Christianity: Aesthetics: Spirituality: Life: Stuart and Moira Gray

Conflict resolution: the need for a new multi-dimensional religious approach.

Stuart Gray
Moira Gray
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Conflict resolution has never been more needed in this age of increasing stress, of increasing conflict between states, between religions themselves and between religion and science.

We see this not only in terms of terrorism, of the global nuclear debate of who shall and who shall not have nuclear weapons, of the position of religious expression within statehood, but also how to cope with the aggressive assertiveness posed by fundamentalism now inherent within politics, religion and science. Wherever we look there rises the ugly head of fundamentalism, that extremist position which admits only one solution, that of the supremacy of the personal ego and ideology of its belief system. All else is false and must be denied and ultimately destroyed. The fundamentalist believes not only that he or she is right and that everyone else is wrong and somehow less than human, less than perfect, but also that their right to exist together with their belief system is compromised by their particular stance.

Now, more than ever before there is a great need for a new approach, a new horizon with which to challenge our destructive energy. Destruction of others in the pursuit of our own 'holiness' is nothing more than an admission of our own failings, our own narrow-minded limitations, ultimately a refusal to face our inmost being. Yes, we may disagree fundamentally with their beliefs. We may wish to argue, to advertise our point of view, to prove them wrong and ultimately to convert. That is humane. Yet is that a reason for denying their right to life?

The commandments of Jesus are very clear - love God, love your fellow human being. Note the order. Our prime objective is first to love God, i.e. get your own mind/consciousness/spirit in order first. Then go on to love your fellow human being. It cannot be done the other way around. That is the great mistake of many religions, including Christianity. Too often the temptation is to pay lip service to religion; go to the services, read the holy books, pay your dues, feel good, and then go out to help others in the way your religion has taught you. The result? A feeling of duty done! Oh dear oh dear! How far wrong can one go?! Well not so much wrong as misguided. Such an approach rarely enables one to approach the possibilities of our divine nature, only the false dawn of our emotionalism, that very physical human trait which impinges not on one's spiritual nature but feeds our energy need for action.

On the spiritual level it fails to still the chatter of life of our restless minds. Consequently, even in religion, our minds have become too aggressive in the wrong ways - in the aggrandisement of our physical presence (or our religion) here on earth. We have become beset with physical wrongs, with social and international injustice, even with being poor while others increase their wealth. We therefore feel the need to change things, to make an impact, to convert, ultimately to die for the cause if needs be, and all to make a physical impression in this life.

I see this form of fundamentalism increasingly within Science, particularly that displayed in the media. Even as Religion degenerates into futile attempts at world spiritual control and domination (instead of individual spiritual release) Science attempts to fill the growing gap in human acceptability of understanding its nature and future with equally futile standpoints. 'Religion is the opium of the masses'. It frequently is! 'Religion takes little account of human evolution in all its forms or of scientific discoveries regarding human consciousness.' Depressingly accurate! 'Religion has caused all of the major conflicts known upon earth'. Debatable historically but often true, increasingly so in the present time of international terrorism.

Criticism of Religion is good and vital for its existence, especially if its excesses can be glared at. Where would we be, however, if we had not the great buildings, art, music, or insights into the need for quiet reflection and stillness, inspired by religion?

But what about a scientific understanding of humanity? Can Science stand alone in its understanding of the universe or of the nature and role of humanity within it? I doubt it. Science depends essentially on reason, on logical investigation, upon replicable experiments to determine the efficacy of its theories. These are paramount . Understandably, with this in mind, we see the rise in media appreciation of such as Richard Dawkins. There is no God because there are no experiments which can posit or replicate such an existence. Ergo all religion is bunkum and to be defined as mental aberrations. I agree! But what if? What if the universe is not built purely on logic, or reason, or definable and replicable experiments? What if other forces and tensions are built into the universe, creating one vast experiment? How can one, purely by the use of logic, quantify truth or the appreciation of beauty, or even define such concepts as eternity if time is but another 'physical' variable? What if our waking consciousness is lower in status to our so-called 'subconscious? Science is very good at the 'how' but rarely of the 'why'.

