9 min read
Who Dares Speak Of The Divine Within?

by William Thomas

There must be a reason why most of humanity belongs to an organised faith. Does religion “spring from a deeply ingrained urge to worship?” asks Nicholas Wade in The Faith Instinct. If predilection for the sacred was not “a highly evolved” human trait, natural selection would have long discarded such superfluous expenditures of energy and attention as “negotiating with the supernatural.”

     Instead and indeed, Wade concludes, “the mind has been prepared by evolution to believe in gods.”

     Whether or not such deities exist.

     If I present the words, “Jesus Christ” and you start to click away, is it because this particular name triggers an aversion to the proselytizing you fear will follow? Or are you embarassed for both of us?

     In your own defense, you could point out that on the very first Easter, rebellion-wary Roman authorities were keeping close watch on all self-proclaimed messiahs. Less covertly, historians like Philo Judaeus (who knew Jerusalem well), and Justus of Tiberius (who later wrote extensively of that place and period) also recorded every significant personage and event. All Judea would have been abuzz with news of a scandalous charismatic performing miracles before murmuring crowds, while preaching love and sedition in the company of a fallen woman — whose dusty feet he washed in public!

     Anyone might have thought that in all this scribbling and chatter, the tribunal, torture and crucifixion of this blaspheming terrorist would have merited mention. Especially after his brutal execution caused terrifying tremblors to empty graves of their dead! 

     Decomposing zombies shambling out of nighttime darkness at midday should have commanded all-caps headlines in the Galilee Gazette. How about those anecdotal reports of the deceased returning to life after three days of entombment, startling his mom and mates (“unlearned and ignorant men”), before mounting a glowing cloud and ascending into the sky?

     Yet, not a word. No birth certificate and no records of that trial, as required by Roman law. Somehow, the Greatest Story Belatedly Told some seven decades later — and extensively revised over subsequent centuries by churchmen with serious control issues — was never told at the time of its occurrence. In a land agog with spies and gossips, the life, teachings, death and resurrection of God’s “only-begotten Son” rated zero mention.

     You could only conclude that — like Adonis, Attis, Isis Osiris, Dionysus, Orpheus, Mithra, Tammuz, Heracles, Hermes, Aleyin, Jason, Yawheh and other desert deities sharing the same mythic template — this composite Savior also never “really” existed. Which is fine as far as that goes. Back then, every practicing pagan knew that stories relating sacred archetypes carry much deeper meaning than their literal recounting. But if these are your claims, you would only be factually accurate.

     And wildly misinformed.

     Conflating religion with spirituality is a common error. Calling myths “just fairy tales” is another. Except among the legions of stubbornly devout, humanity’s longest-running story is now scorned by everyone too smart to understand that its “make believe” is the whole point.

     Fortunately, today’s secularized societies are advanced enough to substitute more compelling rituals and superstitions. I point, loudly and of course, to rote recitals of the Covid Gospels, faith-based obedience to obligatory facial masking and social isolation, strange sacramental injections blessed by high priests of the Great Reset cult, mass hysteria, vicious persecution of unbelievers, death and disability on a demonic scale, female sterilization, and widespread child sacrifice to the God of Vaxx.

     Jesus Christ indeed!

     Swapping religious intolerance for totalitarian psychosis is not helpful. Clearly, we need stories that do not evade personal responsibility, denigrate life, disconnect us from each other and the places we inhabit, or promote despair. You know. Like the Pfizer-sponsored nightly “news”.

     I’m referring instead to life-affirming stories that, instead of peddling more guilt and fear, help us deal with the unsettling predicament of living under a death sentence of unspecified duration.

     The Big Question is: What the heck is going on? If you think you know, you don’t. Like rolling a metaphorical stone away from an allegorical portal, the Resurrection Story offers time-tested insights. If you are prepared to “die” to this world’s most urgent distractions. And in so doing, resurrect your essential nature.

     Named after the Pagan Goddess, Eostre, Easter is much more than macabre celebration of torture porn and a magic trick. Important enough to be recycled through more than a dozen iterations, this Super Myth’s long-suppressed key message for humankind was voiced by Tertullian: “Wake up sleeper. Rise from the dead. Let the Christ enlighten you."

     The huge news is that we are responsile for our own spiritual resurrection. The good news is that religious dogma and its gatekeepers are not needed to access the infinite. Just the opposite. Imposing dogmatic blinders on those seeking satori, serenity or salvation can obstruct deeper understanding of such confounding conundrums as, “Why am I?” — expressed in myriad allegorical depictions of persons, entities and events.

     Similarly, metaphors are figures of speech that point by analogy toward concepts that cannot be named. Neither mental tool is intended as literal truth. Paul reminds us that “Jesus Christ” never physically existed. And Bashō warned in a memorable haiku how problems arise when we mistake our pointing finger for the moon.

