Sunday, December 14, 2014

The Independent Spiritualist

Robert Hutchins, the architect behind the Great Books, and president and chancellor of the University of Chicago wrote "read critically, think independently, discuss good naturedly the issues of the day."

My classmate from over 50 years ago at the U of C Lab school responded to that quote:
“Problem is that is an impediment to military, group, spiritual situation or condition

Academics have a monumental problem with belief in God because they see surrender to a higher power as weakness. They cannot
accept His teachings as the complete & final word. They cannot accept mankind as flawed…

Academics are roadblocks to group action, unity, because the individual in each questions everything, and yet groups are run often by the dyslexic (legions of history here), the average (Woody Hayes), the mundane, and the sinners, the flawed…”
I can’t say much about the military since my experience was so brief (one semester in ROTC because it was required at U of I). I did ride on the plane with a student from West Point and was questioning him about what he’d do if his sergeant told him to do something that seemed wrong. He said that he’d been taught to do what is right, not what he was told. That’s what we learned from the Nuremberg trials.

Going back to the Garden of Eden, I think that eating the fruit was the beginning of independent thinking. I would like to believe that independent thinking is a prerequisite toward finding and following a spiritual path. That is what Christ, Buddha, Moses and all the other leaders did. And Gandhi as well. Buddha said that if he says one thing, and your teacher says something different, you should follow your teacher. Judaism is not founded on belief but rather on action. It is about humans discovering what is human. What Linji was talking about was that mindlessly following a path is no different than being a prisoner, shackled and bound.

I wouldn’t be pursuing a spiritual path if I thought that meant losing my independence. The fact that paths are ultimately unique means that we must, yes, must, be independent. Otherwise we are simple sheep, doing the right thing, not as humans, but rather as animals.

The surrendering, for me, is seeing our interdependence. When a gear shift grows up, it stops thinking of itself as a gear shift, but rather thinks of herself as an integral part of a car. In the same way, we surrender minute by minute. When we drive in traffic we can choose to be part of the dance of cars, or to drive in our own direction which will likely lead to an accident. Choosing makes us human. But following the crowd blindlessly will lead to a pile-up. We have to be ready for independent thought.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Interesting question to raise but many contradictions lay in the path.