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The Very Big Questions

From time to time, across my life, there have been very big questions. And most of those questions have been ones centred on my spiritual tradition.

Each of us is born into a spiritual tradition in one way or another. While many of us have never seen the inside of a temple or church or mosque, yet the societies in which we live draw their structures and mores from a tradition. Western society in general is based upon a Christian ethic with laws founded in ancient Rome.

I was been born into Christianity. I experienced it in the womb, as my mother carried me to church, and I overheard the priest whenever she went. His words ( there were no women priests in New Zealand in the 1950’s as far as I am aware), would have carried through the walls of the womb and down the umbilical cord to me. Since her experience of the service she attended would have impacted upon her emotions and hence the chemicals circulating in her bloodstream, the Christian tradition was literally in my blood. It was fed to me for the time I was carried by her, and no doubt reinforced when she took me, newly born, along on a Sunday.

St. Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Jesuit order, reputedly said “give me a child for the first seven years and I will show you the man”.

And he is so correct. The period of my life from conception to the age of seven was a time when I was absorbing literally everything around me, drawing it in, soaking it up, ranking it and filing it away in my subconscious, where it would be forgotten, covered up and affect the remainder of my life. Those learnings were carefully designed to write the job description for the remainder of my life. From them I would choose my life’s path, both consciously and unconsciously.

According to a friend who is an astrologer, I was born during Libra, with my ascendant in Pisces. According to him that means I am naturally inclined towards priesthood, and that I have reincarnated in priest/shaman/ medicine man roles many times. Perhaps. I would like to think at
times that I have memories of this. It may be that it was this genetic inbuilt leaning which encouraged me to listen more carefully when my mother was carrying me both before and after my birth. Whatever was said in those early years found its way inside and had a powerful
effect upon me.

No doubt, in those times, as my mother carried me and attended the local Anglican Church in Ranfurly, I would have heard the priest refer to the Creation. While it would have had little meaning for me at the time, I would have wondered what it was all about. Later, when I went to Sunday school (I was not a regular attendee or motivated student) I would listen to the story of the Creation, to the story of Adam and Eve and the Fall from Grace. As it was told to me, we were descended from two original humans, both of whom were created by a paternal God who decided to make these toy people and give them a wonderful place to live. If my childhood teachings were to be believed, they were corrupted by a Snake who waited until this Kindly Creator’s back was turned and then caused trouble. When God finally caught on to his mischief and threw them out of Paradise, to wander for eternity, the trouble began.

As a child I saw it as a child and believed it. I could even envisage Paradise and to a degree the pain Adam and Eve must have felt as they were evicted. Had I been able to draw or make a film about it, I am sure I could have drawn it in very fine detail. As children do I wanted to believe it was that simple, that in fact God was a kindly old gentleman, a kind of benevolent uncle who loved everybody and wanted the best for each of us. But the story of the Creation raised a few problems:

1. If God was indeed a Kindly Old Gentleman, then why had he been so mean to Adam and Eve? As I saw it, it hadn’t entirely been their fault. After all, had there been no Serpent in the Garden, none of this would have happened. And if I was being taught at the same time to be merciful and turn the other cheek, then why was God not setting an example?

2. If God was the Creator, and everything was of Him, then how come the Serpent was there in the first place? How come, if he was omniscient (I only learned that word much later on), how did the Serpent get away with it?

3. If God was the Creator and Master of All, why was the Serpent there anyway? Had God made a mistake which had got away on him? Perhaps the KOG wasn’t entirely on top of his game.

4. And where did Science fit into all this? At school they were teaching me about Evolution, how the Cosmos had evolved over countless aeons; that humans were really descended from Apes, that chimpanzees were my distant relatives. And scientists, archaeologists, palaeontologists all seemed able to offer concrete proof that there was a version of the Creation quite at odds with
what was being told me in Sunday school.

Because I was the sort of child who wanted to believe, who was bitterly disappointed when I found out that Father Christmas did not exist, that wishes did not always come true, I didn’t question what was taught me in Sunday school.

But I was troubled. To my Child Mind someone was lying to me or at best, concealing the real story from me. Of course Trust was what I wanted to face. In the end I went with Science, the child of the Age of Enlightenment and Reason, and turned my back on what was happening.

I walked away.

But even though I had decided to reject what had been told me in Sunday School, there had to be some sort of truth behind it, something I could accept.

For now however, I had learned not to trust. I had learned the opposite of Faith.

So, instead of rejecting it out of hand, as some do, I began to Select. I began to choose what I would believe and what I would leave out of the story. I was Editing, a time-tested human tradition for dealing with the difficult parts of Christianity. After all, editing allows you to select which bits of the story will fit into your own theology. Very useful when you want a moral justification for killing another human being. Killing for God allows you to carefully mask off Commandment 6, forbidding murder. And so you begin to make God in your own image.

But the Creation would simply not go away.

I became an adult and tried to return to my Faith, the thing my mother and I had truly shared, which she had fed me through my umbilical cord.

I became an adult.

Time and Time again I would return to the only place I knew where such issues could be openly debated or debated openly (not the same thing), and time and time again, I would get a variant of Adam and Eve. I would return to church.

I also usually got the question of original sin as a sidebar.

When I began to ask, the question of the Adam and Eve story and its reality was always sidestepped for the message contained in it, namely original sin which, as it was taught me, meant the humans were inherently flawed, therefore weak, there doomed to fail. That, like Macbeth,
we were heroes with inbuilt flaws which would inevitably lead to our undoing. It was too much. By now I was having experiences which I was unable to explain metaphysical experiences of something that I couldn’t find in my science textbooks. I tried to share them and quickly learned that it wasn’t always wise to do so, that trouble could come from being too free with my feelings.

