Robert said something the other day in a blog thread that struck me as incredibly important. It struck me as so important that I make no apology for repeating it here:I have come to see spirituality as a market that largely sells pseudo-comfort based on false claims. And of course one of the biggest claims is that so-and-so has special spiritual status, and so if you are close to him or her, some of that special magic will rub off on you. (Which is why I believe that when you meet a teacher whose calling card is “I’m enlightened” you should calmly walk the other way.) This is by and large what attracts the numbers, and it is symptomatic of an overall corrupt system.
So more and more I want to see a Course tradition that is to some degree set apart from that corrupt system. I want to see two things. First, I want to see it being about truth, not about good feelings that come from bending, denying, or disregarding the truth. Second, I want to see it being about truly good people, people who are remarkably sane, can genuinely get along with others on a long-term basis, and can be truly helpful to those around them. People whose character is on the way to mirroring (in a healthy, authentic, non-phony way) the holiness of God.
Hopefully these people will also have some of what we associate with the advanced spiritual life–blissful experiences, paranormal powers, otherworldly peace, visitations from on high. But these things will be recognized as just the frame around the real picture: personal character that is growing toward holiness. And doing so in a down-to-earth, natural, no-nonsense way. That is what I want, and that is what I want the movement I am part of to be about.
The more I’ve reflected in odd moments on what Robert wrote, the more it resonates with me. Thinking I wanted to ponder on it, I printed out and took it with me last Saturday to an event at Liverpool Cathedral, where I knew I’d find myself sitting with time on my hands, waiting for proceedings to begin.
To provide a bit of context, Liverpool is the UK’s largest cathedral. Although built in the twentieth century, it’s a match for any of Europe’s greatest cathedrals — and is known, indeed, as “the great space.”
My wife and I weren’t there for the religion per se; we were there for the sublime singing of the youth choir from Sweden’s Gothenburg cathedral, who’d come over to celebrate the service of Santa Lucia — an annual tradition in Sweden which, through singing and candle-lit procession, symbolises the bringing of light into a dark, troubled, mid-winter world.
For me, sitting there with Robert’s words in my mind, watching meagre candlelight flicker bravely against the cathedral’s vast sandstone walls, listening to the pure voices rolling up into the dark vaulted spaces, it became very clear. “Personal character that is growing toward holiness” is not just a neat phrase; it’s the thing that, alone, can bring light into the darkness.
As I think upon what seems, to many of us, for many reasons, a very palpable present darkness, I see that this is where hope lies. For each of us, as individuals; and for all of us together, as part of the one Sonship. As we’re tested, troubled, distracted and challenged by the turbulence abroad in our world, we need to redouble our effort to change the only things that matter, and arguably the only things we can control: our character, our responses, the way we choose to see ourselves and our world.
It is dark out there — as dark as the awe-inspiring cavern of Liverpool Cathedral on a cold, bleak, north-European December night. Yet all the more reason to do what we can — to shine our light, no matter how frail it may seem to us to be, as well as we can.
“Personal character growing toward holiness.” I love it. A beautiful, succinct expression of what this path we’re on is all about. A powerful, practical, down-to-earth reminder of the direction Jesus wants us to go in.
Thank you, Robert, for putting it so well.