Project Conversion

Project Conversion


Drawing a Line in the Sand. Who/What is Andrew Bowen?

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A few days ago I asked why so many have left our group, why so many have stopped reading the posts. Understand that this is not about keeping up the numbers. My existence is now in service of others. What use have I for statistics?

One of my fellow Congregation members provided this insight:

I want to know more about that guy. I want to know what you think the divine looks like, or how involved He/She/It is in your personal life. I want you to draw those lines. I think a lot of us came here because we wanted to see other beliefs more clearly. I’m not sure you’ve done your own beliefs justice.

Thank you, Julie, for your candid answer. Here is my reply…

Last year you followed a daily, journal-like odyssey of personal transformation via the crucible of unexpected–even unwanted–faith. I shared personal experiences, trials, blunders, discoveries, and the reactions of my gracious family. Then, at the culmination of my trek at the River Temple post, I submitted myself to the very Power and Presence I had declared war upon for so many years. Today, with the former model of Project Conversion over, I am struggling with that calling.

But for some of you, it isn’t enough. You want the show to go on. You want more of my struggles, my insights, my spiritual rapture, my cancerous doubts.

Some of you, now that I’ve submitted myself entirely to 12 distinct faiths/philosophies, want me to provide personal criticism and analysis of these traditions, quite frankly, so that you might chose one for yourself.

That is not my purpose, dharma, or destiny.

Those words sound familiar, don’t they? Purpose, dharma, and destiny. That is what I’ve written about all month. We’ve watched personalities from the faiths of the world struggle bitterly over these terms.

Congregation! Have I taught you nothing?

Hear me now. Why do you think I’ve taught on this subject? Did you not hear the pains of my own battle with these words? But I am a teacher now. I must show, not always tell.

But you want more, don’t you? You, as our sister Julie pointed out, want to know who this Andrew is that you’ve read about for so long.

Here I am.

Andrew, who/what is God? Give me mankind’s consensus on who/what God is and I still won’t give you an answer. I am not here to define That which Is, but to fall completely in tandem with It, for in our articulation we create the very idols the faiths of our world fight over.

Andrew, what are your personal beliefs? What is your religion? What are your rituals/routines? I am no longer myself. Superficially, I am the mirror above: a reflection and, sometimes, magnification of what is brought before me. Bring me a candle and I will show you a roaring hearth. To the Christian, I want to reflect Christ. To the Jew, one of the prophets or Torah. To the Hindu, I want to reflect Lord Krishna, Shiva, one of the myriad devas or even Brahman itself. To the Muslim, they see the character of Prophet Muhammad. To the Sikh, I am one of the Guru’s. To the Wiccan or Pagan, I am the God, the Goddess, the ancestor, or other deity. To the atheist or the skeptic, I am doubt, I am humanist. To one looking for the One, because they may have no other source, I am the One.

Those are my manifestations toward my fellow beings…but I can only do so by continuing the journey.

Once full of ego, I am now a more passionate, committed, and humble student and servant to the One and to humanity.

I am developing into what Is commanded I be. That which Is. No-thing, That which is seen in all, yet above it and beneath it. Creator. One who is Formless and yet takes form. I am nothing, that like my Master, I might be what I am needed–not what I want–to be. In losing myself, I merge with the supreme Self which animates all. I am ex nihlio.

Therefore my rituals, given to me by That which ordered my way at the River Temple, are not merely forms of worship, but daily exercises and sacrifices to make me one with my purpose, dharma, and destiny. I cannot share these methods. Not even my family knows them, because in my position of assumed credibility, one may want to follow. I am not here to begin a new religion or philosophy. I am here to end the war between, within, and without faith. I am not here to blur the lines between religions, but to help create a seamless humanity. I am both the master and the servant, for the wise know there is no distinction between the two.

So in this I may carry many names: Prophet, mad man, false prophet, anointed one, guru, incarnation, insane, faithful, misleading, saint, a man, a child, bodhisattva, devil, no one, everyone, etc.

Some of you will leave on account of this post. Go in peace. Some of you will remain. Welcome again. Others will define me as they need me to be defined. May you find your peace.

Jai Vita!



