Two Trees in the Garden grows out of more than sixty years on a spiritual path rooted in the Mennonite peace church tradition. Travel along that path has been accompanied by a steadily growing awareness and restlessness about its boundaries and limitations, with particular discomfort around the dominant Christian narrative of creation, fall and redemption through atoning sacrifice. Twenty-some years of study and reflection across the scriptures and religious traditions of the world, carried out in the context of a constant, simple breath prayer (“Thy will be done.”), have led me to the following working statement of faith, the themes of which are expressed in the blog:
- I believe in Creator/Spirit/Mind/Source (C/S/M/S) – immanent, transcendent, omnipresent, omni-creative, love, essence, ground of our being and so much more, beyond all language, in whom/which we live and move and have our being. I grew up with the name God, but choose in general not to use it in this writing because it seems especially important in these times to break out of the cultural trappings surrounding that name. Names of any sort speak only to the limitations of our gift of language and intellect and fall inconceivably short of the reality. Most succinctly: C/S/M/S is; C/S/M/S is love; love is.
- I believe we are expressions of prana, the Sanskrit term for life essence breathed by C/S/M/S. We are created in the image, like Jesus, like the Buddha, like Aunt Susie and every other Child of C/S/M/S who has walked the Earth. We are enlivened by the breath of life.
- I believe in basic free will choice. When prana enlivens a body, we gain awareness, including awareness of our temporal limitations. This body needs resources to live. This body is born and dies. We can choose the isolation and limitation of our bodies (the choice of ego), which results in fear and its countless expressions in efforts to possess and to control, coupled with its rage when those efforts are thwarted, as they ultimately are. We can also choose our higher Self, the fruit of which is confidence and rest in the eternal and enlivening C/S/M/S essence which both pervades and transcends all things temporal. Our life is the journey of that choice, with consistent results, individually and as societies. We grow to the extent that we learn from our choices, moving toward Self and away from ego.
- I believe that revealed scripture –whether Judeo-Christian, Hindu, Buddhist, Mormon, Islamic or other – is inspired. It is full of Truth. This Truth is filtered and interpreted over and over: by the person to whom it was revealed; by the scribe; by the translator; by the reader; by the listener; and by the responder who turns it into human action. When the human interactor is aligned and free in Spirit, the truth of scripture is revealed and results in acts of creative beauty, kindness, healing and compassion. When the human interactor is aligned with ego and fear, scripture is twisted and misused.
- I believe there are no closed canons of scripture. My friends Jeff Gundy and JD Martin write scripture – the expressions of their C/S/M/S essence – in poetry and song. Georgia O’Keefe painted it and a million voices sing it in every instant. Scripture is the very essence of our created hearts, yours and mine. Time and historic comings and goings do not begin or end the Word, nor do the sacred and secular labels that we apply to justify our egotistical judgments. An open and willing heart is an open canon.
- I believe that historic scripture is a useful record of the human experience with C/S/M/S, subject to the limitations of vision and experience for the writer, requiring and welcoming constant conversation, evaluation and fresh revelation in the contexts of both history and the present experience and expression of C/S/M/S in our hearts and being.
- I believe that religions of any label — Pagan, Christian, Buddhist, Jain, Hindu, Islamic and hundreds more, past, present and future – are neither more nor less than our corporate (communal) expression of the maturity of our understanding and expression of C/S/M/S. A powerful social tool, religion holds the potential for the communal expression of an open and willing heart, with hands, feet and voices of compassion, healing, welcome and stewardship. It holds the same potential for chasing useless sacrifice, empowering hierarchical mediators of the sacred and profane, instituting rules of obligation and shame, and justifying hatred and violence of all kinds. Either way, we choose, engaging and using the tool under our own gifted power.
- I believe that to worship is to be engaged, individually and corporately, in the creative activity of C/S/M/S. It is to be engaged in joy, beauty, healing, compassion, curiosity and creation. It has nothing to do with noises of adoration separated from these acts of creation, especially when these sounds and acts are engaged primarily for self-indulgence or a hope of gaining points for access to an eternity to which we already belong and of which we already partake. As with so many of our religious terms, we do well to let go of the baggage laden worship label and engage in being the true article, our essence, that for which we are created.
- I believe in life everlasting – that prana, as the metaphorical out breath and in breath of C/S/M/S, never changes as it enters and leaves any particular body or temporal expression. We – our spirits – are part of that breath, enlivening and departing the bodies we inhabit. While some report direct awareness of lives before and beyond the one we experience in any given present, I have yet to possess, and do not strive for, that particular gift or awareness. Yet I trust that, to the extent we are open and willing, we are always (before, in and beyond time) growing, learning in grace and love, with deeper and deeper Self-awareness, which is to say, experience of our C/S/M/S essence.
Who knows where that may take us. I love our journey.
© Two Trees in the Garden. Feel free to quote, as useful, with proper reference.