Joseph Campbell referred to myth as the story, the screen, that helps one see through the surface level of our being to the Being, the unseen “hum of the universe,” that underlies that which is present to our normal five senses.
Richard Rohr says that all religion is metaphor: stories that symbolize deeper truths, making them as plain as possible to every person. Rohr says that the mistake in religion is taking these metaphors literally.
Brother David Steidl-Rast has said that he prefers to take the Bible seriously rather than literally.
Myth and metaphor imply a vagueness, a mystery, that imparts a duality in one’s relationship to the currents of Spirit that flow within us. It’s as if one walks into one’s place of worship and the altar is always veiled from our view, but we know something is there by the ritual that unfolds – the scent of incense, the murmur of invocation. We leave and return again for more presence with that ‘something.’
That ‘something’ is too often surrendered by us as the milieu of that person behind the veil. Yet, in many cases, that person behind the veil doesn’t have any better grasp of the Spirit than anyone in the congregation. He or she may only be a master in telling the story in new words, new metaphors and anecdotes.
Today, myth and metaphor are melting on the altar of personal awakening. What is held up as mystery and adoration is based on the actual lived experience of founding spiritual leaders. These are the mystics, plain people who’ve answered that deep siren that calls one to the experience of spiritual encounter.
Now, in the spreading of spiritual practice, and the realization that every person is a mystic in their own unique way, we return to church not for the mystery of metaphor, but for the sharing of this wondrous experience, this blissful, personal presence. It is a shared testimony to that which resides in each one of us. Such awakening is the Second Coming of humanity returning to, accepting, its true nature, person by person.
As science has led us to the ‘miracles’ of light, flight and healing medicine, in these amazing days of discovery–and a deep gaze into the depths of the cosmos and the depths of the atom–what was veiled form our eyes, from our knowing, has become real and readily accessible.
Similarly, in our presence to Spirit, and the literal, personal experience of peace, joy and belonging there, we remove the veils of mystery. We live in the full light. We move from the vagueness of metaphor to the concreteness of analogy.
The analogy is the lived experience of one walking on a wooded path and sun splashing through from place to place. When touched by this Sun, we feel that warmth, that literal presence of this source of energy, that source of life. Then we step into an open glade, into the full light, we feel its full warmth of presence.
The literal, real experience of Spirit is the analog to this light. We emerge from fleeting moments, splashes, of spiritual touch–an experience of beauty, of wonder, of love–to an experience of full presence when we consent to this touch and embrace it fully.
In analogy, what is real about one, points to what is real about the other. Those shared aspects are what is literal and true. In classical metaphysics, the root of analogy is the very act of existence–‘to be’ is common to all that is. In finer analogy, we find shared aspects of being, one thing to another.
When we walk in Spirit, we feel its kiss from time to time, at first not fully appreciating its call. But when we feel it often enough, enough that we respond to its call and seek that full presence, we know the way to stand in the full light of Spirit. All we need do is follow our intuitive, instinctive direction; as a bird flies south for the winter.
In those southing skies the warmth of Divine Spirit flows from within us in a whole new Presence. Are you walking the path? Walk and see! (CIII)