Golden Thread Magazine
Volume 1, No. 1, October 1986.
Glimpse of the Golden Thread
By Rev. Robert Sisler
Throughout history, the mind of man has developed innumerable notions and ideas to explain mankind’s existence and its full meaning. Since mankind’s dawning of awareness, when the faculty of reflective thought developed within the physical brain of evolving Homo sapiens, the race of man has sought to know the answer to the fundamental question, “Why are we here?”
Historical evidence points out that this particular question was a universal one on our planet, as proposed answers can be found in every culture of which we have some sort of record. From the magnificent hieroglyphs of ancient Egypt, to the subtle spirits of Shinto in Japan, individuals and cultures have created, interpreted, and adopted explanations for our existence and purpose in life. This search for understanding and knowing has proven to be the favorite human pastime. Our ancestors, like ourselves, sought security in knowing who they were.
Our ancient religions were composed of a mixture of truth and imagination, which served to fill in the gaps that existed in the knowledge of spiritual truth. A god or system of gods, as well as their deeds, served as convenient avenues for explaining what the mind of man could grasp. Truth and myth found themselves inseparably tied to each other and passed down through the culture of the day. Very often religious philosophies were adopted by the ruling power and put into practice in ways that enhanced their own power and gave a sense of common identity to the members of that culture of the day. In ancient Egypt, we know from historical records that Pharaoh was identified as being a deity, as well as earthly monarch.
If we look at the major religions of today, none is a recent arrival on the scene. Christianity is nearly 2,000 years old, and its Jewish roots can be traced at least one thousand years before that. Islam can realistically be called the youngest of the great religions, being formed by Mohammed in the 7th century, A.D. This is misleading, though, for the vine of Islam sprang from the same ancient root as Judaism. Mankind, it seems, has not ventured to change its answers to the questions of why we are here for a very long time. Instead, we are apparently satisfied with the assumptions which have been passed down through various cultures, and vast amounts of time.
Occasionally a bright light comes on the scene to challenge the beliefs of a culture and the religious philosophy woven into it. Such were the lifetimes of Jesus and Siddhartha Gautama, the Buddha. Both men were enlightened in the deepest sense about the nature of mankind, its spiritual foundation, and the need to point out a pathway of developing that spiritual potential to the highest degree.
Jesus grew up in the philosophy of Judaism and became a rabbi. Gautama grew up in the Hindu tradition, the son of a wealthy ruler. As both of these men developed in age and wisdom, they began to question the cultural and religious traditions of which they were a part. Understanding the simple truth of mankind’s need to develop its spiritual nature, these teachers began to instruct their followers in ways of living which seemed contrary to the culture, but which were in fact based on their insight into the truth. Each attempted to separate that simple golden thread of truth from the religious myth and ritual which had accumulated through the years. Along this golden thread of truth lie the simple Spiritual Laws which, when put into action, can allow mankind to realize and utilize the potential it possesses. The lifetimes and deeds of those two individuals illustrates one of the beautiful ways in which that potential can be used not only for personal fulfillment, but for the good of countless others.
A question naturally arises in our minds, though. If these two individuals were both seeing the truth about mankind’s spiritual nature, then why do their philosophies appear to be so divergent as they exist today? If Jesus and Buddha would have lived at the same time, do you suppose that they would have been supportive of each other’s teachings? This can provide one with hours of speculation, no doubt. Knowing that each was seeing that golden thread of truth, their teachings must have been very similar. Again, we face the question of why do their teachings, as they exist today, appear to be quite different? Let me attempt to make some sense out of this dilemma.
In looking for records of the teachings of these two men we begin to see some reasons. Gautama the Buddha began teaching his philosophy at approximately thirty-six years of age, and continued until he died nearly forty-seven years later. He was able to present and clarify his teachings for a long, consistent duration. Buddha was also able to write down many of his ideas, which are still intact in monasteries in India, Sri Lanka, and Nepal. Although there have been some distortions of the teachings and practices in some cultures, most notably in Tibet, the core of the Buddha’s teachings has survived.
