Vertical Church of the Perpetual Bob Scrapped
However, as I immersed myself in Higher Things, I happily discovered that all of the available "big box" religions are perfectly capable of taking you just as far as you want to go in the realm of Spirit. These things aren't necessarily advertised to the masses. Rather, you have to go deep into your tradition, way past the mere Words department, so that you may forego the pastorized milk in favor of drinking directly from the sacred cow.
Christianity is a case in point. If you're anything like me, then it is likely that you internalized a dysfunctional version of Christianity as a child, warping your ability to see it as anything other than a bunch of quaint fairy tales for the slack-jawed masses. From my earliest exposure to Christianity in Sunday school as a child, I had some real problems with it--not because of Christianity, but because of the people presenting it. Something is wrong if religion is conveyed by an adult to a six year-old in such a way that the child thinks to himself, "Geez, what an idiot. Does he really believe this stuff?" It is fair to say that I struggled with some version of this smug and misguided six year-old attitude for the subsequent thirty years or so, which is what undoubtedly prompted me to initially seek metaphysical nourishment elsewhere, in eastern religions. I'm sure this is a common pattern.
As I say in my book, I see spiritual reality as a sort of invisible topology with innumerable "springs" dotting the landscape and bubbling forth vertically from another dimension. Fortunately for me, in the course of writing my book, I stumbled upon one of these springs that allowed me to appreciate the great beauty, power and truth of Christianity. I look at the different religions--real religions--as analogous to, say, telescopes or microscopes in the realm of science. Just as the scientist uses a microscope to enlarge invisible entities so that they may be seen, we "look through" the great religions in order to see another kind of invisible reality that normally cannot be detected. I used to think that you only practiced a religion if you believed in God. Now I understand that you practice a religion in order to know God.
If you are using your religion as a successful macroscope, then it will awaken hidden layers of the soul, which in turn will provide you with the means necessary to see more deeply into the Divine. As this happens, you will experience a compelling influx of new ideas, capacities, sentiments, and aspirations that cannot be explained in any other way. Religions are full of "secret" knowledge that is inaccessible to those who do not take the time to practice one.
In order to allow the things above to be reflected in the things below, you must create a mirror that is clean and stable: "The perfect man employs his mind as a mirror; it grasps nothing; it refuses nothing; it receives, but does not keep" (Chuang Tzu). Effort is required, but effort alone is insufficient. And it is an unusual kind of effort, because it is actually more like a "non-effort." That is, one must first learn to silence the mind and unknow one's thoughts. There is a reversal of figure and ground, so that silence becomes the context out of which thoughts arise and pass away. Effortless silence is anterior to spiritual knowing, but it is a concentrated and expectant silence, a foreknowledge of as yet undiscovered things.
Thankfully, the cosmos is not a closed circle, but an open circle with an entrance and exit. An unknown Christian friend says that the key to reconciling personal effort and spiritual reality is to master concentration without effort and transform work into play. This is why I say that my eight month old is my new spiritual advisor. With single-minded playfulness, he busies himself along that vast shoreline where the infinite sea washes up to the edge of our finite shore, where this world ends and another begins. There is no other moment than this one, and never has been. It just gets deeper.