One of my favorite authors, Robert Heinlein, never did this. He considered his personal beliefs to be his own business, and preferred to challenge his readers to work out their own, than to spell out what he himself thought.
One reason I have held back from putting up a statement of my personal beliefs, especially in a fixed, verbal format like a web page, is that the more intensely personal something is the more easily it can be misrepresented by words. Sometimes art and poetry seem a more valid expression of spiritual concepts and religious experience. Personal action, the way I live my life, seems to me the most authentic way of developing spiritually, as well as the best way of expressing myself spiritually.
But -- I recently met my son. My oldest son -- a child I gave up for adoption 29 years ago, when I was a sick and confused young girl and that was the best option I could think of for him. He made an effort to find me; meeting him, and being able to hug him at last for the first time in both of our lives, was a gift of Grace -- that in the universe which gives us riches and joyful occurrences beyond the expectations of mechanical chance or cosmic law.. He found a good home, he had a loving family, and he is healthy -- more Grace.
He has also established at least a trickle of communication between myself and my other son, Sean; and it is a great joy to both of the boys, both raised as only children, to find each other, to have a brother.
My son David and his wife are fundamentalist Christians. And I find that while I generally feel no necessity to explain myself at great length to others, I want to tell my son what I believe. As best I can.
But one last disclaimer -- for David, for Sean, for whoever else reads this:
If what I say helps stimulate your own thinking, I am glad. But ultimately, you make your soul by what you think, and decide, and believe. You make your life and your community by how you act on that. Making your own mistakes will do you more spiritual good than doing what I say even if it is right. Taking the time to wrestle deeply with a difficult question can be more valuable than any easy answer.
It is necessary to read about issues, think about them and discuss them, before you act. And speaking up about your opinion is an action, one that can have a measurable effect. But sooner or later, to move your ideals into the physical universe, you have to physically do something about them.
And finally, most importantly --
There is no truth that cannot be turned into a lie if you just take it seriously enough.
Some of my realities:
I find it hard to refer to these as "beliefs". To me, saying, "I believe that I am an immortal spirit" sounds like saying "I believe in potatoes" or "I believe I have a head." I mean -- "duh"! At the same time, I recognize that what seems like a rock-bottom reality to me just doesn't seem that way to many other people. That's why these are "subjective" realities.
I am an immortal spirit. I am not my body, my thoughts, or my emotions -- I am that sense of "beingness" which pays attention to things and makes decisions about them. If there is one quality that goes the closest to defining my spiritual nature, it is creativity -- one of the strongest of all human urges is to create something, and we are most fully ourselves, most fully alive, when we are being creative. A drive as equally strong as creativity is love -- the drive to bind together with others, to create relationships and communities.
Because I am an immortal spirit, no-one else, including God, can define the meaning of my life or its purpose. I have to choose, or to create, those things for myself. Because I am a spirit -- not matter, energy, space or time -- not even God can put me somewhere, whether it is Hell or Heaven.
God is a spiritual being -- an individual personality with Presence and Beingness -- who is bigger and better in every direction than I am. I don't think that it is cowardly to imagine the existence of Someone bigger and better than I am -- I think it is rather cowardly not to be able to do so. Petty, even.
I love God because that seems to me to be the only possible response to God. My version of the ontological argument: once I entertain the concept of God, as an ideal Being, perfect in every way, who loves and takes reponsibility for the entire universe, who nutures every soul as a perfect Parent, concerned only with helping us to grow -- I fall in love.
I've even made a rational argument for this, that satisfies me: even if God did not exist, if any individual spirit began taking responsibility for more and more of life, that spirit would eventually grow and develop to the point of godhead -- and at that point, would transcend all space and time and therefore would always have existed.
This argument makes some other people tear their hair out and babble, but it pleases me.
In my prayers I experience communicating with a Presence that I call God -- and I also experience another Presence, just as real and distinctly separate, which I call Jesus. For all I know, their actual names are Fred and Manitoba. I test the validity of the Presence and my relationship with the Presence by its results. I had a subjective religious experience of offering up to Jesus everything negative in my heart and mind, from sin to loneliness, and the result was change and growth in my life that continues to this day.
I believe that I am called to help create "a new heaven and a new earth" -- the Kingdom of God on Earth. I believe we are all called to that creation. This is our Universe; we are all co-creators of it.
