How can one reconcile conventional faith and obedience to God with undertaking a meditative spiritual path?
During the hero’s journey that the seeker calls the spiritual path, pride will definitely arise. And it will arise whether we are on a spiritual path or not. Pride is a pitfall but luckily it can be overcome and forgiven. Think Prodigal Son. What is less forgivable, in my opinion, is handing over your life and living as a slave. It is Ego’s obedience to God, it’s ability to surrender, which opens and illuminates what is crooked and dark within us. But learning to surrender certainly doesn’t happen by accident.
According to the Rosicrucians, human life is a chance to evolve into what they call a “spirit of love and freedom.” Note that love and freedom lie at two ends of a spectrum – one binds us in obedience, one looses us to unlimited independent creativity. A successful human life will oscillate between both and, perhaps, the size of our virtue lies in the depth of our swings.
When we are immature on the spiritual path we live our lives mainly in a state of fear and contraction. We are what Nietzsche called slaves – slaves to society, to religion, to ideas about God, to money, to power, to words, to symbols and to a fantasy future given to us by outside influences. We cast ourselves in a dual, inferior and subservient role and we forcefully perpetuate our wretchedness and the wretchedness of the world to confirm the validity of our sickness. In our fear and contraction we certainly do not approach God and the only obedience we know is obedience to fear.
Those of us with some clarity about this situation may set about taking back control of our minds and our spiritual destinies. As we grow spiritually we begin to see for ourselves that all is void, all is empty, all is chaos. The lies told to slaves no longer bind us to some phony story about the world and we see for ourselves that, from the beginning, we are the only creators. As our maturity ripens further we see that we are both the creators and creations, the chicken and the egg, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit all wrapped up into one. We are the process of cause and effect itself.
For instance, the Gnostics (early Christians) believed that the ‘God’ worshiped by Abrahamic religions was actually a malevolent stream of consciousness bent on causing confusion and violence among humanity and omitting, among other things, Jesus’s teaching of reincarnation in order to make humanity slaves rather than masters. The Gnostics believed in directly knowing God for oneself rather than blind obedience to what may turn out to be nothing more than evil influence. When Rome commandeered Christianity as the religion of the state, these new “Christians” slaughtered the Gnostics for their ‘blasphemous’ beliefs. How Christ-like of them. What religion represents to many people nowadays is shame, guilt, fear, punishment and dependency. When we take a clear look at what religion has done to humanity over the centuries we may come to agree with the Gnostics. How did they come to see this? How might we?
Distilling the part of us which is strong enough to endure this nearly merciless alchemy that rips the would-be Ubermensch from every comfortable lullaby sung to the slave has been likened to learning to go through life like a boulder in the Zen tradition. If we are lucky and persistent, during this process we become a) the boulder, b) the watcher and creator of the boulder and c) the whole world. We become the Overman, the Superman, the ultimate spirit of freedom.
Paradoxically, it is only after our birth into true freedom that obedience to God or the Way is, eventually (this could take awhile), seen as all-important. The reason ‘obedience’ or, if you prefer, ‘cooperation,’ is understood is because we now see for ourselves that it is the only way forward. It is the way, the truth and the light, and no one comes to the Father but through it. It is our small self’s obedience to our large self, our obedience to truth, our obedience to light, our obedience to God. It is our habitual obedience to the Way, our habitual obedience to reality. Not to what some book tells us, but to what is. We are neither the doer nor the done but both. Obedience is synonymous with the Way and the Path. We no longer wretchedly beg for our salvation but, through obedience to truth rather than to fear, know truth clearly for ourselves.