Hearing myself talk over the last couple days I hear old-time preacher Millard Pruitt in the pulpit. He lived in a place where he could die any day over several years, and kept on going, heart attack after heart attack; his doctor's medications kept him going. In the pulpit, he could set everybody in the house to crying when he talked about himself dying. He'd start talking, the people in their regular seats looking at him, waiting for the spirit to hit him, he talks about dying and tears run down everybody's faces. Then he had us where he wanted us, paying attention, and he went on with his preaching. I don't talk about dying in a way that makes people around me cry, or to get attention. Somebody asks how I'm doing, with meaning, and I give a brief outline of where I'm at in that regard. l don't pull tears or dwell on it. Yet, it's my theme of conversation in these days. I don't like to talk about it, because it's such a wierd thing to contemplate, passing of the ego with the body, all the physical and psychological and ego gone, self-identity goes poof, left with innermost spirit, the true self, the soul. I am curious to see how my innermost self operates in spirit form without ego. Will I recognize myself? Will I even be aware of self? About to take a look into the unknown some day, some time, whenever, I can't help but be curious. It's like getting ready to go to a party, imagining what it will be like, who will be there, assessing it beforehand. Get there and find out it is entirely different from anything I imagained.
I'm glad I don't see dying the way I was taught it in the Baptist religion. You don't know if you're going to heaven or hell, even if you're saved, aint got no assurance of nothing. You don't even know if God likes you. God the Judge on the throne slamming down the gavel: GUILTY! GUILTY! GUILTY! God the guilt provider. Better watch out, because God sees everything you do and is judging you as you go along, every detail, even your thoughts. There's no place to hide from God. Then there is the devil, worshipped by Baptists as a force right up there with God. Millard Pruitt, preacher above, told me that the devil created briars. I said, The devil is not a creator. That doesn't matter. He created briars. I hear baptists I know and they want to talk about the devil, the devil's power, the devil's influence. American Baptists are so focused on the devil in this time, I believe they're giving "him" power by focusing so much in that direction. Baptists are taking on the ways of the devil, approving shooting a doctor through his kitchen window because he performed abortions. Baptists believe that's right behavior. The devil believes it's right behavior, too.
I will not let a preacher or a belief system or anyone of any authority put guilt on me. Used to. Used to all the time. Then I learned better. It makes people mad who believe they have some sort of authority over me. They believe we need guilt to keep us from sin. I don't believe that at all. I believe guilt is used by the few to control the many. It's used by parents and teachers to control children and by preachers to control sheep. I believe it's a sin to attempt to make someone feel guilty over anything. I've been told by someone who embraces guilt for self and controlling others that we need guilt. It's good for us. Whatever. Going by the law of karma, everything we do comes back to us, the good, the bad, the indifferent. We almost never recognize when something comes back to us. For example, my doctor talks down to me, which automatically, without me even aware of it, makes me attempt to speak with authority in my voice to sound like I know what I'm talking about, to counter his projected belief that I do not. What came to him from talking down to me was me speaking up for myself. When somebody hurts you, what's your first thought? What you're going to do back. Can't stand to wait too long, so the return manifests fairly soon, if not immediately.
We get the payback right away from our expressions. We don't notice that the "debt" is paid in full, most often in just a few minutes, or a day or two. We go about feeling guilty over a debt already paid. Some people carry a lot of guilt and will carry it to the grave. Who, then is our judge? Not God. We judge ourselves, we punish ourselves, we demean ourselves in guilt, and for no reason. If you want to call the law of karma God, that's ok, put it all on God. God doesn't mind. But I have found an understanding of the law of karma, everything comes back, that for the first time I've learned what the word "sin" really means. Church told me a sin is "missing the mark," kind of like shooting an arrow at a target and missing. Rather vague, subject to interpretation. Taking away an objective way of looking at this theme, which is entirely subjective, I see that when the return is to our liking we call it good, good luck, good fortune. When it is not to our liking we call it bad; "If it wasn't for bad luck I wouldn't have any luck at all." There's no "luck" about it.
For duality sake, Christendom made "hell fire" the opposite of heaven. The Chinese saw the duality as heaven and earth. I'm more in line with that one, spirit and physical. Hell is an invention of the human mind. I can hear the baptist reaction; I better watch out, cause the devil already got his hooks in me for questioning authority. Baaa, baaa, black sheep! This is where I have the hardest time around Baptists, who like to keep me reminded of the devil. Yet, at the same time I know the Baptist religion well enough to see that it really does have a spiritual dimension available. I'm not able or willing to do the straight and narrow tightrope for any preacher. When I go to the liquor store, I park in front. I've also seen a lot of self-calling in the Baptist religion. Originally, in the Baptist way, God chose who would be a preacher. Since that old way is gone, now preachers call themselves and lay it on God. Self-called preachers I don't trust at all. That's not entirely true. Some have "it," the spirit, and some don't. I get it before very long getting acquainted with one. I have to say of the Baptist religion as I would say of the Catholic religion, or any other, it has it and doesn't have it, both. Just like me or any other human; has it and doesn't have it. Duality in action.
I don't believe in the "straight and narrow" way. I go with the meandering way, the way of water in a delta. The closer water in a river gets to its transcendence, the ocean, the land is flat and water meanders here and there into several small rivers to the sea. I don't know where I am in my flow from springs in the mountains, over waterfalls, through rivers, some places fast water, some places slow water, rough water, smooth water, then in the deltas it moves slowly and meanders this way and that, seeming to be without direction. Sometimes a delta is even a kind of labyrinth for the water flow. But the water flows and keeps on moving. This image pictures my own spiritual path a great deal better than a tightrope. Walking a tightrope is a clever trick, but it doesn't allow for the flow of the spirit as a metaphor. For me, the way of the spirit is something to relax into, not to intend into or will into or force into. It's about relaxing into the flow of the spirit (the Tao) like a leaf on the water in a mountain stream. And, like along a creek or a river, a tree has fallen into the river from one of the banks. Debris floating down the river gets caught in these places that stagnate and get nowhere, until a storm comes and unties the knots of stasis, setting everything free to continue on their journey. Maybe sometimes our emotional turmoils untie some of our interior knots.
That's my interpretation. A Baptist preacher would likely say I'm listening to the devil, which makes it all the better for me. "The devil," of course, is anything not Baptist doctrine. Though I throw off on the Baptists, it's like talking about family. It's from the inside, so it's ok. Nothing has ever struck me like some old-time Regular Baptist church meetings and Primitive Baptist, as well. They're the same, except Regular Baptists have notes in their song books and hold by doctrine predestination (Primitive) or free will (Regular). I've heard convincing arguments for each one, and just as convincing an argument for not-both. I do see "predestination" in my life, karma, and I do see free will. I have the power to do what I want to do. With free will we learn to control what we want to do until it's safe to self and others. In predestination, God picked me, I didn't pick God. That's how it worked out for me. I do both. I also don't worry over it. It's splitting hairs and it's getting too serious. I don't see that the spiritual path is about serious. I am seeing more as I get older that the spirit is light-hearted like a chickadee and flows like a kayak in a river with consciousness guiding it around and over rocks, making decisions along the course of the river, avoiding hang-up places and walking around waterfalls. I can't see it any way other than both. I can't join either one of the churches, because I cannot lock down to the doctrine. I don't believe the virgin birth either; another doctrine. Therefore, I stay on my own with my Master to guide my kayak, rolling on down the river's meandering course to the sea of love, transcendence, piercing the veil.