I want to write something out of my own life, its concerns, and the learning edges that present themselves to me. It’s Sunday and there’s a sacredness to the day for Christians, and mine is a path shared with Jesus — as I said in Soulfully Gay, “with, through, and beyond Christianity.”
I honestly don’t know where to begin. I don’t even know what I’m going to say until I say it. I only know that I have something to say. Take note of that (it’s important).
I don’t know what preconceptions and worldviews you are bringing. It’s always a predicament for a writer not to know his audience. Preachers and priests aren’t supposed to admit they don’t know what they’re talking about, so right away you know this isn’t a sermon or homily.
There are so many different versions of the Christian religion, so many different ways of being or not being Christian. When someone tells me they are a Christian, I honestly have no certainty about what that says about them, their spirituality, and their humanity. I do not know if they are someone I would call a friend or maybe an enemy.
Although the mere statement, “I am a Christian,” says too little, the shape of a person’s soul does come through in everything about them. And there is a certain soul-shape that is distinctly Christian, I think, regardless of the many varieties of its expression. That soul-shaping quality is something difficult to put into words but not so difficult to feel.
How does Christianity shape a soul?
Christianity shapes the soul. Mine is a life imprinted by Christianity: the Roman Catholicism of my upbringing, the liberation theology and the modern realism of Reinhold Niebuhr which I studied in school, and later the emerging Integral Christian spirituality of my mid-to-late thirties.
And mine is also a life shaped by conflicts created by the religion, my rejection of it, my refusal of it, and my love and ambivalence to what it represents. So much so that I have gone most of my adult life either unsure if I was a Christian, seeking alternatives to priests and pews, or embarrassed by my adherence. I changed one denomination (Roman Catholic Church) for another (Episcopal Church USA).
The story of my wanderings inside, outside, and on the margins of religious organizations is not what I want to speak to tonight. The conflict between belief and unbelief is not “me.” The stories of seeking and finding are not “me.” The structure of my development in faith maturity is not “me.”
Nor even, I imagine, is the experience of discovering my own divinity, the terrible and awesome realization of our Supreme Identity. That was the central turning point in my life through age 35, as readers of my memoir know, but it is not “me.”
I’m not particularly interested in “me” (if there even is such a thing) right now, but the soul-shape imprinted upon billions of people by Christianity. It concerns me with urgency, because I find myself at last indelibly imprinted with a mark on my soul that I cannot erase and would not if I could. It is that mark that writes this blog post, not “me.”
You might have guessed that I am now to reveal that this soul-shape is God or Jesus Christ or the Holy Spirit. And you are in part correct. But the truth is, I am not sure that any of these titles are adequate to name the mark or describe the soul-shape which works through my mind, heart, and hands.
My consciousness is not my own. It is a plurality in ever greater degrees of stability, integration, and realization. There is the “I,” and then there is the “You,” and then there is the “We.”
I can ask God if He is truly God, and God says, “I am God, and more…”
I can ask Jesus Christ if He is the One, My Beloved, and He says, “I am He, Your Beloved and more, and You are My Beloved and more…”
I can ask the Holy Spirit if … He? … She? … No, We. We are the mark, the soul-shape which has been given to me by my Christian faith. And We say, “Yes. We are the Spirit of All, we are the Body of All, we are the Mind of All. We are the Ones heralded by the prophets. We are the Ones who are bringing in the New World to Come.”
Christian practice as being the Trinity
This, it seems to “me,” is the way I find myself being Christian. I cannot silence the voices of God, Jesus Christ, and Holy Spirit (not to mention certain saints). They offer unconditional love, encourage absolute acceptance of all things, and beckon me into constantly widening spans of inclusion, understanding, love, and goodness.
They are not psychotic delusions or compulsive thoughts (and since I’ve experienced such states of consciousness I feel I’m in a pretty good position to judge). They are not wishful make-believe “imaginary friends.” And, I am positive, they are not special gifts of communication bestowed only to me. They are, I believe, real relationships, available to each and every one who seeks them.
These relationships are not so much “part of my life,” and prayer is not so much “something I do,” as the very moment-to-moment experience of my consciousness as it arises moment to moment. Thus it doesn’t quite work to say that I have realized my Supreme Identity to be “Godhead,” or “Christ Consciousness.” Not anymore.
It seems much better to say that “We are Spirit, Sofia, and that “I” am the one who is learning, stumbling, awkwardly bumbling, to learn to know and love the “We.” That “We” is radically inclusive of all beings — past, present, and future — alive or departed, in body and ether, light and shadow, good and evil.
When I look at it this way, I don’t have a “spiritual path” anymore. I don’t have a spiritual “journey,” “quest,” or “search.” I have only my Self: that indivisible Trinity of “I,” “You,” and “We.”
Sometimes I find myself confused and uncertain in words. I am caught in dialogue or conflict between the “I” and “You.” But then, God willing, I find the “We,” and am something new. I find the voice of teacher, not merely a student. I find, in that surrender of “I” and “You,” the mark of faith that has shaped my soul as a Christian.
These reflections feel inadequate to me. I don’t know if you will think them unclear, confusing, upsetting, disappointing, strange, pretentious, or even idiotic. That’s all right.
God has a voice. Do you hear it?
Judaism, Christianity, and Islam are the world’s major prophetic faiths. They are religions of inspiration and revelation. The Divine is present to all, but the voice of the Divine is not heard by all. In the sacred scriptures, God’s voice is heard first by prophets, the revealers of God’s speech to the world.
God has a voice! Just pause for a moment to consider that statement.
God has a voice.
It’s that voice within — the “I AM” — that lives in us every time we say the words “I am” either out loud or in the inner space of our minds. As in, “I’m reading these words,” “I’m going to the store,” or “I am who I am.”
People of prophetic faiths say that God or Spirit is within all of us. But do they really believe it? Really, really? Do they practice that belief? Do they hear the name, the very essence of the Divine every time they conjugate the first-person singular subjective personal pronoun and decline the verb “to be”?
I doubt most do. Do they hear their own thoughts and own speech as God’s own voice? Do they hear God’s speech rolling off their own tongue?
“No, I don’t. But I shouldn’t be expected to. I am NOT a prophet!” a Jew or a Christian or a Muslim might say.
“Oh, but you are!” I say. “There — in the substance of symbolic thought and phonosemantic utterance, every word and sentence, THAT is where you have not sought God, and that is where you have not found God. But therein God dwells too, if you but listen… and hear God’s voice with the next word you say.”
That is what I want to tell you today. It’s not a message that I’ve heard others teach so much, although I cannot claim to know all of what others are teaching and preaching. But there is no greater message that I have to give to Christians — and all people — than this: There are many more places where God dwells which we are finding if we only seek, and the future of our world depends on our discovery of these dwelling places, for our attention to God is the very force of evolution in all its forms.
Until we learn to recognize God every place God is “hidden,” even in something so immediate to us and yet slippery as the sinewy thread of thought itself, in the trinity of “I,” the “We,” and the “You” which is in our language and therefore, I know, dwelling alike in you as in me, then we hinder our conscious evolution.
We do not discover God as the present Christ, as the Divine Logos, if we already know what we are going to say, because then we have defended ourselves against the unknowable, the unpredictable God. We are too busy listening to ourselves speak to let God speak through us.
We can hear in our thought and speech the voice of that small self which we take ourselves to be and remain in ignorance of the Divine’s power. We can resist evolution’s onward pull. Or we can open to God with our whole being in order to be a force for healing the world and creating a more hopeful, more peaceful, more abundant, and more beautiful future for us all.