Jesus has said, "Suffer the children to come unto me and forbid them not, for of such is the kingdom of Heaven." It's easy to misinterpret this statement, since it may be construed to imply that you don't have to know anything to attain to the glory of God. Another way to interpret the quote, however, is to acknowledge children as innocent and filled with wonder. These are commendable attributes for the attainment of a higher spiritual nature. Innocence implies a spiritual cleanliness, while a state of wonderment suggests an openness to possibility.
Physicists have opened the box of possibilities and potential with their pursuit of "the theory of everything". We tend to overlook the exploratory nature of science. A measure of uncertainty exists in that exploration. Likewise, a spiritual quest requires profound exploration. Both scientists and seekers after truth require specialized tools to pursue their goals.
As we evolve and mature, what attributes are required to assist our spiritual growth? Job strove mightily to understand the nature of God. The story of Joseph is a fine example of someone whose life centered on the "right" path which never failed him. On the other hand, the story of David relates the human struggle in the path of attainment. Trial and error is a part of spiritual growth.
Each Bible story suggests that ultimately the true nature of God is inaccessible. The Bb has written, "...there can be no doubt that from everlasting God hath been invested with the independent sovereignty of His exalted Being... No creature hath ever recognized Him as is befitting His recognition, nor hath any created being ever praised Him as is worthy of His praise. He is exalted above every name, and is sanctified from every comparison."
Yet there is access to God. God's messengers, Adam, Noah, Abraham, Krishna, Moses, Jesus, Muhammad, The Bb, and Bah'u'llh, to name but a few, are as the sun which sheds light upon the power and glory of God.
However, if the messengers all refer to the same God, why are there so many different theologies?
As pastoral societies declared the name of God in every tree and blade of grass, so various religions focus on certain aspects of God. Joseph Campbell refers to them as the masks of God. It would appear that by focusing on one or two of the aspects of God, it is easier to develop a spiritual practice. The Golden Rule works as a basis for spiritual discovery in a multitude of spiritual writings: "Do unto others as you would have other do unto you." It's a profound, yet recognizable goal. It contains good sense and suggests a wide variety of practical application. For many seekers after truth, that simple phrase encases the whole of spiritual practice.
As mortals, we have a need to focus on concepts we can understand. And since knowing God is out of our reach, the next best thing is to cling to certain recognizable notions of the nature of God and our obligations to him, so we can act upon them.
While physicists search for the theory of everything, our spiritual quest for knowledge of God is still fragmentary. Remember Jesus' answer to the rich man, Mark 10:25: "It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God." In the richness of our knowledge of terrestrial things, we need to be humble when proclaiming our spiritual gifts.
Todd Oleson is a member of the Baha'i community in Walla Walla. Pastors in the U-B circulation area who want to write a column should contact Catherine Hicks at 509-526-8312, or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.