I do not believe that this means that earthquakes in Indochina or Joey's club foot are my fault, or something I did deliberately -- or that Joey or the IndoChinese "chose" to experience. The Universe is under construction, and we ain't got it down yet -- sometimes we still get hit by falling bricks.
God helps, but God is not a co-dependent; God's primary purpose is that each of us grow up to be a big, bright Gods ourselves, not that we have an easy life.
Any fundamentalists who hadn't freaked yet have probably just freaked. Yes, one way of describing what I see as God's intentions for humans is that we grow to be "as gods". If you go on becoming a bigger soul, taking on more responsibility, thinking deeper about things, becoming more ethical -- one way to describe that development is becoming "like God".
And the Supreme Being is always going to be even bigger and even better; the larger and brighter you get, the more that you can perceive of God, and the greater God seems.
One of the popular books of my youth was Mister God, This Is Anna, the story of a child who shared precocious insights into life and religion. One of her comments was that some folks, like her Sunday School teacher, tried to make God seem larger by making people seem smaller. She preferred the teachers who made humans as big as they could be -- which made God even bigger.
So do I.
You may have noticed that I work very hard to avoid pronouns when speaking of God. I do not perceive God as having a gender. Some people are unable to conceive of a personality without a gender, or even without a body -- I don't have any problem with that at all.
I also recognize that some other people whom I love dearly -- including my Mormon friends -- have to regard God as having a body and a gender in order to regard God as being a Person. This also does not bother me in the slightest.
I do, however, enjoy developing the concept of the feminine nature of God -- and there is a third spiritual Presence in my meditations, which feels very feminine to me, whom I refer to as Mary. Some other Christians identify this as the Holy Spirit. Older traditions call her Sophia, Wisdom, or the Goddess. As long as She talks to me, She can call Herself whatever She wants to.
Scripture & Tradition
I believe that you not only should use your own judgement in deciding your spiritual beliefs, but also that you don't have any other option. Even if you wholly accept an exact written scripture, you are using your judgement to decide that it is true, and you are using your judgement to decide what it means. It is healthier for you and everybody who has to deal with you if you acknowledge that.
At the same time, I believe that human beings have been talking with God and meditating about spiritual truths for thousands of years, and ignoring everything they ever said about it is stupid.
I can gain wisdom on my own; I can gain wisdom by studying the wisdom of others; I can gain the most in a dialogue between the two.
It is necessary to "test the spirits". We have to be able to test scriptural revelations against the experience of our own lives; to test our "intuitions" against objective criteria; to test all things. These are the Biblical touchstones I test all else against -- including Scripture:
From the prophet Micah:
"And what does the Lord require of thee,
but to do justice, love mercy,
and walk humbly with thy God?
From the Gospels:
"This is the whole of the Law:
Love the Lord thy God with all thy heart and soul,
and love thy neighbor as thyself."
From Galatians (5:19-23):
"Now the works of the flesh are obvious: fornication, impurity, licentiousness,
idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, anger, quarrels, dissensions, factions,
envy, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these. I am warning you, as I warned you before: those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith,
Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law."
It is also extremely important in today's world, where more and more people are living at closer and closer quarters and destruction is often a finger-tap away, that we all learn to wear engraved upon our hearts the watchword, "I Might Be Wrong." It is good to stand up for the truth as you know it. But it is more blessed to learn than to teach.
The Wild Stuff:
Well, it seems wild to some people. I take it rather for granted.
One of the reasons I am certain that I am not my body, I am a spirit, is that I have had out-of-body experiences and very vivid past-life memories. I have found that spending a lot of time dwelling on these things doesn't help me any and just leads to a lot of emotional turmoil, but I do accept them as realities. I have the sense of having a large body of experience that I draw on when I relate to other people.
I consider it to be spiritually backwards to identify myself with a past life. I regard out-of-body beings who call themselves "Lemurians" or "Atlanteans" or somesuch to be very in need of enlightenment. I don't identify myself with this body, let alone one I had 40,000 years ago.
I would regard greeting someone with an excited, "I remember you! We were in Attic Greece together!" to be like getting all excited because I just remembered having breakfast this morning. There are more important things to deal with here.
Okay, I've offended the fundamentalist Christians, I've offended the New Agers, and if I haven't offended the scientific rationalists then they haven't been paying attention ... but if anybody is still hanging in here and wants more, try my essay on Religious Themes in Science Fiction.
Stations of the Cross in the spiritual geography of homeless people in Seattle
Graphic Designs by Grafix Grll