Religious Boxes and Spiritual Cafeterias

My friend is arguing with me and blurts out, “you can’t just choose your values,  religion is not a cafeteria!”

I laugh and realize his quick synopsis catch-all answer has some merit.

I reply in kind and state just as firmly and just as loudly that “religion is also not a box.  A provincial viewpoint will never be a Universal Truth.”

How is the Religious/Spiritual World Organized?  That is a recurring theme in our lives.  It’s a philosophical question as well a question of placement.   Where do we belong?  It becomes a question of structural reality and placement.

When we are born in this world we are usually raised in a particular religion.  It is usually the religion of our immediate predecessors(i.e. our parents).   I currently believe that whatever religion we are born into is the possible continuation of the religion that we have built and established in our prior lives. But it could also be the religion that teaches us the lessons that we need to learn most in this lifetime.

I was raised as a Methodist and believe pretty firmly that it’s a carry over from my last life.

I believe that there are currently both Boxed Religions and Spiritual Cafeterias and that we are headed for a world in which Spiritual Awareness is completely and totally self-evident.  We are entering a world in which our spiritual consciousness is so evident in our lives that we can finally understand the greatness, the interconnectedness and beauty of all things.

The merits of boxed religion are that the individual can learn discipline, order, respect, progression, and teamwork.  The faults of a boxed religion are possible continued spiritual error, polarization, self-righteousness,  domination, constrainment of creativity and individual initiative.

The term Spiritual Cafeteria alludes to the idea that we can cherry pick our values and religious ideas. I don’t belive that we can pick our own Ideals and Values but that we sometimes grow beyond earthly systems.  Yes some people do abandon systems and abandon God(at least temporarily).  But some of us do seek greater spiritual answers and we “choose” to partake of the right Spiritual Nourishment.  We do know that “man cannot live by bread alone” and so we do exercise the right to choose responsibly.   We choose the Spiritual salad and vegetables that provides fiber and vital spiritual nutrients.  We choose the Spiritual meat/legume protein that grows our Spiritual Body.   We utilize the Spiritual carbohydrates that gives us the energy to fulfill our Spiritual Goals.   If we do not exercise our own discipline we may revert back to a religious method that instills the proper self-restraint to make wise choices. The clue isn’t will we choose individual answers that are self-serving but whether we will finally adopt Universal Laws and Understandings that have never been owned or constrained by any one group.

I believe that actually each of us is micro-managing our way back to God.  A system or box has merits and we learn from those until we outgrow them.  We stop believing in a paternalistic Santa Claus/Grandfather God and realize that God has greater dimensions than we could possibly perceive.  We realize that God is not an external agent controlling our lives as little puppets.  God is greater than we can imagine and is in all things. If we strike out on our own to learn greater truths those steps will inherently lead to some missteps. Those mistakes will be our own and we won’t have them thrust on us from someone else.

The box religions serve their purpose. Imagine a solder that hates the Jewish people. It doesn’t matter what era, Roman times or the modern era.   He completely doesn’t understand the Jewish world and holds it in great contempt and disdain. He dies and goes to heaven but God forbids him to enter(at least for now).   Finally they have a meeting.  The soldier states his case but God decides that he still has lessons to learn.

God tells him that he will return to earth and live in Brooklyn, U.S. A.   He will return to earth and become an Orthodox Jew.  Not as a punishment but as a spiritual lesson. He will learn to play accordion in a Jewish Klezmer band. He will observe the Sabbath and read the Torah. He will learn the values of family, community, discipline and order.    Most importantly he will learn to love others as he loves his own being.  He will love those he didn’t understand.

Another person has lived their prior life with blue blood sophistication, modern gadgetry, urbane polish, and social networking for career and a socially upward life.  In his next life he “gets to” fulfil new direction as a Pennsylvania Amish midwife.  From these the soul learns lessons of simplicity, earnest work, child-rearing, and a return to nature that brings great spiritual meaning.

Another soul still has lived a life as an ardent religious priest who values duty, self-sacrifice, and carries an attitude of serious composure and restraint.   His next life finds him as a tuba player in a New Orleans Jazz Band.  He finds that joy, happiness, music and laughter are important in life for himself, but also for others. He derives his greatest joy playing in the New Orleans funeral processions.  From these he feels value from his work ushering the deceased into the next world while bringing solace to the people of this world.  He plays at every party and enjoys the parties like it’s 1999.   In this instance it’s a tradeoff of one box for another.   One was the monastery, the other being the Ninth Ward of New Orleans.

Meanwhile, the religiously graduated Boxed  Saint realizes  that there are new lessons of Love and Law that were not taught within his prior systems.   He/She has matured to a new point that places the onus of the Spiritual Life on Him or Her.  In this manner people can learn their co-creativity with God.

