Stephen T. Prystash, LMFT
28364 Vincent Moraga Dr.
Many years ago I had the opportunity to attend a workshop with M. Scott Peck, author of, "The Road Less Traveled." At the time I was attempting to deal with significant life transitions in addition to my own demons, anxieties, addictive tendencies, yada, yada, yada, and questioning my right to work as a psychotherapist. Despite the sorry case my psyche was in at the time, I was drawn to Peck's work and philosophy of the human spirit. As I listened to his presentation, I was struck by the number of references he made to being a Christian; almost in an exaggerated manner. Now I had been raised as a Catholic and had long since discarded any connection with the church; regarding it as hypocritical at best and as we have seen over recent years, incredibly abusive at its worst.
During a break in the workshop, I asked Peck why he had apparently gone out of his way to identify with Christianity; feeling surly he would be espousing Buddhism, Sufism, or anyone of a number of other ism's I was attempting to identify with. His response gave me pause. A rough paraphrase of Peck's response was that he, "...didn't thing Christianity was a way of life that was tried and found wanting but rather it was a way of life that few had actually lived." Wow, food for thought.
A few years later, I found myself at the Jung Institute in Switzerland. As Mecca is to the faithful Muslim, the Jung Institute is to every seeker of spiritual/psychological insight and all those of like mind should go at least once in their life. At any rate, my arrival in Geneva was just a few days before the start of the first Gulf War. As I and those with me at the institute watched events of the war unfold, the topic of discussion heavily surrounded the human potential for violence on one polar end of the existential spectrum and potential for unlimited spiritual development of the other.
People who are drawn to the Jung Institute come from all sorts of backgrounds (psychologists, writers, poets, teachers, members of the clergy, etc.) but all have a common purpose in seeking psychological and spiritual knowledge. During my time there, I met two monastic clergy; one a Buddhist and the other a Catholic. In discussions with them, I remember being surprised at how much they appeared to have in common in that they seemingly came from such divergent traditions. However, in time, I came to realize that (and as they also freely shared), that members of monastic communities; who spend their days in deep contemplation and prayer, in time, transcend religious dogma and begin to touch the same universal sense of God.
Over several discussions with my new monastic buddies, I expressed a desire to more deeply delve into Buddhist practice given my deep disdain for the Christianity I had grown up with. Their united response was predictably kind but cautionary. The reasoning went something like: "... why would you want to enter into a tradition such as Buddhism when you already have a spiritual foundation in the Christian teachings." They expressed concern that those who enter into religious practice that is separate from their cultural heritage are unlikely to fully comprehend the meaning of that tradition and are in danger of entering into a narcissistic pursuit (i.e. a practice that glorifies the ego-self as opposed aligning one's Will with the Universal Self). Again, heady stuff as I began to realize by problems with Christianity were juvenile in that I had lumped my negative life experiences into a religious practice that is based solely and simply upon Love and Humility. The problem was that the only Christianity I knew had been long since hijacked from true teachings by fundamentalist, narrow minded, judgemental and in many cases abusive clergy.
I left Switzerland having made complete peace with my Christian heritage and began to use it as the base for further spiritual development. However, in working with addictions over the years, I have witnessed numerous people struggle and rebel against any notion of spiritual acceptance based simply on their own negative experiences with Christian teachings in their youth. How sad and unnecessary this is!
Late this past summer I was vacationing with family and friends in Northern California and discovered quite by accident a remarkable little book. We were staying in Fort Bragg enjoying the serenity and beauty there. One morning, a breakfast outing was planned at a local eatery that had come highly recommended. Having been down this road with the family many times before, I fully anticipated a long and unbearable wait to be seated. Given this dread, as is my general practice, I planned to take the book I was reading at the time (Deepak Chopra's-The Third Jesus), grab a cup of coffee, smoke a cigar and read while we waited. Unfortunately, Deepak was not in the car as anticipated and there appeared no respite from the dreaded wait. But stop, immediately next to the restaurant, was a used book store (love these places and have found many life gems in them) and there was still hope. Within five minutes, I found a remarkable little book titled "Mystic Christianity or The Inner Teachings of the Master."
At first glance, the book appeared interesting but nothing I hadn't read before. However, as I thumbed further, passages began to demand more attention. As interest grew, I discovered the book had a copy write date in 1908 and was written by Yogi Ramacharaka. I don't know if it can be easily found anymore but it is highly recommended and more than worth the search. Mystical teaching of Christianity (Jesus' conception, birth, ministry, death and resurrection) is diametrically opposed to western dogma and will ring true for many who have since abandoned it. I will provide a brief quote from Yogi Ramacharaka here and offer more of his insights in future blogs:
"The teaching regarding the Immanent God lies at the foundation of all the Mystic teachings of all the peoples, races and times. No matter under what names the teaching is promulgated-no matter what the name of the creed or religion in which it is found embedded-it is still the Truth regarding the God Immanent in all forms of life, force and matter. And is always found forming the Secret Doctrine of the philosophy, creed or religion. The outer teachings generally confine itself to the instruction of the undeveloped minds of the people, and cloaks the real Truth behind some conception of a personal deity, or deities-gods and demi-gods, who are supposed to dwell afar off in some heavenly realm-some great being who created the world and then left it to run itself, giving it but occasional attention, and reserving his consideration for the purpose of rewarding those who gave him homage, worship and sacrifices and punishing those who failed to conform with said requirements.
"But the mystic teachings of all religions has brushed aside these primitive conceptions of undeveloped minds, and teach the Truth of the Immanent God-the Power inherent in and abiding in all life and manifestations. And Christianity is no exception to the rule, and in its declaration of the Holy Ghost its mystic principle is stated."
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