Statement of Faith of the Esoteric Interfaith Church
"Rather than contenting themselves with secondhand truths, people have begun to ask how they themselves can know the presence of the divine." - Inner Christianity, by Richard Smoley
The Esoteric Interfaith Church believes that spiritual liberation, wisdom, enlightenment of the soul, mind and spirit, are also goals of the believer; we are not only seeking "salvation" of the soul.
Knowledge that liberates consciousness is often described as esoteric. Etymologically the word comes from the Greek esotero, which means "further in." Our church believes you must go "further in" yourself to understand what this knowledge is about.
Esotericism teaches that this world within consists of many different levels of being. Although these levels stand between us and God, they do so not as obstacles but as way stations. Christ said, "In my Father's house are many mansions" (John 14:2). The Greek word here translated as "mansions" literally means "way stations."
Esoteric Christianity is characterized by an interest in these different levels of consciousness and being. We seek mystical union with God, yes, but we want to study the Word, too. Mysticism is not quite so concerned with these intermediate states; it focuses on reaching God in the most direct and immediate way. The mystic wants to reach his destination as quickly as possible; the esotericist wants to learn something about the landscape on the way. Moreover, mysticism tends more toward passivity: a quiet "waiting upon God" rather than active investigation.
We believe the individual should investigate these different levels between God and the physical realm and learn to experience them.
We believe esoteric Christianity offers the following to the individual and to the collective Church:
1. A way of self-knowledge - a way, perhaps, to the ultimate knowledge of Self.
2. A resolution of the age-old dilemma of faith. Faith originally meant conviction or certainty: "Thy faith has made thee whole" (Luke 17:19). But the term has been watered down into connoting a blind trust in secondhand dogma despite one's own better judgment. We at the Esoteric Interfaith Church believe faith is indeed vital, but it is not blind trust; rather, it is "the evidence of things not seen" (Heb. 11:1). Faith in this sense is the conviction, deeply felt and unshaken by whatever the world may say, that something real and vital lies beyond the surface of appearances. In this sense, faith too is a way station. It is the gateway to knowledge.
3. To Christianity collectively, esotericism offers an outlook that can revitalize the tradition and cut thru difficulties that now seem almost insurmountable. One example is biblical interpretation, which now focuses exclusively on the literal truth of Scripture. (Fundamentalists vs. Liberalists, Bible literally true vs. myths and legends). The liberal perspective, in writing off so much of the central sacred texts of the tradition, tends to weaken and even invalidate the Christian message. The endless debate about the "historical Jesus" versus the "Christ of faith," which has been going on for over two centuries without resolution is the most obvious example of this impasse. We believe Jesus Christ (Yeshua the Anointed) came in the flesh and walked the earth among mankind. We reject the notion he was a "mythical" non-historical character, although we fully acknowledge that his life was the re-enactment of cosmic myth, the fulfillment of mythological archetypes he bore. We believe Mother Mary and Mary Magdalene also bore mythical archetypes (Sophia, Mother-God) while being historical characters.
Some Tenets of our Esoteric Interfaith belief:
We believe the Bible has always been meant to be read on several different levels, of which the literal is only one and in fact the lowest. For example, the Fall is not a folktale, but symbolic of our human predicament, the story of Christ is not only an account of an historical man but also a figurative representation of the path that each of us must follow to attain liberation.
Esoteric spirituality thus differs from exoteric (or outer) religion, which is the form of the faith that is known to the public at large. Esoteric Christianity has long been secret and to some degree inaccessible, but this is not out of a hard-hearted elitism. It is partly because for centuries the mainstream churches looked askance at anyone who did not see divine truth as they did and shunned or hunted down such people. But even in our more open-minded era, esoteric work still requires the effort and sincerity to look within. This is not always pleasant or easy, and the forces of exterior life generally pull one away from it. "Many are called, but few are chosen," said Christ (Matt.22:14). Ultimately this "choosing" is a process of self-selection. - Inner Christianity, by Richard Smoley
The Esoteric Interfaith Church does not deny that there is an afterlife that will be shaped by our actions in the present, but we are less concerned with obtaining salvation in the future than with attaining illumination now.
Repentance and Gnosis Kardias
Esotericists of different faiths (Christianity, Judaism, even Islam whose esotericists are the Sufis) may feel more affinity for one another than they do for members of their own religions who see things only from the exterior. This is one of the reasons we have the word Interfaith in our name. esoteric Jews (Kabbalists), esoteric Christians and esoteric Muslims (Sufis); even esoteric Buddhists and Hindus (Zen, Vedanta, Tantra) get along beautifully with one another -- better than they get along with fundamentalist believers of the mainstream (exoteric) versions of their religion. If you are an esoteric Christian, for example, you will find easier rapport with a Kabbalah student or a Zen Buddhist than you will with a fundamentalist Bible-thumping Christian.
