We are not human beings having a spiritual experience;
we are spiritual beings having a human experience.
~ Pierre Tielhard de Chardin
Sometimes I wonder if all of the religious differences in the world are not summed up in this quote. Certainly most of the schisms in Western religion are. And perhaps the reason I don’t include Eastern religions is that they already seem to believe this. In the West, however, many (if not most) religions believe the first part of the quote, not the 2nd.
Most Christians & Muslims believe that life as we know it stops at death, to be continued — if you merit — in an afterlife, complete with Divine & attendants. Angels, houris, etc. That human beings are deeply flawed beings in need of this spiritual experience to redeem them from evil.
Transcendental religions, on the other hand, believe that the human is a spiritual being within a human life. A far different proposition. The ‘human being’ position recognises only externally applied redemption: salvation must come from an external source (Jesus, Mohammed, etc.). Believers in transcendence would argue that human beings are always spiritual beings, as is all of life. All we have to do is recognise it.
It’s one reason I’m a universalist: no one goes to hell, much as I may wish it on folks who argue for partisan politics over relief for Hurricane Sandy victims. (I know: I shouldn’t even think that, but sometimes I do! ) Hell is what we create here, now, from our own flawed perceptions and desires. The kleshas, as Buddhists call them: those overwhelmingly negative emotions that derive from strong attachments.
Today is Election Day. And that’s freed me of a heavy klesha burden: I needn’t write any more about what’s happening elsewhere. I can concentrate on the amazing life available to us. Here in Oklahoma, the late roses are blooming outside the back door, and the sky is that impossible autumn blue that makes you glad to be alive.
Today, I am well aware that I am a human being. Breakfast was amazing — waffles! – and coffee gratefully appreciated. Creature delights I excel at. But the spiritual? Sometimes, anger (usually for others, in my defense…) overwhelms and I forget that the web connects us all. That each of us is within the messy, sticky spiritual web of interbeing, as many Buddhists call it. It’s always seemed to me so scientific, the Buddhist concept of interconnectedness. If we don’t know when atoms jump around, then who knows where you leave off & I begin? And if no energy is ever lost, only transformed — all the water in the world has always been here… — then each of us is part of everything. And everything is part of us…
I find that comforting. Especially on Election Day…