Q: What’s the difference between a spider in a jar and a man who defines his spirituality by his religion?
A: One’s a spider and the other’s a man.
Other than that… not much. Both are confined by boundaries that do not reflect a larger reality. They may sense a greater “world” outside their limiting paradigm, but they don’t know how to get to it from where they are. For the spider, the glass is an impermeable barrier that is controlled, presumably, by a human with power over that barrier. Whether or not he can comprehend in his spider consciousness that he is limited in some way, he is stuck there as long as the lid remains fixed.
Like the spider, job number one for the human is to ascertain the existence of a barrier. Since we are talking about religion as a barrier to greater spirituality and the more realistic, healthful and holistic view of reality that necessarily accompanies it, the man would have to see how that is true for him. After this epiphany, and it is always that, the human is potentially quite different from the spider. Due to his powers of reason at least, he has control over the metaphorical lid. He may not know if it should be unscrewed, or why he would want to do something like that in the first place. After all, he knows the jar, has lived there a long time and is comfortable there. Why would he ever want to leave?
For some people, that’s good enough. They’ll never leave, and they shouldn’t because they’re content. That’s ok. We all have our path. But for others, the idea that there is something else, a larger world, is both the question and the answer. They sense it, so they’re going. Period. It’s how they’re wired, and they’re unapologetic about it. They may be fearful about what might or might not happen when they get out, but that’s not enough to stop them. They’re going. In fact, the fear becomes a point of reflection about the whole situation for them. Is there really anything to fear?
When they get out there, outside the jar, they see that the Universe is unimaginably huge. There is no other way to describe it. To say their view of reality shifts exponentially is a vast understatement. They’re overwhelmed at first. They bump into many things they probably shouldn’t and avoid other things that would be helpful to engage. They don’t know what the rules are, the reasons behind the rules, or if there are any concrete rules at all. They find the jar was easier for sure, but they are filled with wonder and this is priceless to them. They see God in ways that they never could have imagined before and in fact see this Creator literally everywhere. They sense their connection to every star and blade of grass touched by their wandering feet. And their feet touch both. They are home in the wild expanse. There is nowhere they don’t belong.
I was like the man in the jar. For 43 years I was very religious, and defined my spirituality by the numbers: whether I attended church that week, how I went about fulfilling my lay responsibilities, if I taught a “good lesson” on Sunday or not (I was an instructor in my church among other things), how often and how strongly I “felt the Spirit” and if I had experienced any particular spiritual experiences that week. That was it, and it was good enough.
Suffice it to say, my standards have changed.
Conscious, constant Connection to the Divine is now the standard. I may have said that was the idea before, when the jar was my home, but this is different. I see how the Connection works in ways that were simply unavailable to my understanding before. It doesn’t help that I can’t describe exactly what I’ve come to learn once I stepped outside the narrow confines of my jar-like religion. Words literally fail me; I know they can’t communicate the concepts I’ve experienced in satisfactory ways because they have to be experienced. How do you describe water to a fish? Note that I didn’t see the jar as particularly confining when I was in it. All I can say is it has been worth the amazing sacrifices I’ve been required to make – and continue to make – since leaving it. And let me add this: one of the most damaging habits I held as a religious man was to assign my ability to learn to my teachers. It has nothing to do with them. In fact, a spiritual teacher is a contradiction because true spirituality cannot be taught; only pointed at. As I mentioned before, it is purely experiential. Like the Tao says, if you can describe it, you don’t get it. A true “spiritual teacher” then, will show the aspirant various methods and means that help them create situations where they can come into contact with the aspirant’s spiritual guides - and then let go. And as the newfound guides may be different from the teachers’, there can be no ego or concrete dogma behind what they find, aside from the mystic Connection to All and to The All in ways that are so deep and so complete that words fail. Any other dogma is actually a distraction from this great Truth. All true spiritual guides sing this same song. And if they don’t agree, either the guide is not true, is merely a step toward a greater reality, or the humans have messed up the message. This latter situation is particularly easy to see in both Christianity and Islam today.
Walking my own path in wonder and helping others find their own paths so they can see for themselves is what I’m all about. Helping others see the jar so they can consciously feel how to use it for the betterment of their souls if they wish… that’s my passion. It becomes far less about religion than the health of the individual soul. It’s easy to see that the two can be at desperate odds, religion and spiritual health. It’s illustrated every day in the US presidential campaign and in the bullets of guns, in the clenched fists of the starving refugees and the Westboro Baptist placards, in the bombs that are strapped to the heaving chests of young men who feel unjustly oppressed and in the tears of the gay teenager who has just been kicked out of his home.
I believe that what I have described is the key to the soulful evolution that mankind has awaited. It is the Second Coming of Jesus. It is the fulfillment of the Mayan and Hopi prophesies and the realization of the visions of true prophets, seers, shamans, monks, gurus, yogis and mystics both ancient and modern. The Tibetan monk and the Christian mystic agree with the Sikh and the Toltec.
The spider is not meant to live in a jar. Neither is the man.
And it’s time humanity unscrewed the lid.