Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Spiritual conundrum

One of the most convenient aspects of being a pantheist is that there are no churches or ministers.

I mean, really, what would be the point, when everything and everyone is God? You don’t need a holy place, because the entire universe is holy. And you don’t need a middleman, because everyone you meet is God. It has all the conveniences of atheism, but without the emptiness.

I’m not particularly anti-clerical—certainly not to the degree of Tom Paine, or even Thomas Jefferson. I was never raped as an altar boy, and I’ve had priest and minister friends all my life. I’ve always enjoyed the company of men and women of the cloth (though I have to admit, I’ve never met a TV evangelist; and I don’t like the feeling of biting my tongue in the occasional encounter when I have to, just to keep things on a pious plane). But I much prefer preachers who are more pastor than politician.

I’m sure that, now that I’ve publicly confessed to being a pantheist, I have minister friends who are concerned that I’m in danger of losing my immortal soul, that when the angels come calling to carry me home, I won’t be there, because I had to catch an early train to hell. They probably worry that I’ve lost my way, confused by all those drugs I took in my early years.

But they don’t have to worry. It’s been decades since I took psychedelics, and for me, aside from the occasional moment of terror when my soul was stripped bare, it was a far more positive experience than negative one.

This summer, when my band played at a party in Berkeley Springs WV, I met a couple of guys who were overseeing research at Johns Hopkins University on the spiritual effects of the psilocybin mushroom. Their research (which has since been published) showed distinct positive spiritual benefits from the mushroom. This result matches studies done at Harvard and other academic settings.

Other research includes the suggestion of an Israeli archeologist (also recently published) that Moses was high on a native psychedelic plant when he received the Ten Commandments, and saw the “burning bush.” The late Dead Sea scrolls scholar and philologist, John Allegro, wrote a book, “The Sacred Mushroom and the Cross,” uncovering multiple hidden drug references in the Gospels, and suggesting that Jesus and his followers experienced their spiritual communion in a drug-induced ecstasy.

There is abundant archeological evidence that the ancient Hebrews smoked cannabis both as medicine and for recreation—a tradition that continues throughout the Middle East today (like the American government-sanctioned practice of using peyote in Native American rituals). There are multiple positive references to marijuana in the Bible. In the Book of Kings, David’s son Jonathan and his troops get hungry walking through a field of seed-bearing herb, and when they ate it, “their eyes opened,” and they have a great victory. Then, of course, there’s the Song of Solomon (nudge, nudge; wink, wink).

Another reason my minister friends may worry about the state of my soul is that I no longer “believe in” Jesus, either because he isn’t God, or because everyone else is, too.

But this is exactly what Jesus himself was talking about, when the Pharisees questioned what they perceived as his pretensions to divinity, referring to himself as a son of God, and he replied, “Is it not written, ye are gods?” He may as well have added, “What’s the big deal? We’re all made in his image and likeness!” When you go to those areas around Israel where the ancient Aramaic language Jesus spoke is still used today, you can see how wildly everyday expressions like “son of man” and “in my name” have been misinterpreted by contemporary Christianity.

Of course Jesus was a “messiah” (or “Christ,” in the Greek). Messiahs are a dime a dozen—at least, as they were understood by Jesus and his clan. Moses was a messiah. Joshua was a messiah. David was a messiah—which is why the messiah of their age had to be a “son of David.” “Messiah” is a concept hardwired into the human character, Isaiah’s “Suffering Servant,” represented in archetypal form in “gods” from Osiris to Elvis, the highest spirit of humanity crucified on a cross of flesh, leading the way to understanding.

When I’m standing onstage and singing my heart out in those old gospel tunes like “Wondrous Love” that “Christ laid aside his crown for my soul,” I mean every single word of it.

Just because I’m a pantheist doesn’t mean I don’t love Jesus.


Correction: I made a huge mistake when I sent "Reflections on a lawsuit" to the Hampshire Review on Monday, and mis-typed the email address. I was gone yesterday, and didn’t find out until this morning that they didn’t get it. So it won’t be in today’s Review. Sorry to everybody about the confusion.

1 comment:

Skip said...

I always knew you loved Jesus. Do you think it's his hair??