Is There Only One Holy Book?

by Robert Engelbach on June 7, 2014

One Holy BookWhen I was a newly saved Christian attending an evangelistic church, I was taught in Sunday school that there was only one holy book – the Bible.  If I had to burn all the books in the church library except one, I would be expected to choose the Bible.  I have gone through several spiritual transformations since then, so that expectation seems somewhat limiting to me now.  But back then, I had recently gone through a paradigm shift from agnostic to believer.  Something had been awakened.  I was blind, but now I saw.  Getting my first set of sacred scriptures was new and exciting, like getting my first bicycle.

The God beyond the Church

Then somewhere down the line, things in church stopped adding up to the ideal expectations that had been birthed by my new faith.  I went to other churches to start over, like trying different brands of cereal, but they never tasted right. This caused suffering, a sense of a loss and a painful longing for that “spark” of hope and promise I felt the hour I first believed.  It seemed to me that just when I thought I had found the Promised Land, “they paved Paradise and put up a parking lot” (Joni Mitchell, Big Yellow Taxi*).

*http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XJIuP7zEVeM.

I searched far and wide trying to reignite that “spark”. Recently it seems like I have taken the grand tour of all the world’s religions, philosophies and various offshoots.  I learned a lot of things you would not learn in a church library.  Something more was awakening, but the loss and longing was still there, even more painful because I had traveled so far down this road that I was getting weary.  I found myself identifying with King Solomon’s laments in Ecclesiastes:

“Vanity, Vanities, All is Vanity (1:3) and “Of making many books there is no end, and much study wearies the body” (12:12).

As Christians well know, Jesus rebuked the learned teachers of his time, telling the Pharisees:

You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me” (John 5:39).

Jesus was attempting to draw them out of their books and into The Way, The Truth and The Life that was dwelling in the world immediately before them.  

Our absorption with books, projects and technology can cause us to miss the boat. The gifted American philosopher Henry David Thoreau became more aware of that by studying Vedic literature, and sought relief from the alienating effects of the industrial revolution by escaping to the rural charms and simplicity of Walden Woods.  He wrote in his book, Walden:

“We need the tonic of wildness…At the same time that we are earnest to explore and learn all things, we require that all things be mysterious and unexplorable, that land and sea be indefinitely wild, unsurveyed and unfathomed by us because unfathomable. We can never have enough of nature.”  

Thus, there may come a time in our spiritual evolution when we are inclined to step away from the books, to turn off the computer, to use “The Force” so to speak.   Our Zen masters from time antiquity have invited us to retreat, to breathe and meditate in peace, opening up a realm previously hidden, full of beauty, mystery, depth and subtlety.  Somewhere down that path is Semadhi, when our inner being accelerates from PHD to Monk in 60 seconds, breaking the barriers of time and space, rising above the clouds to catch a glimpse of eternity, a revelation beyond words.  Astronaut Edgar Mitchel had to travel into outer space to experience his revelation. But we can experience it right now, and more regularly in our own simple space, without technology, without contaminating our bodies with drugs, and without having to submerge ourselves in $100,000 sensory deprivation tanks.

Wisdom of the Sufi Monks

No matter how much we learn from our sophistications, it seems that it is never enough to satisfy that emptiness and longing which Sufi poet Rumi likens to a yearning for God as we would yearn for a beloved soul mate who has been taken from us. King Solomon touches on the same theme in the Song of Songs.  As Joni Mitchel expresses this in her song:

Don’t it always seem to go, that you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone.”

This is an existential pain that ordinary thoughts cannot heal. We need new thoughts, thoughts worthy to the task.

Hazrat Inayat Khan was one such conveyor of new thoughts which fit the bill.  He was a gifted musician born in India who became a founder and teacher of Universal Sufism before he died in 1926.  Universal Sufism is not based on Islam, although it historically evolved from it. It has a wide eclectic and international membership, including several groups in the United States. His teachings are still very popular in the Universal Sufi movement.

Hazrat describes his “10 thoughts”, each of which can stand alone as a major principle that can be further illuminated, but which are all interconnected and all necessary for personal spiritual development.  This is a somewhat similar the relationship of the eight branches to the Eightfold Path taught by Buddha in the 5th century BCE.

In this post we will focus on Hazrat’s “Third Thought”, highlighted below. Meanwhile, glance at the other nine to get an idea of what Hazrat taught.

