Good Morning Beloved
The Enemy Within
Welcome back to our series based on Science Fiction and the Lessons available if we pay attention.
We have learned that Science Fiction and Fantasy stories are so much more than entertainment, these stories, TV shows, movies and books can help to shape us; we learn what kind of people we want to be—and who exactly we are fighting against becoming.
Our example this week beautifully illustrate the importance of integrating what Carl Jung described as our “shadow”. The manifestation of the shadow is common in Star Trek. Science Fiction and Star Trek itself are highly suited to show the exploration of the human condition, as we have seen already through our series.
Often Sci-Fy writers focus on the intricate dance between emotions and how critical they are to how we view the world. Feelings such as sadness, joy, anger, fear, and disgust can form the basis for the actions we take and the interactions we have with others. That makes the interplay between emotions incredibly important.
In other words, the Star Trek Universes as well as other ‘worlds’ love exploring our shadow, that dance between dark and light, because they can give a face to that shadow.
The episode, “The Enemy Within” does this literally by splitting Captain Kirk in two…
A transporter malfunction splits Captain Kirk into two captains, the Good Captain and the Bad or Evil Captain.
Spock notices the Good Captain has lost his power to make decisions and concludes it is an opportunity to examine the roles of good and evil.
We can look at this as a test – what it is that makes someone an exceptional leader. The negative side makes them strong. Properly controlled and disciplined, it is vital to their strength.
But the negative side of Captain Kirk also displays very decisive thoughtless hostility, lust, brutality and violence.
While his positive side expresses compassion, love and tenderness but lacks the decisive power necessary for in-the-moment decisions.
Spock observes that Captain Kirk needs his dark side to make the decisions an exceptional leader must make. It is Kirk’s so-called evil side when properly disciplined and integrated that is vital to his strength and ability to be a star ship captain. Eventually the Good Captain Kirk realizes he does need to be reunited with his “evil” side and yet is greatly repulsed by the idea.
In “The Ethics of Star Trek” by Judith Barad, PhD,
“Good” Kirk realizes that “reason and emotion may be entirely separate functions, yet they’re critically interdependent.”
One without the other would lead to psychological death – insanity.
“Bad” Kirk wants nothing to do with joining with his good side. He’s paranoid about losing his power.
Barad looks at the situation through the ethics of Aristotle (an original New Thoughter!)
She states, “The interaction between the two Kirks dramatizes an important principle of Aristotelian ethics: the more volatile the emotion, the more likely we are to reach a wrong moral judgment. Likewise, the less emotionally agitated we are, the greater the chances that we will weigh alternative courses of action and reach a sound moral judgment. “
Look at that again….thoughts?
So, why this episode of Star Trek? Can you guess what some of the Lessons are?
As Bones (Dr. McCoy for non-Trekkers) tells Kirk he’s no different than everyone else: “We all have our dark side – we need it! It’s half of what we are. It’s not really ugly- it’s human.”
Without Kirk’s negative side, he was unable to make the choices that a Captain needs to make.
And we ALL need that side to balance out our lives, our choices.
Pema Chodron calls it our wonderfulness and our craziness. In her little book, “Awakening Loving Kindness”, she observes:
“When people start to meditate or to work with any kind of spiritual discipline, they often think that some-how they’re going to improve, which is a sort of subtle aggression against who they really are.
It’s a bit like saying, “If I jog, I’ll be a much better person.” “If I could only get a nicer house, I’d be a better person.” “If I could meditate and calm down, I’d be a better person.’
Or the scenario may be that they find fault with others; they might say “If it weren’t for my husband, I’d have a perfect marriage.” “If it weren’t for the fact that my boss and I can’t get on, my job would be just great.”
And “If it weren’t for my mind, my meditation would be excellent.
But loving-kindness – maitri – toward ourselves doesn’t mean getting rid of anything. Maitri means that we can still be crazy after all these years.
We can still be angry after all these years. We can still be timid or jealous or full of feelings of unworthiness. The point is not to try to change ourselves.
Meditation practice isn’t about trying to throw ourselves away and become something better. It’s about befriending who we are already. The ground of practice is you or me or whoever we are right now, just as we are. That’s the ground, that’s what we study, that’s what we come to know with curiosity and interest.”
This internal struggle to keep all our parts in balance is addressed in every tradition.
