Day 252- The Middle Path
The Middle Path is a recurring theme in my journey home. When I first heard of it, it immediately appealed to me. The term is based on the life of The Buddha who started life as a rich prince who not only never experienced poverty or sickness personally, his family kept him sheltered so that he never even saw it. Then in his young adulthood, he saw poverty and sickness for the first time, accidentally. He went to the other extreme and decided the way to improve himself was through becoming an ascetic. He left the palace and became a beggar, owning nothing and taking a vow of extreme poverty, denying all earthly pleasures. After a while he realized that wasn’t the way to enlightenment and he decided on the Middle Path, a road of neither hedonistic pleasures or extreme asceticism.
The discovery of the Middle Path has application to my (current) model of life, the meaning of life and the afterlife. I started life as a Christian fundamentalist. I was told that life was a one question test, pass/fail. “Do you believe in Jesus?” Answer that question correctly and you got to go to an eternal life of bliss. Answer incorrectly and you would be tormented forever. One question. One life. One shot to get it right. And it was a binary choice. No in-between. Heaven or Hell awaited us all. This is what they said, but it was a little more complicated than that. The church I grew up in taught asceticism was part of this choice. If you truly had chosen Jesus, your life would reflect it. No drinking, no smoking, no playing cards, no dancing, no movie theaters, no… (I could go on, but you get the picture). If you were truly a disciple of Jesus, life on Earth would be no… fun. It was more about what you did not do than what you did do.
Then, just as I was about to turn 40 and this nonsense nearly drove me insane, I discovered another path. Christian Universalism. Universalism removed one of those binary choices. There is no Hell. Yippee!! We all get a get out of jail free pass. Some Christian Universalists believe Jesus’ sacrifice was sufficient for all and applied to all, as Paul would seem to teach if you really read his writings with fresh eyes. Others believe that God was never angry and Jesus came to show us that. Either way, bliss awaits us all immediately upon our crossing over. I had to answer the inevitable “Is Hitler in heaven?”, the #1 question asked of universalists, in the affirmative. “Yes, even Hitler is in heaven.” Ugh… The good news is life is no longer a pass/fail test with eternal consequences. But, what is the point? If all of us immediately go to heaven upon death, what are we really learning here? What are we doing? What’s it all about, Alfie?
Today, my model has evolved into what I call the Middle Path. I say my model because of course, none of us has the complete picture. Like a scientist, I have a hypothesis, an idea, and I test it with the data. I am no longer content to just take the words of a few men who lived thousands of years ago and whose words were added to, subtracted from and many volumes just plain discarded. I prefer to look at al of the data. What does modern science tell us about life after death- Near Death Experiences, readings from mediums, past life regressions, life between life regressions. We are blessed in the 21st century with a wealth of data from which to build a model. I’m sure this model will change, but it makes much more sense than the first two.
Unlike my first mode, life is not a one time shot, a binary choice between eternal bliss and eternal torment. This life on Earth is more likely one in a series of lives. As some have called it, this life is but a thread in the tapestry of your soul. Unlike my second model, this life is not without meaning and choices without consequences we will face in this realm and in the Spirit Realm. We aren’t immediately enlightened upon death, receiving all knowledge and either merging with the One or being escorted into eternal bliss. Life isn’t just about enjoying our time while we are here, even though there are some pretty attractive distractions to keep us entertained. Oh no. Life is more like a school or a spiritual boot camp. We plan these lives, including their hardships to either work off karma (one school of thought) or to grow our souls (another) or some sort of combination of the two. When we return, not only do we face a Life Review where we judge ourselves based on how we did against our goals, we plan subsequent lives based on what we did or didn’t learn. If you screw it up, you’re likely to send yourself back to repeat the lessons you missed. Who wants to do junior high over again?
I could go into much more detail, but for the purposes of this entry, this is enough. The first two paths or models were woefully insufficient to explain the meaning of life, the purpose of the afterlife and what we were to do while we were here. They didn’t explain “evil” or pain. They gave little incentive for self-improvement. They were grossly unfair. What is emerging is a much more satisfying and motivating model. It’s one that has turned me from a victim in my life, into the architect and an active participant. Many times these days I wonder why I chose this path, but knowing me, it’s easy to believe I did. I’m the guy who when he went to college chose Chemical Engineering because I wanted to be challenged. Doh!
I’m sure my model will continue to change. I’m not 100% satisfied with the karma thing. But, I am convinced it’s coming closer and closer to reality. And it’s a reality that is finally starting to make some sense.