I was raised in a household where respect for the law was paramount. We were expected to obey a whole host of rules and guidelines for civil living. My paternal grandmother, who lived in close promixity to us, was exceedingly formal. I have no memories of sitting on her lap and reading a cozy children’s book, but I have many memories of her correcting my grammar and my table manners.
Grandma believed in education and she believed in hard work. She also believed firmly in the advancement of women’s rights. (Not bad for a woman born in 1899). She read the politics and business sections of the newspaper each day. She kept a tight rein on immediate family members.
All her life, my grandmother was a devout Anglican. The form and function of the Anglican church in Canada shaped many of her attitudes. One of these attitudes was her attitude towards God. She was raised to believe she was a lowly human being unworthy of close relationship with God. She would have been shocked — shaken to her core — to hear me speak of having a close and kind and loving relationship with God. To her, this would have been blasphemy. Hubris. An outrageous and presumptuous claim. To her way of thinking, the only possible — the only correct — way for a person to be in right relationship with God was to uphold the values of law: duty, honour, and obedience. She was a true Victorian matriarch in a post-Victorian age.
Grandma had a “top down” understanding of God, faith, and the soul (which is what the Anglican church had taught her), and she viewed duty, honour, and obedience as the only viable defences against the breakdown of civil society. She trusted reason, and greatly distrusted sentimentality, since the latter could only lead to weakness and impoverished will. Rigorous application of reason and respect for the law would in turn breed the required self discipline and personal responsibility so necessary to a person’s adult life.
Or so she thought.
She was right about the need for self discipline and personal responsibility. Unfortunately, she was completely and utterly wrong about the method for guiding the development of self discipline and personal responsibility in a growing child.
Spiritual teachers of great renown, regardless of their faith tradition, usually agree on one universal feature of the spiritual path: the need for self discipline. Many traditional spiritual practices that have evolved over the centuries have one main goal — the goal of teaching self discipline among disciples and adherents. Meditation and fasting are frequently cited as key methods for building and enhancing self discipline in religious seekers. If this works for you, then by all means stick with it. But you probably won’t find this site helpful to you.
This is because I recommend an altogether different way for people on the Spiral Path to gradually restore the sense of self discipline and personal responsibility they were born with.
I recommend a path of healing the damaged parts of the biological brain that are interfering with your ability to live a life filled with purpose, gratitude, and meaningful relationships.
I recommend this approach — in contrast to the traditional approaches of rigid spiritual practice — because it’s my contention that if you work to achieve balance and healing in your life, if you choose emotional integration and ongoing learning in your daily life, one of the by-products of this pursuit will be a growing inner core of trust in your own self discipline and your own commitment to personal responsibility. You’ll discover, like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, that you’ve been walking along the Road without realizing you’ve been wearing the “the truth” the whole time. You just have to get to the point where you can recognize that truth for yourself.
What am I saying? I’m saying (contrary to the teachings of most spiritual teachers) that you won’t succeed in staying on the Spiral Path if you try to impose self discipline on yourself from the outside by engaging in strict, mechanistic, often obsessive religious rituals or practices. I’m saying you have to start from the inside. You have to start with your very own soul.
This part of what I’m teaching is non-negotiable. Everything I’ve learned from my angels and from the soul who once lived as Jesus is based on a doctrine of the soul that’s positive, that’s uplifting, that’s holistic, AND THAT’S
(I hope my inclusion of some very large letters will persuade you that I mean it when I say the doctrine of the soul I’m teaching is NOT Gnostic in any way, shape, or form.)
If you prefer a spiritual path where (1) you’re not asked to believe at all in the existence of the soul, or (2) where you can let yourself off the hook by believing in Gnostic teachings about the soul, then I invite you to look elsewhere. I have nothing to teach you if you choose to believe you’re a lost widget in a vast, uncaring universe, or (even worse) if you choose to believe you’re a “spark of the Divine” trapped in an evil body as part of a great cosmological battle between good and evil (i.e. Gnosticism).
There’s no point looking for God’s love in your life if you’re determined at every turn to reject your identity as a loving child of God. You may as well go out and join a secular charity devoted to good causes. It’s useful and worthwhile and important to society.
But it ain’t no spiritual path.
You’re either on the Spiral Path with all your heart and all your mind and all your courage and all your soul, or you’re not on it at all. You may be somewhere, but it’s not the Spiral Path.
Fish or cut bait, as my son’s Maritime relatives would say.
Either throw yourself into the idea that you have a soul and that it’s a good soul, or take up a new hobby that demands less courage.
It’s all I’m asking of you — that you believe in a loving God and that you believe you’re a loving child of God (aka “a soul”).
Yes, I know it’s a lot to ask of you. I’m not asking anything of you that wasn’t asked of me. We’re all in this together, and we need each other’s insights.
In other words, it’s pretty much a Twelve Step Programme for the human brain.
That’s why I think the Serenity Prayer is so terrific.