St. Paul laments that he doesn’t do what he knows he should; and does what he knows he shouldn’t.
In Islam, the greater jihad is the struggle against one’s inner self, and the Lesser Jihad as the struggle to defend the Islamic state.
“According to the Qur’an and the Hadith, jihad is a duty that may be fulfilled in four ways: by the heart, the tongue, the hand, or the sword. The first way (known in Sufism as the “greater jihad”) involves struggling against evil desires.”
Jesus had 40 days in the wilderness
Siddhartha had to leave the castle, to embrace the “darkness of the world”, which his father had tried to shield from him, in order to find his strength and his destiny.
Taoism is based on the balance between yin and yang, light and dark, and everything in between.
And of course, Star Wars, the Harry Potter series, and every super hero including Wonder Woman, have all explored the importance of recognizing and integrating our shadow… and the shadow of our world.
An interesting component of this episode is that the “good” Kirk wasn’t aware of his talents, of his abilities. He was what Aristotle called shamefaced, as opposed to his “evil” counterpart, who had no shame at all, unable to comprehend the consequences of his behavior.
A different definition of humility – not thinking less of yourself, it is thinking of yourself less. Kirk, as captain of the fleet’s premier starship, needed to be aware of his abilities, of how good he was as a captain. He needed the confidence inherent in true humility, found only by embracing his darkness.
Without his dark side Kirk is confused, forgetful and unable to make decisions. Kirk’s good side was able to recognize that he needed to reintegrate with his dark side.
However, his dark side remained stubbornly convinced that he did not need the good side and the dark side tried to kill off the good side.
Kirk is repulsed by his “dark” side, yet recognizes that without it, he loses much of his leadership abilities. And worse, without his dark side, Kirk would have eventually weakened and died.
An example of hidden gifts:
Over three hundred years ago, the Burmese army planned an attack to invade Thailand. At the time, the country was known as Siam. The Siamese monks were in possession of the most amazing Buddha statue. The statue is over 10 feet tall and weighs in excess of 2 1/2 tons. It is made of solid gold and is valued today at $200 MILLION dollars. The monks were determined to protect the shrine that meant so much to them. While it was priceless to them for reasons that transcend money; they knew that the Burmese would stop at nothing to steal the statue because of its tremendous monetary value. They covered the Golden Buddha with 12 inches of clay knowing that the warriors would totally ignore it and think it worthless. Sadly, the monks were slaughtered in the invasion and the secret of the Golden Buddha stayed hidden for two centuries. The Buddha itself though, remained safe.
In the mid 50’s, a monastery was to be relocated to make room for a new highway. The monks arranged for a crane to come and move the “Clay” Buddha to its new location. When the crane started to lift the statue, it was much heavier than expected and it began to crack. Wanting to protect the priceless shrine, the monks lowered it back down and decided to wait until the next day to bring more powerful equipment. To add insult to injury, the rains came so the monks lovingly covered the statue with tarps to keep the moisture away. In the dark of night, the head monk took his flashlight and went out to make sure the Buddha was adequately covered. When the light of the flashlight shone into the crack of the clay, he saw a glimmer…a reflection of something underneath that shroud of clay. He immediately started to carefully chisel away shards of clay to find that the glimmer grew brighter. Hours later, and all the clay removed…he was in the presence of a Buddha made of solid gold. It now resides in The Temple of the Golden Buddha in Bangkok, Thailand. Every year, millions of people go there to see this magnificent work of art and to worship at his feet. And to think, it may never have been uncovered…
We never know what golden gifts we have underneath, our shadow side…
In the end of our Star Trek episode, the “good” side literally embraces the “darkness” signified by Kirk holding onto his dark side while on the transporter pad, and in doing so, wholeness is restored.
The Gospel of St Thomas states: “If you bring forth what is within you, what you bring forth will save you. If you do not bring forth what is within you, what you do not bring forth will destroy you.”
Gandhi said, “The only devils in the world are those running around in our hearts. That is where the battle should be fought.”
Shadow work is about opening your heart and making peace with your internal devils. It is about embracing your fears and weaknesses and finding compassion for your humanity.
Give yourself the gift of your heart. As soon as you open your heart to yourself you will open your heart to all others.