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abowen

posted February 16, 2012 at 12:07 pm


Your Name,

Who was that for?



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Your Name

posted February 15, 2012 at 7:49 am


When you quit talking about it and making a big deal of it you may start to get it.



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abowen

posted February 5, 2012 at 5:47 pm


B Irwin,

Thanks for contributing here. Your 6 reasons are very encompassing.

I wouldn’t really say that I teach in my own name, in fact, I’m not even sure I’m comfortable with the word “teach” at all. Perhaps I’m wrong, but it feels more like “sharing” simply because I use scripture and writings from so many faiths and philosophies to hone in on a certain universal topic. So in other words it’s like saying, “Oh, you’re having issues discovering your purpose? Let’s take a look at what Lord Krishna, or Baha’u’llah showed us and see if we can’t glean something there.” Sure, I offer a little in there just for some personal experience, but I try and let the “masters” do the teaching.

Now about your issue with the “mirror” metaphor. If you read the post, you’ll find that I always refer to someone or something else bringing the light. I give many names but am never specific because frankly, that’s not my place. I don’t want to pigeon hole the great Is. So no, it’s not me shining, it’s something shining upon me and my job is to keep the “mirror” clean for service.

As for my “secrets,” what I keep private is my process, because the rituals and processes of one person (which are gained through experience) aren’t always suitable for another. Rituals often become empty routines. On the other hand, as I mentioned, I didn’t come to my purpose in order to start a new belief system or philosophy. The rituals and processes handed to me (please take note of that) where given privately, not to be shared, because they exist to build me into the person I am supposed to serve as. Having not gone through what I’ve just done, most folks wouldn’t understand or would dismiss them (as many who left or have problems with my post clearly show).

This “secrecy” doesn’t place a wedge between myself and others anymore than one person’s private workout routine stands between an athlete and his fans. My ritual is my private workout, my life is the action of my life. Period. By the way, my wife has no problem with my private rituals…and she lives with me. What does that say about folks who do have a problem whom I’ve never met? Food for thought.

Congregation. It’s a simple word which means “gathering.” I stick with the word because it forces us to think outside the box. I’ve never claimed leadership, authority, primacy, or special status over this group. If anything, this post helps you see that my life’s work (and one of my rituals) is continuously submitting myself to the teachings and teachers of other faiths. In the end, although I hate to see folks leave, my purpose isn’t about pleasing the crowd, but fulfilling the dharma and mission I was given at the river. I am a servant to my Master and humanity, even if that means no one is watching, cheering, or following.



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B Irwin

posted February 5, 2012 at 4:38 am


I had to miss the last couple of months, but in playing catch up, it strikes me that people are bailing for a variety of reasons:
1] They came to see what you made of their religion and stayed to see if you’d chose it at the end.
2] They came to learn more about a particular religion they were curious about, then stayed to compare it to others.
3] They came to see a smackdown that never happened.
4] They came to see you reach A conclusion.
5] They wanted a happy ending and found the start of a long journey.
6] They came to hear more of God’s words and figure they’re now hearing Andrew’s.

For my part, it seems you’re at a very personal point in your personal journey that’s very private to you. Perhaps it’s that inherent conflict, when played out in public, that exacerbates the reader flight.

It appears many of your readers are fearful that you teach in Andrew’s name because you have no name to invoke other than the vague “River Temple” presence. Yet you have mastered one principle some of us find familiar – all the religions are one.

Unity of mankind is a wonderful thing. Another familiar principle.

Now shed some light on that mirror named Andrew. Without the Light, the mirror serves no purpose. It is not illumined from within. And secrecy acts as a veil between the mirror, the Light, and the rest of the world.

This veil of secrecy will drive a wedge between you and your family as surely as it drives a wedge between you and your companions.

You chose the word congregation for your readers some time ago and it remains a misnomer. Your readers are your companions on the path. Sometimes following, sometimes leading, sometimes sharing the path, and other times running off on their own journeys.

Until you stand fully in the light, I suspect you will continue to lose your companions. What teacher keeps secrets from their life partner? If you can’t divulge something this big to your wife, is that not a danger sign?

