Other Voices — Slade on Spiritual Innovation and Religious Tradition

Guest blogger Slade Roberson participates in DruidJournal’s Other Voices Conversation about the Interface between Tradition and Innovation in Religion.

Are you one of the spiritual but not religious? You’re not alone; and that ought to be encouraging, in and of itself.

Religion without spirituality is a scary prospect. Your sense of spirit is what matters most — it infuses tradition and religion with soul. Spirit is the source of raw creative power that transcends the details — it’s the Stuff tradition is made of.

Selective Eclecticism
That means I potentially believe in everything a little bit. I feel that religious traditions represent the overall harvest of spiritual innovators who have gone before. Traditions provide an All You Can Eat Super Buffet Mega Bar with unlimited refills, bottomless salad bowls, and free breadsticks. Given that infinite selection, you can gorge yourself on one dish, or you could try a bit of everything. But there’s really only so much you can consume — there’s only so much nourishment you require.

You pick a few of your favorites, acknowledge the abundance in gratitude, and leave sated — knowing next time you can always mix it up and try something different, or come chow down on your personal tried and true favorites.

You could eat the same thing over and over again and never run out, you could sample something different with every trip, or some infinite combination in between.

We can all go to the mega bar with an empty plate and return with heaping platefuls as unique as our mazy fingerprint whorls and our psychadelic iris swirls.

It’s all good. It’s all God.
You are the way by which universal consciousness — Source — the Creator — experiences Itself. Your Spirit is your plate — language is your utensil.

Choosing Your Religion
Once upon a time, I invited Jeff Lilly to guest author on Shift Your Spirits, with an introduction to his series How to Choose A Religion.

There’s only one option Jeff left off his list, which I joyfully added — Create One!

Your Life as Creative Masterpiece
Change is the one thing we can absolutely count on in this Universe. God is Change. God is infinite creativity. Your creativity is your link to divinity. You are God — act like it.

Art is a discipline where the student and the teacher are the same person. Your life — your individual expression of spirit — is your creative masterpiece.

An artist or a writer may study the old masters — learn all the rules in order to break them — practice tried and true techniques to learn how to use the tools. If you are a writer, you read other writers, you study other texts, you learn language, you expand your vocabulary, but in order to contribute, to make something new, there is no perfect map to follow. There is no blueprint or checklist that arrives at a work of art or a piece of literature. To follow the craft of another to the letter… you simply end up in someone else’s life. You’ve simply tracked another’s path. You’ve created a great copy, at best.

Only So Far
You may have noticed that I do not discuss religion or argue theology on Shift Your Spirits — what you may not know about me from reading my blog is that I do not — I no longer — study specific traditions or faiths. I do not at this point even actively research or even read what other people have written — with the exception of my peers in this medium — other spiritual bloggers who share my goal of creating — introducing — re-seeding — the collective wisdom with unique, original contemplation.

That’s not to say I have not studied religion in the past — I am ordained three times over — I have degrees in language and holistic ministry — I don’t sign my posts with the Rev. Slade, although I am technically — legally — a member of the clergy. Those kinds of scholarly distinction are not meaningful to me at this point in my life, nor are they critical to my mission. I admit that my degrees and ordinations were mostly ego-motivated, or based in the fear of being judged. While I was busy proving and convincing, I wasn’t creating, I wasn’t adding anything to wisdom — it was all background and preparation.

Real authentic spiritual work — innovation — begins where the paths of tradition end.

When you reach the end of a trail that only takes you so far, get out your machete — your sword — your mighty pen — take a deep breath and start your hacking and blazing deeper into your mission.

The only way out is to go so far IN…

The Menu of Tradition, Translated
When someone tells me she’s a member of a specific religion, I hear that to mean she’s chosen to stay seated at the table, order from the menu of set dishes and controlled portions, that she has requested that someone bring her supper to her, for her. For whatever reason…

I am not threatened by that, nor do I even judge it. When someone describes herself as spiritual, I am delighted to hear that she’s chosen the All You Can Eat buffet, has brought her plate to stand in line with me and see what’s available before she decides what she wants to eat, in the moment.

The Menu of traditions is safe — it may be filled with your favorites comfort foods — you may find plenty of nourishment when ordering from the Menu of religious traditions. I don’t presume the reasons why someone has made this choice.

When engaging another person in matters of faith, the only thing I look for or ask is “Does she have a plate?” Because the Questions are all that matters — the questions are the point; answers are a delusional expectation.