We believe that as esotericists, we have the responsibility of trying to see inner reality as well as we can and express it according to the needs and understanding of the time.
Those pursuing a path of inner Christianity can be found in all denominations, and outside of them as well. This is not because dogmas and doctrines are of no interest to the esotericist, but because no single doctrine ever completely or satisfactorily expresses spiritual truth. We have founded the Esoteric Interfaith church so that those pursuing the inner Christian path can have a church of likeminded souls to fellowship and grow with, to worship and study with.
We believe one's faith, one's religion must resonate with a person. More than most forms of discourse, esoteric thought calls upon you to assimilate it, not on the basis of citations and credentials, but by its resonance with your own being. The Gospel alludes to this issue when it says of Christ "that the people were astonished at his doctrine, for he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes" (Matt. 7:28-29) The scribes quibble over chapter and verse. Christ's authority came from a knowledge that went deeper than the letter of the law. This is what "astonished" the people. At the same time, there had to be some deeper knowing in the people themselves that could recognize this authority, that could hear it in the ring of truth. It is this intuitive knowing (which all of us possess) that we believe draws the seeker to the right resonate faith for him or her.
We believe the devotional dimension of Christianity consisting of prayer, contemplation and mysticism, called the heart and emotions, is necessary on the spiritual path, but it is not enough. For the spirit to develop in a harmonious and integrated fashion, the pole of love must be counterbalanced by the pole of knowledge. The polarity between love (heart) and knowledge (mind) is not a rivalry. These two opposites are like the sexes; they are differentiated to create not strife but dynamism. Left to its own, devotion becomes sentimental and even fanatical, while knowledge becomes dry and pedantic. When the two are connected and integrated, knowledge - which after all arises from a love of truth - begins to feed and delight the heart, which in its turn warms and stimulates the energy for further exploration. A 17th century Englishman named John Pordage expressed this truth by saying that the essence of the esoteric Christian path could be symbolized by the image of an eye in a flaming heart. This symbol is used by our Church.
We believe the awakened heart is not enough, awakened intelligence is also needed. A major theme of Esoteric Christianity is:
We must search for meaning for true spiritual liberation and illumination to be acheived. We believe spiritual illumination can be obtained if it is nurtured by a lifelong program of prayer, study, meditation, along with the inevitable rigors of trying to lead a decent and ethical life.
We believe Our Great Purpose as thinking conscious human beings (different from all other creatures on this planet) is to link heaven and earth, creation to creator.
We believe each of us is a microcosm of the universe and we can come to know ourselves by contemplating the grand scheme of things, and visa versa. In other words, the cosmos or grand scheme gets pleasure in getting to know Itself and us when we both unite, the seeker with the Divine.
This portion describes our beliefs on Spiritual Transformation of the Individual, Mysticism (esoteric), & How we relate in an integral manner to other spiritual traditions, churches, and religions (interfaith). It is adapted from another integral spirituality group's creed, and we thank them very much for writing it! We adapted it to match our church's belief-system.
At the Esoteric Interfaith Church We Believe that:
1.) The transformative, direct spiritual experience of God, the Ever Present Origin of All Reality is the core essence of all religion as well as religion's single most powerful resource and tool for personal spiritual transformation. This requires looking within. Within oneself and one's faith system. This is why we designate our church Esoteric, because esoteric means "inner", referring to the inner path of spiritual transformation, the "within" place scripture and God have said we must look.
2.) The transformative, direct spiritual experience of God (the Infinite Mystery and Oneness we all exist within no matter what you call it) as the core essence of religion is always freely and directly available to anyone anywhere at any time.
3.) The main goal of all religions is basically the same (expanding transformative, direct spiritual experiences of God) and, only the paths to getting there are different.
4.) It is both logical and spiritually enlightened to seek out the most useful and effective spiritual wisdom concerning the expansion of one's transformative, direct spiritual experience of God.
5.) We are non-denominational and designate our church Interfaith because we believe one religion or one religious perspective alone does not have all the answers and all current religions might be partial or complementary views of the infinite wholeness and unfathomable Mysteries, which will forever surround the infiniteness and absoluteness of God.
6.) The deep personal spiritual transformation that comes from the direct spiritual experience of God also happens to be the most effective source for social and global healing and transformation.
7.) It is up to the individual to be the final authority in honestly seeking out that which is spiritually true. Our church does not have a Pope or final ecclesiastical "authority" because our highest belief is that all final spiritual truth and authority is determined and held by the individual with the assistance of the Divine Presence within them. We further believe that complete individual free will in spiritual matters is the prime spiritual directive of the universe. We do not recognize anyone in our church who has been exclusively appointed by God or that have an exclusive claim to divine leadership or special or exclusive spiritual revelation that must or should be held as a new or final truth for all of our other church members to abide by in their personal spiritual matters and choices. Our church believes that the combined group spiritual wisdom and maturity of our membership and, the already existing spiritual validity tests from all of the spiritual heritage of mankind is fully sufficient for both the individual and our church to optimally decide how to evolve and grow in the optimal spiritual way.
