By Amanda Moreno
Somewhere around ten years ago I met a dude who recommended I read Daniel Quinn’s The Story of B and Ishmael. I did and was introduced to many ideas I’d never been able to articulate but that resonated at my own personal level of common sense. One of these was the idea that each of the world’s main religions was a salvation-based religion; religions that had, for one reason or another, been sculpted into dogmas that emphasized the inherent suffering of the human life and the need for salvation, which typically arrived from the outside.
Indeed, the salvation myth seems to be one of those ideas that has taken an insidious and incessant stranglehold on the modern paradigm. Through a god that will come and save us, through alien beings who will either bring the return of light and knowledge or cataclysmic death, through leaders in power who need to be making better decisions, through our children who will have to pick up the slack, through a pill that can regulate blood pressure or mood or ovulation or take away symptoms from a cold so that we can go back to the grind…
Once again, as so often happens in these pieces, I’m aware of the oversimplification of the above statements. Of course, we also have memes in modern culture that support the opposite: “Be the change you wish to see in the world” comes to mind. But the ethos of waiting for salvation from above or from outside seems to mix quite nicely with the psychic overwhelm inherent in modern culture — we tend to shut down, repress or deny rather than deal with the emotions that stem from watching the war state become perpetual, glaciers dying, ignorance spreading like radiation (or radiation spreading like ignorance?)… and on, and on.
It also mixes in a really interesting way with the idea that we are each special, chosen and unique. But what will we do with our uniqueness? Display it on Facebook for personal gratification and then let others do the heavy lifting? Hm.
I recently took off for a few days to spend some time at the very cold, stark ocean of the Pacific Northwest. My intention had been to spend as much time outdoors as possible, but a cleverly timed cold made it clear my recalibration needed to be a bit more…well, internal. I did make it to the ocean each day for a period of time, and I did get to spend time with books and podcasts and writing and cooking. But there were also the hours in the evening when I just allowed myself some fallow time — with The Lord of the Rings and a few episodes of the first season of Heroes.
I definitely have a penchant for fantasy and for super-hero movies and TV shows. For one thing, there’s a level of mindless indulgence that just feels so good, partially because it’s not entirely mindless — these kinds of movies appeal to my own sense of what is possible and feelings of being different (but special, of course).
Here’s the thing, though. Salvation-based religions — Christianity, Buddhism, Islam, Judaism — have morphed to teach us that living is suffering and that we are to seek ultimate liberation from that suffering through transcending the human form in some way. Through striving to become something more than human, something purified or supernatural. Something less attached, less sinful, less dense. I suppose I can get on board with the attachment thing, but the ‘sin’ and the density? Isn’t that why we’re here?
Okay, maybe not the entire reason. But in my cosmological framework, at least as it currently exists, we incarnated here to learn about density. As for sin…well, the act of sinning is based on going against moral codes that seem to be quite set in stone — and isn’t morality more fluid than that?
The fact is, in so many of the salvation-based religions, ‘sin’ is bound up in enjoying the flesh, in enjoying being in density. I see where this can be problematic when balance is lost and gluttony occurs, but… well, orgasms sure aren’t linked primarily to procreation. They happen whether or not a baby is being conceived. Furthermore, although I do believe that the pursuit of evolving and elevating consciousness is one of our primary functions, I also believe that we, as humans, get to do that through exploring our bodies and our emotions and how they connect to the heart and the spirit.
In any case, I’m weary these days of the emphasis on external salvation. That’s not to say I don’t have my own fascination with Pleaidians or Atlantis/Lemuria or beings of light (or X-Men or Froddo Baggins) but it’s more in the sense that by learning about these stories and myths I can apply what I learn to my own experience. I can orient myself to my surroundings; whether I consider the myths to be fact or fiction is secondary to the heart-centered lessons I take away. This applies to my fascination with the Egyptian empire, or the Minoan, or the Etruscan. There is something within our history as a species that I want to learn from. But I don’t want to reify it into being more than me, or godlike.
Because, you see, what I realize is that these mythological and fantastical characters are idealized versions of ourselves, even with all of their flaws. And we cannot wait for them, or someone like them, to come save us. We have to learn from the stories, take their lessons to heart, integrate what fits using discernment and instinct, and spit out the rest so that we can become those idealized versions, complete with our flaws and our misgivings and darkness, but well aware of our gifts. So that we can, in fact, be the change we wish to see in the world. So that we can save ourselves from the inside out, or at least realize that we are perfect, in perfect time and perfect place. Whatever the hell that means.
You are special. You are unique — perhaps even the ‘Chosen One’. The thing is, though, we all are. And so we must each take the initiative to uncover and cultivate our unique gifts and bring them out, in the spirit of love and hope and some kind of grounded service. At least that’s where I sit in terms of the “why are we here living this crazy existence?” question at the moment.