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The Undertow

A visitor to Beyond Religion has written:

I am repelled and fascinated by the thought processes of people who are literalists in the face of scholarship, anthropology and history. It seems to me that religion is being highjacked by conservative politics. These over-bearing folks don't care what the Dead Sea Scrolls or other scholarship tells us. They don't care about thoughtful interpretation of metaphors. They only care about the literal interpretation of the good old simple stories. And folks had better believe them or they will be declared out of order. Surely the churches have taken one giant step forward and three giant steps backwards.

I love the ocean. I can sit and watch the waves for hours. Their endless power and variety fascinate me. But, in watching the breakers, we may be unaware of a more subtle force which is part of the process. What is the dying aspect of a wave? The undertow. The new wave comes in, exhausts itself, and returns to the sea. In the process, it creates an undertow that sucks everything with it.

But that undertow is never as powerful as the wave. It is merely the end of a cycle. In fact, the undertow is the promise that a new wave is on its way. The newly forming breaker actually produces some of the energy for the undertow, sucking the water into what will become the next wave.

However, the undertow always moves in a direction diametrically opposed to that of the new wave. Yet, for all its force, it is powerless to prevent the new wave from breaking. So don't despair; what we see in this conservative backlash is the dying gasp of an old paradigm. What we feel is the backward tug of the old order on our ankles. You and I, hopefully, will live long enough to get soaked by the crashing of the new wave.

We are right on the leading edge of the next step in our spiritual evolution. This new stage, which is already well under way, will incorporate all the new thought truths we have studied, and many more that we haven't yet discovered. But the flotsam of the old order has to be cleaned out first, sucked back into the deep to be refreshed as part of the next breaker. It's the Yin and the Yang of life, the inhaling and the exhaling of God, the never-ending cycle of creation.

Moses took the people of Israel toward the promised land, but realized that they weren't ready to enter it. They kept looking back, wanting to return to bondage. Their emotional undertow tied them to the past rather than the future, even though that past had robbed them of their freedom. So Moses took them into the wilderness where they waited until all those born in slavery had died off. Then, when only those born in freedom were left, they were ready to enter the new land. That story is a powerful metaphor. The old order always drags its feet, and it always loses. We just keep forgetting that part of history.

Take heart! The new generation coming to adulthood among us now is less religious and more spiritual than former generations. So there is real hope.

Posted Jan. 1, 2004

Copyright: John W. Sloat 2004