Thursday, August 6, 2009
Spiritual Books and Writers
Of course there is the Bible. But what else does one read to grasp the essence of the spiritual path. There's countless books, really. And tapes and cd's that all help to remind one that there's more to life than what's mainstream television and news. In the study of medicine and psychiatry and addiction I learned so much more about solutions to what the news told me were mostly problems. Similiarly in the spiritual writings I gained hope and insights and felt that I wasn't alone. I loved the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous and the 12 steps and 12 traditions when I read them. These were a bunch of down and out drunks who'd banded together to find a spiritual solution to a hopeless incurable illness. Millions later would find the same solution. Dr. Carl Jung had told them that "SPIRITUS contra SPIRITUM", the Holy Spirit beats the Spirits. Goin to church and Sunday School gave form to my childhood and youth. Principles and stories were embedded in my understanding of life. It wasn't all just 'dog eat dog' and the man or woman "with the most toys wins". There was spirituality behind Bach's music I so enjoyed. Handell wrote his music to God. I loved the Beattles because they too were spiritually seaking. "My Sweet Lord," will always remain a comforting frustrating spiritual song for me. Leonard Cohen's music captured me early as he sang of stories from the Old Testament and talked as a prophet. I read Rumi and T. S. Elliott and found over and over that as I did I somehow heard the baying of the Hound of Heaven. Studying Buddhism I enjoyed Herman Hesse's Siddhartha and Journey to the East as much as Trungpa or Thomas Merton. Milton's Paradise Lost brought alive the whole of what had sustained the Middle Ages and pointed the way for the likes of St. John of the Cross and St. Theresa of Avila. New Age books like Celestine Prophecy, Conversations with God and the Burns movie, Oh God all brought their own moments of enlightenment. Recently I loved the rambling story of The Shack but then I enjoyed the play Caribou Magi by Lucia Frangione. In all these books and writings I find the contemplative. The Martha is there as well but somehow it's the insights of Mary that move me. I want to be closer to God. It's like the greek story of the daughter of the king who would not be caught because she would drop golden apples and her suitors would stop to pick up the gold. I love Song of Songs in the Bible because my relationship with God is like that, a love story, a romance, a struggle, a game of peek a boo. When I'm walking in the light life is good and then I forget and think its really just all about things. I begin to believe that wrinkles and aging and RRSP's are all I am. I loved my mother most for her heart and love my father most for his love. He barely looks like the man in the pictures of what he was like when he was young yet I know him. I would know God in every stone of creation. I would see him in every turn of existence. I mostly would want to remember God in suffering when it's so easy to forget that I am not alone. I love to read the books and learn from the teachers who have lived long lives with much experience and throughout have stayed close to God. C. S. Lewis' book, Surprised by Joy lifted me up on Eagle's wings but his stories of living through the dark days of his wife's death moved me to gut wrenching tears. Life isn't a video game. It's not a shallow unidimensional stream of stock market numbers. It's not the numbers on my social insurance card, my visa or the numbers on the forearm of the Auschwitz survivor. We are all songs and stories and art and numbers. I'm laughter on my best days and think and feel that God is laughing perhaps always. With death I hope to wake to eternal life and see that this was just a kindergarden as psychiatrist Scott Peck might describe this life. When I'm in the moment of Eckhart Tolle I feel more alive and unburdened by the regrets of the past and desires of tomorrow. In gratitude I am most joyful. Jesus said, Love the Lord and Love your Neighbour as Yourself. He was a true democrat and Buber called it the "I and Thou" equation. I say Love adds and Multiplies whereas Fear Divides and Subtracts. Jesus commanded, Be Not Afraid. Worrying is wicked. St. Paul said Pray Unceasingly and truly I'm commonly saying the Lord's Prayer or Serenity Prayer to shut off the insaniety of diabolical fears and insane worries. It's called thought blocking and I learned it first in the teachings of Paramahansa Yogananda and Herbert Benson MD. Later there'd be a fancy word called 'cognitive therapy' but the exercises of 'positive thinking' were laid down in ancient times and taught in Sermon on the Mount by Emmett Fox. Dr. Burns' Feeling Good book is just one of the many that show us we don't have to live in the 'bad neighbourhood of our own minds" but that we can clean up our personal thought ghettos. Dr. Willie Gutowski was fond of saying the mind is like a radio but sometimes you have to put the dial on the God Channel and hold on with both hands because it has a tendency to slip away. I'm reading Psalm 23 again these days. It begins, the Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. I need to be reminded of that. I'm thankful to all these writers and the writings that remind me of the very highest and finest and lightest and deepest of life and love.