Are we willing to embrace our darkness, our craziness? Are we willing to befriend who we already are? Jesus taught us to love our neighbors as ourselves. If we are only loving part of ourselves, the parts we deem to be acceptable, is that how we’re loving our neighbors? Loving only the parts that we deem to be acceptable?
Or are we willing to have the courage to love all of us, and all of the other? Because it does take courage. It takes courage to own the nastiness, the envy, the anger, the temper, the judgments. And it takes courage to acknowledge the love and the compassion and the capacity for giving.
We must use our complete person to captain whatever ship holds us – our families, our communities, our Unity, and the places we call home. It is true that the raw force of our darker emotions, unchecked, can jeopardize our well-being and the well-being of others. But working in concert with our ability to reason and love, we create a whole person, both shadow and light, cable of powerful action.
Kirk referred to his duplicate self as an “imposter,” but the shadow side of ourselves can be welcomed as an important part of our nature, a necessary force, rather than something too brutish to harbor. There is no imposter, no enemy within, so long as we refuse to view any part of ourselves as an adversary. As McCoy said, “It’s not really ugly, it’s human.”
“I used to want to save the world. To end war and bring peace to mankind. But then, I glimpsed the darkness that lives within their light. I learned that inside every one of them, there will always be both. The choice each must make for themselves – something no hero will ever defeat. I’ve touched the darkness that lives in between the light. Seen the worst of this world, and the best. Seen the terrible things men do to each other in the name of hatred, and the lengths they’ll go to for love. Now I know. Only love can save this world. So, I stay. I fight, and I give… for the world I know can be. This is my mission, now. Forever.” – Diana Prince, Wonder Woman
The Hero’s Journey
We have been seeing how the Science Fiction writers have most often presented a look at the issues that we face daily – greed, homelessness, inequality, hunger…and more often than not, they give us a look at what we can become, a look at who we truly are if we just let our love shine through.
Last week we used the episode from Star Trek, The Next Generation called “The Measure of a Man”
This week we’ll take a look at The Hero’s Journey.
In 1949 Joseph Campbell made a big splash in the field of mythology with his book “The Hero with a Thousand Faces”. This book built on the pioneering work of German anthropologist Adolph Bastian, who first proposed the idea that myths from all over the world seem to be built from the same “elementary ideas.”
Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung named these elementary ideas “archetypes,” which he believed to be the building blocks not only of the unconscious mind, but of a collective unconscious.
In other words, Jung believed that everyone in the world is born with the same basic subconscious model of what a “hero” is, or a “mentor” or a “quest,” and that’s why people who don’t even speak the same language can enjoy the same stories.
Campbell’s contribution was to take this idea of archetypes and use it to map out the common underlying structure behind religion and myth. He proposed this idea in “The Hero with a Thousand Faces”, which provides examples from cultures throughout history and all over the world. Campbell argues that all stories are fundamentally the same story, which he named the “Hero’s Journey.”
This sounds like a simple idea, but it suggests something incredible, which Campbell summed up with his adage, “All religions are true, but none are literal.” That is, he concluded that all religions are really containers for the same essential truth, and the trick is to avoid mistaking the wrappings for the diamond.
Think about that for a minute….first: All religions are true, but none are literal, and then; the trick is to avoid mistaking the wrappings for the diamond.
That has to get your thinking caps on….
This week we are using Star Wars for our inspiration into the human psyche.
George Lucas had already written two drafts of Star Wars when he rediscovered Joseph Campbell’s “The Hero with a Thousand Faces” in 1975. This blueprint for “The Hero’s Journey” gave Lucas the focus he needed to draw his amazing imagination into a single story with many chapters.
Joseph Campbell often noted that while mythic structure is universal, myth itself must be kept fresh through reinterpretation. Every generation must look at the myths within their own context to suit their times, to create their own road map for how to fit best into the world.
After the release of Star Wars, Campbell and Lucas became friends. Campbell credited Lucas with reinvigorating the mythic force in the modern world. In return Lucas reignited worldwide interest in Campbell’s ideas, which have had profound repercussions on world culture in general and Hollywood in particular. Lucas once called Campbell “my Yoda.”
Our hero’s journey begins in Star Wars: A New Hope. We first meet Luke Skywalker as he and his uncle are buying two new droids, R2D2 and C3PO. Luke is a brash, impatient and immature young man, who bemoans his lot in life on a regular basis. “It just isn’t fair. I’m never going to get out of here.”
