“He who sees the many, the diverse and not the one, the unified, wanders on from death to death.” (Katha Upanishad, Part 4.)
Maybe God is like a jigsaw puzzle. Someone knocked over the card table during a quarrel scattering the pieces of the unfinished puzzle into the corners of the room, bits of insight, revelation, and philosophy cast far and wide. Some were dropped in Iran or India, others strayed into China, or became lodged in the mud of the Mississippi Bible Belt. My desire is to see God put back into a coherent picture again. Maybe the pandemic of our era will bring us together, help us discover our common brotherhood and sisterhood to defeat a common enemy.
So many gurus, new age visionaries, revelations, and spiritual groups proliferated in California when I first moved there, like the famed salad bars that spouted up everywhere in later decades. I was being introduced to Gurdjieff, Course in Miracles, Seth Speaks (Jane Roberts), the Perfect Master: Guru Maharaji, The Urantia Book, The Essene Gospel of Peace and others lesser known. Odd and unfamiliar churches were all over the place, unlike any I’d grown up with in Ontario, Canada, all promulgating a variety of messages, some with psychic channelers in the pulpit, adding their revelatory attempts to older traditional ones, Jesus, Mohammed, Buddha, Joseph Smith, to name a few.
When I pull out my dog-eared, somewhat battered Truth Seeker’s Guidebook, a system compiled to test the claims made by all these competing revelations, I look through the facts, logic, reason, imagination, and intuitions in its pages to check the validity of these experiences, fearing I might fall into a swoon of enchantment and be misled by an idea that was someone’s mistaken fantasy.
“When there are no authorities, people are lost and cannot find salvation unless they can develop a philosophy which will enable them to use their intelligence in place of authority,” said a couple of my favorite philosophers, Henry Weiman and Regina Westcott-Weiman, in Normative Psychology of Religion.
After I disassociated myself from the traditional church of my youth, I began exploring spiritual reality without the benefit of experienced authority figures. Of course, one can play it safe, avoid all unconventional religious movements, certainly many did, but that was not my modus operandi. I was s serious traveler for truth, willing to check all the locks on all the doors and try the keys. And in my backpack, I carried some clues. From George Harrison of the Beatles I’d learned about Maharishi, heard his lecture; I’d read bits of the Bhagavad Gita, much of which I didn’t understand except a glimpse of “The Supreme Lord … situated in everyone’s heart … directing the wanderings of all living entities (18:61).” My beloved Aunt Alma knew Jesus in her heart, the love of him shone out from her face and kept him alive for me. Carrying these glimmerings, I now believe my angels pointed a way out of the quagmire. “Go to California” they seemed to be saying, where I could freely explore the pathways I discovered.
Shortly after the Berlin Wall fell in November 1989 and dormant nationalisms were rekindled, the restructuring of the former Soviet Socialist Republics woke up the Eastern European region to an awareness of the religious repercussions. People living in the Soviets under Communist rule had received no religious instruction for several generations. They were hungry for religious knowledge and spiritual truth from almost any source and investigated everything just as I had done a couple of decades before in the spiritual awakening of the 1960s here in America.
We had an unusual chance to meet with some of these orphaned truth seekers from Lithuania and Estonia who traveled to California in the 1990s. They were staying with friends in the Bay Area and came by to meet my wife and me because one was a singer; we were musicians. I was skeptical about how they were proceeding with their search, too much superstition, crystals, astrologic star charts, magic rocks for my liking. When I expressed this to my wife, she pointed out how wrong it was for a comfortably well off Protestant American like myself to judge their experience so harshly, asked me to think back. The same kind of profligate sampling had characterized the spiritual searches of our youth.
Our wall had also come down in the 1960s, the invisible wall of Western culture, letting in Eastern wisdom, Native American ceremonies, Sufism amongst other rituals and phenomena. The effects of “the West shall shake the East awake,” were not so clear to everyone at first. The fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 was a physical event, easier to see. The Russian and Eastern European situation inspired me to understand my own spiritual journey, thus this chronicle of wanderings was begun. I still have one of the magic pebbles one of the Estonians gave me in the form of a keychain. I think of them every time I take down the key to open my gardening shed.
If someone were to sew a patchwork quilt to document my journey, they would create a patch for each phase, the Christian, the yogi, the philosopher, the Buddhist, the mystical meditator.
“They call me brother Joseph, I have a many colored coat, to tell you the story of my brothers, and sisters too; for like a rainbow is our history. The threads that weave in you and me,” ... a song I wrote when I started out walking, rejecting nothing that might have value, examining closely even what had been discarded, for something vital may still be found there in the windblown, forlorn, scraps.
Finding a spiritual center was a slow process, a gradual gleaning of insights with a few personal epiphanies thrown in that helped me jump start my stalled car. Eventually, I did have a suddenly-all-at-once kind of revelatory experience about Jesus. It was followed by big changes to my lifestyle and my introduction to The Urantia Book two years later.
We have as a planet survived many trials, traveled many roads with each other. Perhaps we will now learn that we are blessed with the unbiased love of the same Deity, a common Creator, a universal spirit to guide us into a new world.