I was refining Select.

And it was presenting theological issues for me. The KOG was a model that no longer fitted. God had become something vaster, more unknowable, sometimes terrifying, because I had experienced something which I took to be his presence. I was beginning to understand the true meaning of awesome and sublime, something so enormous, it inspires terror and a fear of God.

And I wasn’t alone. It had happened to others. God had appeared to Paul on the way to Damascus. Julian of Norwich seemed to have first-hand experience of Him. And old memories were beginning to appear.

So God wasn’t a KOG after all. The kindly old Gent sitting on a throne surrounded by well-fed chubby children with tiny wings was just a fiction for children. And what was the Fall really about?

As any child will tell you, if you have the respect and wit to ask, there is nothing more painful than the Betrayal that comes from Finding Out. Finding out that farther Christmas does not exist, finding out that there is no manic rabbit distributing chocolate eggs to all the children of the world, and finding out that the Tooth Fairy does not value your first molars at all.

But something in it rang true. I began to dimly realise that I was not looking at a picture, at a Reality but at an Encoding. Rather than looking at the story face on, if I was to sidle up to it and glance out of the corner of my eye, then something eternal was lurking there.

I tried again. This time I was shown how it was a metaphor, that it was about the formation of the Nation of Israel. So why encode it anyway? That one didn’t wash. Then another ‘expert’ suggested that it was about the Battle between Good and Evil. That the Serpent was the Devil Incarnate, an Angel-Gone-Bad who attempts to distract us from our path to God. So why did He create humans in the first place? I got no answer to that one.

None of this really dealt with what was there.

I walked away yet again.

But it remained, a Rock in the Path of an easy and reason-friendly acceptance of the Christian Faith. For a while I was able to ignore it but eventually I had to Face it again.

Now perhaps I feel we may have become friends and that I can see it for what it is, that there is a way of seeing it which I can live with. And the path to that friendship has come through an introduction from an acquaintance, a distant relative called Io Matua Kore, the ancient Māori spiritual teachings. There are a number of congruencies here and intersections where rivers merge into a single current. And modern physics is helping here, reversing the current of the last few hundred years when reason and logic and scientific observation ruled. If I can see it, I can
prove it. Therefore it is true.

The story of the Creation and Fall, it seems to me, is an attempt to explain the nature of our own creation, of our own selves. If Jung, Freud et al are to be believed, then each of us is composed of two components, complementary and opposed. As most of us know we each have a female and male side. We are neither all one nor all the other. The Tao makes this clear. Io Matua Kore stresses the duality of our Self.

And this is no bad thing.

Almost all Creation stories begin with the universe at rest. The void. Eternal peace, rest, tranquillity. At some point there is a Movement, an Idea, perhaps a Thought. The Deep shudders and separates into two component parts. Io Matua Kore talks about Ranginui the Sky (Father)
and Papatuanuku, the Earth (Mother). A duality has formed. Now there is a gap between. A potential difference has been formed. Like a battery, a difference is needed for voltage to be present and therefore current to flow.

All life hinges on the necessity for duality, for polarity. With that polarity present, energy begins to flow. Life now has what it needs to be able to create.

On another level, Ranginui represents the rational mind, or thoughts, logic, reasoned beliefs and the masculine, which bases itself in reason. Papatuanuku, the Earth Mother is the province of Life, body, faith, intuition and the subconscious.

As are Adam and Eve.

When I began to see them as metaphors, as symbols pointing to a truth, an understanding as old as humanity, the rock began to diminish.

Let us look again.

Consider Adam not as an actual human being. Think of him as the logical left brain within each of us. This is the part of us able to logical things, to plan, organise and make qualified judgements. Adam lives in the conscious mind and comes to his conclusions in a sequenced logical way. Or would like to think he does. He is needed.

Eve on the other hand is the intuitive right brain, the province of the subconscious. She makes her decisions based on feelings, belief and the promptings of her subconscious. Because it feels right. Her feet are on the ground, her roots buried underground, out of sight in the subconscious.

Left to their own devices, they would have remained a single entity. And gone nowhere.

Fortunately the Creator really did know what he was doing. He created the Serpent. The Adversary, the one who came between and generated chaos was needed, for without chaos order cannot exist. Without Imbalance there can be no balance. The Serpent came between Adam and Eve, and created a potential difference, a duality which led to their being evicted from Paradise. As a result of the Serpent/Spark /Adversary, Adam and Eve became Self-conscious and hence aware of their difference. The Apple had become the seed of their ability to Create.

In casting them out from paradise the Creator had given them the ability to reproduce, had created the grounds for Life. He had given them the gift of an endless psychological nuclear reaction which is a fundamental part of the human psyche and providing the conditions for potential personal growth and learning the lessons for a life.

He had created the grounds and ground for them to be able to interact and generate energy. Being opposite poles they would be eternally attracted and attempting to join back together. Opposite poles attract.

So the energy lay in the journey, not in the destination. Each of us chooses a path to walk. Each of us creates the perfect conditions for our life’s lessons. And then experiences it. We cast ourselves out into the Outer Darkness so we can find our way home. So Separation becomes a precursor, almost a condition for our own journey. We need to experience it in order to be able to grow.

And as I realised that, so it came to me that a healer’s work is not about curing. It is about helping to create the conditions where the client can resolve that inbuilt need to bring both halves of the polarity closer together.

To reach towards a Personal Age of Enlightenment.

9 June 2010