Spirit is a Mystery; anyone who tells you that he KNOWS something to be True about spirit — and I mean, literally, beyond a matter of speech or personal expression — he is lying — to you, but also to himself. Anyone who believes “beyond a shadow of a doubt,” — who knows, as opposed to having faith — sets himself up for, at worst, hypocrisy, at best, disappointment.

When I say “I know” what I really mean is “I have asked, and this is what resonates with me.” It’s always an inkling. Just because words are historically old — whether divinely inspired or not — they entered the page by a human heart and hand, just as these did.

My goals start with a sampling of many traditions, as inspiration — now I am innovating, creating, and inviting you to do the same. The formula is simple: Study the Masters; then become One.

Diversity
See, the Tower of Babel myth was not a story of punishment — man in his godlike wisdom gets too big for his britches and gets knocked down to the size where he belongs. No, no, no — God graduated man to the next level of challenge — diversity is the cornerstone of innovation and evolution. Diversity and the infinite potential of creative change within the Bigger Picture is the strength of any system.

Without that infinite potential of creative expression, God would not need so many of us. The Universe in all its infinite abundance would not have been set in motion.

What is tradition if not really old innovation? If Spirit were a blog, traditions would be the most popular posts, categories, and tags. The biggest, oldest, most populated world religions would be the big swollen links in the tag cloud. Sacred texts would be the posts with the most comments.

Innovation begins as heresy. If someone calls you crazy or a heretic, take it as a compliment — you must be onto something! The changes you introduce can inspire others to adopt a similar method; when enough people incorporate a new thought into their consciousness, it eventually becomes elevated to tradition.

Tradition is an innovative recipe that stuck around long enough to become a favorite — and for people to forget its origin in Mystery.

Let’s Mix in Another Metaphor
Why? Because I’m inspired to break the tradition of this article’s established food-trough metaphor by introducing another sample.

The Dartboard of Traditional Faith
Picture a dartboard where each section represents a faith, established tradition, religion — however you want to populate the variety of belief.

Which section is your faith? You’ve chosen the bulls-eye to represent your center. If you’re innovative and liberal, you might be bold and say all the concentric red rings in the center represent your expansive, liberal new faith.

That’s a pretty tight spot to target — you’ve set yourself up with a challenging definition of piety that relies on a lot of bulls-eyes and not much else.

  • What are the odds?
  • How do you judge the darts you throw that come close, but just outside that center?
  • Do they represent your misses, your blasphemies, your failures?

[Groan] — awwww, too bad.

Guess which part of the dartboard I’m calling as my target faith?

The whole damn thing!

All I have to do is hit the board — ANY section on that dartboard — and I can cheer and celebrate. What are the odds that I will “win” this game, by simply expanding my choice of faith to include all of them?

The dartboard, the plate, and spirit are similar in shape and scope.

Individual dishes, recipes, answers, and tightly-focused rules are limiting.

Back to the dartboard — I mean the drawing board — wait, no, the Table
If you find yourself seated among a group of people all dining on the exact same thing — and that fellowship brings you comfort, that tradition gives you strength — if you’re there because you love meat-and-two-vegetables and you have a blast communing with other fans of meat-and-two-vegetables — eat up!

However, if you find yourself at the Meat+Two Table, being berated for your extra side dish of macaroni salad — having to answer to your choice of variation, or being told that you can’t consume anything extra — that you’re not allowed — perhaps you are sitting at the wrong table.

Don’t feel you have to defend it — don’t waste your spirit and spoil your meal and suffer through indigestion engaging in a dysfunctional family argument over broken bread.

You’re welcome to come sit at our table — where the only thing we say is grace — a prayer of thanks for the abundance — and one other simple command:

Enjoy!

Seek Wisdom — Practice Love

Slade's signature

Communicating with Spirit | SladeRoberson.com
He writes about how to Shift Your Spirits — transforming the life you’re already living into the powerful spiritual mission you know it’s suppose to be. And how to use Spiritual Blogging to broadcast your mission on a global scale.

Comments

  1. “Does she have a plate?”

    As far as I’m concerned, this is the most important and provocative sentence in your whole article. So many people claim to be adherents of one “faith” or another, but how many people are actively engaged in their religion of choice? Using your metaphor of spirituality as food (and I get it, it’s so apt), I think there are a lot of people sitting at the table but not filling their plate. Some don’t even come to the table with the intention of eating, they’re just there because someone told them to or they thought it might sound or look good to be able to say they dine at that particular place.

    I just hope that the desserts at my table won’t make me fat! ๐Ÿ˜‰

  2. Angela, I’ve got an answer to spiritually fattening food… It will be in my guest post here, coming up in a couple of days. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  3. Slade:

    Yes.

