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Lost Soul!


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Hi everyone.

 

My name is Brad and I have participated on these forums a while ago briefly. I have been down many paths and at the current moment I feel like I am lost and totally confused.

 

I really have a struggle between my head and my heart.

 

My head tells me that by just looking at the world and the complexities of it that there has to be a creator. I dont believe that the creator is impersonal but then I ask questions like why does this person thank god for saving their life when thousands may die in a tsunami or earthquake.

 

This leads me to places like deism where you believe in a creator but an impersonal one..... but then my heart kicks in.

 

My heart says things like I do believe that there is someone watching over us and guiding us. Obviously I have no proof except for personal experience and my own knowledge. I do believe in an afterlife but I dont believe that the afterlife is exclusive to Christians.

 

I do believe that Jesus was real and I want to live by his morals and principles but I couldnt say if he is the son of God or if he was just a great man.

 

I just dont know where to turn. I just want to find a place where I am comfortable.

 

I think I am trying to find answers to the unanswerable!

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G'Day Brad,

 

Mate, I am not sure if this will be of any help but I have to try. Ian Lawton, who runs the SBNR movement (Spiritual But Not Religious) said this recently: "You are safe to question old beliefs and stop believing them if they no longer make sense to you. You are free to rid yourself of assumptions and prejudices that are stale reminders of another time. You are free to grow and change and make mistakes. Learn and heal and do it in your own time..."

 

I could be a wrong but I sense some guilt in your searching. The Heart and Head debate, one we all have from time to time, is a part of the exquisite search, and you should not in any way feel guilty for abandoning one kind of faith for another, however briefly that may be. You are, when all is said and done, a person of faith, and whether that be deism, theism, whether that be Christianity, Buddhism or Paganism, you are reaching out to touch the traces of the limitless divine, and that is a perfectly sound and noble pursuit.

 

So while this might sound trite, and while this almost certainly wont answer your immediate question, I just want to ask you to give yourself the chance to question, allow yourself the time and the parameters to discover what you can, when you can. And, finally, allow yourself to be a person of faith, and take comfort that that is what you are. The exact path or expression that faith manifests itself into is perhaps something that is around the corner, but if it means becoming a SBNR, a Buddhist, a Bahai, a Humanist, allow yourself the freedom to embrace that which speaks to you. The Limitless Divine is just that, limitless, and you should delight in exploring all the aspects and all the expressions of faith you can.

 

Adi

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Hi Adi,

 

Do you have a link to this SBNR movement? I found one but it isnt working.

 

If I may ask can you tell me how you are going with your journey as I would love to hear about what you have experienced.

 

Thanks for all your help mate.

 

Brad

Edited by spiritseeker
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Guest billmc

Do you have a link to this SBNR movement? I found one but it isnt working.

 

Hi Brad. SBNR used to have a website, but now they've moved to Facebook. But many of the same resources can be found here:

 

http://www.christ-community.net/index.htm

 

I keep up with most of their podcasts and really appreciate Ian Lawton's insights. Having gone through things similar to what you describe, I'd echo Adi's advice and encourage you to give yourself the time, patience, and freedom to simply explore what works or connects with you. There is a saying that "God has no grandchildren" and another that says, "No more second-hand God." These both point to the notion that each of us needs to find our own connection to the divine and that while other's journeys can encourage us, there is no "one size fits all" prescription for spirituality. My own spirituality is much more pragmatic than mystic, due to my life experiences. In other words, I feel closer to God when I am in good and meaningful relationships than when I am alone meditating. But Progressive Christianity gives us the space and freedom to find our own path, our own "way", even if our way is an amalgations of the ways of others. You have your own faith...and that is a rare and precious thing.

 

Your friend,

billmc

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Hi again Brad,

 

No worries, really hope some of my ramblings help in some way.

 

Bill is absolutely right about SBNR. Here is the facebook link if that helps: http://www.facebook.com/SBNR.org#!/SBNR.org?v=wall

 

Okay, my journey. I was baptised an Anglican but my father is non-theistic and my mother is a lapsed Anglican, so I didn't go to church growing up at all. I got to Uni champing at the bit to learn as much as I can about every and all religion. At that point I was agnostic in the truest sense of the word, I was open, committed to nothing, and questioning. Over the years I studied everything from Buddhism to Islam to Judaism to Paganism, you name it (I am now a PhD student in the department of Studies in Religion at the University of Queensland - thesis: the portryals of Pontius Pilate in the early church fathers). After all of that I chose celtic pre-christian and christian (culdees) religion as something which resonated with me and thought of myself as that for a while. Then I began exploring celtic christianity more and, basically, decided I really should learn as much about christianity, the faith I was baptised in, as I knew of the other faiths! So I guess about five and half years ago I attended an Alpha course. A friend of mine, who happened to be an Anglican, got me to go to her own church's Alpha course. Half way through I broke my leg. The Rector of the church, who I had literally now met only about four times at the course, rang every day to ask if he could help. He moved the entire course from the Parish Centre to the Church just so I could get there, and he and my friend took turns in picking me up whenever I needed to go to the Church (my wife, at the time, didn't drive). I saw in them people LIVING christianity, not talking about it. Anyway, the Rector, and my friend, and the course (I ended up doing it three times!), and a painting by Holman Hunt mentioned in the course, all led me to realise that this was something I admired and wanted to be a part of. My faith has grown stronger and stronger once I stopped thinking too much and opened the door to allow myself to have a faith in something beyond human parameters. A supreme mystery, and this is how it should be! I can never know the limitless divine, and that is okay, because I have seen its face, for me, in Jesus, just as others see it in Buddha or the God and Goddess.

