Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash
Playing with faith.
This story is one of a number to challenge assumptions about ourselves and reality. Each is inspired by a real-world scientific or spiritual genius (Einstein, LaoTzu, Ramana Maharshi…), and is presented as a visit to a game world in which that thinker’s message is re-imagined in unconventional form.
Welcome to Ad7ashanti’s World, where we recognize our full selves, including our natural divinity. Here, we see through any apparent conflict between that divinity and our mortal humanity. Awakening to our experience of divinity, we live with faith, which is to say with openness to uncertainty, to mystery. We knowingly access our Human Being.
This world is inspired by a modern American sage, Adyashanti, whose own spiritual path drew from multiple traditions but most from Christianity and Zen Buddhism. His teachings are a lovely braid that draws insight from across “schools” and rejects dogma. He has an illuminating play with the term “Human Being,” looking at each word in turn. Human Being is what each of us is.
You jump in and face The Final Curtain. Several hucksters utter its name, standing before it, describing what lies behind, and naming their price of entry. A throng gathers at their feet, but an even larger crowd walks past, oblivious of the curtain or afraid to turn their attention to it.
A truthmonger shouts “This red curtain grants entry to those who see and proclaim it as such!” Another welcomes entry, but only to those who agree the curtain is blue.
And in agreeing to a color, any would-be entrant must, at the threshold (if not throughout their lives) deny all that is not the blessed color. “Behold, the blue of the curtain is bright! Do you denounce all that is dark? Do you now expunge your darkness? Do you cast it out? Then enter, good soul!”
“Behind this curtain lays a paradise beyond imagining,” says one.
To get a look at the product, you ask, “May I take a walk behind it and then return?”
“No! The Final Curtain forever separates paradise from the ground on which you stand, protecting heaven from your wicked body and mind.”
“If I migrate, how shall I live there, in paradise?”
“Why, you shall live as you should have lived here! Only the good in you will remain, and that good, the part of you that buys you entry thereto, defines paradise as paradise.”
To the side, a gentle person speaks quietly to a man who has approached her. You join them and hear her discuss Human Being:
The “Human” in Human Being is the aspect of us that is our body and our mind. It’s what most of us believe and feel we are. Life’s minute-by-minute experience confirms the body and mind’s existence, and in this respect, our humanity is undeniable.
So, humanity — our manifestation on Earth — is real. One of its distinguishing features is that we can disaggregate, name, and measure it — people, body parts, mental processes, personality traits, decisions, actions. You name it — literally.
The man interrupts, “How much does it cost to enter? Is it blue or red? Which do I choose?”
She disappoints him, “Entry is free. No need to choose. You have to see.” If she’s a salesperson, then she’s lost a customer. The man wanders off to find belief, to find a truth with easy-grip handles.
You ask her to continue, so she does:
There is another aspect to us, which some might call spirit, but which I’ll call Divine Being. In fact, let’s call it “Being” for short. It is the other half of Human Being. Being is the divine spark, the mystery, the noumenon behind or throughout manifestation — that is, all Being and all beings, including humans.
Because she speaks so quietly amid the shouts of the proclaimers and passersby, you lean in. To hear what she says, you need careful attention.
Being is undivided; it is eternal. It’s not easy getting to grips with what those terms imply. We can and do experience Being just as directly as we do humanity, but because we cannot disaggregate, name, or measure Being, for most of us, it hides in plain sight.
Since it is hiding, Being seems to us unknown. Everyone relates to the phrase, “Out of sight, out of mind.” Well, the phrase, “Can’t name it, can’t see it,” is just as apt. Together, these two sayings imply that the prospect of experiencing, recognizing, or identifying with our Being, constitutes a great move into the unknown, the unpredictable, and the uncomfortable.
These don’t sound like desirable product attributes, so you interject. “Your competitors are offering paradise, if only I choose correctly which bits of me warrant entry and which ones preclude it. You demand no choice, but instead of paradise, you offer uncertainty and discomfort.”
“I offer you nothing. The world offers you uncertainty and discomfort, along with the treasure that accompanies them, if only you will stop turning from them.”
“How do I choose which way to turn?”
“First, see. Then, choose as you will.” Continuing…
Openness to this uncertainty is faith. Notice how this openness contrasts with our common equation of the words “faith” and “belief.” They are near-opposites. Belief is an investment in or a need for things to be a certain way, for something to be true. Faith, on the other hand, is maintaining openness, even when facing deep, existential uncertainty. It is openness to whatever we discover to be true, to whatever emerges. Faith is openness to mystery — to the mystery of Being. We might call our Being our divinity.
“My humanity is getting in the way of my divinity? Keeping me from having faith? Shall I turn from it?”
“No, friend. Our humanity and our divinity are not two things.”
Nor are they two different substances of which we are composed, like mind and body or body and spirit. Humanity and divinity are two aspects of the same, undivided wholeness. Our humanity gives us individual perspective plus the highs and lows of consequence; our divinity is “aliveness” as well as our commonality with one another and with everything.
This feels like tricky ground. “There was one person was both man and the Son of God, and that was Jesus.”
“I’m not claiming a special status or promising to confer one on you.”
Religion’s primary purpose is (or should be) to show us our divinity, to reveal to us practical knowledge of our identity with God. This is not our ego’s identity with God, and it is not granted to some people while denied to others. It’s not even unique to humans over other beings. It is invariant and absolute.
“Well, what about Jesus?”
A heartwarming, although unconventional, reading of the Jesus story is that He is indeed the Son of God and one with God, but not in a way that distinguishes Him from the rest of us. Rather, He is one with God in such a way as to demonstrate and awaken us to our own oneness with God. Jesus, in this light, exemplifies the paradox of simultaneous divinity and humanity.
“But what about that curtain? What color is it, really? And what waits behind it?”
“What waits there is what we experience now, in front of it. As for its color, sit here and take care not to move at all. Now look at it.”
You gasp and laugh. The curtain is a mirror. You are and have always been in paradise. You didn’t see this before because you were too busy working out whether it was blue or red, too obsessed with ascertaining the price of entry, too consumed working out which bits of the world and yourself to disown.
You step out. From the observation platform of Ad7ashanti’s World, you look upon your own, a world that you and others have seen as a prequel to peace and eternal life, a test to be passed, a price to be paid. You consider the imponderable. Heaven doesn’t require rejecting anything? We needn’t leave behind our bodies, control our minds, or depart the “here and now” in favor of paradise? Could it be that belief is not only unnecessary but even an obstacle?
Heaven may simply be where we embrace our humanity’s pleasures and pains in each moment while opening ourselves to whatever the unknown brings forth, even if that is death. Heaven’s gates, then, would be an unbounded vulnerability and openness, exemplified by Jesus’s knowing and willing progress to his own crucifixion.
You note in your logbook:
Enough of “either / or.” Enough of “someday.” My full humanity is not only consistent with but necessary for awakening to the divinity in me — awakening now to Human Being.
Emboldened, you’re ready, so you say, “Let’s play.”
I heartily recommend anything by Adyashanti. In this work, most in my mind were the themes of Resurrecting Jesus.