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An essay donated by Susan Humphreys

Seeking the truth, I found many truths.

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Thru the Wood:

"I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I?
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference."

The Road Not Taken, by Robert Frost"

Seeking the truth, I found many truths:

When I was 20, I read "Siddhartha" by Herman Hesse and I realized that Christianity did not have the corner on truth. So I set out to discover truth and found instead many truths.

One of the first things I discovered was that Christians not only didn?t have all the answers, they weren?t even asking the right questions. In fact, many weren?t asking any questions and were actively discouraging others from asking any questions. "Just believe" was the mantra.

Another discovery I made is that humans have inquiring minds and inquiring minds want to know. To deny the inquisitive, questioning side of our nature is to be half human. It keeps us from reaching our full potential. If you are one who believes that God created us, than why on earth would he have given us such a magnificent complex brain, and the freedom to use it, if he didn?t want us to use it?

I also discovered that The Bible is a great book, but it is not the only great book. It is full of great wisdom for those that are willing to thoughtfully plumb its depths. However, it is not the only book full of great wisdom. It is not the inerrant word of God. It has far too many errors and contradictions for that. It is the words of mortal men claiming divine inspiration.

I also discovered a common misperception among Christians: that without belief in God, the Atheist -- or anyone who doesn?t believe exactly what they believe -- has nothing. They have no hope, no purpose, no ethics, no morality. That perception couldn?t be further from the truth. Knowledge about our selves and our world frees us from the fear and "hate" of the other that ignorance can spawn. All the worlds religions -- or no religion -- can help you become a better person or a worse one. When you understand science and evolution you understand that our purpose is to become the best possible person that we can be and that we are connected in multiple ways to every other living thing on this planet. That understanding leads to an ethic and moral position where all humans and living things are respected and admired for their individuality/uniqueness.

My wanderings led me to the writings of al (or as many as I could get a hold of) the worlds great religions and some minor ones. I read books on philosophy and mythology. I loved Joseph Campbell's books.  I pursued New Age mysticism, and read about Kaballah (Jewish mysticism). I read "Black Elk Speaks" and books about the Medicine Wheel and Earth Medicine. I read books by some of our greatest contemporary writers, "The Old Man and The Sea," "Walden," "True Believers" by Eric Hoffer, "The Ring Trilogy," and even those delightful Harry Potter books. I studied science and history, religion and psychology. They all have something to teach us about life and the human condition. They are all, in my opinion, Sacred Texts.

The more I read, the more I began to see a common thread that ran through most, if not all of these books -- a common thread that ties the Worlds Great Religions (and all humanity) together.  I realized that if there is a God, then this common thread must be the real word of God, the one thing that we can count on. This is because all of these people from these diverse walks of life (religious and non-religious), and in different times, came up with the same idea. Then I read Karen Armstrong?s book  a year ago, "The Great Transformation, The Beginning of Our Religious Traditions." I realized that at least one other person had reached the same conclusion that I had reached -- she through her scholarly pursuits and me through reading and thinking in my less than scholarly way.

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If someone asks me if I believe in God, I will ask them what they mean by God. If they mean a bearded old man, that knows all, sees all, is all powerful, that created the heavens and the earth and intervenes in the affairs of men when he feels like it, I will say "no." I am not a Deist, Theist, Pantheist, or Panentheist, or Polytheist. If you are curious, I call myself a Gnostic, a seeker of knowledge and understanding. There have, by the way, been Gnostics as well as Mystics in all of the worlds great religious traditions. Don?t confuse Christian Gnosticism which is being popularly written about these days with plain old Gnosticism. You can be a Gnostic and continue to be a Christian, Hindu, Buddhist, Atheist or Wiccan, et al. For those that are searching for something, you might consider a Gnostic path. If you are curious I will tell you what I know, I have nothing to hide or to fear:

If I take a kernel of corn from my garden to a laboratory and ask them to give me a chemical analysis they could do so down to how many carbon atoms and nitrogen atoms and how they are all put together to form sugars and proteins and DNA and?.. If I then took their list of ingredients to another lab they could (in theory) put those ingredients together and hand me back something that may or may not look like the original kernel of corn but it would be identical in all its chemical components. Then if I take the kernel from the lab and another kernel of corn from my garden and plant them side by side, in good soil, with just the right amount of gentle rain and sun what do you think will happen? I don?t know for sure but I will bet that the kernel of corn from my garden will sprout and produce another corn plant and the kernel from the lab will just rot away. Why is that?

