Early On

Early on,
I was living a life that was not my own,
a life spent in obedience to dogma and doctrine,
instead of listening to my heart.

I tried to conform my life to a set of standards
whether they were mine or not.

If that sounds like what I was supposed to do with values,
it is because that is what I was taught.
It was a simplistic brand of moralism
that reduced my ethical life
to making a list and checking it twice
 against an index of virtues and sins,
and then trying very hard to be not naughty but nice.

There were moments in my life
when I was so unformed
that I needed to use church catechism
to make me self-righteous.
But I found something very wrong
when such moments recurred in adulthood.

Trying to live someone else’s life,
or to live by an external religious norm,
invariably failed,
 doing my spiritual growth great harm.

Before I told my life what I intended to do with it,
I needed to listen for what it intended to do with me.

Before I told my life what truths and values I had decided to live up to,
I had to let my life tell me what truths I embodied,
what values I represented.

If my true self seeks not conformity, but wholeness,
as I believe it does,
 then the willful pursuit of mindless obedience
is an act of violence toward myself,
 violence in the name of a vision that, however lofty,
was forced on me from without
rather than grown from within.

My true self, when so violated,
resisted,
holding my life in check
until I honored its truth,
and not the institution’s.

 Growth came from listening
 to my life
 trying to understand what it was truly about
 quite apart from what others wanted it to be about.

 If I had not listened,
my life would never represent anything real in the world,
no matter how earnest my intentions.

My life is not about a goal that I pursue.
It is about a calling that I hear.
Before I could tell my life what I want to do with it,
I had to listen to my life telling me who I am.

I had to listen for the truths and values
at the heart of my own identity,
not some external standards by which I must live
but the standards by which I cannot help but live
if I am living my own life.

What a long time it is taking
to become the person I have always been!
How often in the process I masked myself with faces
that were not my own.

How much dissolving and shaking of ego I needed to endure
before I discovered my deep identity
 the true self within every human being
that is the seed of the Creator.
Life does not mean scrambling toward some prize
just beyond my reach
but accepting the treasure of true self
I already possess.

Growth does not come from a voice out there
 calling me to become something I am not.
It comes from a voice within
calling me to be the person I was born to be.

Unknown

I am surrounded by mystery, 
by what I don’t know 
and
what I can’t know.

I won’t ever know all there is to explain. 
How could I possibly know all the questions to ask? 

To presume that anyone can know all there is to know 
shows supreme arrogance. 

Why would I want to know everything? 
How sad it would be if, one day, 
I arrived at the end of knowledge. 

With no more questions to ask, 
my creativity would be stifled, 
the fire within me extinguished. 

That, to me, 
would be incomparably worse 
than embracing doubt
 as the unavoidable partner of my curious mind.

My search for different ways to connect 
with something bigger than I am, 
can only be called love.

My experience of the mysterious
 is a cosmic religious feeling,
the most significant I can have
in awe of Creation. 

Love is the purest form of spirituality, 
the manifold experience of my profound connection 
with the cosmos. 

From Nature I came, 
in Nature I am, 
to Nature I will go.





Teaching

Religious hierarchs 
dictate desirable outcomes of 
obeying church teaching. 

They use their own rules, regulation, rites, rituals, doctrine and dogma 
as a template against which the ideas, beliefs, and behaviors of their adherents
are to be measured. 

The goal is to shape people to the template 
in order to maintain control.

But that sort of teaching is not teaching at all. 

Authentic spirituality wants to open us to truth,
 whatever truth may be, 
wherever truth may take us. 

Such a spirituality does not dictate where we must go
or what we must do,
but trusts that any path walked with integrity 
will take us to a place of knowledge
and Transformation.

Spirituality encourages us 
to welcome diversity and conflict, 
to tolerate ambiguity, 
and to embrace paradox. 

Spirituality is not about dictating ends. 
It is about examining and clarifying 
the inner sources of teaching and learning, 
ridding us of religious toxins 
which poison our hearts and minds.

Authentic spirituality 
addresses the fear that so often permeates religion 
 and destroys teaching and learning. 

Religious fear, not ignorance, 
is the enemy of learning, 
and that fear is what gives the religious hierarchy its power.

To teach is to create a space,
not for fear of some sort of eternal damnation,
but for the quest for truth.

I Doubt; Therefore I AM

Doubt
is not an opposite
of
Faith.