    Love,
    Terri in Joburg

  4. Me and my silly metaphors… My channel runs a lot of cartoons.
    ๐Ÿ™‚

    Comic inner dialogue:

    “Does this pentacle make me look fat?”

    ๐Ÿ™‚

    Seriously, though, a little sweet irreverent humor is a healthy compliment to any dish.

  5. He he he… I love your crazy mixed metaphors and inanely creative way of shining a powerful light on the nature of religion and spirituality.

    Brilliant.

    So why do the meat and 2 vege people get so upset when everyone wants to eat at different tables?

    Why do they care?

  6. KL,

    Why ARE the Meat+2’s such a mess? I haven’t the slightest — even when I chow down on an identical plateful, they still don’t like it when I sit with them.

    The Granola Bunch ain’t much more inviting…

    I’m starting to feel a little bit like Goldilocks…

  7. Unfortunately, I’d always feel like I was just believing something I’d made up…

  8. Kullervo,

    That is unfortunate…
    ๐Ÿ™

    Fortunately, it’s not your only option!
    ๐Ÿ™‚

  9. I once was having a conversation with God. I asked Him/Her if I was crazy and just making up the voices in my mind? He said, “It doesn’t matter. All voices, even yours, are mine.” Who cares if people think you are crazy for your beliefs. What is important is to keep an open mind to infinite possibilities. They are out there just waiting to be discovered. I am enjoying all that I am reading from this very wise group of spiritually minded people, Slade, Jeff, K-L, Albert and a few others. You make me stretch which is always good.

  10. Slade,

    Lovin it – you’ve explained where I’ve always been – and LOVE to be.

    I always think of my sojourn amongst religions and cultures as a mix of visiting the Museum and attending the Theatre – at the same time.

    I enjoy the contemplative stroll around the Theology exhibits soaking up the history and viewing the layers built up over many years – and I also enjoy the experience of the vibrancy, sound and colour of those that are more ‘interactive’ as I visit the show and dance along with the throng.

    But the best bit for me is the Gift Shop near the door where I thumb through the literature and admire the icons – I may even choose a few special items to add to my Cart but those which do not connect with me I leave behind knowing they may find a good home with someone else who drops by.

    When I get ‘back to base’ I gather up the fun things I’ve discovered and make room for them in the special cupboard marked ‘Belief Structure’ and look forward to my next trip. Sometimes the ‘making room’ means A few other items need to go – but that’s OK as I loved them once although they no longer serve my purpose in the Now.

    One last quote (as I remember it) – ‘It’s better to have an idea than a belief because ideas are easier to change’.

    Much Love ALL,

    Damian

  11. Dinner is such an apt analogy. And of course, in the bounty of diversity there’s the middle road. Some days I’m excited by the bounty of the buffet and making the most creative dishes for myself and will look and sample and find just the right thing. I love trying new things. Other days I’m exhausted and I have my menu of comfort food, and my home base to retreat to. Of course while I’m at the buffet I sometimes find new comfort food to add to my menu and that I try to turn the rest of my table on to.
    I’ve always imagined the spiritual journey as a big old hike up a big old mountain. We’re all trying to get to the same place but there are so many paths, so many different ways to get up the mountain. There are well trod paths with regular stops and campsites along it. Maybe even little shops, tour guides, etc.Then there are more wild paths that are a little harder to follow but they’re there and you can get to the top on some of them, some just lead into other paths. Then there’s making your own path. All you need for that is a good compass (or sense of the direction up) and open eyes. It can be fun to have the adventure of cutting through the woods, and sometimes you find yourself discovering something no one else ever has. Sometimes you run into road blocks or really hard spots and you have to figure out how to get around them by yourself. At times people may decide to adventure with you, or follow you because you seem to know the way. Sometimes you run into a path and follow that for a while or you see the path, do some trade with the people on it, and go on. I can understand why people take the well trod roads. Or even why some just build themselves a place halfway up and never leave. The view is gorgeous after all. But it’s all going to the same place eventually it’s all just your personality and personal preference on how to get there and how fast you want to go. Personally, I’ve always preferred the journey to the destination.

  12. Jeff Lilly says:

    Slade,

    I said this before to you offline, and I’ll say it again — this is a masterpiece. I do think that creating your own “religion” from scratch is an excellent way to go about things, — after all, it’s exactly what I do! Hell, at Kara-Leah’s advice this morning I spent 45 minutes doing Kundalini Yoga. Not part of usual druidic practice, as far as I know. ๐Ÿ™‚ It’s true that most of what I do is based on ancient druidism, but that’s just because it fits my personality so well. Where it doesn’t fit — I find other things that do… A practiced religion is a like living language, that is free to change and borrow words due to contact situations and a changing world. Otherwise it’s as dead as Latin.

