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Posts Tagged ‘discernment’

This morning I attended my local Unity church (www.unity.org).  The minister’s lesson today spoke to me about how we deal with spiritual confusion.

Just to be clear, I often suffer from spiritual confusion.  My spiritual confusion is tied to the way I habitually conduct my search for Truth.  I have gone about this search by reading everything I come across and attempting to figure out where God/Spirit is in that religion or path.  I believe that all religions are true in a sense.  I believe there are countless paths to God.  So when I read new ideas I do not think “this is wrong,” I think “how can this be true.”  I try to figure it out like a puzzle or an intellectual exercise.  Because I usually operate from the assumptions that I am capable of figuring things out intellectually and that I must solve my problems by myself, spiritual confusion arises.  This confusion involves an overwhelming feeling of being cast adrift and unsure of what to believe and how to practice.  The confusion can be paralyzing.

Paralysis is what I must avoid.  Paralysis does me no good.

So, how does one deal with spiritual confusion and a paralysis of spiritual practice?

The Buddhist group I was formerly involved with had strong opinions about this question.  They said that spiritual confusion is the inevitable result of listening to contradictory teachings.  They said that the solution is to limit one’s view: to abstain from listening to others who are on different paths; to abstain from reading Dharma books from other traditions; to commit oneself wholeheartedly to a single teacher.

In a sense they have a point.  One way to avoid spiritual confusion is to chose sectarianism.  That is, to focus oneself entirely on what one is confident is a good, or even the best, path.  This can be good for developing a deep practice without “distractions” from the outside world.  However, there are also some major downsides to this approach.  While other paths may still be respected at least in theory, in practice isolation breeds extremism.  Listening to only one set of ideas tends to produce a mind that sees one’s personal path as the best or only way to salvation.  This sectarian view can foster minds of hate and spiritual egotism.  One’s personal growth may be stunted by shutting out ideas or practices that help one to better understand and practice spiritual truth.

I personally always ignored this teaching.  I found in my experience that reading other Dharma texts from other traditions helped me to understand matters more clearly.  For me it was like looking at a diamond from different perspectives.  Rather than only seeing a couple of facets, I could explore the gem from multiple angles and have a fuller experience of how I related to that Truth.

The lesson today at church addressed an alternative way to deal with spiritual confusion.  The minister suggested that the problem is not the various contradictory ideas, but the way our mind seizes on them and creates conflict between them.  He referenced Hegel’s dialectical model in which Thesis and Antithesis are necessary for Truth to emerge and that Truth is the Synthesis of the two opposing views.  Synthesis, however, does not emerge from intellectual gymnastics.  Synthesis emerges from the Grace of Spirit.  If we can just observe the ideas or the conflict without identifying with them and without being consumed by them, then we create space for Spirit to come in, to offer guidance and inspiration.  This is another way of saying that we must practice non-attachment, even to Truth/Dharma/Beliefs.  When we do not resist, when we do not wrestle, when we simply let things be and accept them as they are, we create space to see things as they really are and to know Truth.  This is a very Buddhist view.

The minister also suggested that since God meets us where we are, we may receive the antithesis (or conflict) we need to move us further along our path.  Sometimes the blessings of Spirit come in strange packaging.  Less conflict, is therefore the natural result of having less attachment to a point of view.

He said, “do not hold onto any belief system.  Always stay open.  Don’t get locked in, but be open to being expanded in consciousness.”

So perhaps the solution to spiritual confusion is to stop struggling.  Stop struggling and invite God (and the Spirit within) to show you the way.  This opens the way to divine inspiration and guidance.  This is the dawning of wisdom.

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