Last night Serena and I took a walk in the dark on a (rare) rainless Oregon night. Down the trail, across the creek, through the woods, around the lake, and back home. One mile. Many inspirations.
The moon was almost full. Not a cloud in the sky. Sparkling stars. Symphonies of frogs croaking in the distance. Few signs of humanity: me, of course; Serena’s red flashing LED collar; some house lights; occasional sounds of a passing car. Mostly, Serena and I experienced nature as it is now, absent people, and as it must have been, then, before Homo sapiens evolved onto the world’s stage.
I felt a sense of cosmic rightness, that regardless of all the crap that humans produce inside and outside themselves the universe always has been, still is, and will continue to be perfectly fine. I also was struck by the fact that this sense had not a trace of religiosity associated with it. I didn’t feel the presence of Jesus, Buddha, or any other supposed mediator between us and the divine. I wasn’t thinking any profound (or even non-profound) religious thoughts, nor did I feel the need to tell God what a fine job he’d done with the creation this beautiful night.
However, I did find myself pondering a phrase that popped into my head some days back, and keeps coming back into consciousness: “Heresy is heretical.” I haven’t fully grokked what this means, but it has the ring of truth. “Heresy” means adhering to a controversial or unorthodox view. This implies that there are non-controversial or orthodox views to which the majority adhere.
Usually we think of heretics in the realm of religion, not of science. Someone who disagrees with a well-accepted scientific “truth” (using this word advisably, since all scientific truth is open to refutation) usually is considered to be wrong, not heretical. And if a truth, or law of nature, isn’t well-accepted because it hasn’t been scientifically proven, then heresy is unthinkable; when there is no orthodoxy, there can be no heresy.
Last night I saw unmistakable markings of electromagnetism and gravity, photons of light reflected from a moon caught in a groove of the space/time continuum. And these universal principles were evident to everyone with the eye to see what I was seeing. But I didn’t see any sign of God, Allah, Buddha-nature, Tao, Jesus, or any other purported divinity, personal or impersonal. Neither could anyone else, for such does not exist in the world out there, the natural physical world. Religious concepts and beliefs exist only in the world in here, the unnatural mental world.
God, deliver us from “God,” says Meister Eckhart, the Christian mystic. Deliver us, that is, from all the ideas about God that prevent us from seeing reality as it is. Re-reading my previous posting, a part of me was concerned that I spoke too harshly about Christianity. But my nighttime walk epiphany reassured me, the larger part of me, that if anything I was too gentle. I need to emphasize that it isn’t Christians who bother me; it is Christian dogma—or any religious dogma—that claims to be uniquely attuned to the reality of God or spiritual truth. This is akin to a scientist saying that only graduates of the Harvard Physics Department are able to understand quantum mechanics or relativity theory.
There is no, zero, zilch, nada, outward evidence that any particular religion or spiritual path is more true than any other. Any evidence to this effect must come with within, not without. So this is why heresy is heretical—the very notion that heresy is possible assumes that God can be reduced to something observable, something physical, something that can be written down in a book or spoken in a sermon.
Show me the proof that this is so, and I’ll admit that heresy is possible. Until then, it is the sacred duty of every seeker of spiritual truth to challenge any religion that stakes a special claim on universal verities. I couldn’t agree more with this quotation from A.H. Armstrong, a classics scholar, included in my book, “Return to the One”:
When claims to possess an exclusive revelation of God or to speak his word are made by human beings (and it is always human beings who make them), they must be examined particularly fiercely and hypercritically for the honor of God, to avoid the blasphemy and sacrilege of deifying a human opinion. Or, to put it less ferociously, the Hellenic (and, as it seems to me, still proper) answer to “Thus saith the Lord” is “Does he?,” asked in a distinctly skeptical tone, followed by a courteous but drastic “testing to destruction” of the claims and credentials of the person or persons making this enormous statement.
So it isn’t those who question religious pronouncements and religious leaders who are being disrespectful to divinity. Rather, it is those who accept religious or spiritual claims uncritically. What is truly heretical is believing that there is such a thing as “heresy.” A connoisseur of diamonds loves these precious gems so much, he wants to be sure that what he is holding in his hand in the real thing and not a fake. Similarly, the skeptical thought, “Is this really true about God?,” and the actions needed to answer this question, are marks of a genuine seeker of spirituality. Unquestioning obedience and blind faith are signs that a person is content with metaphysical cubic zirconium, godly glitter without spiritual substance.
Along these lines, the debunker of paranormal claims, Randi, has a standing offer of a million dollars for anyone who can “show, under proper observing conditions, evidence of any paranormal, supernatural, or occult power.” No one has claimed the prize. I doubt very much that anyone ever will. There is a good reason why miracles are miraculous—or, more likely, non-existent.