Can any of you relate to Luke?
Luke is working on his uncle’s farm on a remote and dry planet called Tatoine. He dreams of going to the Academy and becoming a pilot in the fleet.
AS fate would have it, Luke meets up with Obi-Wan Kenobi, formerly a Jedi knight that knew Luke’s father. Obi-Wan introduces Luke to the Force.
“The Force is what gives a Jedi his power. It’s an energy field created by all living things. It surrounds us, it penetrates us, it binds the galaxy together.”
Sounds like Divine energy, doesn’t Charles define LOVE as that force that binds everything together?
In response to a distress signal sent by Princess Leia, Obi-Wan tells Luke that he needs his help and tells him that he “must learn the ways of the Force.”
Initially, Luke resists, but when his aunt and uncle are killed by Imperial stormtroopers, he joins Obi Wan in the rebellion against the Empire and agrees to learn the ways of the Jedi. When Luke boasts to Obi-Wan that “I’m ready for anything,” we once again see the arrogance of the young Luke.
As our story continues, Obi-Wan begins Luke’s training aboard the ship of Han Solo, the Millenium Falcon. They are journeying to save Princess Leia, who’s home planet has been destroyed by the evil Darth Vader. Luke is practicing with his light saber against mechanical challengers, relying on what he’s done before, relying on what he can see.
Obi-Wan reminds him, “Remember, a Jedi can feel the Force flowing through him.” Luke asks, “You mean it controls your actions?” Obi-Wan replies, “Partially, but it also obeys your commands.”
Obi-Wan continues to instruct Luke, by making him put on a helmet so he can’t see his challenger. “Let go of your conscious self and act on instinct. Your eyes can deceive you. Don’t trust them. Stretch out with your feelings.”
“So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” 2 Corinthians 4:18
Your eyes can deceive you. What is real and what is illusion? Something we must ask ourselves daily…
Obi-Wan, Luke, Han, Chewbacha and the droids form a plan to rescue Princess Leia and escape from the Death Star. Again, Luke is impatient and questions Obi-Wan’s decision to separate. Not for the first time in the saga or the last, Luke is told, “Be patient, Luke. The Force will be with you always.”
Fast forward. Obi-Wan has disarmed the tractor beam that was placed on their ship, Luke and Han have freed Princess Leia, and our intrepid band is all moving back toward the Millenium Falcon. On the way, Obi-Wan is intercepted by his former student, Darth Vader and they begin a lightsaber battle. Vader taunts the older Jedi, accusing him of becoming weak in his skills. Obi-Wan admonishes Vader for his arrogance: “You can’t win, Darth. If you strike me down, I will become more powerful than you can imagine.”
Isn’t that what happened with Jesus. He became more powerful than anyone at the time, would have imagined.
Obi-Wan’s is killed and his death devastates Luke, because he doesn’t understand that death has freed Obi-Wan. As Luke stands beside the Falcon, stunned, we hear Obi-Wan’s voice urging him to “Run!” and know, as does Luke, that Obi-Wan has not really left us.
Having planted a homing device on Han’s ship, Darth Vader follows our heroes to the rebel base. The young warriors of the rebellion prepare to destroy the Death Star, based on the plans supplied to them by R2D2.
The one disappointment at this point in the movie is the imminent departure of Han Solo. Luke berates Han for taking the reward money and running. Han, ever the cynic, tells him they’re all crazy for taking on the Empire and prepares to leave.
Through Han’s bravado, we see a real struggle taking place within him, between being right (after all, there is a real bounty on his head and he feels fully justified in leaving) and doing the right thing.
As ship after ship has been destroyed by Imperial flyers, Luke alone is left to deliver the final blow to the Death Star. As Darth Vader is about to blow his ship away, Han swoops in and rescues Luke… his struggle over and “doing the right thing” winning the internal struggle.
Meanwhile, Luke is having his own struggle. Trained to rely on the ship’s computer, he hears Obi-Wan telling him to, “Trust your feelings, Luke. Use the Force, Luke. Let go, Luke. Luke, trust me…” Luke surrenders to Obi Wan’s suggestion, turns off his computer and uses the Force to launch the missile… hitting the target dead on and destroying the Death Star. As the instrument of evil blows up, spectacularly, we hear the voice-over of Obi-Wan: “Remember, the Force will be with you always.”
