Nearly every spiritual tradition since the beginning of time has exalted PURITY as a requirement for being open to the divine and to living a “right” life. The suggestion is that our bodily purity, our moral purity and our mental purity somehow clears out hindrances and sets the stage for communion with that which is Holy. To put it more plainly: some things are acceptable, other things are not.
Wash your hands before you worship. Don’t smoke. Don’t drink alcohol. Don’t do drugs. Don’t curse. Think only pure thoughts. Don’t be angry. Don’t have lust in your heart. Don’t have sex until the right time. Don’t get carried away with desire for money. Don’t harbor jealousy. Bring the monkey mind to stillness. Then you will be free to see God.
How did this begin? I understand that primitive cultures needed moral guidelines in order for societies to be healthy, to be fruitful and to multiply (after all, how can a tribe propagate if its members are murdering one another or harming themselves?). I also understand that if you overly focus on your base, animal desires there’s not much energy left for “more evolved” endeavors. But if you so organize your life that you’re always doing what is right and socially acceptable, does that mean your spirituality is any more on point?
I say that rigid purity is exactly the denial of life. In order to shield ourselves from the fullest range of experiences that can be had, we settle into rules for ourselves and others that – while genuinely keeping us free from harm and ensuring our survival – mostly stem from fear. We then project those rules upon our deities and believe that the only way to be right with a Holy God is to be washed clean (either by our own efforts or by those of our Saviors). But could it be that these rules are not only not getting us closer to the divine, but are actually keeping us from doing what we’re here on earth to do: to be the vessels by which the universe consciously experiences itself?
Is the universe ONE or is it not? Is this all ONE reality or is it not? How can some of this be God and parts of it not? God is present in your depression and as your depression. The universe can be felt consciously and deeply while you’re piss drunk on cheap tequila. You are just as near to the Source of life in an emotional fit of rage as you are in Savasana.
The apostle Paul in the Christian Bible says, “Everything is permissible, but not everything is beneficial.” I’m down with that. Not everything serves the greater good or brings health to your body. And people that harm others need to be brought to justice for the preservation of our society. But concretely singling out THIS as holy and THAT as impure is quite frankly a stifled view on the reality we find ourselves living in.
I had the wonderful privilege of sitting face to face with [a Hindu guru] and the first thing he said to me was “Do you have a question?”… I said, “Yes, I have a question.” I said, “Since in Hindu thinking all the universe is divine, a manifestation of divinity itself, how can we say no to anything in the world? How can we say no to brutality to stupidity to vulgarity to thoughtlessness?” And he said, “For you and me, you must say yes.” [Joseph Campbell]
Ah, YES. The eternal YES. Campbell went on to say, “The warrior’s approach is to say YES to life. ‘Yea’ to it all.” To abstain from something for the sake of purity is fragmentation of the One into many. Look, I’m all for self-discipline. Sometimes you have to choose your highest desire over your lesser desire. But this can be carried out without demonizing those lesser desires; you simply keep in mind that certain results must follow certain formulas. Furthermore, is one’s purity truly the formula to unlock communion with divinity? Will the Vast and Mighty One, the Lord of the Light and the Darkness, honestly be too offended to allow you into the Holy Presence if you’ve been too horny or gluttonous?
I suppose the cornerstone to all of this – like most things – is consciousness. You can unconsciously, but “purely,” go to a temple service and get nothing out of it. You can also consciously ingest “impure” psychedelics and touch the face of God.
DRUGS AND ALCOHOL AND SEX – SUCH SACRAMENTS CAN SERVE TO RELAX YOUR MIND AND HELP OPEN YOU TO THE GREAT ONE. OF COURSE, THEY CAN ALSO RELAX YOUR MIND AND TURN YOU INTO AN OINKING PIG. IT ALL DEPENDS ON WHETHER YOU OPEN OUT TO THE GREAT ONE OR IN TO YOUR OWN IMPULSES.
– From “Wild Nights,” David Deida
The next time you see or experience something foul, impure, unclean or profane, see if you can strip the labels away and be with it fully and consciously. Is it too not an expression of this diverse, glorious and majestic wonderland in which we “live and move and have our being”? Even the heinous, awful darkness that we often witness in our lives or in the news – as difficult as it is to swallow – is no doubt part of the dualistic whole. How could it be any other way?
If that’s the case, I would invite you to have relaxed assurance as you approach whatever spiritual endeavors that you enjoy. Be confident that an unconditionally loving and accepting Universe says “YES” to it all – YES to the entire spectrum of reality, for it is all One in the end. This means you’re free to pray and manifest and connect with the divine forces in whatever condition you are in. In other words, you’re free to be exactly who you are without shame, blame or guilt.
Suddenly the colloquial phrase, “It’s all good,” takes on a whole new meaning. Consider adopting it as your mantra for a week and see what you once shunned and proclaimed unholy in an entirely new light – the way the Universe sees it: a necessary and loved part of the whole.