22 February, 2013

Whatever "It" Is

I've spoken in the past about how what the Thomasine tradition teaches is not exclusive to it. The kind of insight and experience one gains through Thomasine practice can be found elsewhere. When I give talks to audiences people sometimes tell me that I sound like a Buddhist or a Sufi or some sort of mainstream Christian mystic.

I think there's a good reason for that. Independent of whether or not there is or is not one God, many gods, many faces of one God, or whether or not God is three persons in one or whether or not Jesus had two natures or was merely completely human, there is a single stream from which all contemplative and mystical traditions draw.

I can't tell you precisely what "It" is, because I don't rightly understand that myself. Wisdom, Understanding, Insight, Englightenment, experience of the Abyss: these are all words that have been used to describe the experience. When you dispense with the theological and religious speculation, and instead experience Now, "It" becomes profound and omnipresent. "It" isn't the exclusive province of one religion or another; "It" is like a wild yeast fermenting dough left out overnight. 

Religious bodies, at least the mono-theist Judeo-Christian sort, like to make claims of exclusivity. Truth is exclusive only to our way of doing things. If you don't do things our way you'll find yourself bereft of Truth. No. Doesn't work that way. Rumi understood what "It" was. John of the Cross and Theresa of Avila understood what "It" was. Buddha understood what "It" was, so did Dogen, and so did the monks who contributed to the Philokalia, All of these people expressed their understanding of "It" in the only ways they could; they used the language and understanding of their particular time and place. That's all any of us can do.

I am quite serious when I say that I don't have much patience for religious and theological speculation. Whether or not God has a shin, whether or not a historical Jesus existed or said and did half the things written in the New Testament, whether or not God likes condoms, all of those things are merely dross to be expunged in the crucible of the contemplative mind. Those things are simply distractions from "It." 

In the Thomasine tradition, we try not to deliberately put things in the way of "It" and prefer to get down to business in short order. I understand that for traditonally theistic and religious people hearing a bishop call unimportant most of the concerns of religion might be jarring, but there you have it. As I have said to many religious groups in the past, a Thomasine bishop is not a shepherd and has no sheep. A Thomasine bishop is a harbinger of disquiet, not a comforter. 

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