Doubt
is a sign
that my Faith
is
alive and well,
exploring,
searching.

Doubt and Faith,
not opposites,
but intimate partners
of the
Cosmic Dance.

Similarly,
Conviction and Humility
are Cosmic Dance Partners,
supporting my Faith,
humbly admitting
that my knowledge and perspective
will always be
limited.

Purpose

No matter what I believe to be life’s source, 
I perceive the purpose of human existence 
as affording a maximum of help 
towards the universal development of everything that exists.

I perceive everything in nature to be in constant process of development
with each of nature’s entities unconsciously contributing 
to the development of others. 

Gifted with consciousness, 
I think I am bound to make conscious use 
of my spiritual faculties
 in striving for the development of everything existent.

 I believe the soul of every Being
 has in it the same unconscious aspiration, 
the same imperative demand of the Spirit.

So I see the aim of my existence 
as a conscious striving for the universal development 
of everything that exists. 

I would have been the unhappiest man
 had I not found purpose in my life, 
at once universal and useful.








Outsider

The journey
from being a loyal religious insider
to being an outspoken outsider
is not easy.

The Keepers
of the rules, regulations, rites, and rituals
and those that obediently follow their lead,
have no use for me,
pity me, label me heretic,
(an honor)
care not at all what I say and write,
simply ignore me.

Some even pray
that I find my way back
into mindless submission
in religion's closed circle.

Leaving the world of certainty
and assured paradise 
in the life hereafter
for following the rules
is a daunting leap
into the unknown.

The bushel of obedience,
though blocking out 
the horizon and light,
kept me warm and comfy,
albeit a bit stale
for lack of fresh air
and new ideas.

Many have said
that Institutional Religion
can only be changed
by insiders
and that by leaving,
I give up that hope.

As the Keepers
have lost and/or abused
the true message of Jesus
for over 2000 years,
it seems evident
no one on the inside
really wants to 
or simply cannot
reform the bushel
from within.

Many within
argue that the Good
that exists inside
the doctrine and dogma,
rites and rituals,
rules and regulations
is worth honoring and fighting for,
that nothing earthly is perfect,
and that we should overlook
the abuse, discrimination, and tyranny
of the Keepers.

I refuse to be complicit
in their evil
with my silence
in order to perpetuate
any good that may flow alongside it.

A key to the bushel's
longevity
is the inherent mandatory darkness within;
it looks entirely different
outside,
in the light of day.

Exposed to the elements outside
may be challenging,
but weathering life's storms
is a key to growth,
not possible with mindless obedience
within.





Covert Catholic Conscience

Every person 
has the right, the need, and the obligation 
to be Spirit-directed,
 not in a ruthlessly individualistic fashion, 
but within the nurturing, supportive atmosphere 
of community. 

Lockstep conformity to religious dogma and doctrine 
is for totalitarian states; 
intelligent, resourceful, considerate decision-making 
is for the truly Conscientious.

One of the best kept secrets is found 
among the documents of the Second Vatican Council
in The Church in the Modern World:

Deep within their consciences 
men and women discover a law 
which they have not laid upon themselves 
and which they must obey. 

It is a voice, ever calling us to Love
and to do what is good and to avoid evil, 
telling us inwardly at the right moment: 
do this, shun that.

Our dignity rests in observing this law, 
and by it to be judged.
 For God willed that 
men and women should be free 
to make their own decisions.

Our dignity therefore requires us
to act out of conscious and free choice, 
as moved and drawn in a personal way 
from within, 
and not by our own blind impulses 
or by external constraint. 

Our Spiritual
 life cannot be satisfied by a mere recitation of answers 
that are composed by somebody else 
for our benefit.
 We have an obligation to act 
with an informed conscience.

Living our lives 
according to personal conscience 
 makes certain demands on us. 

The first and most essential 
is the never-ending task of forming a good conscience, 
a conscience that is not only worthy of being followed,
but one that must be followed.

That demands the hard work 
of agonizing and objective thinking, 
periods of self-doubt, 
informative reading, 
peer consultation, 
counseling, 
prayer,
 and patient waiting. 

With that we will know, 
by the urging of an inner voice, 
when the time to act has come 
and what form our action must take.

(Primacy of Conscience
is an essential of Catholic Faith,
preached rarely,
practiced even less.)