Thursday, June 2, 2011

6/2/11—Diving for Pearls

Today's Draw: The Hierophant from the Pen Tarot (Majors Only). How do you feel about organized religion? Do you believe what you're taught or do you look deeper? And who is endowed with the privilege of two-way communication with God?

The Hierophant, sometimes called The Pope, is a master of religious knowledge. He's well educated in esoteric teachings and is considered a liaison between man and God. Although he is, of course, a spiritual man, his teachings and beliefs are traditional. He will deliver his church's interpretation of the Bible and will not veer much from that in his mind or heart. He holds great power over those he teaches and must not misuse this power.

In the Pen Tarot, all the cards are in black and white, with just one hint of color. For The Hierophant, that flash of color is in the golden crossed keys you see on his collar (or is it definitely a he?) These keys relate to Saint Peter and signify the keys to heaven or, some people say, the keys to spiritual knowledge. His hand is held in a sign of benediction or spiritual blessing. And the artist accompanies this card with the following poem:

Errors, like straws, upon the surface flow;
He who would search for pearls must dive below.
—John Dryden

We've had three very powerful spiritual cards so far this week. The first was about spiritual initiation, the second was about finding spirit within and this one is about spirituality and religion. Two things occurred to me when this card came up with its poem. But I think both point to the same conclusion. 
The first thought that came to me was about Harold Camping, the man who predicted the recent rapture. People follow preachers like him for the same reason they follow any preacher—because they're either looking for something to believe or already have beliefs and what he said was aligned with what they wanted to hear. It doesn't matter whether it's Camping or Joel Osteen (who are both Christian evangelists and missionaries, though many would consider them at opposite ends of the spectrum), the message they deliver, who they say holds the keys to heaven, the way they interpret the Bible, the energy they put forth, etc., all that sounds like the way they think it should be. So they follow them. 

And soon they don't have to worry about how to interpret things themselves, because pretty much everything they hear from their preacher sounds about right. And, besides, they believe Camping or Osteen or whoever has a direct line to God and they may or may not be confident about their own direct line to God (if they believe they have one) and so they take what is preached on faith. And they spread that word to others at every opportunity because they so believe it to be true and they want everyone's soul to be saved like theirs is. And when you ask them what they think about gay people, for example, they tell you what they believe God thinks. And all of this, all of it, comes from the preacher's interpretation. Which comes from what he learned. Which came from a book that was written by men who heard it from God...or heard it from men who heard it from God...and wrote it based on their memory of the conversation. In their own words in the vernacular of the time. From their point of view. And all of that was written in Hebrew, Greek or Aramaic, depending on who was doing the writing. And yet people today nonetheless have zero doubt that their truth is THE one and only truth down to the last detail.

Errors, like straws, upon the surface flow;
He who would search for pearls must dive below. 

Which brings me to my point. The truth exists within each and every one of us. But, more often than not in this country, we're more willing to adopt another's truth, rather than look inside our own hearts. Some will read what I wrote above and feel it was a criticism of Christianity. It is not. It's a criticism of organized religion. ANY organized religion. If you have put your books down, wiped your mind as clean as possible and connected honestly to God and still believe he frowns upon a certain type of person or will send someone to eternal damnation for their beliefs, then I fully support you in that course of thought. I really do. My personal belief system is that God shows himself to people in the way they need to see him in order to see him at all. And I suppose I have to extend that to people who believe only what they're taught, too. But if you haven't looked inside...if you haven't dived below the straws scattered along the surface, whether you're pagan or Muslim or Jewish or otherwise...I urge you to. I urge you to find God's voice within you and not coming solely from the mouth of someone else.

Which leads to the second thing I want to say in response to the Hierophant card. And that is that, with the exception of evangelical Christianity (like what is preached by Joel Osteen and Harold Camping), all organized religions in this country are losing ground. The evangelicals have had no growth, nor shrinkage in size. And the people who are leaving the other religions are moving toward "none" or "spiritual, but not religious". This "none/spiritual" group, in fact, is the third largest "religious group" in the country, behind Catholics and Baptists. I'm not making this up. There was a major study conducted.

Many of these people are frustrated by the dogma. They feel that the teachings of the church no longer align with some of the things they feel in their heart. Take the homosexuality issue, for example. If God is good and perfect and created us all in his image—and if you believe sexuality is not a choice—then how can God say they're wrong to be that way? Inconsistencies like this start to wear on people and, as they question the teachings, they find they no longer feel a place in the church. And not knowing any other avenue, they just make do. I know people like this...people who believe in God and believe in Christ, but cannot justify what they feel inside with what's taught in the church.

Errors, like straws, upon the surface flow;
He who would search for pearls must dive below. 

Growing up in a Christian nation, you often hear that the keys to kingdom are given only to some. That holy men have a clearer line to God. That certain people go to heaven and others go to hell. And that we need to be careful so that we don't end up there, too. And being careful includes a long set of rules passed down through thousands of years from a different society struggling with different if nothing is ever supposed to change. Remember when divorce was the worst thing a couple could do, according to the church? In Christ's time, people died when they were 30. Til Death Do Us Part wasn't that hard of a commitment to make.

The point I'm making, mostly to the 15% of you that are "spiritual, but not religious" is that your line to God has just as good reception as anyone else's. Dive below. Go inside. See what's true in your heart. If it's different than what I believe, that's cool. I haven't even told you what I believe, outside of the fact that I believe God shows himself to everyone in the way they need to see him. And if you don't believe that, that's cool too. But at least explore what you believe without all the dogma.

This dude, the Hierophant, is changing. He still has valuable wisdom. He still bases his beliefs on his teachings and texts. But he is no longer some spectre outside of us telling us what to do. He is inside each of us. We're all Hierophants. We all hold the keys to the kingdom. We are all spiritually blessed. And we all know what's true in our hearts.

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