Star Wars ends with an awards ceremony, and we had to wait over two years to find out what happened next.
What are the lessons here?
Let’s start with you must unlearn what you have learned. What have you learned? We have learned that if we don’t see it with our eyes, we can’t believe it. What would happen if, like Luke, we were willing to unlearn all of that?
Believe it to see it!
What if we are reminded, that we are so much more than we think we are? What if we were to remember that we truly are spiritual beings having a human experience?
Love your neighbor as yourself, forgive as often as it takes, and take care of those less fortunate than yourself.
Do you do those things? Then you’re a Christian.
Jesus taught that if you approach God’s altar carrying a grudge against a brother, to leave your sacrifice, reconcile with your brother (or your sister) and only then approach God.
Do you do that? Do you go direct, with compassion and respect, when you have a problem or an issue with someone? Then you’re a Christian. If you don’t, then you may want to re-examine what you have learned about being a “Christian.”
Quoting Jesus, or scripture in general, does not make you a good Christian. Following Jesus’ teachings makes you a good Christian. Coincidentally, it also makes you a good Taoist and a pretty decent Buddhist.
Unity is the school of practical Christianity. We are all about making what Jesus taught practical and relevant to our current experience. Are you willing to unlearn what Christianity has turned into? Are you willing to re-learn that we can experience what Jesus taught through books like Harry Potter and movies like Star Wars and Joseph Campbell and yes, even other religions?
Are you willing to let go of preconceptions and misconceptions about what we can accomplish? Jesus taught, “You will do greater things than these.” Do you believe that? As Obi-Wan taught, “Many of the truths we cling to depend greatly on our own point of view.”
Do you believe that the Force is everywhere, that God is everywhere?
Life is a Hero’s Journey. The Hero is that part of us that remains constant and courageous, regardless of what is happening around us. It is our authentic self—the essence of who we are, apart from our personality traits or the drama that sometimes surrounds our lives.
Rev Carla McClellan suggests: To rediscover the Hero within you and experience greater joy, fulfillment and satisfaction in your life, begin by simply asking yourself: Would it be alright if my life got easier? Asking yourself this question may even cause you to laugh. Laughter connects us with the Divine within. Asking certain questions allows us to begin our inward journey.
Next, ask yourself, Am I willing to be authentic? Find the qualities that have deepest meaning for you and affirm their importance in your life. An example might be: I am willing to be courageous and loving, creative and kind when I interact with people today.
Third, begin to observe rather than analyze your life. When we analyze, we remain engaged in the same conversation that stopped us from moving forward in the first place. But when we observe, we give ourselves the space to discern what is happening right before us and then to act from wisdom.
Fourth, be willing to say “yes” to what is, even those situations that are causing you discomfort. When you say “yes,” you are accepting the facts of the situation, but not its power over you. Acceptance opens us up to the field of possibilities, and we see there are many choices before us.
Dag Hammarskjöld, former head of the United Nations, once said, “To everything that has been, I say, ‘Thank you.’ To everything before me, I say, ‘Yes!’”
Yes changes the energy in our body and our courageous heart opens up to expressing something creative and different.
Through willingness, self-reflection, observation and acceptance, we are able to take authentic action and live lives filled with meaning, courage and possibilities.
We are on our own Hero’s Journey.
Great Morning Beloved!
The Measure of a Man
Last week we were introduced to our Summer Series on Science Fiction and some of the Lessons we can learn from it. I say some, because there is so very much material, we could not get through it all in a year, most likely several years, maybe.
We were reminded of a few of the modern conveniences that we have now that were based upon the imagination of the many Sci-fi writers. I think Charles would be proud of their use of IMAGINATION.
Many scientists and NASA engineers received their inspiration from sci-fi shows, books and movies.
The technological advancement alone received from these innovators is amazing. But also, a look into what we, as humans can experience if we just let our minds wander to what if’s
What if there was no more poverty?
What if there was no longer discrimination?
What if there were no ‘impossibles’?
Let your mind wander for a moment….what is that world like?
We ended the Lesson with the question: “What God have we created?”
Did you ponder that this week?
