I’ve always grappled with this idea of not really “feeling” religion like that (simply meaning that religion didn’t resonate with me), yet calling myself “spiritual.” I would listen to people’s interpretations of spirituality, and listen to religious people tell me that I can’t be spiritual without having God in my life, which meant reading my Bible, engaging in fellowship with other “believers,” which would, perhaps, have to take place in a church. I just wasn’t feeling it. And I had difficulty explaining why I wasn’t feeling it because religious factions had done such a phenomenal job of dissuading me from any religious involvement whatsoever, so much so that I didn’t even have much interest in reading much of the biblical scripture to gain my own personal understanding of spiritual truth.
Then something different happened within me, very recently in fact, and I began to crave the wisdom that is inherent in many scriptural passages. I continued to desire truth regardless of my inability to subscribe to religious dogma. Oddly enough, I wasn’t led to the Bible; I was led to a few texts titled The Essene Gospels of Peace (excavated in 1937 from Vatican archives). Below is a passage from Jesus Christ, one of many passages that did not make it to Constantine’s Nicean Council (One Soul, 2010).
“And though the sun was now set, they departed not to their homes. They sat round about Jesus and asked him: “Master, which are these laws of life? Rest with us awhile longer and teach us. We would listen to your teaching that we may be healed and become righteous.”
And Jesus himself sat down in their midst and said: “I tell you truly, none can be happy, except he do the Law.”
And the others answered: “We all do the laws of Moses, our lawgiver, even as they are written in the holy scriptures.”
And Jesus answered: “Seek not the law in your scriptures, for the law is life, whereas the scripture is dead. I tell you truly, Moses received not his laws from God in writing, but through the living word. The law is living word of living God to living prophets for living men. In everything that is life is the law written. You find it in the grass, in the tree, in the river, in the mountain, in the birds of heaven, in the fishes of the sea; but seek it chiefly in yourselves. For I tell you truly, all living things are nearer to God than the scripture which is without life. God so made life and all living things that they might by the everlasting word teach the laws of the true God to man. God wrote not the laws in the pages of books, but in your heart and in your spirit. They are in your breath, your blood, your bone; in your flesh, your bowels, your eyes, your ears, and in every little part of your body. They are present in the air, in the water, in the earth, in the plants, in the sunbeams, in the depths and in the heights. They all speak to you that you may understand the tongue and the will of the living God. But you shut your eyes that you may not see, and you shut your ears that you may not hear. I tell you truly, that the scripture is the work of man, but life and all its hosts are the work of our God. Wherefore do you not listen to the words of God which are written in His works? And wherefore do you study the dead scriptures which are the work of the hands of men?” (The Essene Gospel of Peace, 1981).
When I read this excerpt from The Essene Gospel I was in tears. I was in tears because there was something in me that deeply connected with this idea presented by Jesus Christ, the idea that scriptures alone are not the only way to celebrate God and live in righteousness here on Earth. In fact, according to the ideas presented by Jesus above, a lack of respect and adoration for the natural elements that surround us, plant and animal life (including your fellow man, folks), the air that we breathe, the water from the seas, the sun that graciously beams, without respect for these elements, and a curiosity to know how these life forms inform our own lives, how can we purport to celebrate and honor God?
I am quick to tell someone that I am non-religious because I know that one does not need religion to be introduced to and celebrate God. As a precocious 12-year old, I didn’t know how to really place my distrust with man’s religion. I was just very disturbed with the elders’ inability to explain to me, in intelligible words, Jesus Christ’s relationship to God, and how Jesus Christ was the son of God, and we were God’s children, yet we were not the equivalent of Jesus. I was asking these questions at 12 years old based on my understanding of family systems, and no one could provide me with clear answers. I continued to seek truth in churches and Buddhist temples as an adult until I finally decided that these organized groups were unable to satisfy my spiritual appetite.
I wanted to share this passage with others who may feel a bit guilty about their decision to resist organized religion. I wanted to encourage those with a spiritual inclination but a confused and skeptical psyche to continue along their path towards spiritual enlightenment, and trust that God will reveal his/her presence to you. I am no preacher, just an encourager. I’m more interested in seeing people happy than I am in consensus. I do not follow religions, and I ADORE truth-telling scriptures. You know how I know it’s truth? Because of the way it resonates within me, that’s how. I trust that feeling, that connection, and I don’t need anyone’s permission to do so.
I have provided a link below to the webpage that has so graciously shared The Essene Gospels of Peace with the world. I also wanted to credit actor and activist Daniel Sunjata (@DanielSunjata on Twitter) for providing this resource to his Twitter followers. I hope these passages fill your heart with as much joy as they have in my very own heart.
Kagiso (pronounced “kah-gee-so,” meaning “Peace” in Setswana)
Essene Gospel of Peace, The (1981). Retrieved from http://www.essene.com/GospelOfPeace/
One Soul (2010). Retrieved from http://www.angelfire.com/extreme/empoweringpeople/
Twitter.com/DanielSunjata (@DanielSunjata) (2012). Retrieved from https://twitter.com/#!/DanielSunjata