This eBook was created in 2012, and revised in 2015, as an expansion of my 2002 paperback, The Evolution of the Idea of God. At the time, I thought the title was original with me, but discovered after publication that is not the case. As far as I can determine, it was crafted by Grant Allen as the title of his book published in 1897 with the subtitle “An inquiry into the origin of religions.” My best guess is that I came across a reference to Allen’s work in Karen Armstrong’s A History of God, buried it neatly in the unconscious regions and called it up as my very own creation. Arrogance being what it is, I didn’t research the phrase before adopting it as the title for my book. Here, I’m rectifying that oversight.
As A Handbook for the Spiritual Journey, this eBook addresses questions that cannot be answered, and speaks of a journey that cannot be plotted, mapped, or outlined. There are no black footprints to follow in search of the Holy Grail, Kingdom of God, Promised Land, Nirvana, Enlightenment, or however else we might envision the goal. It is not a linear path that we are on, with sequential steps from point A to point B, which are laid out in progressive gradations so we might mark our passage from Beginner, to Graduate Assistant, to Tenured PhD. The way winds about, loops back, circles around, like a three dimensional labyrinth. It waits for us to make the next move, like a koan or conundrum. It is a walk-a-bout taken by wandering aimlessly through the Outback, looking, reflecting, pondering—not trying to be anywhere by a particular time, but quite happy to be where we are all of the time—as we wonder what to make of how things are, and what we might do about it in service of the true good of all.
Not that we will ever be able to say. Our lives are an experiment with the good. We learn more about living the good life by living it and making adjustments, than we would ever know reading books, attending lectures, interviewing the Gurus and taking notes. This isn’t a book that will spell things out for you. It will tell you that no one can tell you what is good for you—you have to trust yourself in the matter, and see where it goes.
Where things go is more important than what they are, or what they mean. “I’ve learned to give people the benefit of the doubt, and see where it goes,” said an Appalachian auto mechanic I sat beside, as we waited for the sun to rise on the Blue Ridge Parkway, cameras in hand. Jesus couldn’t have said it better, and if we think we can replace that perspective with a more spiritual one, we have more living, walking, and reflecting to do. I hope this book helps with the living, and the reflecting. I’ll trust you to do your own walking—but I highly recommend it. Walking is a physical metaphor connecting worlds, and opening the path before us as we wander without purpose just to see were we go—mentally and emotionally, as well as physically. You’ll miss a lot if you don’t take actual, and regular, walk-a-bouts to see what catches your eye, or comes to mind.
This eBook is itself a walk-a-bout of sorts. It doesn’t go anywhere, or build in a steady progression to a wonderful crescendo. It wanders around. It repeats itself. It doesn’t have a beginning or an end. It’s a three dimensional labyrinth—a koan, conundrum—inviting you to explore possibilities you thought were off the table.
Start by putting everything on the table—all you have ever heard about God, and have been told is true and not true, about everything. Now, sweep all of it off the table, everything—and begin the slow process of putting things back on the table that your experience has shown you belong there. What do you know of God, for instance, that no one has told you, that you haven’t heard from some other source? Get the idea? That’s the kind of book this is. I hope you like what you find here.