This week we look at an episode from Star Trek, The Next Generation, titled “The Measure of a Man.”.
When the U.S.S. Enterprise arrives at the newly established Starbase 173, Data is ordered to serve under Captain Bruce Maddox, a powerful and well-respected Starfleet cybernetics expert who wishes to disassemble and study him so that more androids can be made for Starfleet’s use.
If you didn’t know it before, Data is a machine, an anroid, that acts, in many ways, like a human, though thinks like the Vulcan from the original series, Mr. Spock..
After Data learns that Maddox may not be able to reassemble him, he refuses to submit to the procedure. When Captain Picard is unable to have the orders changed, Data’s only option is to resign from Starfleet. His decision to resign, however, is challenged by Maddox on the basis that Data is not a person with rights, but property of the Federation. In fact, throughout the episode, Maddox refers to Data as “it,” not “him,” much to the dismay of his Enterprise friends and colleagues.
Picard announces that he will challenge that ruling at a hearing. Since the base is new and insufficiently staffed; Picard would have to defend Data, while the next most senior officer, Commander Riker, would have to prosecute. Riker is warned that if he does not give his best effort, the judge will summarily rule in favor of Maddox.
This sets the stage for an interesting and sometimes emotional court battle. At stake is far more than Data’s own future but the morality of the Federation itself. Faced with no other choice, Riker must contend in his prosecution that Data is simply a machine — the creation of man. This is definitely not an open and shut case. When Riker presents Starfleet’s case, however, he proves Data’s artificiality in a devastating way by merely hitting his off switch, leaving him lifeless in his seat.
Certain of his defeat, Picard has a discussion with Guinan, the wise bartender on board, played by Whoopie Goldberg. She has an interesting suggestion; that the Federation’s desire to create and own a race of disposable androids is the recreation of slavery.
Picard brings this point to the discussion and declares that in a sense, all beings are created but that does not necessarily make them the property of their creator.
Think about our lives. Are we not created in the image and likeness of OUR Creator? Yet we have free will. We are not owned by that Creator.
Picard reminds the court: “Our mission is to seek out new life.” He points at Data and states, “Well, there it sits!”
The judge agrees with him, asserting that Data may be a machine, but he is owned by no one and has the right to make his own decisions regarding his life.
This court-theme deals on the surface, with concepts such as “what is sentience” and “when does machine end and man begin.”
While defining “what is life,” there is an even richer lesson for us here.
Throughout this episode, the characters are challenged to let go of what they had previously believed to be true, what constitutes a living being. This is particularly true for Commander Maddox, but to some degree, every person involved in this drama is changed by their experience.
Commander Riker is perhaps the most heroic player in this episode. He agrees to prosecute Data, one of his closest friends, because if he doesn’t, the judge will summarily find against him. He does this at great personal expense, for Riker sacrificed his own happiness in agreeing to prosecute his friend.
Think about a time when you may have had to go against a friend to remain true to your own integrity….
Everyone on the ship, everyone involved in this story, comes out of it with a new perspective on Data. There is now no doubt that Data is independent, his own “person” so to speak, but no one is clearer on this at the end than Commander Maddox, as Socrates so succinctly put it, “The truly wise man is he who knows how ignorant he is.”
This reminds us mostly of the nature of our most closely held beliefs, and particularly of stereotypes. We tend to cling most tightly to what we want to believe the most, whether it’s working for us or not. Remember the definition of insanity? To do the same thing over and over again, expecting a different result?
I believe that the angels weep at our ignorance of our ignorance, because it causes such suffering. To hold so tightly to our beliefs takes a lot of energy… energy that we could be putting into enjoying life.
To realize that you do not understand is a virtue; Not to realize that you do not understand is a defect. — Lao-Tzu, “Tao Teh Ching”
One of the Buddha’s most famous teachings is the Parable of the Raft. In it he likened his teachings to a raft for crossing a fast-flowing river.
A man is trapped on one side of a river. On this side of the river, there is great danger and uncertainty; on the far side is safety. But there is no bridge spanning the river, nor is there a ferry to cross over. What to do? The man gathers together logs, leaves, and creepers and by his wit fashions a raft from these materials. By lying on the raft and using his hands and feet as paddles he manages to cross the river from the dangerous side to the side of safety.