When we look at the transmission of the teachings of Jesus, they have come down to us in a very different manner. As far as we can ascertain from records, the ministry of Jesus lasted approximately eighteen months. The only record of the teachings of Jesus is the New Testament. Jesus did not write down any of his teachings. We have a record in the four gospels, but we must remember that these were written down many years after the death of Jesus. Matthew and John were two of the twelve apostles, but the record is not clear as to the relationship between Jesus, Luke and Mark. It is also very likely that the gospels represent an oral tradition that was later written down in Greek by the followers of these four men. We also find in the historical transmission of the New Testament, a long series of translations and interpretations over the years, by various individuals or councils.
What I am attempting to point out is that the basic teachings of Jesus have been affected by the interpretation of individuals and cultures which they have touched. Jesus did not leave us his own written record with which we might keep the translators on target. Of significant importance also, is the fact that he was on the scene for such a short period of time. He was not able to reinforce his teachings in the minds of his disciples, nor could he correct any misinterpretations of his teachings.
I hope this brief discussion helps you to understand, from a historical perspective, how that golden thread of truth can be affected and camouflaged by the interpretations of the mind of man. How, the challenge exists for us to be able to discern that thread, in whatever source we want to examine. This is the simple purpose for my writing this series of articles. A basic tenet in the philosophy of the Chapel of Awareness is that each of us can, and must, learn to see that golden thread of truth.
At this point, I should define what is meant by the golden thread. Universal or Spiritual Laws underlie all of the events that occur in this ever-changing universe of which we are a part. Being parts of this universe, what we are, and why we are here, is dictated by those Universal Laws. When enlightened individuals perceive those simple truths and communicate their perception, in written or verbal form, that teaching is the golden thread. Because we are spirit as Jesus, Buddha, and all other enlightened individuals have been, we too can know and understand these simple but powerful truths.
We must, therefore, learn to control our minds in order to perceive the simple truth, and this we can do with meditation. In this manner we invite the truth into our awareness and release fear and doubt which cloud the mind. Here, we ensure our constant spiritual development
Each of us can know for ourselves the simple, beautiful ideas that all the great spiritual teachers have attempted to explain to mankind. This knowledge can be put into daily practice to create for yourself a life which will be a thing of beauty. This knowledge will also help you to bring to others something of value, something which is positive. As with anything of lasting value, training the mind to perceive the truth is something which you must work at daily, with self-examination and honesty. It is best to take things a step at a time.
In the articles to follow, I am going to be examining scriptures from around our world, from various time periods. Many of these will be familiar to you and others might seem to be obscure. Many lesser-known sources present the golden thread of truth in such a beautiful way. It is my hope that in questioning the religious writings of man, we can discover the simple teachings that enlightened individuals attempted to bring to the lives of others. I will try to separate the tarnish of cultural influences, and personal interpretation, from the purity of Spiritual Law. Doing more than just acknowledging that they exist, the real difference begins when we put these laws to work in our lives.
I am pleased and excited to be part of this great new undertaking by the Chapel of Awareness. It presents to all of us, authors as well as readers, the opportunity to take another step along our paths. Although each of us walks a different pathway, and we each have different experiences, we need to understand that we all live under the same Universal Laws. All paths lead to spiritual perfection and with this realization, mankind can begin to live with compassion. By working together, we can all learn to glimpse the golden thread which binds us together!
Copyright 1986 by Awareness Press (a wholly owned subsidiary of the Chapel of Awareness Spiritual Church Corporation -a California non-profit religious and educational corporation.) The right to copy portions is granted to individuals who purchase and use a copy for personal use but not for sale or distribution. Chapel of Awareness, 560 Third Street, Encinitas, CA 92024. www.chapelofawareness.org.