A friend and I had a discussion the other day about the great influence of Paul in the Christian religion.. He mentioned that Paul influenced Christianity in some ways more than Jesus did. According to the Bible, Paul was to be Jesus’s voice as Jesus himself wrote nothing. As a practicing Jew, Jesus knew the prophesies that the old testament contained. I added that Paul’s influence has extended to all of western society.
It seems to me that the truth can not be transferred to another through words and concepts.Words and concepts are metaphoric in that they can only point to the truth
If one is not capable of the insight of the original speaker and what he was intending to convey they might in their rewriting of it turn it into their own creation influenced by their own limited perception, out of an ignorance of the intended metaphor. Often that creation as it was with Paul was more literal, an example being that Jesus is literally the saviour and you must believe in him and free of sin to be saved. I can’t help believe that if there was an actual person of the Jesus that is being referred to he would have understood the nature of language and probably did not intend such a literal meaning.
These same dynamics seem to occur in all the religions especially as they become institutionalized. We look for something more secure and literal in life. Look what we do to economics. It becomes something religious in the same sense, but we claim that it follows scientific laws and principles that are absolute.
People have great difficulty sorting out the concept from the truth. I see this occurring in Buddhist thinkers as well and I am having a similar encounter with a Shambala group that I have been involved in. Our direct experience of life, if we can come to experience it beyond the literal and if we can differentiate the word from the symbol and metaphor is the best teacher of life and the thing that will awaken us to a more full life. In my own experience it is as Buddhists teachings suggest that when you are awake,to life, throw away the teaching and that the word, concept, belief is not the truth. In Zen there is a saying “the finger-pointing towards the moon” which suggests that our concepts can point towards something but that they are not that thing that they are pointing to.
In embracing a faith grounded in doubt of what we have been taught and have learned to be true we can come to have a more direct examination and experience of what is true that really can not be communicated or transferred through teaching. Through teaching we can teach relative truths and help to create an environment that is conducive to waking up but that is the limit of our teaching.
I think that it is partly what Chogyam Trungpa referred to as spiritual materialism. That is that to believe that we can be in possession of knowledge, beliefs and/or concepts that are true in an absolute sense and that they can be obtained and possessed.and passed on to others is an illusion. In an awake state of consciousness we eventually come to the realization that language is a tool but that it is metaphoric and descriptive and that it is best at illustrating relative truths. It is something like that. I am not fixed in what I know and am open to others input. And I find that I learn best through an authentic, direct open sharing and exploring that uses words and concepts as tools to express but that are limited in their ability to capture the essence and whole of what they are intending to describe.
It seems to have been a lifelong preoccupation of mine to search for ways to be free from sufferring. When one is amidst suffering, all the wisdom that I have come by, does not seem to be helpful in removing it. Ultimately in futility I turn to my humanness as a way of more fully being with it. It seems that it is something that I am not served by separating, numbing, rationalizing, intelectualizing or attaching to it; all ways of the self. It is more a matter for me of returning to that humanness that lay before the “self”. That conditioned “self” that has in the past played such a significant role in negotiating life I now see as more of an interference than a help in this.
My wife in her sensible way will not stand in the rain as I love to do nor will she wander from the path when we are hiking on trails as I am inclined to. These days many people are wary of going beyond the boundaries of the known and cultivated. Granted there isn’t much in our world today that is uncultivated and as well we are constantly prompted to adhere to what others have discovered as truth and to those who have made the way safe for us.
I am grateful for the easy access that I have to Canada,s fringe areas and that i can explore these edges. For me there is something to be learned in leaving the confines of the known. What we think we know and what we think is safe and secure is questionable. There is inevitably something sacrificed in our obsession with feeling safe and secure. Our lives are often reduced to that. Many insightful writers have realized this including Stephen Batchelor who’s book “The Faith to Doubt” encourages a questioning of what we have been taught to be true and pursuit of a knowing that is more experiential.
It is not that I have discovered security in this way, in fact I have become aware that I live my life with a constant sense of vulnerability. I have made many mistakes in living this way although i don’t regret being inclined so because there is a sense of being fully alive and being in authentic relationship with the mystery and impermanence that is the truth of life. In learning to live more fully I have come to know myself and to become aware of my self fixation and how it has involved hurting innocent individuals, all this occurring in ignorance,and naivety and without compassion.
Some may feel that there is a tempting of fate in living this way, beyond the safety net and the known and the secure, that is of greater risk than benefit; that we should refrain from making waves and avoid fearful experiences..I have a sense that I have opened and learned from this way and through coming to take responsibility for mistakes and the resolution of them. It has led to an expansion of consciousness, a openness to exploring deeper truth and a more creative way of relating to life. It has become a way of life that continues to bring rewards, not in a material sense but in helping me in coming to a greater sense of knowing myself and my connection in the bigger world of things.