I have been watching the BBC2 series ‘Around the World in 80 Faiths’ over the past couple of months. It has been a fascinating journey exploring faith and religion. The man on this journey (Peter Owen Jones) was also a cause of fascination for me – an Anglican Vicar who took a year out to explore the Divine and our connection to it.
The series finished last night, and it has left me with many thoughts about religion, belief and faith. Of course, this journey could be repeated several more times and it still wouldn’t have covered all the belief systems around the world, but none the less, a broad spectrum of faiths were explored.
It has made me think a lot about my own beliefs – I do not align myself with any particular religion. I guess in many ways I am a hotch potch of my own ideas and philosophies some rooted in different religions, some of which are my own.
The final comments of the series were about embracing those religions that include others, and to be wary of religions that exclude (most, if not all of the well known faiths). Wise words, but I wonder if exclusion is part of the human condition? Striving to be better, to know more, to stand above the rest is the reason why we evolve and develop. Advancements in science, technology, and health care all come from this quest.
Taking a more philosophical viewpoint, we could say that all the major advancements in today’s society were purely down to the desire to make the world a better place. Well, I hope at some level this is true, but could each of those scientists, doctors and other professionals truly say that they did it purely for humanity and not for self-advancement, not to be the best?
I wonder then, how we can move collectively to a place of total inclusion and acceptance of others. How can we combine our desire to be the best, with a desire for unity?
I do not have an answer; I suppose I felt I wanted to share with you my thoughts on a truly fascinating journey of faith.
The highlight of the series for me was the visit to the Taoist Monks high up in the mountains in China. Taoism is a philosophy that draws me, and it made me smile that the Anglican Vicar could not grasp the philosophy, but at the same time he was.
Taoism is an understanding of the order behind the chaos – it is connected to the rules of the Universe: Yin & Yang, Light & Dark, Male & Female, Hot & Cold, Good & Evil. Everything is in polarity, everything is opposite. When these forces act in harmony, they produce a cosmic or lifeforce energy called Chi (Qi). The path to enlightenment or Bliss is through tapping into the Chi.
The basic philosophies of Taoism are quietness and effortlessness. Quietness comes from not thinking, from being calm inside. Effortlessness is connected to not being affected by the outside world, to bending with rather than fighting the flow. Taoism is about being in perfect alignment with the rhythms of the Tao – and to achieve a true state of Bliss we need to be totally detached from the turmoil of life.
Witnessing the journey of the Anglican Vicar, his highs and lows, and the moments where his connection to the Divine shone through on his face; was a truly memorable experience. His belief that his own faith is a ‘faith of the head, and not a faith of the soul’ – says a lot. His thoughts that ‘A state of wonder can only be found by finding a state of peace’ also resonated with me.
On the website, he says that on his year-long journey he did find some peace; on a Bolivian mountainside, for about 15 seconds...
Seeing the devastation caused to faiths, cultures and people from all around the world due to religious differences, I wonder if by finding the balance and harmony within, we can stop looking externally for the answers, and only then can we start the journey towards unity, acceptance, inclusion, and Bliss…