Spiritual Constructs of Reality and Society
Constructs of Reality and Society – God as Boss of the Universe; God as the Head of a Patriarchal
Order; The God of Compassion and Feminine Aspects of God and/or the Trinity.
Our lives are living myths of our own creation. Our companion is our personal story, all the stuff inside
we use tell us who we are and tell the world the same.
We must address our personal cosmic vision first and foremost. We need to understand the assumptions we
have made as we internally constructed our definition of both reality and, if we are spiritually inclined, the spiritual world.
In a very powerful subconscious way, those who practice a Christian religion do so with an internal image
(something imagined) of that spiritual reality not seen but that we believe exists; the very reality where God “is”,
where Jesus “is” and to many, where Satan “is” or “wants to rule.”
For many Christians, this imagined reality readily assumes a male-dominated patriarchal "order of things."
In mortal or human terms I call that internal image of the spiritual world upon which we have based our
Christian religious foundation a "mental construct" – a perceived spiritual reality.
That reality - what each of us personally has imagined the spirit world and/or realm of God to be- serves
as the context for how we combine our mortal practice of religion with our understanding of God and Jesus.
Although for all or most Christians the realm of God truly exists, we do not all agree on what that existence
means or how it impacts our lives. For many Christians, the spirit world exists in some other dimension and interacts with
our own world in supernatural ways.
This is consistent with a view of a purely supernatural, all-wise, all-knowing and almighty God who some
times intervenes in the affairs of mortals in dramatic or not-so-dramatic ways. These believing Christians easily accept and
live according to the idea of an invisible Jesus/God personage who is vitally invested in human life and directs forces of
good against the other supernatural power and source of evil, Satan.
Others do not see the supernatural Jesus/God as a personage who exists “somewhere else” and
as someone outside the sphere of mortal perception and who communicates spiritually from a distance through the Holy Spirit.
Taking a cue from Jesus’ words, “The kingdom of God is within you,” they have a sense of God being omnipresent
and an on-going constancy in which the Holy Spirit is an uninterrupted and steady influence toward good works and a desire
to live, for example, the Golden Rule.
On the one hand there are people who talk about spiritual warfare, evoking images of the spirit world as
some sort of zone of conflict in which Satan and God operate simultaneously for and against human life.
On the other hand, others see Satan more as a conceptual part of their attempts to get a grasp on the idea
of the existence of evil. Evil for them is not something we are tempted to do by a supernatural Satan. It is more an active
part of life that serves as a kind of resistance or counter force against our intention or tendency to behave in an independent
manner – acting in a ways that reflect the "goodness" way that Jesus wants us to be.
A similar controversy exists between biblical literalists regarding God as the “Boss of the Universe”
who is commanding humans to behavior based purely on obedience and morality as opposed to a non-judgmental God who fully encourages
positive human behavior as a consequence of total agency.
To literalists, Satan becomes the direct opposite and yet needful counter to the goodness and righteous-requiring
Commander-God; a supernatural reality who tempts mortals to both “sins” of commission and of omission.
To non-literalists Satan represents among other things the natural mortal tendency to self-focused, self-interested
acts that disregard the good of anyone else. In this regard concepts of laziness, selfishness, arrogance and intolerance,
for example, represent an awareness of evil and its impact on their actions.
In my opinion, we, as a Christian society are strongly impacted by our own internal imagery - imagery that
began for many of us in childhood. Many of us, as Dr. Marcus Borg has written, have never gotten away from our pre-critical
naiveté. Our Internal Imaginative Spiritual Reality Among many of us in our generation we tend to imagine that Moses looked
like Charlton Heston; that the good versus evil portrayals in Exodus portrayed by Edward G. Robinson, Debra Padgett and Yul
Brynner were what it was really like; That 600,000 Israelites walked away from Egypt on a grand camp-out trek.
This is part of how our minds and imagination respond when the story of Moses comes up. Our internal imaginative
interpretation of reality is always up, always running and the curtains of our internal stage are always pulled back as we
“look and see.”
Most of our internal religious constructs are inherited. What well-meaning but spiritually immature Christians
have tended to do is hide behind the more simple acceptance of the myth of an inerrant Bible containing the once-spoken will
of a Judgmental God who cannot tolerate sin with any degree of allowance; a god more interested in obedience than experience;
a God limited to rewards or punishments as He presides over a conflict with Satan, giving lie to the literality of an Almighty
God who cannot tolerate sin and evil with the least degree of allowance.
Sin and evil are present because Satan just keeps on keeping on.
