As has been mentioned during past courses on the subject, Spirituality is a far more universal field of study from what can be offered by religions like Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Today we find many people claiming that they are not religious but they consider themselves very spiritual.  What does such an orientation toward life mean to them?  How does this universe of thought fit into the scheme of creation and our response to it?

     Many such people will disclose that they do not attend a worship center nor do they have the same reverence for sacred books that have claims attached to them.  For example, numerous people would not support the idea that the Scriptures are God’s Word nor that Jesus died on the cross saving anyone’s sins.  With that said, they might hasten to add that there is considerable wisdom contained in the Scriptures and that Jesus was a deeply spiritual person.   Some people are even fascinated that such ancient people discerned such insights into human nature and God while living in more primitive periods of history.

     It may be that Spirituality is a safer place for people to be intellectually.  It spares them from having to negotiate beliefs and theology that can provide very little that enhances attitudes and behavior even if such thoughts were true beyond any shadow of a doubt.

     For example, people who hold this orientation may have no time for believing that Noah gathered into the Ark seven pairs of each ritually clean animal and one pair of the unclean animals – 8 pairs (Gen. 7:2).  They ponder if Noah went by Australia to pick up kangaroos, Koala bears and platypuses.  Such non-believers in the Bible as being God’s Word would not have to subscribe to the belief that our Creator had moody days when God simply killed individuals who represented an irritation. (Gen. 38:7, 10) They would not have to include God sponsored genocide into their understanding of our Creator’s nature. (I Samuel 15:3)

     Even in the New Testament there are teachings which spiritual people find equally difficult to grasp.  They might question the birth stories where God impregnated Mary with Divine sperm.  They might question the belief that Jesus was perfect in every way, or that his death was a necessary sacrifice for the forgiveness of humanity’s sins.   They may question the wisdom of God for allowing humans to be born with free will, in different cultures, in different economic environments and possibly under different forms of governmental oppression.  THEN, if they did not choose their values correctly, they would be cast into everlasting torment for all eternity.

     Theological beliefs do create a certain drama through which people must sort and choose.  There is the dualism of God and Satan, Heaven and Hell, health and demon possession and the second coming of Jesus and a final destruction of the material world.  Spiritual people often distance themselves from such an array of dogma and teachings that may only represent a source of information that has the power to manipulate people into making visible various forms of righteousness that can be motivated and inspired by fear.  They cite that even if everything in the Scriptures is absolutely true and has come directly from God, each human being must take complete responsibility for the consequences of his or her choices.

     Spiritual people often shy away from any interest in the necessary indoctrination process that attempts to tie all the loose ends found in the Scriptures into a meaningful whole.  All any sacred written material can do is offer guidance for more wholesome, informed and enlightened choices. Since there is little chance that all the world’s people would ever subscribe to the same doctrines, dogma and beliefs, truth must continue to go through the filtering processes offered by tradition, religious heritage and all the flavoring nuances of customs and culture.

     Prince Siddhartha Gautama, the Buddha, once wrote,

Do not believe what you have heard.  Do not believe in tradition because it has been handed down for many generations.  Do not believe in anything that has been spoken of many times.  Do not believe because the written statements come from some old sage.  Do not believe in conjecture.  Do not believe in authority or teachers or elders.  Believe nothing, no matter where you read it or who has said it, not even if I have said it, UNLESS it agrees with your own reason and your own common sense.  After careful observation and analysis, when it agrees with reason and it will benefit one and all, then accept it and live by it." 563-483 B.C.

     All these words may offer people a more convenient way to live.  Having spirituality as the primary focus of one’s attitudes and behavior, how do people really cope when life is cruel and unjust?  Who is offering guidance to them?  How do they negotiate issues of character?  Exactly what provides their moral compass when their own self-interest offers a source of powerful guidance?  People can idealize life, particularly when they live among the wealthiest five percent of the world’s population.  They can think noble thoughts when little is being required from them.

     For example, do they have the spiritual skill to let go of a circumstance when they have been deeply hurt by it?   Do they have the ability to give without counting the cost?  Can they detach themselves from the attractiveness created by the changing forms found in the world?  How do they grapple with their own finite, limited nature as they realize that physical death awaits all of us?

     Those who are spiritual masters have not arrived at their skills by happenstance.  Frequently their joy came from periods of bitterness and depression.  Often their generosity was given birth from episodes of gross injustice.  Those who have learned to love truth may have done so because of repeated relationships that were manipulative, deceptive and filled with unfaithfulness.  They have learned that every experienced event can awaken the life-skills that often lie dormant within.  No one ever needs to be defined by an experience unless that is how each has perceived it.

     Only those who choose to remain centered in their resolve not to judge the classroom in which they find themselves will climb the mountain that leads to spiritual mastery.  We must remember that we are infinite, powerful spiritual beings that have chosen to enter our limited physical forms to test our creative abilities. (I Corinth. 3:16-17)   Without this awareness and focus, the physical forms of the world will play with us.  The result will be our becoming nothing more than a ping pong ball caught between the paddles of what stimulates us during any given moment and our often hasty response.

