Like others, my search for Truth has lead me to investigate many spiritual traditions. Each path at first seems totally unique, not only the ultimate aim, but also the teachings and the language used, the methods and practices, and the cultural milieu. I eventually chose to immerse myself in the Gurdjieff tradition, which has its roots in Eastern spirituality, because Gurdjieff reformulated those teachings and methods especially for Western minds and bodies. This was a relief to me, as I don't have a rubber band body, nor the disciplined mind of someone trained in meditation from the age of two!
The more deeply I understood Gurdjieff's ideas, and the longer I worked at applying them in my life, the more interested I became in exploring the source traditions that inspired Gurdjieff, which include primarily Eastern Orthodox Christianity, Mevlevi Sufism, and Tibetan Buddhism. I've also had an ongoing fascination with the writings of contemporary Toltecs. After some years of study, pondering, and applying what I learned in my life, I began to notice remarkable similarities between the essential principles underlying all these traditions. Just beneath the superficial masks of language, ceremony and cultural trappings lay universal, time-tested Truths. This astounding finding begged the question: so why are we all fighting each other?
When one studies the history of the world's traditions, it becomes evident that at their inception the teachings were pure and potent. Typically, surrounding each Prophet or Seer was a circle of initiates. The original meaning of "initiate" is "one who has attained Communion with the God-presence within". Surrounding this inner circle would be many candidates, people who had awakened to their true Potential but were learning the system and working at the practices to recondition their human consciousness in preparation for Communion. But the vast majority of people in every culture are "regular folks" who have not yet awakened even to glimmerings of their true potential.
One of the laws of Consciousness is that one can perceive a lack of awareness or knowledge in people at one's own level of Being or below, but one cannot perceive the difference in the consciousness of people with greater attainment, with a higher level of Being. Taking this quirk into account, the teachings targeted for "regular folks" were most often presented in story form, with frequent use of metaphor and allegory, for much the same reasons that parents read fairy tales to children, with morals and truths written "between the lines". Undeveloped minds can be entirely by-passed through the use of story so that the meaning goes straight to the heart. The subconscious mind understands these hidden meanings even when the conscious mind is confused or distracted.
How does a teacher convey the power of universal Love, of God? By comparing it to the love of a father and mother for their children. How does a teacher convey the concept of a new Master, the mystery of the God-presence hidden within? By comparing it to a "heavenly abode" and contrasting it with the "hell" of our conditioning. Anyone can hear these teaching stories and "get something". But as history has borne out, very often such allegories are taken quite literally, and whole religions and dogmas have sprung up around the literal interpretations of scripture in all traditions.
Once a Teacher transitions from the physical plane, the Initiates are faced with the daunting challenge of transmitting the teaching in as pure and potent a form as possible to raise the consciousness of the new Candidates to the level of Initiate. Over time the teachings become widely disseminated, and thereby diluted. Often, due to persecution, wars, etc., the line of transmission is severed, (or at least to the public eye, as pockets of Initiates have persisted in secrecy throughout the ages). Without true Initiates in the role of teacher, the teachings gradually -- though sometimes in as little as a generation or two -- become distorted as each transmitter inserts his or her own "agenda", often with the very best of intentions to "preserve the truth". Usually there are just enough crumbs of Truth mixed in with the "wiseacreings" that Candidates can still be recruited, and may even benefit. But eventually, left in the hands of the uninitiated for too long, the teachings become their own opposite. That is, instead of teachings that bring healing and wholeness, there is now dogma, polarized beliefs that fragment and divide. The net effect of dogma is to deepen the conditioning, deepen the hypnosis, deepen the our unconsciousness. One of the reasons for formulating dogma is the human tendency to want to "nail things down once and for all". The problem is that our fluid Universe, like water, just can't be "nailed down" by the (not so) humble human mind.
We fight one another, then, over dogma, over our differing beliefs, forgetting that beliefs are simply the human mind's best attempt at any given moment in time to describe this awesome, stupendous Universe and the Unspeakable Source of it All, ("God" for short), and our purpose within it. The ancient traditions all teach the opposite of nailing things down: to Be In Question, always. The human mind may need to formulate "working premises" along the way, but these need to grow and change with every new insight, every new discovery, to which we are lead by our questions.
So I have become a researcher: I search again, and again, and again. Each time I connect an experience with an idea, I realize I need to reconsider all related ideas in the light of this new insight. Each time I think I have "finally" understood something, new information or experience comes my way, raising new questions, opening new doors. I realize I need to continually re-view and re-evaluate my working premises or risk becoming fossilized in beliefs.
All the ancient traditions speak of the need to raise our vibration, to dethrone the unbalanced ego and prepare the human temple to receive its true Master. But we mistakenly regard our human mind as the master. We believe we are already Conscious. We are born into a society of people who have lost their natural connection with the Master within, and so we, too, quickly become enslaved by human masters: the parents, the teachers, the priests, the judges. Instead of receiving guidance from within, we turn to the outer world to find our authority. The masters seem grander than life and we slaves seem lowlier. As we struggle to become masters rather than slaves, injustice is the result.
Once we begin to perceive one another through this polarity of self-aggrandizement / self-deprecation, which begins at a tender, young age, we become susceptible to the belief that we are unworthy of love. Believing ourselves to be unworthy and unlovable, we inadvertently strengthen the barriers between ourselves and the Source of Love within us. We become ensnared in the trap of begging for approval and admiration from others as a substitute for Love. The harder we beg, the hungrier we feel. And thus the "teachings" of our social conditioning have been passed on to yet another generation.
The ancient traditions state that our common purpose in life is simply to experience. In the Gospels, Jesus says: " I came that they may have life, and may have it abundantly." (ASV John 10:10) No mention of sacrifice or sin, no mention of guilt or punishment. Just the promise of abundant life. Now. Here. This begs the question in me: so why do we persist in judging others and ourselves to death? The ancient traditions all speak of suspending our judgments of one another indefinitely. They all teach respect, finding that place within from which I can acknowledge the Divine in you and me. At this level of Being we are all equal.
I realize that I am a beginner. I begin again, and again, and again. Each time I wobble, or lose my balance and fall, I simply pick myself up and begin again. I pause, reflect a moment, and gently acknowledge my humanness. The more deeply I accept my humanness, the more ordinary I feel. The more ordinary I feel, the more I embrace my fellow humans on the path. The more I embrace my fellow travelers, the more Love begins to flow, seeping in through the cracks in our fašades, nourishing us to the marrow, leading us to back the Source of that Love within each of us.
The time has come to loosen the grip of the "Chinese finger trap" of social conditioning by working together with others of like mind and heart. Upon this foundation Ancient Traditions Community Church was built.
Exerpts from the article published in The Open Line Newspaper September 2005 issue.