I pray your continued search will, in the words of the Baha’i prayer, transform a gnat into an eagle. [I'm thinking of your river wildlife and your struggle with Jain practices.]



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abowen

posted February 5, 2012 at 12:58 am


Umm,

I have no problem with your impression and opinion, it is, after all, yours. You are right that I did not mean to come across as patronizing, however I’d like to at least offer a defense.

First let’s remember that the post in question was never intended to see the light of day. My conclusions were personal, however folks insisted upon the public nature of my exploration and its results. I warned everyone, but, there you go. As for the “I know it now…” observation. Please remember that this wasn’t a purely informational blog, this was a blog about my personal development as the various faiths transformed me. In this way, yeah, I kinda am an authority on what happened simply because I am the only one it happened too. It would be like me calling you patronizing because of an account you share regarding transformative event in your life. Now, I would be patronizing if I were telling others how to think, feel, believe, and behave. But I have done none of these things.

I am now a student and servant in much more a profound way than before simply because I know who I am, I know my purpose, and I know how to get there: serving at the feet and hearts of others. That is why I must remain vigilant in studying the faiths and the world of religion more deeply, that I might be a more beneficial spiritual brother and friend to anyone I come across.

Blessings to you.



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abowen

posted February 5, 2012 at 12:48 am


Sam,

Oh, the learning has not stopped, nor did I mean to imply as much. If anything, the learning intensifies and carries a greater sense of purpose and urgency given my calling. Always the student, always the servant. Thank you for being there.



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Umm Yasmin

posted February 5, 2012 at 12:30 am


As someone who has unsubscribed from the regular RSS feed but has a mind to occasionally pop back and take a glance, can I offer my honest perspective.

I feel by the end of last year, the posts were becoming … hmm… how shall I put it… patronising. I don’t want to sound harsh, but I’ll be honest, I was fascinated to read about your humbleness and openness to learning about the various traditions of the world, but now it feels like you’re posting from a position of “I know it now, I’ve achieved enlightenment, now I can give that to everyone else” and it comes across as preachy and patronising.

I know that is harsh and you will probably say it’s not your intention and it may not be at all the way you are “in real life” but honestly, it’s what’s turned me off being a regular reader.

But I do wish you the best in your spiritual journey.
Umm Yasmin



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Sam Karvonen

posted February 1, 2012 at 9:28 pm


Dear Andrew,

Thank you for your explanation. I have never had doubts about your purity of purpose. I’ve been, and still am, one of the staunchest supporters of your noble aim to heal divisions between religions.

Perhaps I just felt that after scanning through 12 religions, and your powerful experience at the river temple, you’ve too hastily backpedaled the learning mode. Myself as one demonstrably prone to preachiness ;) I just figured it’s something to watch out. That’s all. I know you have the best of intentions, and still admire your project immensely.

Kindly,

Sam



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Nydia

posted February 1, 2012 at 2:21 am


I keep catching up with my friends (old and new)’s lives via FB and end up neglecting their awesome blogs. So only after readin your post this evening, I came here to read what the heck was going on.

Your spiritual path is yours, no one has anything to do with it, and you share as much as you want to, and that’s perfectly okay. I always say that someone’s path is something absolutely private and obviouxly personal, so I don;t understand people getting pissed at you on this subject, but at the same time, I DO understand why, because people love demanding and wanting to know more and more.

Oh well. What I know is that I’m happy to know that you’re finding yourself on this somehow. Being someone who followed the past months (wish I had found out your page long before!), I know you’re not this big ego and whatever-wannabe. we’re all hypothesis after we die, as my favorite childhood character used to say, so everything is possible and must be respected. Just keep the pace and live on, mt friend. :o)



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Susan Ulrich

posted January 31, 2012 at 9:03 pm


I know you too well to ever imagine that you are 1. egotistical or 2. a “cult-leader wannabe.” I’m sure that this is a simple misunderstanding. Todd, I don’t you, but I admire the way you speak your mind. I’d ask that you get to know Andrew a little better, however,before you commit to this line of thought. Peace out. Susan



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abowen

posted January 31, 2012 at 8:32 pm


Todd,

With all due respect, if that’s your come-away from this post then you have 1) completely misread this post, and 2) have a misunderstanding of what a cult leader is. If you will, let’s reason together.

