Monday, May 01, 2006

Wisdom Schools

(Dear Friends,
This post will be controversial. Yet I hope it will stimulate reflection.
I hope you will read it with openness.
Bill Ryan)

Wisdom Schools- A New Vision of the Transmission of the Christ Mystery

The Legacy of Religion
Many theologians and scholars will say that Yeshua of Nazareth did not come to found a religion. Rather he wished to transmit in himself and his teachings a revelation of the Source of Life whom he knew as Abba. Yet what is the legacy of religion, both Christian and that of other traditions? What are the fruits of the great institutional structures, cathedrals, and temples? What are the contributions of the caste system of clergy and denominations that have multiplied throughout the world? What are the great contributions to the healing of humankind after all the money and resources dedicated to religion have been tallied? What we have are centuries of wars fueled by religious hatred, wars of conquest and colonial expansion under the symbols of both cross and crescent. We have endured wars of genocide fueled by ethnic and religious distrust and fear. Millions have been persecuted, killed, exploited, or sent into exile. This is the legacy of religion.

In the U.S. public attitudinal sampling reports consistently that Christian church goers are most likely to have attitudes in favor of the death penalty, supporting violent solutions to international conflict, opposed to compassionate social policies for the most vulnerable populations, and least tolerant or accepting of persons who are different in ethnicity or sexual orientation. If we look around the world, many of the most violent actions and conflicts between peoples have religion at their source. "By their fruits you shall know them."

If religion has any benefit for human kind it must be the capacity to bring healing and transformation to the soul of humankind, bringing forth the fruit of compassionate concern and service to the world. Instead those who are most religious seem to be most callous and hardened towards others, and the least mindful and responsible in their relationship with the natural systems of life around them. Those who are most religious seem to be most inclined toward violence and hatred. The least progressive societies, in measures of meeting basic needs and enacting compassion and peace-making in their social, economic, and foreign relations, are those who are the most religious. The most progressive societies in those same measures are those who are the most secular in their political and cultural make-up.

For this reason a genuine critique, a prophetic examination of the structure of religion, it institutions, and practices must be undertaken. Perhaps what we need in the world is a lot less religion and a lot more committed and serious spiritual practice.

The Structure of Religion-
Where we have been-
Whether it be Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism, or Judaism or other religious structures and "isms" in the world, it can be said that without exception through the centuries all have betrayed the teachings of their founders. The structures, values, traditions, and activities of religion have been largely possessed and contaminated by the cultures and history of the peoples and geography they occupy. Religions have come to serve themselves and not the healing of the world. Today, more than ever, religion is at the center of the divisions and violence that scar humankind. And religions again seek to aggrandize themselves with political power and dominance in the societies where they dwell. Religions market the emotional massage and psychological consolations that keep us from truly living into transformative life. They convince the adherents to find refuge in the small circles of familiar ethnic and cultural prejudice rather than the expansive and transformative universal Heart and unitive ethos of the Divine. Religions are without exception primarily at the service of their own power and prestige and not at the service of spiritual healing to humankind. Religions reinforce rather than heal the central wound of separateness that afflicts humankind. This is unacceptable.

A New Direction-
We do not need more institutions and more clergy demanding ever more financial support in this world. We do not need a religious caste system of ministers, priests, and monks who enjoy a privileged position of deference and authority in human communities. We do not need intermediaries with the sacred. Rather we need to start with a new premise, the revolutionary premise of Yeshua the Christ that the temple of the Divine is not on the hill, not in structures, nor in brick or stone, nor in creeds or dogmas. Rather the temple of the Divine is the Heart, the spiritual center within us all. What humans need are teachers and companions of the Way, who will walk with us, teach and support us in the disciplines of awareness and will that open our soul/consciousness to the Ultimate and true dwelling place of the Spirit of the Beloved within us. What we need is the praxis to transform the soul that it becomes the lamp of the Light of Christ in the world, rather than the distorted and opaque vessel of confusion, despair, fear resulting in human compulsions of greed and power and resultant violence.

Wisdom Schools-
When the historical Jesus was living, his followers did not call him, "priest, minister, reverend, cardinal, or pope." Indeed his followers called him "teacher," and Jesus said in the end he wished to be called "friend." A soul friend, or anam cara, is someone who shares the fruits of inner life of the Beloved with another, who walks with another on the Way. (In the earliest years of the Jesus movement, those who were his followers were called the people of the "Way.") Spiritual transmission comes through teachers and soul friends, not through authoritative intermediaries. The Light of Christ is transmitted truly in this way to the people of the Way. For this reason we should be considering models of spiritual community other than denominational churches and parishes with their agendas for power and societal status. Is not the spiritual journey, is not the life of Faith (not belief), one of discovery and opening to what is beyond the egoic mind and consciousness? We need spiritual teachers and soul friends, who support us on the Way, who continually point to the true Teacher and true Friend, Christ, within us. He is already at the center of our Heart, why do we need grand buildings, institutions, and political power to possess what is already offered to us in each moment, the unconditional love and healing of the Divine Beloved in the universal mystical Christ? We can live a life of communion with Christ our true and universal friend and healer of the soul- our Way to experience the Divine Beloved who is the Heart of Creation. And from this healing of our wound of separateness the compassionate life is born.

Blessings to all,
Bill Ryan