     When was the last time you wrote or uttered the word,“sacred”? (Try it now.) For Mircea Eliade, upper-case Sacred is an eternal, transcendent verity that cannot be named, yet subsumes and gives meaning to our everyday world. In The Myth of the Eternal Return, this 19th century Romanian wise guy argued that only through ritual practice and understanding sacred symbols can societies return to recognizing the divine that infuses and informs all Creation.

     In the meantime, it would be helpful to pay more attention to what's going on around you, Robert Anton Wilson suggested. Regarding paths not taken, we forsake Eliade’s “Eternal Return” to the infinity within at our direst peril.

Eschewing elaborate theories for direct observation, the awakened Buddha realized two intertwined truths:
1. Suffering is caused by our attachments. 
2. Nothing lasts.

     Faced with the resulting “terror of history”, Eliade copped out by insisting our only hope is to seek the “guaranteed support” of a frustratingly ephemeral “God”. In such weighty matters as religious indoctrination, who decides which beliefs are acceptable? Whose holy book shall we follow? And why are we so seldom advised to take instruction from our own hearts?

     Searching for “A Deeper Understanding of Myth,” Nataliya Petlevych helpfully explains how the sacred’s manifold manifestations give purpose to our profoundly mysterious existence. From indigenous Creation Myths to Islamic Surahs, Shinto matsuri and the balladic Vedas, Sacred Myths help us rediscover and reclaim the divinity daily made explicit in the living world around and within us. A simple test of mythical applicability: Do the stories we allow to steer our lives, preclude or include intimations of transcendence?

     Adrift in a godless culture preoccupied with fake “optics” and the next corporate-managed “sensation”, we must keep digging for truths. At least in my garden, there is no other way to reach the potatoes.

     Understanding the story of Eternal Renewal might be as handy as a trowel right about now. Perhaps it’s time to exchange glib soundbites and faddish virtue signaling for more critical introspection. Before we crash our space colony. Or blow ourselves and all the finned, furred, feathered and four-leggeds who never signed up for this to kingdom come.

     The best myths teach us “how to live in this world,” Joseph Campbell remarked to Bill Moyers during their legendary PBS interviews. These extra-special stories “have to do with the themes that have supported  life, built civilizations,” the author of The Power of Myth went on. “What’s the meaning of the universe? What’s the meaning of a flea? It’s just there, that’s it… The experience of life, the rapture of being alive — what it’s all finally about.”

     Unhappily, so many of us are so busy shouting at each other over televised talking points, we’ve lost the plot. And forgotten who we are.
     Anyone who presumes to tell you “what God wants” is running a con. Some 700 years Before Covid, Lao Tzu pointed out in the first line of the Tao Te Ching that any reference to the ineffable is necessarily false, because…

The tao that can be told
is not the eternal Tao
The name that can be named
is not the eternal Name.

(Tao means “Way”)

     "What people want,” Campbell concluded, “what the soul asks for, is a way of experiencing the world in which we are living that will open to us the transcendence that informs it, and at the same time informs ourselves within it.”

     Eternity, this former minister went on to suggest, “isn’t some later time. Eternity isn’t a long time. Eternity has nothing to do with time.”

     Eternity is forever here and now.

     Read that again.

     Down through the ages, sacred texts and backyard rumors agree that the point of our Earthly exercise is to WAKE UP!
We can do this by remembering who we are. One big clue has been evident since our beginnings: “hu-man” = “spirit person”

     There you go.

     And here you are.

     Life, Joe Campbell suggested, is the poem of our dance in its ravishment. Separated from whatever comes next by the thinnest of veils, our ever-looming mortality calls for amazement, celebration and gratitude for the mysterious gift of our improbable existence.

     Few have ventured as deeply into the power of myths, whose telling and retelling can provide the keys to true freedom. Unless, of course, we tie ourselves into knots with the falsehoods we consume instead. “I will participate in the game,” vowed this multiple Emmy award winner shortly before his passing. “It’s a wonderful, wonderful opera, except that it hurts.”

     By then, Campbell’s interviewer was totally into their conversation. “Mythology liberated my faith from the cultural prisons to which it had been sentenced,” Moyers interjected.

     “Every religion,” Campbell came right back, “when it gets stuck to the metaphor — Jesus ascended to heaven — then you’re in trouble.”

     But don’t ditch your bible just yet.

     “You don’t have to throw it away,” explained a man honored for his lifetime achievement. “All you have to find is what it’s saying.”

     We can avoid senseless disputes if we watch our own language. Instead of declaring that the flowers in the fields and birds in the sky are “blessed by God” — and then having wars over whose anthropomorphized projection is the real deal — why not say that the birds and the blossoms are “blessed by Creation.”

