The Third World

When a man knows God, he is free: his sorrows have an end, and birth and death are no more. When in inner union he is beyond the world of the body, then the third world, the world of the Spirit, is found, where the power of the All is, and man has all: for he is one with the One.

    - Svetasvatara Upanishad, Part I - Juan Mascaro, Translation (1967)

This is one of my favorite passages from any religious text. The Upanishads are all exceedingly beautiful, but this one short segment so well summarizes the idea of hierophany—of joining with the Sacred in a moment of transcendence—that I always keep it close by. There are days when it’s hard to pray at all, let alone feel that beautiful connection with God. At those times when faith is a dry desert I fall back on poetry. The written word can put me in an empathetic mood so easily it often helps me find my way back. Can you feel it when you read that quote? Doesn’t it call to something familiar inside you and beg you to share in the memory of that experience?

Despite the wonderful strides I’ve been making in my discernment, the spiritually dry days still come. I wake up late for work and rush without breakfast or prayer. I come home late and exhausted and all I want to do is sit and watch Hulu and eat pizza. There are days when I feel like there’s no energy left for God. I know I’m being ridiculous, of course. I know that I’d feel better if I made the time, but some days my quest for motivation fails.

My spiritual director reassures me it happens to everyone, and that while I’m still in this lifestyle I’m going to find it particularly difficult to find the time here and there for prayer. He says that when you live a life structured around it, things come a little easier. Its certainly a relief to think that one day I might live a life where the feeling they talk about in the Upanishads will be a daily occurrence.

I’ve been looking for that connection to the world of the Spirit for a long time, much longer than my present discernment. Even in the really early days before I turned away from the church, it was the most beautiful thing I could want. After I started looking at other religions it remained with me as a common theme pulling them all together. It was there when I looked at Judaism, Islam, and the Bahá’í Faith. When I studied Gnosticism, Kabbalah, Sufism, and Tantra, it was there. Through Buddhism, Hindu and Jainism, uniting with the sacred held it together. Confucianism, Shinto, Taoism, the same. Even when I looked at Sami, Tadibya, Tengrism, Leni Lenape myths, and all the wonderful Neopagan interbreeding branches, there was my familiar friend.

With all of that searching, it took me so long to finally come back to where I had started. It took me going away, falling and failing, scraping deeper into everything I could find only to see reflections of what I already had. Finally, when I was forced to stop thinking and searching and I just started listening and being, I finally felt a call to that Third World that spoke to me. It called me instead of waiting for me to seek it out.

So now when I have a dry spell, I look back on one of those many sacred texts I’ve read and enjoyed for their beauty of language and idea and I let them return me to the mindset of faith, not because I found a particular truth in them, but because they were so integral to the journey that opened my eyes to the call I’d had all along.