The first point. Ego implies that I’m on this path for some self gratification or fame. On the contrary. I’m extremely uncomfortable with this calling and as I said, had I know this was the result of the journey I would have never began in the first place. Also, take a moment and consider the mirror metaphor. How is it egotistical to surrender my own bias and ego in order to reflect the light in others? The great irony behind this journey is that I started out hating religion and wanting it reduced to ashes. That’s a ego trip. Now at the end, the Universe has decided to place a thorn in my side and demand that I submit myself to the very faiths I hated in order to better serve those in various faith communities. Trust me, I’d rather not, but it is my dharma.

Second we have the cult thing. Technically speaking, all religious founders were cult leaders by definition. I made a post about this in June. Time and popularity usually decide what is conventional. Another aspect of a cult leader is that they usually announce that they’ve found or are privy to some special revelation that only they possess and that everyone needs to follow it (or more specifically, the individual). I’ve done no such thing. In fact, I avoided this post like the plague because what I discovered was a personal path for myself–a personal discipline if you will–that helps me be of better service to others. As you read in the post, I’m not out to start a new faith or philosophy and have purposefully withheld details of my practice precisely because I do not want to be followed or emulated. I don’t want anyone to change their religion. I only desire that they use their faiths for the betterment of mankind.

I humbly ask that you re-read the post with this in mind and reconsider your conclusion. My own family doesn’t even know the details of my practice and I’ve written nothing down. If that still sounds like a “cult leader wannabe” to you, then I suggest we ask conventional wisdom to amend its notions of cults and their leaders so that I might more properly fit that description. Peace, my friend, and thanks for reading.



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Todd Hebert

posted January 31, 2012 at 7:59 pm


I’m sorry, but when I read this post I see ego. Big ego. And borderline cult leader wannabe. Just my opinion.



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abowen

posted January 31, 2012 at 10:19 am


Betsy,

Emptying the vessel is a time-honored and proven technique. Thank you for reminding me



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abowen

posted January 31, 2012 at 10:18 am


Susan,

Good catch there, Susan



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abowen

posted January 31, 2012 at 10:17 am


Art,

My pleasure.



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abowen

posted January 31, 2012 at 10:17 am


B,

I sure believe we can.



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abowen

posted January 31, 2012 at 10:17 am


Art,

We all have the same calling, indeed, if we but listen.



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abowen

posted January 31, 2012 at 10:16 am


Richard,

I appreciate you reading.



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abowen

posted January 31, 2012 at 10:16 am


Chris,

Thanks for coming along.



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abowen

posted January 31, 2012 at 10:16 am


Cassandra,

Exactly!



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abowen

posted January 31, 2012 at 10:15 am


Sam,

Yes, I wrote that. Be careful when you read, Sam, that you do not associate meaning where there is none. You asked what happened to humility. I ask you, what is a mirror. It does not offer an image of itself, but that which is given to it. Is the mirror the image it reflects? No. How can you conclude that I equate myself with one of those you listed when I preface the entire statement by declaring that I am no longer myself, but only a mirror?

I only reflect what the viewer needs. I try not to place my waning ego into the situation.



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Sam Karvonen

posted January 31, 2012 at 4:06 am


Andrew, you wrote:

“I am no longer myself. Superficially, I am the mirror above: a reflection and, sometimes, magnification of what is brought before me. Bring me a candle and I will show you a roaring hearth. To the Christian, I reflect Christ. To the Jew, one of the prophets or Torah. To the Hindu, I reflect Lord Krishna, Shiva, one of the myriad devas or even Brahman itself. To the Muslim, they see the character of Prophet Muhammad. To the Sikh, I am one of the Guru’s. To the Wiccan or Pagan, I am the God, the Goddess, the ancestor, or other deity. To the atheist or the skeptic, I am doubt, I am humanist. To one looking for the One, because they may have no other source, I am the One.

My Dear Andrew,

I mean this question in the most cordial of ways. But what happened to humility? Are you claiming equivalence to Christ, Muhammad and God Himself? Because it sure sounds like it. I just want to be clear on this.