     Because it seems self-evident that everything is animated by the life force permeating the universe, all are included in this creative unfolding. Which even for the most ardent Woke mob must represent the ultimate inclusivity.         

 Throughout the ages, anyone seeking a working visa for whatever might await beyond this dimension was advised to first reclaim the core understanding that All Is One.

     What if we’re all here to assist in Creation’s unfolding awareness?

     What if every sentient creature is a sacred manifestation of this emerging consciousness?

     What if everyone’s running around looking for the Magic Kingdom, while ignoring their own Christ Consciousness, Buddha nature and animating Qi?

     This forgetting is the central problem of our age.

     When confronted with references to the sacred many find more shocking than the degeneracy around them, how will we respond? If we choose to turn away from our true nature, what price are we willing to pay for “liberation” that locks us tighter into the prison of the profane?

     Consider the fate of post-contact civilizations…

     “You’ve seen what’s happened to primitive societies that are unsettled by white men’s civilization,” Moyers suggested to his mentor. “They go to pieces, they disintegrate, they succumb to vice and disease. And isn’t that the same thing that’s been happening to us since our myths began to disappear?”

     “Absolutely it is,” Campbell replied. “All you have to do is read the newspaper. I mean, it’s a mess.”

     But in this age of supervisory machines, hypersonic missiles, bioengineered pathogens, collapsing supply dominoes and worsening weather weirding, biblical bromides intended for desert tribes don’t always cut it.

     “Old-time religion belongs to another age, another people, another set of human values, another universe a few hundred miles around,” JC remarked back in 1988. “Life models” provided by overarching myths “have to be appropriate to the possibilities of the time in which you’re living. And our time has changed, and it’s changed and changed. And it continues to change so fast, that what was proper 50 years ago is not proper today.”

     Problem is, Judaism, Christianity and Islam keep trying to squish contemporary chaos into old boxes. “And because the three of them have three different names for the same biblical God, they can’t get on together,” Joe Campbell discerned. “They’re stuck with their metaphor, and don’t realize it’s reference.”

     And yet…

     While the profound presence of Creation can be apprehended on any starry night, few look up. Fewer still speak with the trees that respond to our appreciation and ask for our protection. Or with the birds, insects and animals that teach us how to fully inhabit each moment.

     Is this why some folks prefer to believe in a 6-foot “Pooky”, that big white rabbit from County Kerry?

     We live according to the stories we tell ourselves, which most often conform to the stories told to us. Just as the linked mythos of war and greed end in mass extinction, too many scary stories lead to mass psychosis.
We need more useful allegorical antidotes than an androgynous Spiderman. Even if everything is changing too fast to form a coherent mythology — as Campbell believed — we must nevertheless strive to find more fitting personal and cultural means to resurrect spiritually impoverished lives. Only then can we escape the dystopian Metaverse being arranged for us to mask the spreading ruins.

     Which stories will we choose to mythologize? “Do we want accusation, suspicion, discord, derision and hatred?” demands Jordan Peterson. “Or the peace and prosperity and happiness that beckons to us at this moment, like never before?”

     Why not seek out, create and champion life-affirming stories that elicit the sacred-made-manifest, not in some promised paradise but our very next breath?

     “How to live a human lifetime under any circumstances,” Jospeh Campbell mused. “Myth can tell you that.”

     You don’t need a compass if you keep heading for the light.

Photo Caption:

Heart of the Lotus -Will Thomas photo

About the Writer:

This recovering Catholic first experienced transcendence as an altar boy serving Latin High Mass in Grand Rapids. At Chattanooga’s McCallie Military Academy, I studied close-order drill and the bible under 666-fearing Baptists, before going on to study theology, philosophy and journalism under the Jesuits at Marquette University a half-century ago.       

     One day, this budding news photographer was tipped that classmates were going to challenge Milwaukee’s warmongering archbishop. Sure enough, during that prelate's horrific sermon, a co-ed wearing her Sunday best stood up in my pew to respectfully ask why he was blessing bombers. A boy in a blazer rose to inquire how a man of God could countenance napalming Vietnamese villages. As parishoners gaped, another half-dozen students stood to voice similar concerns. Looking toward the back of the cathedral, the bishop nodded.       

     If you can think of more searing desecration than a stampeding tactical squad clubbing and chasing Christ's radiant witnesses inside a house of God, be sure not to let me know. When a lumbering oinker grabbed that young woman by the rosary around her neck and began dragging her choking and screaming up the aisle, I pulled out my Pentax and followed.     I intercepted them at the foot of the altar, where I instinctively knelt to frame a mythic tableux of martyrdrom beneath a towering cross of the crucified Jesus. Before the shutter clicked on that front page photo, I'd left the Church forever.       

     A decade later, every time Thea and I rowed ashore from our anchored trimaran, South Sea islanders invariably asked my religion.    

     I always replied: “Mother Ocean."