“This stuff is nuts!” I would periodically make this observation with my Sunday School class when I returned to the Episcopalian church in the spring of 2011, doing so with feigned frustration Now, I did so only after they knew me well enough to know that I was not being serious, but was only reflecting the cognitive dissonance between the mature approach to spirituality the class afforded me and the very linear, legalistic spiritual mind-set that still lay in the depths of my heart.
This was not an ordinary Christian church as it permitted a Sunday School class of this sort, one which emphasized a non-dual approach to Holy Writ and the Christian tradition. Each week we would meditate for 20-30 minutes and then discuss the book we were reading at the time, each book reflecting the non-dual approach to reality/Reality. And our discussion was personal, not being a mere regurgitation of the “party-line” that the church or the Christian tradition suggested. This discussion was an open, honest exploration of spiritual teachings and the meaning they had in our day-to-day life. But, with this “non-dual” emphasis we usually waded deeply into the aether, into the nebulous dimensions of spiritual life, “wrestling with words and meanings” (T. S. Eliot) and finding that our faith in God, in the human enterprise, and with each others deepened in the process.
And, from time to time I would abruptly interject our discussion with, “This is nuts” and then share how dissonant our discussion was with my past but also how absurd it would be with most people in our community, not to mention the world. For our world is very linear and depends on our ability to mute the “non-dual” dimension of our heart and mind in our day-to-day functioning and fulfill our responsibilities in our personal and professional lives. And the people in this class were highly functional, highly educated and accomplished people who were very adept in making their way in the linear world. But their presence in this class, and their discussion of the subject matter in the class, revealed their awareness of another dimension of life that was very important to them and actually gave meaning to their day-to-day life.
This experience taught me that it is possible to live in two different worlds at once, the “common-sense” world that people take to be real as well as the spiritual world that I was facetiously describing as “nuts.” For, when we venture into the realm of the spirit, we are led beyond the pale in a certain sense, into a realm where words cannot capture the matter we purport to discuss. And this does not mean that these words are unimportant. They are. But they are a means to an end, not an end in themselves; or as the Buddhists teach, “The finger pointing to the moon is not the moon.”