Hazrat’s Ten Thoughts

“There are ten principal Sufi thoughts which comprise all the important subjects with which the inner life of man is concerned:

1) THERE IS ONE GOD – the Eternal, the Only Being; none else exists save God.

2) THER IS ONE MASTER – the Guiding Spirit of all souls, who constantly leads all followers towards the light.

3) THERE IS ONE HOLY BOOK – the sacred manuscript of nature, which truly enlightens all readers.

4) THERE IS ONE RELIGION – the unswerving progress in the right direction towards the ideal, which fulfils the life’s purpose of every soul.

5)  THERE IS ONE LAW – the law of Reciprocity, which can be observed by a selfless conscience together with a sense of awakened justice.

6) THERE IS ONE HUMAN BROTHERHOOD – the Brotherhood and Sisterhood which unites the children of earth indiscriminately in the Fatherhood of God.

7) THERE IS ONE MORAL PRINCIPLE – the love which springs forth from self-denial, and blooms in deeds of beneficence.

8) THERE IS ONE OBJECT OF PRAISE – the beauty which uplifts the heart of its worshipper through all aspects from the seen to the unseen.

9) THERE IS ONE TRUTH – the true knowledge of our being within and without which is the essence of all wisdom.

10) THERE IS ONE PATH – the annihilation of the false ego in the real, which raises the mortal to immortality and in which resides all perfection.”

The Sacred Manuscript of Nature

Hazrat further elucidates for us the meaning of “The Sacred Manuscript of Nature:

“There is one Holy Book, the sacred manuscript of nature, the only scripture which can enlighten the reader. Most people consider as sacred scriptures only certain books or scrolls written by the hand of man, and carefully preserved as holy, to be handed down as divine revelation.  Men have fought and disputed over the authenticity of these books, have refused to accept any other book of similar character, and, clinging thus to the book and losing the sense of it, have formed diverse sects.  The Sufi has in all ages respected all such books, and has traced in the Vedanta, Zend-Avesta, Kabbalah, Bible, Quran, and all other sacred scriptures, the same truth which he or she reads in the incorruptible manuscript of nature, the only Holy Book, the perfect and living model that teaches the inner law of life.  All scriptures when compared to nature’s manuscript, are like little pools of water before the ocean. To the eye of the seer every leaf of the tree is a page of the Holy Book that contains divine revelation, and he or she is inspired every moment of life by constantly reading and understanding the holy script of nature.”

Conclusion

As the words to the song by Joni Mitchel infer, our modern culture has a habit of turning life into stone, the same process that occurred to Lot’s wife when she looked back at Sodom. Another verse to Joni’s song suggest how our society over-processes nature instead of opening up to everything nature has to teach us:

  “They took all the trees. Put ’em in a tree museum. And they charged the people. A dollar and a half just to see ’em”

I think we will find that the Universal Sufi teachings are harmonious with most other esoteric beliefs, and have an advantage in being well-organized, simple and fun to follow, while at the same time deeply meaningful and life enhancing.

This post adds a new perspective to the Spirit of the Scripture. Normally we examine written scriptures to dig out the deeper truths within them.  We focus on non-literal interpretation, allegory, and detecting coded patterns which unlock hidden meanings.  Hazrat makes it clear that the deeper meanings we find or infer from all written scriptures originate from a more complete and accurate universal enlightenment, one which manifests (to those who are open and ready to receive it) as a personal gnosis, Semadhi, and which springs forth from our interactions on a daily basis with nature.

May we find grace to enjoy that sacred manuscript of nature this very day, this very hour.

 

{ 26 comments… read them below or add one }

Joshua Tilghman June 7, 2014 at 9:34 am

Robert,

I really enjoyed this. Lots of inspiration and spiritual truth went into this. Thanks!

Reply

linda marie June 7, 2014 at 3:11 pm

Wonderful thoughts! As I have gotten older, I realize that no one can define for me what is holy and what is not. Actually, I sort of suspect it is all holy!

Reply

Vernon McVety June 7, 2014 at 4:38 pm

Very beautiful Josh. May I sum it up with Psalm 19:1,2 and 3. We too, are the Glory (The Word) of God.

Reply

Joshua Tilghman June 7, 2014 at 5:21 pm

Vernon, thanks for commenting. Just wanted to clarify so there isn’t any confusion: I originally made the mistake of signing into my account and posting this, which put it under my name instead of Robert (I was multitasking 🙂 He is the author of this post.

Reply

Robert June 7, 2014 at 9:47 pm

Vernon,

I love your contribution. I hadn’t thought of that. We are the book.

