There is an expectation when people express a desire to go and to delve further into their faith further than what can be offered in the context of the average Sunday morning service that what will be offered will immediately focus on detailed work on specific passages of the Bible. This is unlikely to happen because in order to do that we have to rid ourselves of our presuppositions, expectations, rigid beliefs about what it is we are going to find and indeed what it is that we wish to find there. There has to be a process of cleansing the palate before we can move from the very basic Sunday School, simple approach to what we are reading to something which will offer us something much deeper and more profound.
Nobody can stand and tell you what everything means. What authentic teaching will do is to facilitate your own reading of scripture and your engagement with it.
The reaction of those who want to move straight onto dealing directly with questions such as the Trinity and the Virgin Birth and the nature of God or just scripture itself is very often frustration because the way into doing this has to involve us thinking ourselves into the mindset of those who produced what we describe as scripture. There is no easy way to spiritual development. It does not fall straight out of the sky. If you look at Jesus, Paul, Peter, to take three New Testament examples there was serious work and a very high cost to their spiritual progress and journey.
In recent workshops the reaction of participants has ranged from joyful relief and acceptance of what is being said to a sense of disinterest (not uninterestedness), shock, total incomprehension, a sense of no connection to what is being said, the demand to know where it is that we are going or where people are being taken, fear and a refusal to go any further. And these reactions and responses can be there in one person at different times even in the space of a single workshop. It is normal.
When something seems shocking then it is presented in order to help and to encourage, even to provoke us, into making connections. Something which seems very left-field and weird may be so because it is not part of our day to day experience. It does not mean that it has nothing to offer us when we seek to interpret a challenging Old or New Testament passage. Nothing is presented simply for its own sake. It is only when we are prepared to expand our own vision and consciousness that we are going to take in anything new. The more challenging and difficult we find it, the more valuable it probably is and the more it has to offer us where we are now.
At recent workshop we touched on expanded consciousness as it exists in Shamanism not because we are looking to use or endorsing or even approving of the use of psychedelic drugs (the drug referred to came from a plant which is used in sacred medicine in some cultures) but in order to show us that there are different levels and states of consciousness. The Old Testament alludes to this often and we used Jacob’s dream as our way into that workshop session and the Shaman as a way into seeing how vision and dream may have worked in ancient religious ritual and practice.
Roland Griffiths’ work on mystical states of consciousness helps us see that such visionary experience is not fiction but is there and is accessible. It is not supernatural but is part of the human experience.
The point is not that the mystical experience is drug induced. The chemicals are irrelevant. The difference between most of us and the people about whom we read in the Bible is that they see and saw differently to us. We are using modern witness to what seems alien and supernatural experience as a way into exploring a new way of reading the Bible, seeing the world and understanding God. To do this we often need to go outside of our own tradition. In the video below some of us might question some of the references to particular religious beliefs but the idea of the lucid dream opens up large parts of the Bible to us.