few more posts have popped up... And I've discovered some very interesting things about Pagan goings-on in Second Life, which I'll write about later.)
Part II: Salvation/Illusion
As a child, I had a relationship with the Huge Generic Personal Spirit that I felt in the breeze over a sunlit field, the flock of gulls swinging towards the ocean's horizon, the quiet darkness that lingered like a loving presence and to which I prayed at night. Jesus, on the other hand, was just a cool guy, a role model, a man I'd heard stories about all my life--but deity? What did it mean to believe in good ol' J.C. as a god, as God itself? I still struggle with this question, and though I can tell people without flinching that I was "born and raised Catholic," sometimes I feel as if I know too much of its murky, complex and sometimes downright unlikely theologies to have any clear sense of what "being a Christian" actually means. I suppose this uncertainty is amusing, considering plenty of people have similar difficulty knowing what it means to "be a Druid" (since the ancient Celtic caste system which defined the original Druids no longer exists and so little information about it has survived).
In some ways, I was only ever truly Christian insofar as I didn't know some of the more obscure details of the religion. (On the other hand, this might very well be true for a majority of Christians; but that's a different debate, between clergy and laity.) Despite the myriad theologies and denominations of Christianity the world over, it is probably safe to say that the one core belief they hold in common is that Jesus Christ is a/the Savior, and that his crucifixion and resurrection in historical time was the vehicle or medium or manifestation of his saving act. This is what I had been taught as a child. Growing up, I elaborated vast and complex explanations for exactly what this belief in a Savior actually meant, especially how it jived with my personal experiential relationship with a Divine that seemed to leave no room and no need for salvation. Eventually, I settled on the mystery of the Trinity, locating that H.G.P.S. of fields and sunlight and oceans and darkness in the theology of the Holy Spirit; the transcendent quality of the Divine, I decided, was God(head) the Father/Creator; and the place of Jesus, the Christ, was that of Reconciler, the bridge between immanence and transcendence, that third unique element of human consciousness that expresses the universal through the particular.
For all its heady technical terms, for a while this spiritual story hung together quite well for me. But soon its metaphors began to take their toll. The image of Christ stretch between immanence and transcendence, between earth and heaven like some axis mundi, his tendons forever strained with the effort of holding us close as we threatened to spin away out of control, holding up the sky as Godhead teetered almost near enough to obliterate us--in short, the image of Christ on the cross, and the suffering aspect of love--became not only what kept it all together, but also what kept it apart. When before I had not understood the need for a Savior, so intertwined was the transcendent Divine with dancing manifest creation; now I looked to a savior who could not even save himself from the suffering of unconditional, selfless love, but could only submit to it in a kind of blinding, awe-filled sacrifice. I began to pity my god.
Meanwhile, the thought lurked in the back of my mind that, if God were the fundamental essence of our being and of existence itself, then salvation from a separation from that essence could only ever be a kind of illusion, or rather the waking up from illusion. Yet trying to believe in a Salvation had only led me into an illusion I hadn't held to begin with (perhaps this was why Jesus was so adamant about not leading the innocent children astray, though Catholicism would maintain there was no such thing). It seemed, in the end, that believing in a Savior just wasn't part of my spiritual make-up.