The God of Compassion taught and patterned by Christ contrasts that Old Testament either-or mindset. Realizing
the total implication of "the kingdom of God is within you" ought to unleash our willingness to trust the internal sense we
have of God's reality.
Otherwise, we're left to wait on extra-ordinary external events such as miracles or perceived "divine retribution
events" - from which we may then say, "Aha! There is a God. Or God DOES exist."
"Now you've told
me how things work. But what I want to know is why?"
I took yesterday off work and started in the morning removing ivy from a
home-made rock wall around an elevated square that supports a single rhodie "tree" some 15 feet high in our front yard. I
then kept my body in motion by mowing the lawn because the lawn's height allows me to use the mulching mode on my mower as
opposed to attaching the grass catcher.
This morning my body is in rebellion. My back aches except when I lean back
in this high-back chair, my hands and arms ache from an inherited arthritic condition and my feet don't protest so long as
I don't move them.
“I don’t feel all that much older. In fact, I feel just like
I did when I was 20.” - internally that is. And internally I've gotten used to the everpresent realization that my body
can't do what it used to do. It's only my mind that doesn't seem to age. In fact, I still am astonished when I look at the
mirror and see who's looking back. I still carry in my mind's eye, a self-image of how I looked in my 20's.
In our modern times with it's emphasis on scientific and academic inquiry,
we seem to have come to equating knowledge - obtained thru a so-called scientific method - with wisdom. Wisdom is something
that is gained more fully from a different kind of experience outside a laboratory or research library.
The old adage, "Now you've told me how things work. But what I want to know
is why?" comes into play here.
I have a love/hate relationship with humanism in that humanistic psychology
is something I see as useful whereas humanist scholars who are forced to ignore spirituality, the unexplained and anything
else that cannot be reduced to logic and philosophy tend to waste my time with their opinions.
There is a mystery to life and without a dose of personal mystical curiosity
we humans caught in the web of 21st century academic habit run the risk of leaving some of the most significant and needful
spiritual content of our lives untouched on our plates.
When I left a fundamentalist religion all offended and outraged at the literalist
thinking that leads people and churches to unreasonable lengths of conformity, I wandered straight into the arms of New Age
thinking and profited immensely by the experience.
I found things I could understand and accept and others that made no sense.
Among my explorations was a serious look at reincarnation, a concept that for me is a work in progress and something I have
yet to discard as not useful.
But in terms of that which inhabits my body and doesn't know it's in a mortal
state of decline, I have always sensed an inner knowing that I am, as others have said in other threads, a spirit learning
to manage a mortal body. Afterlife, a pre-existent state, mortal life itself, are contexts of that spirit and not the body
limited to a brain dominated by an ego whose main purpose is to ground us in mortal reality.
I have also written in a thread now 2-3 years old that one way to awaken
and develope a sense of the mystical that seems to extend beyond 3-dimensional reality is a contemplation of something such
I refer to reincarnation of humans and not some sort of reincarnating progression
from lower to higher stages of life forms. (One life and ant and the next life an ant-eater and the next life a carnivore
to eat the ant-eater and the following life a human to hunt down the carnivore)
Biblicists and Christians in general live with an assumption that this life
is all there is, that God gave us this life as a test rather than a laboratory for experience, and that the results of the
test determine the context of an afterlife.
For some who are allowed only days, weeks, months or a few years before dying,
that's not much of a test and theologians are forced to come up with a theory that accounts for humans taking the same test
on an equal plane in order to establish god's kingdom as one of order, fairness and justice for all.
Even a lifetime into old age - according to Christian theology - is a one-time-only
test that you'd better pass the first time around because there ain't no second time (only the fantasy End Times).
I'm not advocating for reincarnation, but can you find a better way, in an
eternal spiritual context and remembering that Eternity is NOW and not later, than reincarnation's implication that God is
saying "If you don't get it right this time, you'll have another chance and do better next time?"
married by a Native American Shaman who also happened to be a Christian.
When I began to read up on Native American spirituality with heightened interest I was struck by the sacredness
of a human relationship with nature and how that relationship seemed to embody communication between humans and the great
With my wife's encouragement, we looked further into it and although we never became expert in the spirituality,
when we wed, we were married by a Native American Shaman who also happened to be a Christian. The ceremony reflected both
My workplace has a cross, two pictures of White Buffalo Calf Woman and one of my totems. (All my bibles are
on the bookshelf behind me)
My experience in finding my totems was extra-ordinary and in ways competes with those most
powerful Christian mystical experiences which have made up a significant part of my life.
living with a blend of
spiritual, material and intellectual processes
I did not join the Episcopal congregation in my tiny home
town out of appreciation for the Nicene Creed nor the basic liturgical discussion of the Trinity. My joining was on a much
more basic level - my wife's and my way of integrating ourselves into a small community.
