More than ever, I am convinced that what sets youth apart from adults, is their ability to recognize and surrender themselves to beauty and enjoyment. Happiness is straightforward for children until the adults around them present a complicated version of happiness, and urge them to agree with it.
Wednesdays in my life belong to my son, Winter. I decided the best way to maintain a close relationship with him while culturing this hectic international career of mine, is to commit a day a week to just him, a day where my presence is not sporadic. I bought him a calendar so he can cross off the days and know what days he gets to spend with who and doing what. It has done a lot to absolve his insecurity. I really hate sitting still in the house and playing with toys (I didn’t even play with toys when I was a child) so I’m the “activity mom”. Every Wednesday, I put him in the car and we drive somewhere to find entertainment. Sometimes we ski, sometimes we go to the library, sometimes we go swimming, sometimes we go to the movie theatre, sometimes we go to a museum, sometimes we go to the zoo or aquarium, etc. Yesterday, I took him to the Leonardo, Salt Lake City’s contemporary museum to see their new exhibit of the Dead Sea scrolls. I was all excited to see it. I entered the building with enthusiasm. I left despondent.
Usually, a historical museum exhibit is a sensory treat for me. I am able to see images and story lines and people and sensations connected to the artifacts. It is as if the artifacts transport me back in time. I have to be careful about what exhibits I go to because of this. There were more than 600 items on display today. Including actual stones from Jerusalem’s western wall, limestone ossuaries and 20 of the Dead Sea scrolls. These artifacts are over 2,000 years old. The Dead Sea scrolls are a collection of 972 documents discovered between 1947 and 1956 in caves near the Dead Sea. Most are written on animal skin and some are on papyrus and parchment. They were written between 120 BCE and 68 CE. These scrolls are a precious foundation for all Abrahamic religions because they include the earliest known manuscripts of texts included in the Hebrew bible and the Old Testament. Basically, they are a collection of documents that detail the beliefs and cultural rules of a particular group (or multiple groups) within Judaism over 2,134 years ago. And if ancient cultural beliefs were all they represented to people, I would have enjoyed the exhibit. But it isn’t all they represent.
First of all, the Israel Antiquities Authority created the exhibit. It includes items from the Israel National Treasury Department. The Israeli government is heavily backing this exhibit for the sake of trying to sway American opinion in their favor. There has been a bloody conflict between Israel and Palestine since the 20th century. In all actuality, the conflict goes back much farther. But it is a complicated conflict. But part of the conflict involves rights and control over Jerusalem, which is regarded as the most holy city in the world. Christians, Jews and Muslims each assert their claim over the city and the holy sites therein. And all sides want to prevent the others from owning rights to or worshipping at these sites. Let’s just say that sharing was not part of the early Abrahamic religious tenets. This conflict is a perfect example of what happens when people think it is possible to “own” a part of the earth instead of “temporarily experience” part of the earth. In truth, both sides of this conflict are so convinced of their own personal truth, that objective truth escapes them both. Anyway, both sides have been trying to sway foreign allies for years. And America, being the renowned international bully, is prime target number one for partisan propaganda.
The Dead Sea Scroll exhibit I saw today was created specifically to try and convince the world that Jerusalem essentially belongs to Judaism and what’s more than that, to Israel. It was bizarre and off-putting to see the energetic patterns of political motivation in the exhibit. It had a very different feel from most historical exhibits. For whatever reason, the descriptive plaques that are created for museums tend to absorb the most amount of intention patterning from the people who create the exhibits. Sometimes this is due to the material used in the plaques. The plaques of most historical museums have a very “science/archaeology” feel to them. They are full of the patterns of awe, enthusiasm and perfectionism of people who are what we would call “history buffs”. In yesterday’s exhibit it was different. Most of the plaques emitted strong patterns of desire and conviction. This combination is consistent with the frequency of “ulterior motive”. But that is not what upset me the most as a spiritual teacher. What upset me the most is that humans seem to be unwilling to graduate out of kindergarten.
Seeking spirituality through an external religion at this point in the human timeline is kindergarten. At a certain point, it is time to graduate. I watched people filter through the exhibit in awe, as if they were looking at the closest representation of pure God given truth. Not of what used to be true, but of what is true. And I could not help but feel like people make no sense. There are no other historical exhibits in the world that are regarded with as much current worship as religious exhibits.
