Saturday, January 26, 2013

Our Personal Creation Story

When we read the various creation stories that have appeared across cultures and religions, on the surface they are stories to explain how our outer world came into being.  The world we can see, touch, and with which we interact.  How those things may have truly come about was beyond the capacity of early human beings to comprehend, just as there are many questions about creation that still today are beyond our capacity to understand in spite our current grasp of modern science.  So the explanation had to be in a form that could be comprehended by people of those early times – the traditional stories and myths of our creation.

In truth, our questions are not really just about the creation of the outer world in which we live.  Rather, the desire for explanation is really more fundamental: a universal need to answer the question “Where Did I Come From?”  Which then leads to the question of “Who Am I?”  And from that, the bigger question of “Where Am I Going?”  If we think of these various stories as simply multiple fa├žades over a single repetitive structural blueprint for creation, and see the stories handed to us as really a model for how all things were created, then a creation story can tell us a great deal about our own creation, our own selves.

For example, consider the creation story told in the Torah, a familiar story of beginnings shared by Jewish, Christian and Islamic faiths.  The first step (day) of creation existed in a void of nothingness but water and darkness, until God said, “Let there be light” – and so there was light.  God’s light.  In that same way, my life came from nothingness, a void until God created my soul from a particle of God’s spirit, sparked by the illuminating source of God’s light.

In the second step (day) of creation, God created “an expanse in the midst of the water, [to] separate water from water,” thereby creating “Sky” (Heaven).  In that same way, a space in that Sky was created for me, the place where my soul was originally formed and resided; the spiritual home from which I came, and the spiritual home to which I will return.

In the third step (day) of creation, God “gathered the water below the sky into one area so that dry land may appear,” thereby creating Earth and the Seas.  On the land, God then “brought forth vegetation: seed-bearing plants of every kind, and trees of every kind bearing fruit with the seed in it.”  In that same way, the egg within the woman separated the water of the womb to become the available soil into which the seed of the man could be planted and bear fruit.

In the fourth step (day) of creation, God said, “Let there be lights in the expanse of the sky to separate day from night [and] serve as signs for the … days and the years … two great lights, the greater (sun) to dominate the day and the lesser light (moon) to dominate the night, and the stars.”  It was the creation of the dimension of “time.”  In that same way, my fertilization and development occurred within a structured process over nine months of time; my human life has then transpired in subsequent steps through measured time over years (versus my spiritual life, which is timeless).  Each day is measured by the rise and setting of the sun and each night’s passing of the moon.  The sun is my creation father, the moon is my creation mother.  Both come together to parent and watch over my life through each passing day.

In the fifth step (day) of creation, God said, “Let the waters bring forth swarms of living creatures, and the birds that fly above the earth.”  In that same way, my life began in the warmth of my mother’s water, water regulated by the Mother Moon, starting in the simplest form of a cell, yet a cell with all the capacities to potentially support life.  Around me, the Universal Spirits traverse the world, unbounded by place, keeping watch over all.  In their flight, the birds call to the soaring aspirations of freedom and movement that live in our hearts; remind us of our ability to travel far beyond where we may find ourselves physically and spiritually; and point the way to our personal connection from Earth to Sky (Heaven).

In the sixth step (day) of creation, God brought forth “every kind of living creature: cattle, creeping things, and wild beasts of every kind.”  And God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness” …  “Male and female, God created them” … and said to them, “Be fertile and increase, fill the earth and master it; and rule the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, and all the living things that creep on the earth.”  In that same way, I first passed through basic mammalian facets to develop my physical capacities and instincts.  Then and only then did I begin to evolve to my human “self,” moving inevitably toward human birth, in the image that God “image-d” (imagined) for me.  Until I emerged physically formed, ready to begin the learning necessary to become capable and ready to master the earth.  To rule all living things in God’s stead for whatever time period God may allow for me.

The Creation story of Earth is likewise the creation story of each of us.  It is a deliberate, sequential, building-block process that is repeated in the appropriate way to create all forms of life.  The details, the mechanics, the character names, the time frames may change as we continue to learn more of the technical secrets behind God’s creations.  Seen differently, our “science” is simply a new creation story for contemporary human beings.

Our creation stories give us a shared reference for our common existence.  Read deeply and expansively rather than superficially, they guide us to a deeper understanding of creation beyond its mechanics, but to a fuller understanding of God’s purpose guidance for our lives.  It is up to each of us to draw the appropriate lessons from these insights.  The miracle and grandeur of The Creation is also the miracle and grandeur of our own creation, the metaphorical answer to Where Did I Come From.  It is the miracle of Who I Am.  The grandeur of Where I Am Going.

(From www.McKeeLearningFoundation.com : for a free digital copy of my collection of over 50 creation stories that underlie this posting, email your request to Info@MckeeLearningFoundation.com )

Friday, January 11, 2013

Religious Commonalities

In talking about the place and impact of religion in our lives today, people most often focus on the differences among our many traditions.  It is this focus on our differences that regrettably leads to much of our cultural and religious difficulties.  But what is interesting is that when you set aside the specific religious texts used, the rituals observed, the religious laws and judgments proscribed, and the earthly politics of religious power, what remains is the core spiritual essence of each religion.  At that core level, there is far more commonality than one might choose to acknowledge.

I recently completed a review of over 50 historical “Creation Stories” from cultures and religions across the globe.  These stories were developed thousands of years ago by peoples living in isolated communities, unaware of the others inhabiting this planet.  Yet in spite of their extreme isolation from each other, each culture developed its own story of creation, expressed in the geography, language, and life symbols of its natural environment.  The name of the Creator changes; the role and form of the Creator’s helpers change; the position of nature and all its beings varies; but all of these elements are there.  And the plot lines follow remarkably similar construction.

Regardless of one’s ancestral lineage, there is a creation story to be told.  They are embedded in our collective and individual psyche, coming out in the way a core thought in our brain will manifest itself in a thousand different dream scenarios.  Different chapters of the same recurring story.

This commonality of the creation stories moves us to think about other shared commonalities in spiritual expression.  Our hands, palms touching and fingers pointing upwards, placed at chest level, are a near-universal sign of spiritual respect, union, and prayer.  Prayer, engaging in conversational dialog with a Creator, or simply with just “something” vastly different than ourselves, requesting intervention or just guidance in our daily lives, is foundational to spiritual practice.  Going off alone to contemplate in quiet is a practice that has long attracted mystic and layperson alike, even if the styles may take many different forms.  Advanced knowledge of science and architecture in primitive ancient minds allowed them to capture the first light of a solstice or other recurring cosmic event in the intricate design of their temples.

It is this timelessness, this commonality, that speaks to us when we stand in the ruins of a Machu Picchu or Stonehenge, or another ancient religious site.  That same voice calls to us in rituals handed down over thousands of years.  It is the voice of a common human desire to know God from whom our life, and all life, is derived.  We speak to that God in different words, languages and gestures.  But innately we share a common map of different paths to the One same destination.  The commonality at the core heart of our many religions is the commonality that transcends all of humankind and binds us together.