This I Believe

Lisa - 28803, North Carolina
Entered on March 31, 2008
Age Group: 30 - 50
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This I believe

The Middle Path

A brief commentary on atheism vs. religion

I suspect sometimes that the reason you seldom hear from people trodding “The Middle Path”, is that they are too busy. Also, it doesn’t make for contriversial interviews or debates. It’s peaceful (and peace isn’t news as in “there was no shooting today, such and such did have a great meditation, though!”) Nobody gets hot under the collar a the site of a person selflessly helping animals, the homeless, perhaps sacrificing material gain and social advantages to raise a family, volunteer, try to improve themselves or the world in some quiet way. That is because they are trodding the middle path. Like spirit, it is invisible.

I was raised in the Catholic church but, after the suicide of a close relative; could not reconcile myself with their death. I meditated, became a vegetarian, married another yogi and hoped and prayed for “enlightenment” from this and numerous other problems and burdens to extensive to name here. Along my “path” I found that I had more of a series of small “enlightenments” rather than one big one. Life is a journey, after all. I became deeply involved in the rights of animals and their exploitation as part of my “path” to “enlightenment”. I am finding more and more, that the Middle Path is not a selfish one, but an inclusive one and a very active one. It does not shout itself from the roof tops, but finds lost souls in dark places, knowing that when you rescue anyone, you are rescuing yourself.

In some of the less structured eastern spiritual paths as well as the higher and more abstract branches of Islam and Christianity (Sufism, Mystics, etc.) “faith” is more of an “open heartedness” as in living from the heart and experiencing God as your own Self as well as your environment (existing in every atom; this would non-human beings, the earth, etc). So, it is in our best interest (the selfish gene) to treat others kindly and respectfully (they are us). I Am God or We are God is the ultimate step in taking complete responsibility for one’s Self and his/her world. It is the opposite of the religious “sheeple” stereotype. It can can also be frightening. People have been known to fight it tooth and nail.

The Golden Rule which is also dharma applies to both the physical and spiritual world. What goes up, must come down (or back to you) is a physical and spiritual law, like gravity. In fact, quantum physics in the last few years has come closer to the ancient metaphysics than anything else, recognizing the nature of the universe (thought), the flexibilty of time/space (time slows down and speeds up in space) as well as the artificial nature of “matter” and “energy”. Even mathematics has been shown to go into relms where nothing is essentially “proveable” . So, these days for the open hearted scientist and the open hearted spiritual aspirant science and religion are having a delightful renaissance! (It is interesting to note that in the renaissance times, science, art, astrology and metaphysics were often cross studied, complimentary fields with less strictly defined boundaries.)

On the contrary (and no doubt, this makes better news) there is the much better publicized “all or nothing and winner take all” approach between religion and atheism. They seem to have a lot more in common with each other in their religious zeal (not very middle path) to prove a point (while making only the most superficial inquiries into the “other side”.) It’s no wonder everyone is frustrated; this being neither a serious “spiritual quest” nor a “scientific inquiry”. Both of which involve involve taking risks, putting beliefs on the line, sometimes testing, sometimes ignoring the status quo (interestingly, Nicolai Tesla, arguably the most influential scientific genius whose contributions are the ground work of modern life and technology, received most of his “inspiration” through visions) and not just smugly issuing challenges and ultimatums. Extreme science is after all, just as diabolically flawed (pointless vivisection, anti-religious communism as in the Tibet dilemma, shallow materialism, selfish capitolism, genetic manipulation, lethal weapons) as the very well documented (by Richard Dawkins for example) crimes of organized religion.

Churches are individuals too; spiritual at the core but more or less a reflection of the people and the society they represent. Most of them are well meaning social organizations. That’s very important. However, to believe you will “find God” through an organization of flawed individuals is both naive and lazy. To believe also, that you can “prove God” through a man made set of exterior, materialist variables is equally childish, naive and lazy.

In Eastern cultures, the Middle Path is prized above all else, that is the avoidance of pitfalls of extremes of either material or spiritual egotism. “The proof” of God on the hand is an individual “experience” or criteria and of course, different for everyone (like love).

*He who experiences the unity of life sees his own Self in all beings, and all beings in his own Self, and looks on everything with an impartial eye. Buddha

* “The Selfish Gene” by Richard Dawkins