The headline says it all. But how can such sharing find a place in a weblog dedicated to the emerging philosophy of living—a philosophy which is to remain accessible to persons of every faith? Such a blogpost fits here if it is accompanied by an interpretation accessible to my Jewish brothers, Muslim sisters, Buddhist friends–indeed everyone in the universal family.
Part of the answer to this question I would explain by analogy with an idea that come from the philosophy of science: methodological atheism. Suppose that two researchers are investigating the biology of spiritual experience. One is a theist, the other an atheist. They agree that, for the purpose of their experiment, they are going to focus only on the biological level, and leave every other possible explanation aside. They are practicing methodological atheism.
What I do in my version of the emerging philosophy I call methodological Unitarianism. Even though I am a Trinitarian monotheist, I believe that this religious but non-theological philosophy will reach out best if I generally leave my Trinitarian convictions out of the weblog. So when I share an experience like this, I need to give an interpretation that helps others transplant it into their own gardens—the contexts of their own beliefs and deeper concepts.
Some of the meaning of this morning’s action I would share with other Christians; some of it I could not put into words; I’m sure there is some of it of which I am unaware. And some of the meaning belongs in the private and intimate sphere of the personal relationship between a follower of Jesus and Your Oneness.
Here is the interpretation I can offer as a religious philosopher. The new self is the soul, the deeper self, the true self, growing, fresh, and capable of joyously spontaneous action. The old self is centered in the mind but tainted by evil and the consequences of sin. Trying to live when I am identified with the old self holds me back, even if I am not aware at a given time that I am living on that mediocre level; even if I do not deliberately do so; even if I am trying to escape that old self but in a way that does not exercise faith.
The cross is the symbol of Jesus’ ultimate act of love for his Father and for us all, in total dedication to the will of God, submitting to the evolutionary horrors that were part of his path as a good shepherd, a spiritual leader.
To nail the old self to the cross implies letting it go, allowing its energies to be recycled into something that is worthy to endure, allowing it to die, putting it to death.
This is not an image that I grew up with, but I read it last night and it struck me; I pondered and made it my goal. This morning, shortly after doing it, I found a new quality of love for God along with luminous, rising worship in the soul. Turning toward God was like turning up the worship rheostat.
To be sure, later on in the morning, the old self made an appearance, and then another. But now it was different. Now it was easier to recognize, and once again easy and simple to leap up and joyously nail it again and again as often as might be needed in order to establish that decision as a forever-and-finally decision. I should note that the nailing was painless. The soul’s forward momentum eclipsed any sense of guilt, self-hatred, duty, reluctance, sacrifice, or conflicted motivation.
Settling into the morning work, I felt a certain familiar constriction in my belly, and in response, I used conscious breathing to relax so that all levels of my being would align with the new momentum. I remembered how Thich Nhat Hanh combined Buddhist and Christian faith in his thought and practice. I thought of Socrates, who was sentenced to drink the hemlock and of Japanese samurai who were sentenced to commit harakiri (seppuku). And then I turned–and turn now–to the image of Jesus to the right of my computer monitor.
Can we share spiritual experience in a way that effectively remains accessible and does not turn this weblog into an comparatively closed arena? What variety of comments will be required? What quality of cooperation? Is the goal too idealistic?
I pray that each of you find encouragement for your journey in this narrative and interpretation.
On another note, problems with this website have been reported by two persons; it seems as though none of us can post comments. I have notified Blake Warrington, my beloved tech support person, who is approaching the end of the semester and who I hope will not interrupt his needed focus until after exams, when the pressure relaxes and it is reasonable for him to attend to these matters. Thank you for your patience and support for Blake while he is juggling academic duties, keeping all his classes from falling to the ground. In the meantime, please do send your comments to me, and I will save them and input them once things are fixed. Last week, scheduling my post for Saturday morning did not work, though linking to it on Facebook did work; so today I’m going to publish immediately rather than try the scheduling technique. http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/c/ca/Hammering_Nails.jpg/1200px-Hammering_Nails.jpg