 

But I did realise that I could only be a Christian if I was a liberal or progressive one. In the same way, I can only be a progressive if I hang on to a more metaphysical aspect of Jesus. I need that, personally.

 

So there you are, thats me. 36 years old and I would say I am finally comfortable with where I am, though I am always, always learning and changing.

 

Adi

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Hi Brad,

 

It so good to hear from you again.

 

It seems to me, perfectly normal and okay to go through a time of confusion and to have thoughts of doubt on ones journey to Truth. Perhaps this is your dark night of the soul. In my experience, if one wishes to progress or grow there will be periods such as you are experiencing on your journey. My advice would be to accept it as a stage in your growth and have confidence that whatever it is that started this journey in you and sustains you is well able to finish it in time.

 

As Adi and others here have found, you will find peace. Everyone that is truly looking as you are has questions. And everyone who looks may not find all the same answers but they will find what they really seek and in that will be peace.

 

You are not alone and you are welcome to accept my personal love and confidence, which is freely given that you will find that which has always been present with you from the start and will manifest that which your heart seeks.

 

Love in Christ,

Joseph

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Hi Brad,

 

It’s good to “see” you again. I agree with everyone’s sentiments about giving yourself the space to question things and feel however you do about them at the time.

 

I will merely state my own experience because it’s all I can do to potentially address your own situation. Personally I have never found solid, objective answers to the kinds of questions you are asking. Granted I’m young and haven’t experienced as much as others, but I studied, prayed, and generally gave it my all with everything I had at the time. It didn’t work, and still doesn’t work for me whenever I find myself thinking the same way.

 

Setting my questions aside and seeking something different was painful for me, yet necessary. Otherwise I’d be perpetually hung up on true or false questions about whether this exists or that, whether it be the identity of Jesus, a theistic or deistic God, the soul, or whatever else. I had to set these aside as objects of knowledge, especially ultimate, metaphysical questions which are in principle unanswerable to the intellect. As Einstein said, we cannot solve our problems with the same kind of thinking that created them. Or a Chinese saying, if we don’t change our direction, we are likely to end up where we are headed. Not that I’m saying you need to deliberately change your thoughts and expectations, but that I eventually had to do so. Another Chinese saying: If you want to know where the flowers come from, not even the God of Spring knows. We cannot weave our way through our skepticism by using more skepticism. It takes something qualitatively other. And to me the answer is not simply blind faith either, nor apologetics, because these are all rooted in the same skeptical, discursive mind. In this way I think we need learn to "get out of our head" - to stop mistaking our words for reality.

 

I don’t mean abandoning the intellect and language altogether - that would leave our experiences totally blank and meaningless. But rather, using them in a different way, to a different end. What’s the difference between mathematics and poetry? Well, for one, they certainly relate to reality in a very different way. In my own life I had to learn to relate to my self and to reality in a different way than as an objectified, external thing.

 

The religious truths I have been seeking, the reality to which I wish to connect, I have been learning that I have to, to use Zen teacher Robert Aitken’s phrasing, behold them most personally and most intimately, as in this passage:

Beheld most intimately, the lovely lily springs clean in the void. Heard most personally, the Melodious Laughing Thrush astonishes the silence. It is as though the experience were its own source. (The Morning Star 23)

I’m not saying you need to adopt a Zen worldview (though it has helped me). But I can say the same thing about beholding Jesus as the good shepherd, or beholding the triumphant angels at the empty tomb in the stained glass windows at my church. Heard most intimately, then, Christ is asking “Who do you say that I am?”, and beheld most intimately the empty tomb is a living reality.

 

Two passages I like come from Pseudo-Dionysius and Thomas Merton. I have quoted both of these elsewhere but I think they have special pertinence in relation to what has been conveyed by Aitken.