The Buddha then asks the listeners a question. What would you think if the man, having crossed over the river thought to himself, That raft has served me well I will carry it on my back over the land now?
The monks replied that it would not be a very sensible idea to cling to the raft in such a way.
The Buddha went on, What if he lay the raft down gratefully thinking that this raft has served him well but is no longer of use and can thus be laid down upon the shore?
The monks replied that this would be the proper attitude.
The Buddha concluded by saying, So it is with my teachings which are like a raft and are for crossing over with—not for seizing hold of.
In the early stages of faith and life there is a lot of raft-seizing. We find a truth or a piece of the truth, and we make it absolute. It starts out with things like, My family is the best. My country is the greatest. My team is all. My race is the crown of civilization. My religion is the only true one. There are gifts and blessings in all these things, but they can all be absolutized and used to defend the ego—the individual ego or the group ego.
Don’t we see this right now in our own country?.
One of the principles behind this parable is the Buddha’s sense that spirituality ought to be practical. He did not want to waste any time on what he called “speculation,” on things like, How can God be three and one at the same time? Is there a real heaven and hell somewhere? Which sins are mortal and which are only venial? Did this miracle in the Bible actually happen? Who are the ‘elect’? Was Mary really a virgin? None of these things can be known, and we waste our time and energies pursuing them, and often debating and even fighting over them.
Spirituality ought to be practical. Nice that Unity is called Practical Christianity…
Use the truths that are given to you as a raft, to carry you through troubled times, to help you find your way to safety and blessing. But don’t keep carrying the raft around. Don’t set the raft up in a chapel somewhere and start worshiping it. And for sure, don’t fight with others about whose raft is really the true raft.
This is certainly a parable for our day.
What if the path to enlightenment, the path to true joy in life, is to be willing to let go of even our most closely held beliefs, to be willing, as the masters did, to be open to all the evidence presented to us… and to be willing to change our minds? To be willing to leave our rafts behind and walk on without them?
Charles was quoted as stating that he reserved the right to change his mind about what he believed at the time.
Our Way-shower, Jesus was raised in the strict purity laws of his day, he was willing to look at what he was taught in a new and different way. He saw, that while these laws were necessary at one time, that they had served their effectiveness, and that his people were ready for the next step.
Although he had been taught that it was what went into his mouth that made him pure or not, he saw that it was what was in his heart, and what came out of his mouth, that was more important.
While he had been taught that man was made for the Sabbath, he saw that the Sabbath had really been made for man. He saw that rules and principles are two different things, and that although he had been raised to see rules as more important, he grew to realize that principle was our path to true wisdom, and joy.
You can see a lot of what Charles brought out of Jesus’ teachings and put into the foundation of Unity.
Like the prophets of sci-fi that we looked at last week, Jesus, and other masters that we admire, were willing to think outside of the box. They believed in miracles, not as something outside of nature or their experience, but as the possibility inherent in being willing to see beyond our current experience.
Are we willing to change our minds? Are we willing to believe in miracles, seeing that real miracles, as Willa Cather described them, “rest not so much upon healing power coming suddenly near us from afar but upon our perceptions being made finer, so that, for the moment, our eyes can see and our ears can hear what has been around us always.”
In the Measure of a Man, Picard becomes clear that the real issue at hand isn’t whether or not Data is an android, or even sentient. The real issue is how we treat anyone who is different from us in society. And how we reduce those who are different to non-beings. It’s happened repeatedly in this country and around the world with slavery, the subjugation of women, the Nazi holocaust, and more recent examples of genocide, and now with the immigrant situation coming to a head. The worldwide swing to the “right” is another example of fear of our differences.
How easily we justify enslaving and killing anyone, or anything, not like us. And yet, our differences are absolutely necessary to make us strong. Star Trek was an attempt to say that humanity will reach maturity and wisdom on the day that it begins to not just, tolerate, but take a special delight in differences in ideas and differences in lifeforms. -. – Gene Roddenberry
Diversity is necessary for the survival of our species. Ironically, we continue to fear that which is different from ourselves.
We see this clearly in the episode this morning. Maddox calls Data “IT” throughout the entire episode. It is only in the last minutes of the final scene that he refers to Data as “he” recognizing his “humanity.”
“It is not so important to know everything as to appreciate what we learn.” Hannah More