When people ask me what my religion is, I answer: ‘in this incarnation I am an Anglican’.
The original insights that form the basis of this book date from 1991 and 1992 - be warned, there are more to come. I think I have always been groping towards the universal in how we think about ourselves, our religions, our spiritual journeys, our beliefs, etc. Most of the ‘insights’ - if I may so call them - reflect that attempt on my part. But I am aware that at times my own more particular belief system does poke through.
My belief is indeed that in this incarnation I am an Anglican. I do believe in reincarnation and thereby the idea of karma. Note that I only ‘believe’. I have no way of knowing if my beliefs - any of my beliefs - are true. Most of the time I hope they are. Sometimes, though, when life gets a bit hard, I can yearn for oblivion. Life after death certainly has its attractions. Meeting old friends, reconnecting with my parents, perhaps even understanding why certain things seemed to go as I wanted and so many more didn’t. But linking up with people who I might have once hurt? Oh dear.
Yes, I am an Anglican. I have periods of being a regular attendee of church, and other times when I stay under the bedclothes claiming that Sunday is the only day when I can sleep in. I love the ceremony, the rhythm and beauty of High Church. I rarely love the sermons I hear.
So yes, I am a reincarnation-believing Anglican. But the important thing is that I respond, in ways I cannot define, to that sense of OTHER, to that sense of there being purpose and meaning within and behind this extraordinary universe we live in. No proof. No evidence that would be permissible in a court of law. But always there is that indefinable sense of something great and beautiful and embracing beyond myself. And when freed of attempts at definition, attempts at systematization, attempts to believe that we are the only ones with true answers, that puts me hand in hand with all other believers, and indeed non-believers. To stop our ancestors building a Tower of Babel in order to reach heaven, God hadn’t needed to give us a cacophony of different languages, He / She had just needed to give us a cacophony of different religions. Sadly, we seem to be better at learning and embracing each other’s languages than we have ever been at learning about and then embracing each other’s belief systems.
I will offer a simple thought that comes from my own Anglican background. Jesus said: ‘by their fruits you will know them.’ (Matthew 7:16). I know there are other interpretations, but for me this simply means that we are what we do, and what we are, not necessarily what we believe. Again, I believe (note I do not know) that whatever judgement we might face beyond the grave, no-one is going to question me regarding my belief in the virgin birth or the resurrection. They are certainly not going to question me on my understanding of the Trinity. Instead they are going to look into my heart.
Why do stars figure so much in these ‘insights’? Is it, perhaps, some sort of atavistic need to see our destinies written ‘up there’? Perhaps. But mainly because, as the words in this book formed, the stars became a tangible metaphor for the heavens. In one sense, when we look up into the night sky we are literally looking at the heavens, at the ‘starry firmament’. In another sense, I ‘see’ God / Other - call it what you will - in everything. Every grain of dust, every cell, every plant, every creature; everything, and everyone. Certainly I ‘see’ God / Other - call it what you will - in the beautiful and seemingly endless night sky.
Each Insight is preceded by a short explanation in italics. In other words, prose precedes the ‘poetry’. If the prose to some extent provides an explicable skeleton, an x-ray if you will, it is hoped the poetry eases us at least part way into the inexplicable heart.
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