 

With our minds made prudent and holy, we offer worship to that which lies hidden beyond thought and beyond being. With a wise silence we do honor to the inexpressible. We are raised up to the enlightening beams of the sacred scriptures, and with these to illuminate us, with our beings shaped to songs of praise, we behold the divine light, in a manner befitting us, and our praise resounds for that generous Source of all holy enlightenment, a Source which has told us about itself in the holy words of scripture. We learn, for instance, that it is the cause of everything, that it is the origin, being, and life. To those who fall away it is the voice calling, "Come back!" and it is the power which raises them up again. It refurbishes and restores the image of God corrupted within them. It is the sacred stability which is there for them when the tide of unholiness is tossing them about. It is safety for those who made a stand. It is the guide bringing upward those uplifted to it and is the enlightenment of the illuminated. Source of perfection for the being made perfect, source of divinity for those being deified, principle of simplicity for those turning toward simplicity, point of unity for those made one; transcendently, beyond what is, it is the Source of every source. Generously and as far as may be, it gives out a share of what is hidden. (Pseudo-Dionysius The Complete Works 51)

 

And then, Merton:

 

What is serious to men is often very trivial in the sight of God. What in God might appear to us as “play” is perhaps what He Himself takes most seriously. At any rate the Lord plays and diverts Himself in the garden of His creation, and if we could let go of our own obsession with what we think is the meaning of it all, we might be able to hear His call and follow Him in His mysterious, cosmic dance. We do not have to go very far to catch echoes of that game, and of that dancing. When we are alone on a starlit night; when by chance we see the migrating birds in autumn descending on a grove of junipers to rest and eat; when we see children in a moment when they really are children; when we know love in our own hearts; or when, like the Japanese poet Basho we hear an old frog land in a quiet pond with a solitary splash--at such times the awakening, the turning inside out of all values, the “newness,” the emptiness and purity of vision that make themselves evident, provide a glimpse of the cosmic dance.

For the world and time are the dance of the Lord in emptiness. The silence of the spheres is the music of a wedding feast. The more we persist in misunderstanding the phenomena of life, the more we analyze them out into strange finalities and complex purposes of our own, the more we involve ourselves in sadness, absurdity and despair. But it does not matter much, because no despair of ours can alter the reality of things, or stain the joy of the cosmic dance which is always there. Indeed, we are in the midst of it, and it is in the midst of us, for it beats in our very blood, whether we want it to or not. (New Seeds of Contemplation 296).

 

Merton’s quote suddenly reminds me of something from Father Lev Gillet of the Eastern Church, when he comments on the meaning of the parable of the “wedding feast.”

 

The general meaning of this gospel is clear. Jewish tradition frequently compared the messianic kingdom to a feast. Here we are concerned with that great and continual feast which is the union - the marriage - of the Son of God with our human nature. All of us are bidden to take part in this union. (Year of the Grace of the Lord 8)

 

Just some thoughts which have helped me and perhaps are applicable in some measure in your life as well.

 

Peace to you,

Mike

Edited by Mike
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Like everyone else, I've gained from reading through this thread. Just for the moment I just offer another quote, which sprang to mind. I think it has a Jewish source, but can't really be sure.....

 

"On the Day of Judgement you will be asked to give an account of everything you could have enjoyed, yet never did."

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All I can say is WOW as all you guys have really touched my heart. Thank you so much. I do need to relax and just take my time. That is generally what I do but sometimes I just feel lost and I need to let out my emotion.

 

I want to have a relationship with God so much that I just expect to much and I am starting to realise that I dont need the answers but I just need a peaceful way off life where I am happy and have balance in my life.

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All I can say is WOW as all you guys have really touched my heart. Thank you so much. I do need to relax and just take my time. That is generally what I do but sometimes I just feel lost and I need to let out my emotion.

 

I want to have a relationship with God so much that I just expect to much and I am starting to realise that I dont need the answers but I just need a peaceful way off life where I am happy and have balance in my life.

 

It has been a struggle for me as well, but I am learning that when it comes to seeking knowledge, it is best to pick one's battles wisely. We can't know everything, but we can come to learn what is most important for our own happiness and authenticity. There are two kinds of knowledge: one is objective knowledge about entities which may or may not exist; the other is a mysterious (and biblical) knowledge: union, intimacy. The latter is superior because it involves actual sensation, taste. The former is only the idea of taste, about which volumes can be written but none of which can amount to the truth of the actual experience. For me this "taste", this "experience," is simply making the awareness of the cosmic dance deeply personal, deeply intimate, until it is actualized in the beating of my own heart; and in a sense that transcends thought and reaches the inner freedom of our being, realizing the wisdom, and the release, in not trying to analyze life "out into strange finalities and complex purposes of our own." Because we're not going to find ourselves in this or that; the holy spirit is playful and to be found nowhere, and we must follow him there. At the point that these words reach their limit, they let one's spirit go beyond them. It's not a matter of theory or speculation, it's just a way of being, a way of perceiving that is beyond true or false because it is simply my own identity. The intellect is simply not suited to the job, because this life and this breath are not categories and not ideas. What are they? Breathe, live, and you will find out first hand, without any mediation of ideas.

 

I'm not saying you have to find the same words or ideas meaningful that I do. But whatever one does find meaningful, I feel that that must be actualized intimately and personally.

Edited by Mike
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