     Not everyone is interested in learning spiritual skills.  The world is very enticing and seductive, particularly for those who have achieved the success this world promises and the economic abilities to indulged their harmless appetites.  Do we not find it curious that many successful personalities in our midst find themselves in compromised positions, facing indictments, addictions and convictions?

     Is it really that life is filled with many slippery slopes or is it that we are observing people who are completely unaware and uninformed about the unseen world of spirit?  We do not have to make judgments about them.  The results coming from each of us is being proclaimed to the universe with astounding clarity.  Some grow and continue their evolution, others engage in delay while they appease their appetites with joys and ecstasies that remain fleeting.  For sure, what we believe is always made visible in our attitudes, thought patterns and behavior.

     There are spiritual threads in every religion that give form to attitudes and behavior that are not destructive and self-serving.  Some people see the wisdom in them.  Still others conform to them through a prescribed discipline.  Still others have learned that such community-building thought patterns are hardwired in all of us.  When such patterns are accessed and developed within each individual, they will create everything from new products to improved living conditions for everyone in their sphere of influence.  The loving energy pattern that sponsors wholesome creativity always flows away from the individual, i.e., thought and emotional patterns are directed toward what will improve our visions for tomorrow’s quality of life.

     During this course, students will be examining life issues through the lenses of what Jesus taught.  We will consider some of the most challenging questions our minds can conceive, questions that invite many points of view during our attempts at answering them.  We will learn that Jesus was not all love, love, love in how he lived, but a person who experienced doubts, fears and frustrations as we all do.

     As we have noted, there are consequences for people who do not understand.  They could be naïve and innocent as they enter into circumstances completely unprepared and uninformed on how to deal with what they face.   Stumbling in life can be the beginning of wisdom or it can evoke a spiral of bitterness, frustration and a sense of victimization from which many do not return.  The choice is always ours.

     The quality of our lives is dramatically linked to how we perceive.  While this is common sense, the concept often goes unheeded when we feel completely justified and even entitled to hold extremely hostile, bitter and destructive thought patterns.

     Jesus brought and taught what the New Testament refers to as “The Good News.”  This new message was about salvation.  It is doubtful that his understanding of salvation was linked to a self-interest component of divine rewards or going to heaven when people transition from their physical forms.  What Jesus brought was a way of perceiving life so that we would be saved from the countless pitfalls that sabotage our life patterns, i.e., greed, lust, deception, earthly power, arrogance, cruelty, and the like.  He called this new life pattern, “living in the Kingdom of God.”   Thus, many of the lessons found in his Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5, 6, and 7, frame a description of a life lived in this new pattern, not a new set of rules to be obeyed.

     Our experience of life can propel us toward our divine nature or it can bind us to the belief that we are only physical beings who need to survive any way we can.  Do our responses reinforce the growth of the angel that lives inside of us, or do they continue to feed the devilish ego that often thrashes about in its uninformed understanding of our true identity and purpose for coming into our solid form?

     Those who understand could not possibly cave to the temptations this world offers.  Jesus in the wilderness knew that Satan offered him nothing that was useful or even remotely valuable.  Why settle for a fleeting raindrop that will evaporate in the heat of the sun when you already understand the depth and breadth of the ocean?  Who would accept a payoff of billions of dollars when they realized that an unseen infinite universe is already theirs?  That is the mystery.

     In our forgetfulness, our amnesia, we fall prey to what is insignificant.  In so doing we put off to another day our evolution of becoming more skilled and sophisticated creators.  Every choice either frees us from our physical attachments or further binds us to them.  Creators seeking to live in harmony with God’s infinite ability cannot also be distracted by trivia that communicates, “This is for me.”  The earth is our classroom where we decide who we want to become.

     Our creations will reveal to the universe the truth about our level of skill.  Among the universal truths we cannot manipulate is our skill level.  We are what we are while in our physical forms and when we transition from this life.   No one is fooled by pretense.  One cannot pretend to be an angel of light.  One cannot fake having a healing, accepting, loving spirit.  Be not mistaken; who we are is visible to the entire universe.

     God will never judge us because there is no need.  The scales of justice hang where they belong -- inside of us. This concept is not meant to evoke fear.  God will love us exactly where we are in our evolution.  We are never in any danger of extinction.  There would be no point since few of us begin our lives on any divine, level playing field.   Our evolutionary sojourn is what life is.  Let us now study together.

     The questions we will be considering are:

1. Who Are We?

2. Why Is There Evil?

3. Do Religions Have Relevance?

4. Is The Bible The Word of God?

5. What Is Truth?

6. What Is The Good News?

7. What Happened on the Cross?

8. Why Are Visionaries Such A Threat?

9. What Is Humanity’s Destiny?