Also, just so you don’t get confused, I am Joshua. I got confused and made this reply to your comment accidently using Joshua’s name. The message in the comment above is from Robert, fooling around wishing he could be Josh…. in other words, Robert is joshin’ ya. But I wrote the article, every word of it. Then I got confused and later changed the author’s name to Robert. Just wanted to clarify that.

Namaste,
me

Reply

anny June 8, 2014 at 10:55 am

Robert,

You make my head spin!

Anny

Reply

Robert June 8, 2014 at 2:43 pm

Anny,

I see. Is that what it does at the end of the wash cycle?

Reply

anny June 9, 2014 at 3:05 am

Yes, did you feel I needed a clean up?

Reply

Robert June 9, 2014 at 3:06 pm

Not really. In my book you’re ready for prime time just the way your are.

Joshua Tilghman June 8, 2014 at 5:17 pm

Robert, I believe all this spirituality is causing an identity crisis. Is that part of the awakening process?

Reply

Robert June 9, 2014 at 4:41 pm

Yes, I believe so.

Funny you should ask. It seemed two weeks ago I was overwhelmed by the diversity of ideas and concepts, going in a million directions; as Anny likes to say, it made my head spin. I kept trying to give my religion a new title every time I learned something new that I liked. It was like a woman marrying fourteen men and hyphenating her last name to each of them. Jewish-Christian-Esoteric-Sufi-SubmittedOne-Buddhist-Hindu-SacradEarth-Kundalini-Hypnosis-ChakraFreak.

And this further complicated the question – who is going to do my funeral? The Rabbi, the Priest, The Sage? OMG, hope I don’t have to pay all of them. Maybe I can give it to the lowest bidder.

But then, like Vernon mentions, awareness of “eternal principles” happens, and the relative truths of each identity are understood as pointing to the absolute from separate perspectives. And once having grasped the absolute, it sheds more light on the relative, and the process reiterates, and the reiterations open up the realization of the intertwined purpose of my separateness from, and union with, the All.

Tomorrow I will pack this unified soul in my heart at the dawn meditation, and then eagerly skip down a road of many-colored separateness, like on a school field trip to new places, enjoying how the unified radiates through the separate, and bringing all I learn back to the evening mediation with gratitude and greater understanding.

Reply

anny June 10, 2014 at 2:58 am

Hi Robert,

What a great exchange came out of a mix-up! Maybe we should mix up some more!

Anny

Reply

Christine Hoeflich June 8, 2014 at 12:03 am

Thanks for this wonderful post Robert! I’ve noticed I’ve learned to understand the deeper meanings of books and Scripture not by studying more or studying harder, but by living life “deeper”: by following my intuition and taking action on inner feelings. That is where it’s at, as they say. Looking forward to more of your writings.

Reply

anny June 8, 2014 at 10:53 am

Hi Christine,

Nice to see you back again.

Love,

Anny

Reply

anny June 8, 2014 at 10:51 am

Hi Robert,

Another beautiful post I fully agree with. I like the part about nature as I – finally – got away from my computer and walked out into the sunshine, the meadows and the beautiful spring flowers and butterflies for a while. I started gazing at the clouds as well, beautiful as always.

And the song of Joni Mitchell:

“Don’t it always seem to go, that you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone.”

This existential pain as you call it can be healed by appreciation and thankfulness.

The pain of missing someone or something can be cause for making yourself a victim of fate, God or otherwise but it can also make you realize what it really was you had and which or whom you may have taken for granted.

You can start by being grateful and appreciative for it as yet and follow up with being grateful and appreciative of everything else you ever had and still have. That really elevates your vibration and makes you aware of how precious life is, no matter what it confronts you with.

It puts the emphasis on what you have and takes it away from what you do not have.

It may also make you aware of what you have learned from the experience.

It took me a while – quite a while, I may say – to learn to see it like this but now I do.

Love,

Anny

Reply

Robert June 8, 2014 at 2:40 pm

Anny,

Your testimony of experiences in your daily life is a treasure of wisdom to all of us, as usual.

Love and Blessings,

Robert

Reply

Robert June 8, 2014 at 11:04 am

Christine,

Good advice. Thanks for the compliment. Coming from you, that means a lot.