Most exhibits are regarded as what they are; a relatively accurate account of what was true back then. We do not look back at medieval torture devices and think “brilliant, we should be using those today.” We do not look back at William Gilbert’s studies on electricity in the 1600s, which involved rubbing amber with fur to produce electric charge and think to ourselves “I have to get myself some of that amber and fur so I can read my book at night”. We are able to regard them, and most parts of history, as part of our learning process… except it would seem for religion.
People ask me all the time about the validity of ancient religious texts and my response, infuriates people. The truth is, even if we were not extensions of god, even if God was a separate, external being, God would still have to talk to men through men. This means his words would have to be translated through the filters of the person conveying the message. Filters like cultural beliefs. These ancient, revered texts are a mix of outdated cultural beliefs (cultures which were misogynistic, slaveholding cultures by the way), objective truths and subjective truths. But we regard them as an accurate account of God’s exact words to his people. What you have is a few diamonds in a lot of rough. This is why the last step we can take to externally search for God and objective truth, is to search ALL religions for the truths that are coherent among all religions.
What we have in the Dead Sea scrolls is an accurate portrayal of an ancient perspective. But I can’t help but laugh about the picture our behavior paints for our future.
It’s the year 2014. A homeless man, who has spent his life in and out of the psych ward and on and off of meth, begins to write in a journal as part of his outreach program. He starts off his entries by saying “God is talking to me. God says you need to wear snow pants when it’s a cloudy day. God says the earth was created five hundred years ago. God says only take things from a person who gives them to you willingly. Do not steal out of trashcans. And goes on to tell a story about his family members. Michael found his friend James with Ashley in a bed having sex, even though they were married. He got so mad he shot James and Ashley and left them in their own blood in bed together. I found them. God said you shouldn’t sleep with someone else’s wife.” And the story goes on journal after journal after journal. Imagine this homeless man finds an ammo can at an army surplus store and puts these journals in the ammo can and buries them at a local park late at night, in an area where the cops aren’t patrolling. Two thousand years later, some people dig up that ammo can. They can’t believe their eyes. They have just found the oldest account of “God’s words to man”. Why are they so sure? Because some of the tenets set forth in these ancient books, are tenets that are embraced by society and taught by religions now, in the year 4021. Surely these ancient books are the closest text we have to God given truth. Everyone begins wearing snow pants when it’s cloudy outside. Prophets begin teaching that the earth was created five hundred years ago. There are laws made against taking anything out of trashcans. In fact regardless of the law of separation of church and state, people are put in jail if they are caught taking things out of trashcans. And the collective societal belief is that sleeping with someone else’s wife is a sin.
I realize this previous example is provocative. It is not meant to be an insult to the homeless demographic (I personally think many homeless people are far more enlightened than the average person). For the sake of understanding, I needed to pick an example of someone whom society would see as a discredit to the information they share; because in all honesty, all that we know about the authors of these old teachings, is that they were literate. And I assure you, this scenario is not as inconceivable a scenario as you would think. The bible is living proof.
These ancient teachings, like any teaching (my own included) are a unique perspective belonging to one or several people. Nothing more. Nothing less. This is why it is so crucial for people to use them not as cornerstones for their own sense of truth, but instead as catalysts, which cause them to expand their mind enough to find their own sense of personal truth. People, who feel as if we have lost something that we knew in ancient times, do not remember what it was like to live back then. We have never had a better handle on universal truth than now. Beliefs evolve. Ideas evolve. Thought is constantly improving. It is that evolution which brings us ever closer to our true selves, our true spirituality and our knowledge/understanding of what people call God. When we adhere to truths that were presented long ago, we are preventing ourselves from evolving. We are also preventing ourselves from understanding, awareness and “truth”. After I die, the spiritual teachers that will come will make my teachings obsolete. And they are meant to die in this way. So I say, let my teachings die. Let them be replaced by something even better. For this is the beauty of expansion.
All valuable spiritual teachings, should direct a person back to themselves as the true source for connection and conversation with “God”. This is how we should be using these texts instead of taking them literally like so many of us do… Examining the perspective of one such ancient person, let’s examine the idea that “The kingdom of heaven is within”. This suggests that the kingdom of heaven is here, with you now instead of after death. What then is heaven? Is it a place with lots of white clouds that exists inside my body? Is it a state of mind? Is it a metaphor suggesting that God resides within each and every one of us and therefore is us? All answers are simply perspectives. I have my own answers for these questions. In fact, my life’s purpose is presenting them to you for the sake of universal expansion. But I am here to tell you that the only person who has the answers to these questions is YOU.