When I started delving into ‘A Return to Love’ by Marianne Williamson, initially I thought it was all a bit fluffy. Too love-is-all-we-need, pink hearts and group hugs. But now that I’m half-way through, I’m appreciating Williamson’s way of tackling tough topics and loving them into place.
It’s funny how we seem to expect complex answers for big problems. Like somehow a simple answer isn’t adequate. (‘it can’t be that easy, surely?’)
So far, it seems that everything does become a little simpler when you apply the love principle to it. And who ever said simple was bad?
I’d like to share 5 things that have captured my interest from the book so far:
It’s not a word that we hear a lot in everyday conversation.
Religions around the world do seem to have this common thread though – the idea that if we follow the rules / be a good person / do what aligns with God’s will / develop our souls enough … then we’ll be rewarded by eternal bliss. A heavenly nirvana where all is happy and good and the pain and toil of life on earth long-forgotten.
I’ve been thinking about this, and wonder if we’ve got it all a bit backwards.
Walking into Mt Albert Spiritual Church I feel like two worlds are colliding. The elderly gent handing me a hymnal, old-school padded chairs and pulpit style front look like they hail from the Presbyterian or Anglican churches back home. In contrast, our speaker for the evening is a Clairvoyant.
I sit there amused by this funny mix, and read the ‘Seven Principles’ inscribed in cursive font on a plaque –
- The Fatherhood of God
- The Brotherhood of Man
- Communion of Spirits and the Ministry of Angels
- The continuous existence of the Human Soul
- Personal Responsibility
- Compensation and Retribution hereafter for all the good and evil deeds done on earth
- Eternal Progress open to every Human Soul
I had originally chosen to investigate Islam this year, but that has been placed on hold til April when my Islamic-insider becomes available. In the interim, I’ve decided to take a look into the mysterious, (and somewhat taboo!) world of spiritualism / New Age philosophy.
To get why this has always been a closed-off mind area for me you’d have to understand more about my background of growing up in a devoted Christian family.
We didn’t do tarot readings at home. Crystals were seen as something a bit spooky. People who read horoscopes were weird. Fortune-telling, astral travel, rocks with powers, spirit-guides … all that stuff came bundled up in the demonic lucky-dip – you didn’t know what demon you’d end up with if you reached your hand in!
So I guess I’ve always viewed spiritualism with a healthy dose of cynicism and even – yes, that awful little four-letter word – fear.
Which seemed like a great reason to take up my spiritualist friend’s offer to have my cards read! She’d been telling me little bits and pieces about her beliefs for quite awhile, and my curiosity was piqued.
A friend told me once that he has a knack for seeing the disfunction in things – what’s not working, what’s falling down, where there’s room for improvement.
We all do it, don’t we? Judging, assessing, putting little x’s on our perfection-checklist.
Especially when it comes to religion. You don’t need to have many convos before you realise that people have a LOT of issues with the systems around faith –many won’t even give it a second look because of some glitch they’ve previously encountered.
I don’t always fix things that break.
If it seems too complicated, too expensive, or too much hassle to fix at the time, I’ll just find a work-around. And once I’ve found it – the way to open the door by wiggling the lock just right, how I can cover the hole in my favorite piece of clothing so no-one would even notice, the button to click so the program I’m running forgets its error message and lets me get on with what I’m trying to do, the trick of accessing phone contacts a roundabout way because it loads faster, or how turning a gadget on and off again seems to get another day out of it … I’ll get used to it. My imperfect, complicated way of doing things will replace the need to repair whatever is broken.
I came across this quote recently:
‘All faiths become engaged in this wager on representation: that a sign could refer to the depth of meaning, that a sign could be exchanged for meaning and that something could guarantee this exchange – God of course. But what if God himself can be simulated – reduced to the signs that constitute faith? Then the whole system becomes weightless, it is no longer itself anything but a gigantic simulacrum – not unreal, but a simulacrum, that is to say never exchanged for the real, but exchanged for itself, in an uninterrupted circuit without reference or circumference.’ – Jean Baudrillard (paraphrased)
It struck a nerve with me … having studied four different faiths so far and with countless others ahead, is it possible that I could learn the signs, symbols, rituals and traditions that constitute each ‘faith’ without ever finding anything real or tangible, without actually getting any closer to God? Religions’ simulated version of God might be nothing like the real thing, if it’s even possible to know what that is when you’re looking at it.
I recall a toy I had as a kid – a giraffe made out of wooden beads, standing upright. When you pushed the button below, it would collapse on itself for a second, springing back into position as soon as you released your finger. I sometimes fear that just like that giraffe, religion is capable of standing only so long as nothing is pushing on it … when pushed, it is forced to fold in on itself, no longer solid; just a pile of beads.
We’re heading to a concert. I laugh with my friend, excited about a fun night out as we hop on the train and take our seats. It’s then that I see him.
As we pull away from the platform, the man with the curly red hair falls into the middle of the aisle, convulsing. I hurry towards him, worrying with each step whether or not I’ve retained anything from my long-ago completed First Aid course.
‘Are you ok? Can you breathe?’
From the outset, my aim with the Hello Faith project hasn’t been to read a lot of theology books. That’s one approach to learning, and I’m sure it’s effective, but I wanted to learn directly from making friends, asking questions, and observing. So although I’ve been reading bits of the Bhagavad Gita to piece the theology together, I decided that rather than immerse myself in a book, I’d prefer to put some of my questions to one of the first Hare Krishna friends I made at the Loft; Gitavali.
The following are my questions and her responses them – in her own words and unedited.
Q. Could you first give us a brief summary of what you as a Hare Krishna believe about God’s existence and our relationship to God?
A. I may not be so brief, but I will try. As Hare Krishnas we understand that everything has a source, all energies have a source, the source of all existence, everything including individuality and consciousness all emanates from the Supreme Person known as Krishna. Continue reading
So, I was thinking about quantum mechanics. (I feel smarter just for having typed that!) It intrigues me how at a quantum level, just ‘watching’ a particle seems to change its behaviour (more specifics on this here). If you’re watching, you can make a rough, reasonably accurate prediction of how it will behave. When you look away though, it could all change. Suddenly your power of prediction disappears and you have no control over what the particle will do. You merely observing it influences how it acts.
I think the same can be applied to people – who are, after all, just a big mass of particles.
When I’m observed, I behave a certain way. I bet you do too. It depends on who’s watching as to how your behavior presents. Instead of saying one phrase you might choose another, instead of emphasising a certain aspect of your personality or character, you’ll focus on what’s most relevant to your observer. The fact that we’re being observed influences who we appear to be.
But you can only be watched a percentage of the time.
In the pause of time when there are no observers, you have a quantum choice – how will you behave? What actions will you take? Will your decisions, uninfluenced by observation, be a reflection of your true ‘quantum’ self?
You’ll know when the moment comes.
And hopefully, when it does, even though it might not fit with others predictions and projections, you’ll be happy with the unobserved you.