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Saturday, March 10, 2018

The Nature of Reality and the Purpose of Existence


Jesus and the Tao


I am the way; I am the truth and the life, and no one comes to God save through me.
 ~ Jesus of Nazareth


This statement is attributed to Joshua bin Joseph, also known as Jesus of Nazareth, and it is one of the most often cited phrases in the Christian cannon.

But what is the meaning of this formula, of these words?

Could it be as simple as the Church suggests, that this is a concrete articulation from the founder of the Christian Church that a person must be a Christian to go to heaven?

That there is a single catalyst for the salvation of the individual, the reception of the sacrament of baptism, a ritual of water purification administered by a duly appointed officiant of the church, along with the conscious and cognizant assent to the words spoken in the right, indicating faith and belief in the Trinitarian God; the father and the son and the holy spirit?

Is that what Jesus meant when he uttered these words, if he uttered these words, in the era before the instantiation of the church, when Jesus himself was just a Jew, an itinerant Rabbi, a Pharisee and critic of the prevailing social order. Do these words mean that?  

Do these words tell us anything about what it means to be a Christian, about the way, of Jesus; its connection to truth, to the lived experience of the faith, the life of the believer, and their relationship to the ultimate arbiter of all that is, to God, the creator of the universe?

These words do not tell us anything about those things, and for many they never will.

I am the way; I am the truth and the life, and no one comes to God save through me.

For most people this will always be a simple message relating a simple belief; that there is one path to God and salvation, and it runs through the Church founded in the first century of the common-era.

That is the end of it, but there is more, much more
For those who want to understand more, you must be willing to immerse yourself in the mystery of Christ Consciousness, the truth concerning who Jesus is, and what it means for a man to self-identify as the way toward an understanding of, or even a personal-existential convergence with the ultimate reality that is God.

Let us examine this expression in its parts, and let us not be afraid to draw from the entire scope of human wisdom to discern their meaning.

I am the way; I am the truth and the life, and no one comes to God save through me.

The Way
The Truth
The Life

The Way:

Lao Tzu, the founder of Taoism wrote of the way in 500 B.C.E., in his tractate, the I Ching, this is called the path of least resistance.

To live in the way means living in harmony with the tune of the Universe, which is the will of God, the creator and sustainer of all that is; God the infinite, God the eternal, God the fount of all being.

God who loves everyone, blesses everything, and harms nothing.
God who calls everything into existence, and in whom all things exist.
God whose being is co-terminus with our own.
God the omnipresent, the omniscient, the omnipotent.
God who is not, not present in any space.
God who understands our experience, even as we experience it ourselves.
God who has the perfect ability to accomplish the divine will.
God who called forth the light, and called it good.

To live in the way is to begin like a block of stone, whose edges and corners are rounded and smoothed through its encounter in the world with the presence of the divine, in the spirit of the infinite that dwells in each and every one of us, through our relationships with our neighbors; our friends and family, the stranger, our enemies.

The divine current is like water, it seeks us out, even in the lowest places, going lower than any other thing will go, it shapes us there until we become a like a rounded smooth and rolling ball, freed from the edges that drag us.  


The Truth:

The truth is recognizable by these basic characteristics.

The truth will never lead you astray.

When you are in possession of the truth you are in possession of what is, independent of any other thing concerning it.

When you have arrived at the truth you have discovered the foundation of all understanding.

The truth is like a seed within you, as you nurture it your understanding will grow, it will fill you.

We are dynamic creatures, called on to do things in the world, to do and to be in relation to every other doer, creator-creature, co-actor; who is, ever was, and ever will be. Even if we lead the simplest of lives, we are invested with great power, and therefore must take great care of our desires and the choices that we make.  

When we plant the seeds of our ambition in the soil of what is real and true, they will germinate, sprout and shoot, stretching their roots into the well that nurtures them, reaching for the light that calls them, bringing them to the end they were intended for.

This is not to say that truth guarantees success, nothing is guaranteed, but the good soil, the pure water, and the clear light provide the conditions by which we may thrive along the way to the infinite.

The truth reveals who we are.

The truth is the firmament on which we come to know ourselves, not merely as individuals, but as beings in relationship, in relationship to each and every other, and in relationship to the whole.

Knowing that there is truth is not the same as knowing the truth.

In order to fathom the difference between what is truth and what is false we require a discriminating perspective, and a sensitivity to the laws of consequence, like the rules of Karma that govern us.

We are each of us an Arjuna, born into a field of conflict and sickness, of debilitating illusions, called upon to wield wisdom like a surgeon wields a scalpel, to excise doubt and ignorance like a surgeon would a cancer, and with a habit of discipline rise above the clinging ground that would trap us.  

As Marcus Aurelius said, what we do echoes in eternity. Our lives have significance, each and every one of us matters, the things we say and do to one another matter.

As Jesus put forward in his recapitulation of the Shema:

Hear O’ People, God is one, the infinite is one.

Love God with all your strength and all your heart and all your mind

Love your neighbor as your self

Do unto others what you would have them do unto you, be proactive, share with the starving a morsel of your own food, share with the naked a piece of your own clothing, share with the burdened a part of their suffering.