Inevitably conflict is the result of such competing ideologies. How to resolve? Conflict resolution does not take place with more aggression, more standing on one's rights, more scheming and bludgeoning others into our way of thinking. Such activities are the result of over-heated emotionalism, i.e. they operate only on one plain, that of our physical being.

The only solution is to rise above this. In this restless world with conflict between religion and the state, religion and science, religion and religion, we need personal space and time for reflection more than ever before, time to raise or integrate our consciousness with the more spiritual side of our existence.

We can rise above such egocentricity in a variety of ways. The stance taken by the more responsible religions is to attempt co-operation with religious competitors without sacrificing their own individual position. Such a compromise works but only on the practical and physical level of joint meetings, expressions of co-operation and understanding, even participation in joint sanitised services which would not offend the participants.

The problem with this approach, however laudable, is twofold. The problem of this conflict resolution is that it remains on the plain which gave it utterance - the physical level. Secondly no reconciliation takes place at the higher theological level. Each religion remains true to its own belief, i.e. that it is the one true faith. One might even say that such compromise meetings and expressions of co-operation are ultimately of little value in that they resolve no issues of belief, less still of questions of authority and control, questions which often gave rise to the problems in the first place!

Yet for any religion the acceptance of the validity of another must surely be the goal. This cannot take place on any physical level. Physically humanity was built to be competitive, to survive, often by conflict and death. That is, or should not be the goal of any religion. Such acceptance of others can only take place on another plain. We must look to another and higher dimension for resolution. Peace and harmony arises only through a personal retreat into our more spiritual capabilities, a communication with our inner spirit, the Divine, call it what you will. Again Jesus' first commandment, Love God. Only then can a more holistic overview take place and our path of destiny be made clear. Indeed I would consider that only those religions which are capable of moving onto this plain of spiritual enablement and therefore accepting others of a similar nature are worthy of the name religion. Why? Two reasons. The first is the straight forward scientific view that we know not everything. Ultimate truth always lies beyond our grasp. We strive but never arrive. So should it be with our theology and our concept of God.

Here one must differentiate between the means and the end. I am a European Protestant Christian. My means to spiritual appreciation (and hopefully growth!) is through the timeless music of Christianity and the liturgies of the Church of England, together with the great medieval buildings and art which Christianity has produced. It is, I agree, a limited and ethnic view. That is my problem (!) and I do not put it forward as a solution for all. I have a growing appreciation for all things spiritual, for Islamic art, for Buddhist meditation, for Hindu acceptance of others, even for the nature religions which have taught me so much a respect for all of God's creation. There are many different paths but so long as we each regard an open spiritual validity of others as valid, and so long as they too accept the validity of our path to enlightenment then we may each relax in our ethnic conformity.

So, where do we look for resolution to the problem. My membership of the Scientific and Medial Network has given me so many insights into the relationship between the scientific and the spiritual through its completely open, one could almost say 'loving', investigation of the two disciplines (see 'Links' for our great website). Here I find what I can only term cosmic theology of the highest order, freed from the dogmatism of religion and the narrow fundamentalism of Science.

Science does indeed give a clue. Through it one learns that one can comprehend one dimension only by viewing it from another dimension. For example one can only comprehend the dimension of length and breadth of a square if viewed from above these dimensions, i.e. height. If one was viewing it from, for example, the length it is impossible to see the totality of anything else on this dimension, i.e. the breadth. One needs to rise above it, i.e. the height, to see the true nature of the square.

So it is with our lives. We can comprehend the totality of our human physical existence (including physical, intellectual and emotional) only if we can rise above it onto another plane, i.e. we have to try to remove ourselves from the physical stimuli which constantly beset us. We have to rise above the demands of our physical existence. Difficult? Yes. We hate to be still, to be not physically involved. That means we have to rise above that which we physically need for survival. This, for me is the new horizon, the new challenge. Aggression is so often the failure to meet ourselves in our timeless existence, i.e. within the stillness of our own minds. One of the most unchartered regions on this planet is the human brain and its capabilities. And it is in the stillness of all true religions, the calmness of meditation, that we will find ourselves, our god, and ultimately our relationships with others.

"Be still and know that I am God"