By: Joseph Daylover
Growing up Catholic, I read an illustrated version of the Bible for kids, Old and New Testament, cover to cover. The story of Passover, like many others, scared the bejesus out of me. The sacrificing of first-born children, the blood on doors, and the wrath of God—all of it felt more like a ghost story rather than Holy Scripture. I remember feeling the heaviness of that book, a bulky thing carrying the weight of expectations and all the punishments spelled out to warn the sinner against wrongdoing. My first experience of God was traditionally Catholic, and that was being afraid of God.
Now, part of that has to do with my strict, traditional upbringing, but it’s also the prescribed method, even if we didn’t really know it. In St. Augustine’s “On Christian Doctrine”—one of the earliest authoritative texts of the Post Apostlistic church, he identifies fear as the first step toward true faith, or wisdom. While this has merit, my path would be far more roundabout—moving across the country, substituting the Bible for Literature and the arts, graduating with a Master’s in English, starting a Theatre company, meeting my dear Wife and coming back to belief via the Tao. Ironically, we’re reading St. Augustine for a course I now teach in Ancient and Medieval cultures. God certainly has a sense of humor. Now that I have reclaimed faith after years of being an agnostic, I can understand the context and relish in that book’s power.
It’s also worth noting that, growing up, I was never taught how to interpret the Bible. The metaphysical meanings of each story, I would later find out, are profound, all encompassing. Passover represents the victory of faith, or the soul—represented by the Israelites, over the self and sense experience, represented by Egyptians. I can relate, having turned away from God early on toward the self and the experiences of this world being our only teacher. Basically, that happened because of distrust--since God’s wrath could reign down upon me for any transgression, then why should I should trust Him? And if I can’t trust him, who can I trust? Well, I can trust myself. That’s more or less the thought process ending in isolation and the worship of my own flawed rationality over faith.
Back to Passover and the blood on the doors. I interpret that as a sign of trust between God’s chosen and the Creator, that he would lead them out of slavery and toward salvation. They should trust him despite the bleak reality before them. The journey would be long, but God would deliver his first born to rid us of our reliance upon the karmic wheel where ritual sacrifice was supposed to curry God’s favor. Similarly, trust lied at the heart of my journey, all along. Perhaps that should be the starting point over fear. It gets tricky, though, because in order to trust I had to distrust first. I had to get it wrong to get it right. Surely no one can relate to that. Yeah, that sounds like an original story.
Note: for the curious, St. Augustine’s 7-fold path to wisdom goes: Fear, Piety, Knowledge, Resolution, Counsel, Purification of Heart—Wisdom.
What kind of life would you lead if you had no fear? #AlchemistMovement