There’s something strange about the way that I love to customize things. When you have options, when you have multiple ways that you can create and make something, it becomes endless and challenging.

Such was the case when I had my PC years ago, and I was customizing it, oddly enough, to look like a Mac. The whole process was fun, but then it also never ended- no matter what I did, I could never create the “ideal” that I wanted to create. Eventually I had to accept that no matter what I did, my PC would not be a Mac, but man, it sure was close, and lovely at that.

Now I’m customizing my chat client, Adium. Adium is a great multi-protocol chat client, and the website offers all kinds of plug-ins and customizations.

I’ve found sound schemes from Super Mario Brothers, the Legend of Zelda, and best of all, Earthbound. It’s something that I almost couldn’t believe.

Yet I can’t get everything arranged just to how I want it. This is the problem- having options can complicate things really quickly, and it becomes easy to overanalyze and stress one’s self out.

To bring this to the topic of spirituality, I think that’s rather a problem we run into with spirituality- there are just too many paths that are laid out, and it’s too easy to want to customize our paths. While it is indeed true that each of us is unique and will walk the path differently, we’re still going to end up walking to the same Truth, so our paths must somewhere overlap.

Sometimes a religion doesn’t give the proper outlet to one, and I think that if the proper outlets are absent, then the truth we’re seeking cannot be reached. Instead, we’ll be ever trapped, looking over guard rails into the Garden of Eden.

But there is also something that worries me in trying to break a system down when it’s already together and at least appears to be in tact or coherent. Why destroy something that already makes sense?

Because it isn’t telling you the Truth. That’s the why.

The systems, all of them, are ultimately a means to an end and not an end in itself. Bernadette Roberts seems to suggest that the Holy Eucharist is an end in itself, the Absolute Truth, and not a means to an end, and she may well be right. I’m not sure if I agree with her, though.

But it is also true that without the systems and paths, we cannot begin to express the Absolute Truth. We can try, yes, but it’s difficult, and we end up with statements such as my saying that it was like being friends with every atom in the universe.

Yes, like being friends with every atom in the universe, but that doesn’t explain everything that was going on, and the simile was just the closest conception I had during the experience.

Dharma Overground is an interesting site that deals with a concept near and dear to my heart: they aren’t concerned so much with the theological and theoretical framework as they are with the actual techniques that are used. This is something I’ve been saying for years- the practice of the religion is what is important, the actions and methods one takes, not the framework, which typically is somewhat outdated anyway.

This is why I think Catholic traditions trump Protestant traditions- there’s actually something that you do, as in the sacraments, instead of it just being a theoretical framework. The modern Gnostics have largely gotten this right- the theoretical framework in which Gnostics find themselves is a backdrop of sorts, a reference point, a context, but the emphasis is actually on the sacraments and contemplative prayer.

So, too, is this the case with Bernadette Roberts- she, much in the same way as I, wondered for a long time if she could even be Christian in whatever sense because of some of the terrible teachings of the Church. To this her father responded that the Church does not ask us to understand the faith, but to practice it- and that only by practicing it will we ever come to any insight of it.

Of course, there’s also the challenge to my Sufi sensibilities. I considered the paradigm differently the other night, and in that way I began to understand something about my own position in things. Instead of my particular spiritual path being something that is shoved together logically as equals, I looked at it as a group of expanding circles.

Imagine this: Sufism is my personal method, as per the Golden Sufi Center’s practices and codes of ethics. That is, I do the meditation of putting Love in the Heart, and I recite the dhikr. I love Sufi poetry and imagery, and of course I’ve lived love- I know what it means to be in Love, I know what it means to Long for someone, I know what it means to have a terrible need for something that isn’t there- the Heart Ache, in other words.

Now, imagine a larger circle around Sufism, and this circle is Christianity. Because I am not Muslim and did not grow up in a Muslim culture, my understanding of Sufism cannot be the same as the Muslim understanding of it. Some would argue that you must be a Muslim in order to be a Sufi, but I disagree, though this blog is not meant to tackle the issue. Sufism falls into the Christian context for me as its primary reference point. The understanding of a Longing for Christ, a Love for Christ, the Beauty of Christ, and so on, makes perfect sense to me, whereas this is more difficult for me to do conceptually with the Prophet Muhammed.

Now imagine an even larger circle that encompasses Christianity and Sufism both- this circle I would call Gnosticism. Gnosticism, of course, can be argued to be any number of things, but I mean to say that the basic orientation with which I understand Christianity is a Gnostic mode. One most directly experience God for salvation, in other words, and “God” here means something very different than the old-man-sitting-on-a-throne.

At this point, though, we’re working with an extremely abstract world view- the Gnostic world view entails a very basic understanding of the world for me, a very basic orientation that is far less defined than Christianity or Sufism, which have increasing specificity.

If a circle existed around Gnosticism, it would then be “mysticism,” and there would be no argument here from anyone. I am certainly, with no doubt, a mystic when it comes to spirituality, and there’s no denying that.

But I also mean to explain that, in everyday life, my understanding is quite Sufic in nature. Christianity, Gnosticism, and Mysticism are less of a personal identification and more of a contextual categorization. The whole situation sounds more complex than it really is, because I don’t know that most people bother creating a tier of identity.

When you look into the eyes of someone who has seen the Beyond, you see thunder and lightning. I’ve seen this many times. There’s a “knowing” within that person, and it is absolutely terrifying and alluring all at the same time.

Also, enlightened people are not the sort of people you want to fuck with. Seriously.

Okay. I’m done rambling. I know this post is late in coming and isn’t entirely coherent, so please forgive me; my mind was in several places at once.