Monument Valley, Arizona
A Naturalistic and Evolutionary View
Theology, The Sacred and Religion
People who enjoy hiking are very conscious of the landscapes they pass through. One of the joys of hiking is the sensuality of passing through a variety of them. In terms of space and time, each landscape offers a particular geography, geology, flora, fauna, and other elements all of which exist in an interdependent relationship with each other.
Those who take the time to investigate the world around them, aided by guide books, interpretation by knowledgeable people, and a keen desire for new discoveries, find their sense of awareness, understanding, and connection to life's landscapes richly altered and expanded.
Our physical surrounding is but one of many landscapes in which we live out our lives: psychological, social, political, economic, geographical, and spiritual, to name a few. Some of us wander around these landscapes so distracted that we pay little attention to where we are. Some of us spend most or all of our lives seeking to stay in familiar landscapes with little curiosity about what lies beyond the territory we know.
There are others of us who are born with an insatiable curiosity for exploring every inch of all the landscapes we encounter and for discovering whatever new information they may contain.
Those for whom the horizon stirs a calling to adventure; for whom the jagged crumbling lip of a towering precipice is an opportunity to reconnoiter; where curiosity and imagination urge them to go even farther: these are trekkers.
The names of some of the great trekkers who committed their lives to the exploration of one or more of the landscapes in which they lived are well known to us: Lao Tsu, Thales of Miletus, Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Epicurus, Yeshua ben Yosef, Paul of Tarsus, Leonardo Di Vinci, Siddhartha Gautama, Hypatia of Alexandria, Muhammad, Nicolaus Copernicus, Francesco di Bernardone, Voltaire, Galileo Galilei, Mahandas Gandhi, Karl Marx, Isaac Newton, Elizabeth Anscombe, Johann Bach, Vincent Van Gogh, Baruch Spinoza, Carl Jung, Albert Einstein, Jean-Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir, Dag Hammarskjold, Martin Luther King, Jr., Alan Watts, and the Dalai Lama to name but a few. Each of these Trekkers, carrying all their gifts and foibles on their backs, stepped out into unknown territory, answering that call to seek more, learn more, love more, share more, and be more. We also know that these Trekkers journeyed in community. They began where others ended their journey and with the knowledge and equipment they inherited. Even when physically alone, they were enabled by others. Trekking is an altruistic activity. It is done for the education and edification of everyone. They invited others to join them in order to enrich everyone's experience and to be more effective in their combined mission and commitment to the common good.
For more than fifty years, most of them in conversation with my friend and fellow theologian Pat Genereux, I have been moving and growing (trekking) as a theologian (theotrekker) exploring the landscape of the human need to make meaning; discerning our reason for being. I am committed to the principle that this exploration must be informed by what we know from every other landscape of human experience.
In my view, it is the work of theology to critically examine the ways and means by which we humans make meaning. We theologians seek to understand how we humans behave in relationship to whatever it is that we make the focus of our trust (faith) and which in return provide our lives with significance and purpose. For this work to have any validity, it must be done with a commitment to understand and live life with as much emotional and intellectual authenticity, integrity and collegiality as possible.
In my view, life itself is best understood as an ongoing trek of discovery. It is my experience that knowledge and understanding, as well as the meaning we make of them, are always incomplete. While on this journey, we all have the opportunity to encounter and celebrate a wide array of new discoveries about ourselves and our world, some of which we find frightening because they don't fit into our established conceptions and understandings; our construction of reality. If we have the courage to honestly investigate them, even scary discoveries will take us to new and habitable places beyond the edges of our social, cultural, political, and religious maps.
My explorations have led me to develop a spirituality for myself that I call Opthe (pronounced Op'-thee). Opthe provides an authentic basis for meaning in my life that, unlike other spiritual models I have previously explored, I embrace without any accommodation, reservations, or doubts. Because it is a product of my life-long effort to find a transcendent and universal reason for being that is durable and intellectually viable, Opthe is based upon a consilience of the widest and most critical understanding of human knowledge and experience possible.
Opthe is a neo-monastic spirituality. That is, it is a "professional" spirituality in that it requires one to live a life of professed commitment to a discipline of formal praxis. The essence of the monastic model is one of the treasures I have brought forward from my past experience as a Christian and Episcopal priest. Commitment and discipline are as essential for a spiritual praxis to transform mind and being, as are the axioms and symbols upon which the spirituality is focused. They are also essential in heightening awareness of our connection to the whole of life and the cosmos around us. If our species is to survive the consequences of our own behavior on this planet, we must come to recognize and accept the truth of our place in the emergent cosmic process of life, and embrace our responsibility as self-conscious evolutionary agents on this planet. This requires commitment and discipline. This is what Opthe is all about.
Finally, Opthe is my personal spirituality. I present it here in the hope that what I share might resonate with others who find themselves on a similar path, driven by questions and issues like those I am facing. It is my conviction that if we put our heads and hearts together, we will find new and unexpected meanings that will provide us with creative ways of being and acting as human beings.
I encourage you to explore this site and the experiences, discoveries, and ongoing explorations presented here. If you find something that starts your mind effervescing, please let me know. Constructive conversation is more than welcome.
( Fr. William H. Papineau, L.Th.)
Systematic Theologian, Opthēan Monk and Priest of Life
Member of the Network of Spiritual Progressives