It is because there is a little certain something contained within all living things that ties/binds us all together (Jew and Gentile, Buddhist and Baptist, Muslim, Methodist and Mormon, Hindu and Christian, Atheist and Agnostic, plant and animal). At this point in time, we can not artificially create in a laboratory. We are more than just our chemical components. That little certain something, that spark of life, for me, is what it is all about. If you want to call that God, or Allah, or Brahman, it is all the same to me. I just call it "IT" in order to avoid confusion with that old man I described in a previous paragraph. IT is what we are all searching for and few ever find because they are searching for IT in all the wrong places?drugs, alcohol, extreme sports for that fear factor high, plastic surgery, shopping, acquiring things, jobs, romance, sex, becoming born again, religious books, religion?.  People are searching for IT out there when IT is within us and has been from the day we were born.

To sum it all up IT -- this discovery of the common thread that binds all living things together -- is what the great thinkers of the Axial Age described by Karen Armstrong discovered. Because of this, I and they, discovered that IT isn?t what religion we follow, or whether we follow any religion at all. They can all lead you towards that which you seek or lead you astray. There are many paths through the woods and each of us has to follow the path that has been laid out for us and for us alone, with all the twists and turns and dead ends that we find.  When we come thru the woods and reach the other side, we discover that all the paths lead to the same place. That place is called Heaven, Nirvana, The Tao, oneness with a higher spiritual reality, peace/contentment. I have made it to the edge of the woods and have turned back to help others avoid:

bulletThe dead ends of blind obedience to a Book, a Religion, Dogma, Doctrine or Law;
 
bulletObedience to a single Minister, Mullah, Priest, Prophet, Rabbi, Guru or charismatic spiritual leader;
 
bulletThe fear and hate of the "other" that these leaders can spawn; and
 
bulletThe self-righteousness of thinking that my religious truth is the only real truth."
 
All of these pitfalls keep people from progressing further along their path. If anyone feels a need to:
 
bulletProve to me that there is a God, I can show them the fallacy of their proof.
 
bulletProve to me that their religion is the one, and the only, Absolute truth or that their sacred text is the only sacred rext (all others aren?t Sacred) I can prove that it isn?t.
 
bulletInsist that I will go to Hell because I don?t believe what they believe I can show them that Gods grace, if grace is true, will be granted to everyone, freely, no strings attached, otherwise it wouldn?t be grace.
 
bulletPull out their Bible to prove their truth, I can flip to another page and show them a conflicting truth. The Bible is wonderful that way, so many contradictions, allegories and wonderful metaphors. Alternately, I can pull out the work of a Biblical scholar and explain the error of their "interpretation" (the Bible is also great that way; it has so many possible interpretations).
 
The very need to prove to others what only matters to you, is proof that you haven?t yet mastered the art of this thing we call Life, you haven?t yet found IT. You have gotten "hung up" on doctrine and dogma and come to a dead end and have to turn around and go back a way to get back on the thru road.

When all is said and done, all that matters is how we treat our fellow man -- especially people who are different from us -- those that follow a different religion, are homosexual rather than heterosexual, Republicans rather than Democrats, conservatives rather than liberals, those that support a woman's right to choose, etc.

That concept -- the Golden Rule, a.k.a. Ethic of Reciprocity -- is the common thread that runs thru all the worlds great religions and the writings of our greatest thinkers. With that rule -- how we treat our fellow man especially those that are different from us -- we show that we really have found, come to know and understand what life, being human and IT is all about. Alternately, we determine that we haven?t gotten there yet. We will either find our selves stalled on a dead end siding or we will find our pathway thru the woods, out the other side and into the light.

P.S. If you don?t believe a word I say then I suggest you find out for yourself. It is all there in your Bible and in The Upanishads, The Tao, I Ching, The Analects of Confucius, the Sutra of 42 Chapters, the??. just waiting for you to discover the truths.

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Initial posting: 2009-SEP-30
Latest update: 2013-JUN-19
Author: Susan Humphreys: Email: shumphreys@arcola-il.com  Website: www.gnosticismforanewmillennium.com
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