The appeal of the Episcopal congregation was my understanding
of the use of scripture, tradition and reason as a mode of practice. Having a prior life of 40 years in Mormonism and its
extreme literal fundamentalism with emphasis on every jot and tittle of authority, I found it refreshing to be able to participate
free from having to be seen as "innerantly orthodox" in my thinking. It was liberating to be accepted regardless of what I
believed and how I felt about it.
I'd like to add that although I've always had an intellectual
interest in a wide range of spiritual contexts, such interest was not aroused until I was in my late 20's and started asking
the LDS leadership "Why?" in regards to doctrinal and dogmatic insistence on blind conformity.
For me I had become accustomed to religion as a way of life,
not unlike, for example, the Native American spiritual approach to living and the environment. Having taken literal in my
childhood the ideas of revelation as more than authoritative declaration of church leadership and LDS historical heroes, I
believed when well-meaning teachers and leaders asserted that God would reveal to me personally the things I needed to know
as a human being (it took me into my late 20’s to realize that essentially the LDS social and behavioral expectation
was that God would only reveal to ME things already approved and established by Mormon dogma.)
Although engaged in a struggle of dissidence against what
I would now label as LDS group-think, I remained essentially a cultural and heritage-based Mormon from the LDS heartland -
and I was another 15-20 years encountering all sorts of learned attitudes: inner assumptions, internal myths and literal beliefs
that were still insisting on being part of my personal story.
I’d like to believe I’ve retained from my culture
a sense of living with a blend of spiritual, material and intellectual processes in how I negotiate my life, my thoughts and
My own personal leaning is more toward a mystical appreciation
of Christian religious concepts, finding myself more in agreement with the writings of Alan Watts in regards to Christianity.
As I quoted Watts in one of my earlier articles, without a mystical approach, religion becomes a “mindless fundamentalism.”
Part of the mindlessness of that situation has to do with
literal thinking, or taking what is written in scripture as literally true.
In this regard, I’ve concluded that immersion in a
purely intellectual critique of a spiritual subject has also a danger of mindlessness. The reason for that is an obvious understanding
that to perform intellectual analysis and critique suggests or requires that the academic is for the most part left to focus
again on the literalness of the doctrines, scripture and belief system precisely as does a “mindless fundamentalist“.
It amounts to trying to write authoritatively about horse
racing in general and the Kentucky Derby in particular without having ever saddled and ridden a horse nor having ever ridden
a horse in a competitive race with worth and accomplishment as the objectives.
Another limitation I see to evaluating and writing to religious
subjects in a purely academic manner is that the writing itself is most effectively expressed to an academic audience first
and foremost. Unless a reader is some sort of academic, the writing tends to be dry and defensive, buttressed by an endless
stream of qualifying statements, cited authority, notes, quotes and bibliography. (In using the word academic, I refer to
scholars, credentialed readers and to a certain extent, “intellectuals” - those sufficiently interested or well-read
to be able to appreciate what they read).
The limitation here is that purely academic and scholarly
writing is in effect preaching to the choir. It rarely speaks to life as an experience of feelings, but as an activity of
gathering only a dry and sterilizing collection of facts.
It also tends to my own self-conscious feelings of having
to “perform” when I speak to and write about spiritual topics purely on an intellectual basis. I feel as if I’m
preening intellectually and that I also have to tolerate intellectual preening in others.
I’m interested not only in learning from someone else’s
information, especially if its something not a part of what’s already in my own briefcase. However, I’m more interested
in learning how someone else feels about the information being shared and how it works or causes concern in living.
It is that Spirit of the Universe that you and I and everyone
has in common. For me it’s a mystical approach without delving into fantasy.
A product of fear of change and comfort in the fortress of inflexible
Traditionalism has value when the symbolism and metaphor of ceremony strike uplifting and comforting spiritual
Get out of ceremony and tradionalism's record reveals mixed results. If "traditionally" we are loving,
concerned about the poor and believe in peace then wow! Traditionalism is good.
If "traditionally" we are stuck in
the past - inflexible, capable of hate and condemnation of things "other" and mindlessly tolerate irrational thought and action
in defense of so-called "freedom" and "liberty" from a purely nationalistic perspective ...
...then every man needs
to break God's infallible word. We all should keep trying to break it since that "infallible word" has proven to be someone
else's magic and not God's.
