Updated: Aug 22, 2018
A reflection on my journey from Christianity to Spirituality
You might say that my most important spiritual experience was not actually "spiritual" in the sense of being a miraculous one-off transcendent experience, but was instead, a journey that shifted me from Christianity to an open spiritual perspective. In many ways my journey has been transformative. It has compelled me to ask the tough questions, to contemplate the perspectives of others, and has challenged the deeply held beliefs I had about God, myself, and the whole of the world around me. And perhaps most profoundly, I have been able to experience firsthand - even if only as a glimpse - the Great Mystery that many might refer to as God, but I simply refer to as The Divine.
I grew up in a very religious Christian family. Some might say we were devout Christians, attending church every Sunday, praying and reading the bible together, and overall trying to be good Christians. I held the same Christian views as my family, such as salvation through Christ, the concept of heaven and hell, and other fundamental Christian tenants. However, it wasn't until 2005 when my beliefs were challenged that I set out on a quest that led me down the proverbial rabbit hole.
My spiritual journey started in 2005 when I began reading Dan Brown’s The DaVinci Code. It was spellbinding and so full of excitement and adventure that I could barely put the book down at bedtime. And as incredibly fascinating as the book was, it surely put forth some very foreign and wildly unbelievable ideas.
Jesus? The Son of God? He really didn’t die on the cross?
He was married? To Mary Magdalene… the harlot?!
...And they had a child together?
I mean really. Who does this Dan Brown think he is?
Admittedly, in spite of the controversy, I was intrigued.
How could it be that someone could come to these wildly absurd conclusions when the bible clearly tells of Jesus’ story? And being that Jesus is the central figure in Christianity, if what Dan Brown was asserting in his novel were true, why would there be no mention of these “truths” in the scriptures?
Thus began my quest to prove Dan Brown wrong.
So I began to read. From the pre-histories, through the ancient histories, even to the more recent histories, I read about the people, places and events that shaped the biblical stories from the scholars and researchers who studied them. This was a very eye-opening experience because my research exposed me to a wealth of information, much of which was totally unfamiliar to me. For instance:
- I learned that today, there are many people who support alternative views of who Jesus is, just like there were two thousand years ago.
- I learned of the religious and political turmoil around the time Jesus lived and of some of the different religious sects and movements such as the Pharisees, Sadducees, the Zealots, the Gnostics, the Mystics, and the Essenes.
- I learned that even in their day, the people of ancient Jerusalem believed they were living in the “end times” – just like we do today.
- I learned about the first Jewish revolt against the Romans in 70 AD and how it resulted in the Romans sacking the city and looting the holiest treasures from the Temple, as depicted on the Arch of Titus, which still stands in Rome today.
- I learned about the writings of Flavius Josephus, the first century Jewish historian, and how the accuracy of his work helped scholars to confirm the existence of King Herod’s massive fortress at Masada.
- I also learned about the counsel of Nicea and how Constantine and his religious leaders decided what books would make up the Christian bible as we know it today and what books would not be included. And I also learned that it was here where the council members voted and decided, once and for all, on whether Jesus was indeed the Son of God.
- I learned of other ancient stories that share striking similarities to stories of the Old Testament, yet are thousands of years older and contain more detail.
- I learned about other ancient writings that have been discovered like the Nag Hammadi scriptures, the Gnostic Gospels, the Dead Sea Scrolls, the Apocrypha, and other “books” like the book of Enoch, the Gospel of Judas, the Gospel of Thomas, the Gospel of Mary Magdalene, and the Gospel of the Infancy, for example; all of which paint a very different picture of the Christianity I had known my whole life.
- I learned about the Knights Templar and their rather dubious rise to considerable wealth almost overnight and the connection that is made between them and King Solomon’s temple.
- I learned about the Freemasons and their secret rituals that seem to have origins in ancient Egyptian mysticism.
- I learned of the royal bloodlines and their supposed claim of divine blood through the line of Kind David and, ultimately Jesus.
…and so much more…
I enjoyed what I was learning. It was interesting, thrilling, compelling, thought provoking, and definitely unorthodox. However, for the very first time it challenged my long held views. It made me think about the different perspectives – made me think outside the box… and made me start to question: “… exactly why do I believe what I believe?”
But the more I learned, the more new questions would come to mind. And the more questions I had, the more I would dig to try and seek the answers. As I continued to search, I soon became overwhelmed trying to find my way through the dizzying maze of differing viewpoints. That was when I stopped and took some time to evaluate what really was important to me. My belief in God had not changed, at least not at that time. However, my views on Jesus were changing. I was no longer sure if he really was the literal son of God. After all, Islam did not recognize him as such, and neither did Judaism. And if Judaism, Christianity, and Islam all stem from the same Abrahamic roots, what gave Jesus special status in only Christianity?
In addition to that, my views on salvation, heaven and hell, and other fundamental Christian tenants were becoming further misaligned with what my fledgling understanding, perhaps on an intuitive level, felt was more in alignment with Truth. Toward the end of that journey, which lasted a few years, my beliefs completely shifted. My views of God became more expansive... where salvation was attained not through the sacrifice of another but through one’s own efforts... and where the concept of reincarnation was beginning to take firm root into my belief system.
When I look back on this journey, I see it as a momentous spiritual experience because of my experiences as I journeyed through it and the profound shift it had in my life. Let’s be honest. Going through the motions of letting go of a deeply rooted religious belief system is not easy. I had so many questions and fears throughout the process but I had to learn to trust my deeper inner feelings and guidance. For example, at times I would wonder if my changing beliefs were really condemning me to hell. At the same time, those Christian based fears did nothing to temper the profound yearning in my heart to continue the exploration that was taking me further away from Christianity. I had to learn that it was perfectly okay to follow those yearnings and to trust that it was not bad.
Today, I am a very different person than I was when I first started my journey. Being exposed to different religious and spiritual traditions has helped me to be open to the many different paths that can guide us towards our own unique firsthand experience of God - however we might define It. For me, God is not "who" but rather, "what" - an essence... an energy... Consciousness... and unlike anything we could fully understand through the limitations of our physicality. The Great Mystery. And yet It is a part of us, residing within as that inextricable essence of our endless existence. And we reside within It's endlessness like the drops of water in the ocean or the grains of sand on the beach.
I am who I am because of the transformation that resulted because of my spiritual journey. Not so much because my beliefs are quite drastically different, but more so because of the inner qualities that have emerged within me that allow me to be who I am today. I am by no means perfect, nor have I got it all figured out. I am still just learning to be my authentic self, unapologetically, in whatever ways that may manifest.
As I continue my spiritual journey, I do so purposely, ever seeking the experience of the I AM - The Great Mystery that lies within.
I leave you to contemplate a poem I wrote inspired by the teachings of Gnani Purush Dadashri: