obscured, to one degree or the other.
Our spiritual journey in life is all about re-establishing our consciousness with God. This journey happens in the following order. The one caveat is that each of these seven steps is like being on the rung of a ladder (Wilber). Clearly, not everyone climbs to the top of the ladder. Frustratingly, we humans can only see reality from the rung of the ladder upon which we are standing. We are convinced that only we see the ultimate truth of things. Let us today take a brief look at each of these steps.
1. Gross– The word “gross” does not imply anything evil. Some folks are, however, caught, trapped in the world of money, sex and power. “Eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we may die.”
2. Literal, archetypal– Since we are wired for something a little more than our gross (again, not evil) appetites, we are “easy pickings”. For the stories that form the basis of our religions of origin. This is the case because all of the stories of the great religions of the world are ultimately true, but not necessarily literally true. On this second rung of the ladder, however, we embrace it all on a literal basis lock, stock and barrel.
3. Rational– As we become educated and as we learn to question things, many of us “write off” all that we have been taught. Angels? Virgin births? A parting of the seas? Miracles? Walking on water? Being raised from the dead? Please. Such beliefs, we conclude, only make sense to children.
4. Allegorical– Having rejected the above “nonsense”, we are still feeling “off center”. Then, perhaps, an awakening! We re-visit the stories from our youth and discover that all that we have been taught is true, just not literally true. This is akin to discovering the wisdom of Grimm’s Fairy Tales, even though we never for a moment think that the tales are meant to be taken literally.
5. Universal– Freed up from the prison of the literal, we can now see universal truth all around us. We appreciate each religion as carrying a piece of the puzzle. We are at home in the rituals of our own and all religions.
6. Integral– Here we seek to go beyond any and all religions. We ask ourselves what are the universal principles, psychological truths and metaphysical realities behind each religion? We may intuit what each religion is trying to say. Strangely, we may now feel that, having rediscovered the real purpose and value and truth of religion (often at great personal cost to ourselves), we no longer feel the need to practice or even belong to our religion or any religion anymore.
7. Unitive– Like Saint Thomas Aquinas, who wrote volumes of theology, and then, having experienced God, put down his pen, we feel that we have been “saved” and “delivered” from blindness, we, like Saint Thomas, are humbly satisfied with the experience of God as “beauty, truth and goodness.”
Next posting: Looking Forward
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