A product of fear of change and comfort in the fortress of inflexible insecurity.
says, "Come out here and play in the lilies of the field."
Fearful traditionalists say "No, we want to stay inside
this enclosure where you promised us we would be safe and saved!"
No one can give you an identical spiritual testimony in a sense of converting you to their way of thinking.
It's not about getting you to see things my way, but about encouraging you to blend spiritual exploration with critical thinking
that does not rely merely on logic, fact and also on internal feeling. It is your internal feeling that reflects whether spiritual-mindedness
is part of how you view and interreact with life and whatever "reality/the real world" is to you.
But I will make suggestions
from my own internal fellings.
(1) Self analysis: Determine what spiritual approach or attitude is natural to you.
If there is a strong spiritual sense that resides within as we move into and through our adults years it is generally based
on that spiritual influence or training to which we were exposed in childhood.
It is important that you understand
how you view reality. If you see reality as an earthly world governed spiritually by a divine monarch - a king who commands,
judges and rewards/punishes, then the world of literalism is what will work for you. You can safely utilize the Bible as a
manual of formulaic instruction and a code of moral rules and rituals.
There is nothing wrong with this so long as
as your natural stance tends to be a response to God as a lawgiver and scripture as law - the letter of the law.
If you understand or come to understand that your more natural approach is one of reason applied to spiritual concepts and
an internal hunger for some sense of spiritually palpable communion with the divine, then your tendency is toward a more mystical
approach. "Religion" as a label of your spirituality is not the word to describe your spirituality.
The idea of communing
with The Father as you perceive The Father is based more on prayer, scripture and reason - you allow yourself to ignore everyone
else's "magic" (anyone else's definitions) and establish for yourself precisely what works for you.
else's magic, if you do not define your own reality, rather let someone else do so, then the reality is not yours. It is borrowed
by you - loaned from someone else.
And as a loan, the lender will only validate your use of loaned magic as you use
it in ways approved by the lender. In other words, your magic is not yours - it is the lender's. It is formulaic by definition
since it won't be validated unless you adhere to the lender's requirements.
A direction of study .....
If you study with an approach that reflects searching, pondering and praying,
then there are lots of written sources available. The number of sources will be a matter of how much width, breadth and depth
Reading and activity sources that I used are the only things I can recommend from personal experience.
Studies around the contrast between Biblical fundamentalism/literalism and the more mystical communion with The Father.
If you have come to adulthood believing the Bible literally, you'll be wrestling with things you are inclined to resist.
The Power Of Myth, Joseph Campbell.
(b) Myth and Ritual in Christianity, Alan Watts
(c) Behold the Spirit, Alan Watts
Reading the Bible Again for the First Time, Marcus Borg.
(2 Beginning studies around personal mystical events.
Read about divination as a method of internal self exploration - not as fortune telling. I recommend an author named Cynthia
Giles who has written marvelous books on the Tarot.
Warning: many consider this stuff occult and satanic related. You
will need to do some work to filter out other people's magic. Divination as a personal activity is something done within and
tells no fortunes. What it does in fact is force you to recognize thoughts and impressions that come from within and are often
suppressed as vague and/or fruitless imaginings.
These are in fact spiritual promptings and the source of everything
from hunches to revelations. Remember, nobody, no church, no theology has a monopoly on personal revelation. God needs no
one's permission to reveal himself or anything he desires to you.
(b) Active pursual of the Spirit and communion.
a Bible that is written in language clear to you. If the King James version works, use it. If you want more accurate or precise
translations, find another. I used The New Jerusalem Bible.
Furthermore: Find a Bible that contains the Apocrypha or
at least the Wisdom Books. All of the Wisdom books, from Job to Ecclesiasticus contain thoughts more than laws. Especially
useful is the Wisdom of Solomon which expresses the Holy Spirit as Sophia or Wisdom. Read that with pondering and prayer and
then see what you conclude about the spirit.
Finally, there is some value and use in Eastern Religious thought even
if it seems foreign to a Christian upbringing. The same can be said about the variety of New Age ideas. Some are nonsense
but others are not.
Finally, although I don't espouse it literally as a doctrine, I found that a serious meditation
around the concept of reincarnation to be the beginning of a deeper spiritual sense of the unknown.
things, I found that the spiritual experience of God opened itself widely and without limits. Freedom from the need to be
validated by anyone else was wonderful. I was left to come to define things for myself.
Those definitions became the
most powerful aspect of a new spiritual foundation.
The American Christian is a journal based
in Bay Center, Washington.
2005-2009 The SwanDeer Project