To help a member of our church make spiritual their own final determinations of spiritual truth for themselves we provide extensive cross cultural and cross denominational spiritual information on how to best connect with the highest self and/or Divine Presence already within themselves and then how to know they are hearing its most authentic spiritual guidance as well as manifesting the fruits of authentic spiritual growth. To further help the individual have the most life affirming spiritual information to use in their decisions, we also provide extensive cross cultural and cross denominational spiritual information, principles, creeds, codes of conduct, position papers, discussions etc., on all maters and issues of spirituality or living a spiritually principled life in the secular world.
8.) We believe that no one individual spiritual perspective or church created ecclesial statement of spiritual principle or conscience will completely define or limit the possible future spiritual evolution of that spiritual perspective, principle or statement of conscience or, the future spiritual development of the church. We believe that it will be this way because we are in the process of evolution and the ultimate mysteries and infinite, absoluteness of the Ever Present Origin will never be fully knowable to finite minds. Humility toward the unknowable aspects of the Divine Mystery will always exist in any authentic spirituality and it is healthy for this to be openly recognized in our church.
Because of these forever unknowable aspects of the Divine Mystery, all of our efforts to know and define it always will be at best, partial and incomplete. They always will be ever expanding and evolving spiritual metaphors, myths and constructive scaffolding that serves only to help us better grasp the spiritual realities of the absolute truth, beauty and goodness of the Infinite. Our spiritual metaphors, myths and scaffolding will evolve and continually be released, remade and upgraded with each major step we make in achieving greater understandings of new aspects of the previously unknown Divine Mystery. As a church and as members of our spiritual community, we further pledge to not let our spiritual metaphors, myths and scaffolding separate us from the hearts and souls of the members of other spiritualities nor be the cause of intolerance or mental or physical violence toward their spirituality or their spiritual metaphors, myths and scaffolding.
We further believe that members of an open source esoteric interfaith integrally-informed spirituality should try to:
9.) Integrate the life affirming wisdom of male and female spirituality.
10.) Integrate the life affirming wisdom of rational science with the most universal and inclusive values and wisdom of spirituality.
11.) Integrate both the many life affirming, post-postmodern and prior era spiritual and philosophical ideals and principles of our spirituality into their lives.
PART III: Our Study Program
The Esoteric Interfaith Church has created a unique and intriguing intro course. Our new member study program teaches the topics mentioned aboved in depth with more on our esoteric beliefs, worldviews, and teachings. Topics covered include the following:
Why worship services are useful
Esoteric Christianity will not improve your sex life, nor get you power or success.
These are Traps: Money, sex, power, pleasure, apathy. Wealth is a distraction, say the wisdom teachers of all ages and traditions.
Jesus gives a one-sentence summary of esoteric Christianity when he says, "Be of good cheer; I have overcome the world." (John 16:33) Because the individual "I" that is each of us, the true inner us, does indeed need to overcome the world, the outer, in order to be freed.
An inner Church exists historically, and has been symbolically called the "Secret Church of John" (the outer Church is called the Church of Paul, or mainstream Christianity).
The Way is the earliest name given to Christianity. The Esoteric Interfaith Church endeavors to reconstruct and follow that way
[See more about our introductory study course above right]
The Esoteric Interfaith Church doesn't attempt to "sell Christianity." We don't believe there is a need to "bring straying believers back into the fold."
The universal truths of esoteric knowledge are expressed just as much in Christianity as in other traditions; and for many people living in our culture universal truths are most clearly and comprehensibly stated in Christian terms. Christianity resonates with Western sensitivities. It is the spiritual system our ancestors chose. (Despite the politics and power struggles of such choices, survival of the fittest applies to Christianity!) A "new", deeper, esoteric, alternative Christianity that takes advantage of our ancient wisdom tradition rather than suppress it, that celebrates direct mysticism and encourages practicing the Presence of the Divine, is what people now crave.
We founded the Esoteric Interfaith Church because we believe the current mood of spiritual inquiry and freedom proves it's time to open up the gates of this knowledge for a wider audience.
|All new members are encouraged to
take the church's short esoteric study course. You need a Bible, an
open mind, and a copy of
Christianity: A Guide to the Esoteric Tradition, by Richard Smoley.
The book Inner Christianity is a perfect overview of our tradition
and we use it almost like a textbook. There is a
set of lessons based on each chapter,
and we cover other exciting things mentioned in Part III of our Statement
of Faith (below left). There is also an enjoyable set
of five lessons called the Catechumen lessons. All lessons include full-color
pictures, gorgeous artwork, inspirational exercises, music tidbits and other
fun stuff. It's not just dry booklearning.
Other books and articles of interest: