You Are Radiant of the Spirit

I was raised by very devout Christians, members of the Episcopal Church.  My father was a professor of math and science and later a technical writer for IBM.  He was not, as Madeleine L’Engle defines it, a “fundamental literalist”.   He taught us the Bible, and he taught us Darwin’s theory of evolution.  He believed in the literal interpretation of Darwin’s writings, not the Bible’s.  But he did believe, as did I, in our need for salvation.  There is a certain elegance in Christian apologetics.  My father admired C.S. Lewis especially.  The rational, reasonable, intellectually satisfying story of a creation of God having been separated from the divine by a sinful nature and then rescued and redeemed from Death by a loving, heart-broken Father God is poetic and dignified in many ways.  The same story appears in many different forms in many different cultures.  Perhaps it is satisfying because it is so seemingly universal.  My father was very much an authoritarian.  I was separated from him by every infraction of his rules.  I longed to be forgiven and loved.  I knew that story of punishment and death by heart.  I didn’t know there could be another experience.  I didn’t think to ask if it was the only way to look at what is real about humanity.   Finally, someone asked me, “Who says you’re separated from the divine?  What if you’re not?”  I began to look at a different ancient grace.

Doodling and coloring is one way I meditate on a new idea

Call it “the indwelling of the Holy Spirit”, greet it “Namaste”, wake up to it through a practice of meditation, it’s the same.  After I read the book The Power of Myth, I borrowed the videotape from the library of Bill Moyers’ interview with Joseph Campbell.  My favorite part is where Joseph Campbell says to Bill, “You are radiant of the Spirit,” and Bill responds in animated and personal surprise, “Me?!  A journalist?”  After hours of talk, he finally realizes that the Myth has something to do with him – himself.  I thought about this for a while and told Steve that I felt a similar disconnect from life, as if I am observing everything from a duck blind.  I could talk about what is happening “out there”, externally, quite easily, but I have difficulty identifying and placing my internal experience in the picture.   I was taught to be suspicious of emotions, to “lean not on your own understanding”,  and although that teaching was powerful, I now realize it is not altogether helpful or even consistent with the way Jesus talks about spirituality.  When Jesus confronts the Pharisees, he is often challenging them to get rid of their dogma and be open to using their consciousness.  “Who says you’re separated from the divine?  What if you’re not?”  What if…indeed.   My recommended reading list includes The Power of Myth and Living Buddha, Living Christ by Thich Nhat Hahn.  Also The Gift: Poems by Hafiz, the Great Sufi Master of which my favorite is The God Who Only Knows Four Words:

Every

Child

Has known God,

Not the God of names,

Not the God of don’ts,

Not the God who ever does

Anything weird,

But the God who only knows four words

And keeps repeating them, saying:

“Come dance with Me.”

Come

Dance.

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