The Universal Message is You
Alan Wright, the main character of my novel, "Where You Will Die", has a message.
For more than ten years, he has spread the word via his "Ministry of the Universal Message" - on the internet, in books and articles and in ceremonies and services. He lives his creed by helping others. He's not Christian, but he practices the virtues Jesus professed - helping the poor, visiting the sick and imprisoned, counseling the bereaved - as well as performing rights of passage like weddings and funerals.
At the heart of this self-defined spirituality is the "Universal Message", based on Perennialism - the belief that all religious and mystical traditions point to a single Truth, regardless of their surface differences. Much has been written of this idea, but Aldous Huxley may have summed it best in his book, "The Perennial Philosophy".
This single truth is: "Thou Art That". All of Existence is One Thing, and, as Alan Watts said, "You're IT!"
In the novel, Alan Wright is asked to put this message into a "nutshell" by Danny Newland, the court-appointed defender of a homeless man indicted for the murder of Ruth MacKenzie, Alan's friend. The two men are alone in a jail visitation room, waiting for the accused man to be brought in so they can ask him questions. After some awkward moments, Newland speaks up:
Newland ran his hand through his thin, greying hair. "I'm told you have your own religion."
"No, but I have a message."
"In a nutshell, we come from the world not into it. We are expressions of the world the way leaves are expressions of a tree. We belong in the universe as much as a star or a starfish. We're all the same, we're all connected, and the only divisions between ourselves and others, ourselves and the world, ourselves and God, are the fictions we create in our minds."
"That's quite a nutshell," Newland said.
"It's not my message. It's the perennial philosophy, the core of every mystical and religious tradition. I'm just trying to pass it on."
"It sounds very, I dunno, New Agey. But you used the word God."
"God is a word we use to fit infinity into our brains."
This is Alan's belief because it is mine. It is a hard creed to hold, given the state of things with human beings, and an even harder creed to explain, but I can't see how it can be otherwise.
There really is no clear line separating, say, me from you as we talk together. If I am a being in a skin, so are you, and our skins are connected by the air between us, not separated.
Likewise, the air surrounding our planet is not separated by borders of countries, or geological features like mountains or seas. Nor is the shell of atmosphere surrounding Earth separated from the sun and the other planets by the void of vacuum between them. Rather they are connected by it, and by gravitational forces, and the features of space like solar wind and particles of dust and rock. Even the light photons themselves that pass between the worlds are not divisions, but connections.
And all these worlds are not separated from the vastness of the universe, only connected and constantly interplaying. A star or a starfish - no separation, no difference, no conflict.
Unless we say it is so.
Speak difference, and bring it into being. Say I am "other" to you, and I am Other. Say I am "enemy", and bring a new enemy into being. Say I am "evil", and I sprout horns, you a halo, and you are left with no choice but to destroy me.
"...the only divisions between ourselves and others, ourselves and the world, ourselves and God, are the fictions we create in our minds."
It's a difficult creed to live by, but I have yet to find to find a better one.
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