Rest assured that real life will find the weaknesses of any boxed religion. Real life also provides the crucible that enables us to amend, correct, and adjust our own lives according to God’s Laws.  Part of the difference is if it’s better to be compelled to conform verses us choosing God’s Laws based on knowledge, experience and wisdom.  It’s a question of Spiritual Maturity.   While in our infancy, WE DO need guidance, direction, focus and discipline.  As we Spiritually evolve we can see that the Spiritual kindergarten is over.  We must now attend High School, College, or Graduate School.

When you think you have to defend something is when you will realize the deficiencies of your philosophy.  I’m unable to describe the meanings of all Religions or Spirituality. I’m unable to describe all boxes and paths.  I believe now though that every individual is somehow forging their own Reunion with God and that relationship is between him and God. Whatever God’s plan is, somehow it’s Natural and Real.  It’s not given to man’s own proclamations and utterances. The answer is you can be wherever you want to be and we all choose when we will change, amend and apply ourselves to God’s plan.  The mature realization is that everyone is on their Religious/Spiritual Path.  The mature realization is that individually and collectively we all are choosing our Spiritual Destiny and our Spiritual Reunion.

“Think outside the box”                      

but remember…..

                               “No man is an island”

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6 Responses to “Religious Boxes and Spiritual Cafeterias”

  1. Professor Taboo Says:

    Very well written & explained. “Will we adopt Universal Laws and Understandings that have never been owned or constrained by any one group”…is spot-on. And those laws/understandings existed before mankind even appeared on this planet. The sequence (as you elaborate so well) is horse, buggy, rider…not rider then buggy as some project, i.e. laws, understanding, universe/multiverse, etc, are a priori. We may not have all the pieces of this puzzle, or never, but at least we have each other…which is certainly critically important! Thank you for a wonderful post. 🙂

  2. informationforager Says:

    Thank you sir, It’s been awhile since I posted. I’ve looked at your post and enjoyed the Steampunk apartment Pictures. I’m not sure that I’ve been receiving your posts since I changed my email. I think I’ll have to re-subscribe.

    I think you have it really well understood because as you state “We may not have all the pieces of this puzzle, or never, but at least we have each other…which is certainly critically important!” It’s process I think and possibly not an end all, know goal,

    I reminds me of one of my favorite phrase, “I used to know it all but I’ve overcome that and I’m better now!!!”

  3. Carol Leigh Rice Says:

    This fits so well with an article recently I read on research showing that people without formal religious affiliation (The Box) but having their own kind of spirituality report higher levels of anxiety than either complete atheists or Box Believers! It seems to me to suggest that it takes a lot of courage to strike out on one’s own, to leave behind the Fleet and set sail in one’s small craft on the big open Sea. No wonder there are higher experiences of anxiety!

    But I agree with you – it makes so much sense – that we do explore all of these Ways, in many different lives, the formal (Box) and informal. It may not be a linear progression but as you show, more a quilt-work project, or weaving on a loom – Box now, informal next, then back to Box for a touch-up before the next Open Seas jaunt….

    I also think that you are very right in pointing out the strengths and help we get from the formal, Box Religions…Many New Agers are a bit too hostile to these old structured religious frameworks I think. I am reminded how very often in the “readings” I used to do how “the guides” commented that someone still had a great deal to gain from a return to the (Box) religious roots they thought they had left behind, whether Christian, Jewish, or other…Fascinating, isn’t it all?!. Great post, lots of food for personal thought!

    • informationforager Says:

      Thank you very much Carol. These immediate lessons were hard learned. I actually did have some residual feelings and thoughts about the “boxes”. In many ways I thought(wrongly) that I was enlightened and so now I had to bring others up to my speed. Wrong. So wrong…so humbled. As stated in the post I think that everyone is at “their” place and their classroom. Also too, since us mere mortals still inhabit the earth plane we are still in a box….the earth box. Please continue to tweak, align, amend, agree or disagree. I can see a horizon but I can’t see the end. I value your input. Thank you.

  4. Know Thank You Says:

    Thanks – this is a very interesting read. Values are core to our experience, so I agree with you and your friend that it’s unlikely someone could simply choose new values “out of the blue” and live by them. To do so would likely lead to a great deal of existential conflict. Having said that, life teaches us many lessons, and throughout life our values are likely to evolve. The degree of evolution and change will depend on the individual and individual experience. This evolution and change results in us gaining new perspectives on everything that is important to us, and changes the way we perceive the world and the criteria by which we make decisions. Some things we may embrace with a new found love; others we may question; still others we may abandon altogether. This is quite normal; life is a continual learning process, and as we all know “the only constant is change.” Some “box religions” shun questions and challenges as heresy, while others embrace questions and challenges as opportunities to teach and learn. And when all is said and done, everyone’s spiritual experience is personal and defined by their own heart, whether they subscribe to a formal religious doctrine or not. I would argue that the all spiritual experiences are equally valid if equally heartfelt, no matter the doctrine, and no matter at what point in life the practitioner adopted the doctrine – even one that does not include a God.

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