Reply

Vernon McVety June 8, 2014 at 11:50 am

Ok, thanks for the correction, Josh, whoooops, I mean Robert. Thanks, Robert, whoooops, I mean Josh. Ha ha. There’s no confusion. And I’d like to add just one more comment. I have come to realize in my own experience with the Bible that it is both Humanly and Divinely inspired. Actually the two words can combine. It could be true to say that even so-called “mistranslations” that have transpired through the ages are themselves a sort of divine inspiration, for our own good. There are sacred and useful purposes why Christianity is divided among different personalities, (body parts). The bible shows me beyond doubt that truth is relative. Truth, in the higher spiritual sense, for those who see it as “absolute” should be called “Eternal Principles” rather than truth. My Truth, is not the truth of every one else. There is “ONE TRUTH” for me.

Reply

Robert June 8, 2014 at 1:45 pm

Vernon,

Yes. That sounds right. Bible is humanly and divinely inspired. Haven’t heard that before. Its perfect. I like “Eternal Principles” too. You have a special knack for discerning and articulating clear cut explanations for complex things that are otherwise easily misunderstood. You are certainly someone to consult about things like this. Perhaps you could try your hand at the famous problem of formulating the missing link to the theory of everything?

Reply

Vernon McVety June 8, 2014 at 2:01 pm

Thanks. Robert, WE are the hidden links to everything, in a mystical sense. I don’t think anything is really missing. God hid his divinity in us as life itself. No one sees it all at once, (not even the so-called Gnostics), – that’s the rule and part of God’s plan for life. I like to butt in every once in a while when I think some one needs help. Blessings for a beautiful summer. Listen to Crystal Blue Persuasion by Tommy James and the Shondells. He has a great vision of the New Jerusalem.

Reply

Robert June 9, 2014 at 5:20 pm

Vernon,

Thanks. Will do, Summer blessings to all.

Reply

Paul June 9, 2014 at 5:48 am

Tremendous post, Robert! Very insightful and full of inspiration. I find it interesting that human beings like to think of life in terms of “we are the only….” “We are the only true church.” “Our religion is the only true religion.” “We are the only life in the universe.” “Our book is the only true book.” Ad nauseum. Boy, talk about an identity crisis! As I write this comment, the thought “we are ALL the ‘ONLY'” seeps into my consciousness. Every individual, plant, animal, etc., is included in the “only.” It becomes much easier to love all of life, all of nature, when we understand that “you are me and I am you.”

Your posts seem to follow that theme, and it is wonderful to read them. Thanks for all your contributions. Although I obviously don’t know you that well, it is both amazing and fascinating to watch your own personal growth. It is also very enlightening to consider the benefits of the process of opening up to the innumerable possibilities that exist for each of us, individually AND collectively, to those of us willing to open our minds and hearts to ways of thinking that incorporate the “all” as the “only,” for unimaginable blessings. “And now to the God who is able to do exceeding, abundantly above ALL that you can ask OR THINK” (Eph. 3:20). It is OUR love for ALL that allows that ability of “God” (the power of love within each one of us) to come gloriously through the “doors.”

“God is love” (1 John 4:8). “He who loves is born of God” (1 John 4:7). “He who does not love is not born of God” (1 John 4:8).

Love is all inclusive. Love is truly all the “only” that there is. The phrase “love your neighbor as yourself” is an all-inclusive act. “God ((love)) is no respecter of persons.” Awakening to this idea is incredibly liberating. One has to do it in order to understand it.

Thanks again for sharing these incredible words of insight and inspiration.

Reply

Robert June 9, 2014 at 5:15 pm

Paul,

Thanks for your power boost drink of encouragement. It means a lot to me to get such positive feedback from you. I am glad you see the development. I am following some kind of path of discovery, seeds from one post leading to another, like an Easter egg hunt. I started out doing what I could do easily at first… history, and then it grew. This is egg number 5. I’ve written ten in this series, and I’m currently slowing down and working on and soaking in number 11 for awhile. Number 11 must be good – I didn’t realize I’d missed taking my antidepressants, my wife is happier, even my Jack Russell terrier is calmer, I’m getting my energy back and doing things I need to get done, having a lot more fun doing it.

Thanks again for a shot I the arm.

Love and Blessings,
Robert

Reply

Pedro June 9, 2014 at 6:06 pm

בראשית

Reply

Paul June 9, 2014 at 6:14 pm

Well whaddaya know – a Pedro sighting. How are you my brother? I hope all is well and that you had an enjoyable period of spirituality during your trek through South America. Please let us know how everything is going for you.

Reply

Robert June 9, 2014 at 8:40 pm

בראשית נצחי

Reply

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: