Thursday, March 18, 2010

A Beginner's Guide to the Spiritual But Not Religious: Part 1- The Prophets

"I have searched high and low for fifteen years and I still cannot find one religion practiced by mankind today that has remained faithful to God's message of truth." -The Truth: About the Five Primary Religions by Laurel.
When times are tough and the chips are down many of us turn to religion. But the sobering fact is that even religion has demons to wrestle and skeletons to hide, so what then do we do? Where do we go? Meet Laurel, the author of The Truth and a spiritual seeker going on 16 years. She, like many others, turned towards religion in search of answers, in search of Truth. What is Truth? Is it found in religion, and if not, where?

Before I crack open any book on religion and spirituality, I like to know a bit about the author. I didn't have to look to far since Laurel spells out her life story in the first few pages. I've got to admit, retelling her life story seemed a bit too personal, but after giving it some thought not only do I find this necessary to connect with the reader but I do the exact same thing when I meet a stranger and attempt to spell out my beliefs. Regardless, she is a passionate seeker who began her quest after being hurt by life's injustices which cracked opened her heart, mind, and soul to God. True seekers approach inter-faith studies with an open and thirsty mind devouring not only scripture but histories, biographies, and commentaries of the early believers. In her 15 years of study, Laurel has come to the conclusion that the religions of the world has taken a perverse turn leading away from the Divine. Humanity has gone through four shifts in our collective consciousness, she calls Spiritual Paradigms, and we are on the verge of a fifth. Before mankind can move into the fifth we must understand where religion went wrong, which Laurel states in two major points:
  • Religion has failed in assisting us to develop a relationship with the Divine and lead us toward higher spiritual vistas
  • Religion was to be our model for demonstrating unconditional universal compassion and love for one another. (p.21)
I would like to point out for those deeply immersed in inter-faith studies a lot of her introductory chapters would be review. It is impossible to delve into a deep and worthwhile study of the world's religion in a mere 434 page book. You will either end up painting with broad brushes briefly mentioning the major points of each faith or you will inadequately balance the amount of time given to each faith. These are the pitfalls of writing a book on multiple religions. Yet, I see this book as a catalyst, a starting point for those who've begun questioning their faith and need a place to begin or a gentle nudge to continue their journey. The focus of this book is not to point out which religion is the most historically, ethically, or theologically correct but where the religions have strayed from the original revelation. One of the more useful aspects of the book is its intense focus on information. Key terms are in bold, and there is a 30+ page appendix with a brief history of major events in human evolution, politics, and religion, maps, and a bibliography of her 15 years of research. I personally like footnotes (although I rarely follow up on them) which Laurel leaves out because, I assume, it would be information overload.

Laurel devotes one third of the book to a brief understanding of the prophets and their message. This is where I felt a bit unsatisfied over the imbalance of material towards the Western religions, but the detailed issues brought up in the section on Christian and Muslim Prophets was incredibly enlightening. Without sounding like a broken record, a lot of the material covered in this section was review for me but there is A LOT of ground to cover and Laurel does a phenomenal job of introducing the reader to the basic teachings and tenets of the five faiths: Hinduism, Judaism, Buddhism, Christianity, and Islam. I can relate to the author as she cautiously delves into the section of the Christians Prophets and spells out her fears in questioning the very roots of her beliefs. With over 80 pages dedicated to the Christian prophets it seems like she poured an enormous amount of time, energy, and spiritual growth into tackling the foundation of her faith. Yet as she delves into the revelations the prophets brought to mankind, Laurel weaves their foundational truths together into what she calls our Tower of Truth. Throughout history, each messenger built upon the tower of man's spiritual knowledge adding their message upon the preceding messengers. It was then I realized the similarities between her Tower of Truth and the teachings of
Bahá'í, the 19th century monotheistic religion which espouses a message of unity and universal acceptance of all religious faiths. Thus far she has not mentioned Bahá'í, yet I do not think she is attempting to convince the reader that any one faith contains the Truth, but only if we strive to seek the foundational truths at the core of our religious faiths we would then uncover a sense of spirituality which would lead us to The Truth.


Don said...

We humans are instinctive "truth seekers". That's why our knowledge and technologies keep evolving. That's why we bother to argue with each other and to write books. There's a reason for this: reality has an uncanny ability to win out in the end. So it pays to have the notions we carry around in our heads correspond to what is real. Even so, in our quest for "truth" we often go astray. And once we start down a side trail, we tend to persist doggedly, to convince ourselves that all signs point in our direction, and to persuade others to come along. Understanding this can provide a bird's-eye view that allows us to see alternatives and to correct our course. It is often difficult to do course corrections. After all, it took me 59 years to do so. I think most of us become jaded and/or blind to the alternatives that we come across almost daily.
This sounds like a very interesting book. I'll have to add it to my list.

Doug B said...

"Throughout history, each messenger built upon the tower of man's spiritual knowledge adding their message upon the preceding messengers." A good description of how religion has evolved, although I'm not comfortable with the phrase "spiritual knowledge."

Eruesso said...

That is the phrase used by the author as she uses it in a religious context. I would use the phrase spiritual knowledge more as a description of the sense of interaction, discovery, awe, and wonder experienced by man with itself and the universe throughout history. Whether we deem the Bible as a historical witness or as a collection of stories (I'm more of a story guy) I believe that Mankind was trying to describe their experiences as humans and desperately trying to make sense of it all. I would argue that whatever knowledge we've been able to collect, both the good and the bad, thus far must be sifted through collectively for us to survive. It is the sifting of our spiritual knowledge that mankind must wrestle with so that progress can be made.

Pastor Andy said...

Sounds like an interesting book, but I have to agree with the author that no religion has remained faithful to God's Truth. But those are religions...Christianity on the other hand is not a "religion" for the sake of the meaning of the word, but Relationship with God, which in fact is what the prophets of God (Yahweh) had, as did the patriarchs. Now are there people who consider themselves "Christians" who don't keep to the Truth of God? Of course. But the main element of Christianity is a relationship with God through Jesus Christ, and Jesus IS the Truth of God.

Hey, I've just recently started up a website that you may enjoy. It's Christian-based, but also has posts about life issues and such, and is in a Q/A style.
My site is:
Please check it out when you get a chance :)

Eruesso said...

Pastor Andy, welcome and thank you for chiming in.

Christianity on the other hand is not a "religion" for the sake of the meaning of the word, but Relationship with God...

I hear this comment a lot and wonder what the rationality is for shying away from the religion label. Practicioners and apologist of other religions, at least the Western faiths, also claim that their respective faith is a relationship with the Divine not a structured and organized religion. I've heard several imams on Youtube videos state that Islam is a relationship with Allah and here is the path that leads you to him. Stating that Christianity is actually not a religion but something that transcends the stigma of organized faith seems to push everything within Christianity (the hierarchy, the sacraments, and even some of the beliefs) into the background. I'll have to give this a bit more thought and expand in a series of post instead of a monstrous comment. Thanks for the insightful viewpoint.

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