A Naturalistic, Evolutionary and Poetic 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 find pleasure in investigating the world around them, aided by guide books, interpretation by knowledgeable people, and a keen creative 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 all of us live out our lives: psychological, social, political, economic, geographical, and spiritual, to name a few. A great many 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 of our lives out of a deep sense of mystery, wonder and a desire for discovering whatever new information they may contain. We do this because we are driven to make sense of our existence.
Those whom experience life as a journey, and see the horizon as a stirring call 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, William James, Charles Sanders Peirce, Carl Jung, Albert Einstein, Emma Goldman, Jean-Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir, Dag Hammarskjold, Martin Luther King, Jr., Carl Sagan, Alan Watts, and the Dalai Lama to name but a few. Each of these Trekkers, and countless others unknown to us, 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. In its best form, Trekking is an altruistic activity. It is done for the education and edification of everyone. The great Trekkers have always 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, in community with other theologians and many, many people with a wide range of knowledge and experience, I have been on a journey of growth (Trekking) as a theologian (Theotrekker) exploring the landscape of the human need to make meaning of our existence. I am committed to the principle that this exploration must be systematic. That is, it must be informed by, and conciliated with all that we have learned and are learning about ourselves and our universe in every other landscape of human experience.
In my view, it is our work as theologians to radically and critically examine the ways and means by which we humans make sense and meaning of our lives. It is our vocation to understand how we think, feel and act in relationship to whatever it is in which we invest our trust and that in return provides 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.
It is common wisdom that life is a process and whatever we learn, understanding we gain, and the meaning we make of it all, 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 challenge 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. We will find ourselves in new realities.
My theotrek has led me to develop a spirituality for myself that I call Opthē (pronounced Op'-thee). Opthē provides an authentic basis for meaning in my life that, unlike other realities in which I have previously lived, I can embrace without any accommodation, reservations, or doubts. I have spent my whole life in an effort to find a transcendent and comprehensive reason for being that is durable and which makes sense with all that we know and experience to be true about ourselves and the cosmos. Opthē is based upon building and maintaining a consilience of the widest and most critical understandings of human knowledge and experience possible.
Opthē is a neo-monastic spirituality. In other words, it is a "professional" spirituality in that it is centered on a life of professed commitment to Grace in service of the common good ordered by a formal discipline of liturgical praxis. The essence of the monastic model is one of the many treasures I have brought forward from my experience of having passed through Christianity and service as an Episcopal priest. Commitment and discipline are as necessary for a spiritual praxis to transform heart, 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 emergent truth of our place in the cosmic process of life, and embrace our responsibility as self-conscious creatively talented evolutionary agents on this planet. This requires emotional and intellectual commitment and discipline. That is what Opthē is all about.
Finally, Opthē is my personal spirituality. I present it here in the hope that what I share might stimulate the interest of others who find themselves on a similar path, driven by questions and issues like those with which I am dealing. It is my conviction that we can only truly understand ourselves and our experience by working collegially with others. More, if we put our heads and hearts together in community, we find new and unexpected meanings that provide us with creative ways of being and acting that serve our common good and which we wouldn't discover on our own.
I invite and 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. It is essential.
Grace and Peace,
(Friar William H. Papineau)