In Search of God, Not a Religion
by Rev. Michael Stamper, Ph.D.
Much of my adult life I have been a ‘spiritual seeker.’ The object of my seeking hasn’t always been crystal clear—something to believe in I suppose—and the path taken not always straight and narrow. I have also been something of a skeptic—not a cynic, but a skeptic. I seldom consciously accept belief paradigms at face value. Skepticism insures that seekers keep seeking.
I would like to share some of my journey with you.
Growing up, my religious tradition was Christian, and relatively positive. From Sunday school I learned that god is love, and this has become my most durable image of the message of Christ.
In the late 60’s, I became a hippie. Part of that experience was a strong reinforcement of the ‘love and peace’ message of Christianity. But part of it was also my first introduction to mystical Eastern religion—particularly Hinduism, courtesy of the Beatles. I gained a superficial understanding of the relationship between atman, what Huston Smith calls the infinite center of every life, and Brahman, the Godhead. I also had my first introduction to meditation.
At that time in my life, I found that both simple Christianity and Eastern religion resonated for me, but I was unable to see how the two viewpoints could be reconciled. They presented themselves to me as an ‘either/or’ rather than a ‘both/and’. Frustrated, I turned away from religion and spirituality.
During the unfolding of my banking career, I was driven to ‘succeed.’ I suppose that I unconsciously thought that money, power and position were what I was seeking. After getting some measure of all of them, I found that they did not satisfy my thirst, and I renewed my spiritual quest.
Since that turning point, I have sampled a multitude of approaches: shamanism, psychotherapy, New Age spirituality, breath work, body work, Pentecostal Christianity, and—most consistently—meditation. From these approaches, I have learned three fundamental things:
1. What I am seeking is the experience of god, union with the divine. I am seeking it because it feels good: it brings me bliss and ecstasy. I have learned to trust my bliss.
2. I have learned something, gained an insight, caught a glimpse of the divine in almost every one of my spiritual adventures. Each insight has raised my consciousness, raised my awareness, and brought me closer to god. As one of the chapter titles in Teasdale’s The Mystic Heart says, “The Paths are many, but the goal is the same”. Some religious practices may work better for me than others, but I am convinced that no single spiritual tradition has a monopoly on mystical efficacy.
3. My seeking had unconsciously been interfaith in its approach. At some level, maybe I thought I would eventually find the ‘right’ religion for me. However, life works better when it is consciously lived. When I consciously embraced the interfaith approach, my purpose and direction became clear. I am not seeking a religion; rather, I am seeking god.
Let me close with a simple blessing of gratitude:
I am thankful to be living at a time and in a place where a diversity of spiritual approaches is available to me.
I am thankful to have the time and resources to investigate them.
And, I am especially thankful to be surrounded by friends and family who encourage and support me in my pursuit.