Kindly,

Sam



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Helen/Hawk

posted January 31, 2012 at 2:23 am


Take care of yourself, Andrew. Thank you for letting us peer over your shoulder last year. It was interesting to learn w/you about different religious expressions.

Namaste.

We part here. Power to you on your ongoing explorations. (why leave? I’m not comfortable w/the change of tone/voice that’s happened as you’ve ended your year & started this new path. Student/fellow traveler? Well met. But not my teacher)



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Cassandra

posted January 30, 2012 at 11:55 pm


My daughter had a situation today that made me think of you. She works with ny cousin driving. My cousin saw a coexist bumper sticker and asked my daughter what it meant. My daughter told her it was about all faiths respecting each other. My cousin thought it meant that all faiths were supposed to merge. She, like most people who take offence at those bumper stickers, think they are being asked to give up who they are!



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Chris H

posted January 30, 2012 at 11:51 pm


that was beautiful. end of story. I’m certainly not going anywhere, and I support you.



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Richard Grove

posted January 30, 2012 at 11:33 pm


I believe that, if we let It, the Divine will prompt each of us onto the path that will best bring us closer to (or in harmony with) Itself. It seems the divine has directed you to your current path. Your journey is beautiful. This is your best post yet.



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Art Sherwood

posted January 30, 2012 at 6:33 pm


Changing the world and ending the war is not nearly as tall an order as you might think. The war is not the big world-wide conflict between nations, cultures and religions. Rather it is the struggle that occurs within each and every one of us. It is the fight between love and hate, pride and humility, greed and charity, service and selfishness. If we can change the heart of just one person, getting them to let go of their prejudices and look at others as family instead of foes; and even if that one person we are able to change is ourselves, we have changed the world, we have ended the war in that heart.
Your calling, Andrew, is not unique. You are not the first charged with this task nor will you be the last. In fact, I think just about anyone who will take the time to pause and reflect and seek to know the will of the Divine will find themselves burdened with this same mission.



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Editor B

posted January 30, 2012 at 4:05 pm


I’m glad to see you are not trying to found a new religion. But to “end the war” between religions is a plenty tall order. I can see why you list “mad man” and “insane” amongst possible epithets. It’s good to have lofty goals though. Perhaps together we can change the world.



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Art Sherwood

posted January 30, 2012 at 3:41 pm


Thank you Andrew for this beautiful insight into yourself. That is the thing that keeps me here. Yes, I enjoy learning about the various faiths and different cultures but mostly I am fascinated to see how God interacts personally and individually with each of us. By learning more about other people’s experiences with the divine, I begin to get a clearer picture of who God is and what my relationship to Him is. Thank you, once again.



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Mary

posted January 30, 2012 at 3:20 pm


Beautifully put.



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susan

posted January 30, 2012 at 2:20 pm


I think we appreciate your honesty and the changes your journey has made in you and in ourselves. You’ve done what we’ve just been able to wonder about. I think you’ve managed to find the common thread in all the different religious beliefs and bring it back into mankind. Interesting too, your capitalization within this post that may say much about where your head’s at now.



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Betsy

posted January 30, 2012 at 2:04 pm


This is a bit more like the Andrew we came to know.
You have been through the spiritual meat grinder as it were and came out more gr actions and apparently more loving. It is a terrible responsibilit to let go of old ways of thinking and see the goodness and holiness and yes ONEness that is present in all things. your very vision changed. I had not seen that Andrew in a while, perhaps this year – as you write your book- you could be the empty vessel in another way even as you were last year. The empty vessel that sees and hears the holy stories of others. Few are brave enough to go through this in the way that you have. Many come to thelace you have come after many years of ego and struggle.
There was a wonderful little movie called ONE:5)3 Movie that came out several years ago. I looked for my copy and could not find it. I must have given it away. Wish I could send it to you. A second film, The Dharma brothers told me a similar story about the absolute goodness contained at some place within us all. I think it can be seen online.
At any rate keep up the journey…it will enrich your daughters’ lives even as it has taught you. Proud of you Andrew.



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