    I think making your own religion from scratch is harder than choosing a ready-made belief system; I think it requires more commitment and dedication and a willingness to engage deeply creativity. I don’t think do-it-yourself is the best way for everyone, any more than everyone should go ’round making up personal languages to use with their family and friends. A lot of the time — maybe most of the time — an existing religious framework will get you what you need in this lifetime. But for those with the inclination and interest… do-it-yourself is the only way to fly.

    Spirit doesn’t care what language you use, so long as you’re listening.

  13. Jeff Lilly says:

    Damian — you just cooked up a pretty awesome metaphor yourself, there! When are you going to work that into a post?!

  14. Jeff Lilly says:

    Another beautiful metaphor, Arakha! As the Chinese say, “Three paths, one truth” (referring to Confucianism, Buddhism, and Taoism).

    They also say: one should be Confucian in good times, Buddhist in bad times, and Taoist in old age. ๐Ÿ˜‰

    Here’s a question, Arakha: does the mountain really have a top? Or does it just.. sort of… keep going?…

  15. And now everyone knows why Slade’s Ego just LOVES some Jeff Lilly!

    ๐Ÿ™‚

    Thank you, my friend.

    This is an awesome table — too bad we weren’t all in High School together, huh?

  16. I’ve been watching these comments come into my inbox, and just had to jump back into the fray again…

    What would it have been like if we were all at high school together?

    Cripes…

    Or at Youth Group…

    What intrigues me about religious tradition is so that often the intent has been forgotten and the ritual become meaningless…

    Like serving up plastic food at dinner and forgetting that the food is supposed to nourish us, not just look pretty…

    Much joy,
    KL

  17. Jeff Lilly says:

    If I’d had you guys at my high school? Whoa… Who would I even be now?

    Slade, you for one weren’t all that far from me. And in high school I drove up into the mountains dozens of times, visited Asheville again and again — I even visited Chattanooga in 1996. (For about an hour. I stopped to eat and locked myself out of my car. A kindly truck driver had to help me break back into it. ๐Ÿ™‚ ) Point being: if we’d been “meant” to meet then, our guides could have arranged it without a whole lot of trouble. Oh well…

    KL, Apollo addresses your point a little bit in the interview in the next post — where he says that people avoid engaging with gods our of fear of loss of control, of upheaval in their tidy little lives. I bet that’s part of the reason ritual can be bleached of meaning.

  18. For the record, I wasn’t in Chattanooga at those times anyway. I spent most of my adult life in and around Atlanta…

    Plus, I wouldn’t have been in a “place” where meeting you at that time would’ve resulted in all that is has now.

    All is as it should be.

    Slade

  19. I agree with Slade when he says “All is as it should be.” If you had met me in high school, which for me was the late 1960’s, you wouldn’t have “seen” me, much less gotten to know me. I was so afraid that I tried to blend into the woodwork. I doubt many of my own high school classmates remember much about me. The present me loves the interaction that is going on through all of our websites with each other. The high school me was too terrified to reach out to people. Christmas of the 10th grade, we moved and that isolated me even further. You don’t have much chance of breaking into the clicks that form in a small school back in grade school when you at the new kid on the block. I feel like all of ya’ll (Yes, I am from the U. S. South.) are becoming my friends. God has put some really amazing friends in my life during my adult years. Thanks to all.
    Patricia

  20. Jeff Lilly says:

    The feeling is mutual, Patricia! I’m proud to count you as a friend. Blessings on you and the joy you have found!

  21. Hey Jeff,

    Can’t wait to read your next Apollo post then! Having had Shakti create havoc in my life the first time she appeared… I’ve definitely been frightened of letting her back in.

    The fear is going now though… and I’ll keep you posted.

Trackbacks

  1. […] This week’s Sunday School for the Spiritual-But-Not-Religious is being hosted at the Lillypad — check out my guest author spin on Jeff Lilly’s Druid Journal – Other Voices : […]

  2. […] Meet a Guide: Free Guided Meditation Other Voices — Slade on Spiritual Innovation and Religious Tradition […]

  3. […] — without spirituality — is a bad idea I’ve presented a softer public opinion about religion versus spirituality, but I must go a step further and state that I believe Spirituality can be pursued entirely without […]

Speak Your Mind

*