Friday, January 17, 2003
The literature of mysticism is full of accounts of the lives of its deified luminaries, the saints. These are the people who have come to know themselves as oneness who have also left enough of a wake to gain notice in the literature. But we're not going to talk about these people. They are figments of the historical imagination.
The fact is that all saints are people first, but we rarely get to see the person side of the saint. History is usually very kind to saints, often erasing anything that would call their divinity into question, including ordinary human behaviors like getting angry or having sex. These more mundane qualities just don't make good copy, and they violate traditionally held ideas about sainthood. Thus saints are projected to be paragons of absolute virtue built on mountains of high-fiber bedrock.
And yet we all know that it isn't always quite so.
This isn't about denigrating the saints. They are all blessed to know themselves as oneness. But it's important to understand that this special kind of knowledge, the experiential knowing of oneself as oneness, is different from sainthood, the life stories that develop around a spiritual figure. Take the sainthood out of the saint and you get just another person trying to make their way through the world, just like you and me.
Knowing oneself as oneness is certainly very rarely accompanied by the kinds of phenomena and experiences recorded in the mystical literature. But what people believe about their saints is what they expect themselves to become. There exist volumes of quaint stories and tales of miracles to inspire us, but the beliefs that result provide the number one source of occlusion present in spiritual culture today.
It's sort of like the eggs of the cowbird.
The cowbird finds an unattended nest with eggs, knocks them out and lays her own, and then leaves. The eggs are hatched and raised by their unwittingly adoptive parents.
The expectations we have about self realization (knowing ourselves as oneness) are the cowbird's eggs. These ideas are raised as concepts in our minds, replacing the real understanding they pose as. By buying into these sets of commonly held beliefs about spiritual understanding, many very effectively hinder themselves from ever seeing that understanding come to their own lives.
Ideas about self realization and our own spirituality can fill our perceptual desktops with many layers of post-it noted spiritual "truths," crowding out the experiential truth that is always present.
Thus, helping the saints down off their pedestals is exactly what they would have wanted, for anyone who knows themselves as oneness knows this: it's being no one different than anyone else.