Where two people are gathered, there is God, not as a third person in their company but present in the relationship that exists between them.

To serve God means serving the other, to receive from god means that we accept the aid of another. God is in the other, as God is in us, the living-breathing, seeing-feeling God.

This is the truth of the human condition and our relationship to the divine.

If any system of beliefs claims to be true and does not engender certainty regarding these existential questions, does not promote growth toward these ideals, this understanding of who we are, then we may assume one of two things, that the system of belief as a whole, or some set of claims within it is false (and must be rejected), or the problem lies within us, that we are unwilling or have not properly understood the teaching in question and so have not properly enacted those beliefs in our lives.

Truth is the light that directs us along the way of life. Bask in it.
The Life:

This is the sum of our existential experience. The things we have done and said are fixed, even while the consequences of those things flow out from us on trajectories of their own, and beyond our control.

The content of our lives is always changing, updating with each and every moment, intersecting both actively and passively with the lives and choices of others, with the consequences of their actions and our own at disparate points in time and space.

This life is a journey, we are on a forward trajectory and there is no return, there is no going backward.

Only the living approach to the divine, not just any life, but the life of a sentient being, self-cognizant, aware and free.

Every person who has ever lived is blazing a trail into the unknown.

No one comes to God save through these ~ Jesus

Let us parse this statement.

Only the living come to God, this is not to say that God is not present at all times in all places, we re-affirm the basic proposition that God the infinite is one, the creator and sustainer of all being.

This is a qualified statement, only the living come to the knowledge and understanding of God, come into a relationship with God as free, sentient, and self-purposive agents.

Only the living are able to discern the truth, only the living are able to choose the way, the way of God, the way to God, the ultimate foundation of reality.

Reality itself constant change, it is the continuous progression of infinite potentiality. We are each of us an expression of that.

The universe is, always has been, and forever shall be in a state of flux.  

This is chaos, it is the permanent state of what is, this is order.

Chaos and order, though they are syntactically opposed to one other, they are at-one-and-the-same-time able to be predicated of the same subject, reality.

This is harmony.

The universe is always moving outward-moving forward, it is forever expanding, transforming potentialities into actualities.

Knowing the truth does not bring peace, finding the way does not bring happiness, the experience of life is not bliss.

As human beings we are faced with inherent limitations, the conditions of our existence in time and space mean that we only ever know partially, we walk along the way intermittently, and life itself is beset with pain and suffering.

We are imperfect and prone to fear and doubt, to anger and resentment, we are impatient, short sighted and self-serving.   

We are stubborn and oftentimes intractable. We exist in a continuum that is in a state of constant flux and change, and yet we all to often attempt to demand from it permanence and stability.

We want to hang on to what we have even as the world changes all around us.

To stand still in the continuum requires a great effort of will.

To deny the natural progression of the continuum requires an incredible degree of deliberate belligerence. This is difficult, but it is not impossible, and once fixed because we are relational beings, that which has become unyielding is able to draw others into its sphere of influence, like a stone in the river, the unyielding and belligerent draw others to them themselves in a current of opposition.

They separate themselves from one another, through dogmas and creeds, by ritual and doctrine into categories of us and them.

This generates friction between the unyielding individual(s) and the way, it blinds them to the truth, and distorts their lives.

Friction, like desire, manifests itself as fear and anxiety, it causes pain and suffering in both the self and others.

When we see these manifested in our own lives we should question the way that we have taken.

Are pain and suffering, fear and anxiety the way of Christ? Do they represent the truth of the human condition, is that the life Jesus would lead us to?

While we may at times experience them, they are not the ultimate reality we are directed toward. And the good news is faith in the hope that there is life beyond them.

The life awaits us beyond the vicissitudes of time and space, this is the firm content of Christian hope. We may also have it now, fully realized in the normal course of our own lives.

All that we are, all that we may aspire to already exist within us as potential.

We are the uncarved block.

Our dreams of doing, our ambitions, in the first part they are dependent on our personal efforts for their actualization, in the second part they depend on the co-operation of our fellows, our sisters and brothers, whose competing and complimentary ambitions should always concern us.

Every action, once committed alters the range of what is possible, of what is probable, and of the scope of our potential. We must be mindful of the consequences of our actions if we are to reach the limits of our capabilities; and ride crest of that potential.

The only things that happen are the things we make happen, or allow to happen through our intention and will, whether we are passive or active.

All actualities are realized potentialities.

To do anything well and enduring, we must be aware of and appreciate the context within which our ambitions dwell, we must grounded it a well-founded understanding of everything that connects to it. We must see things in the light of truth, for what they are.

The locus of our attention must be singular, and at-one-and-the-same-time relational. You must see the thing itself, the thing that you have done, and its effect on the world around you, together.

This is the direction of consciousness, it must be guided by truth and integrity if it is to keep you on the way to life.

This will fulfill the purpose of existence:

To grow
To understand
To progress

To exist, always in a state of becoming…more, seeking harmony in the will of God, finding the infinite in our potential, germinating the seed God has planted within us.