The Big PictureJanuary 27th, 2013
tags: remember
The Big Picture

It seems we need a crisis, global or personal, to remind us of our spiritual roots.

For a historic perspective on this apparently universal phenonmenon, I rely on Karen Armstrong. In her book, The Great Transformation, she brilliantly details the impetus' for the world's four major religious traditions and does it in a way we can all relate to. Karen refers to the Axil Age, a pivotal time beginning in the ninth century BCE when sage teachings first took hold in primary, developed cultures. These sages are familiar to all of us - Isaiah, Confucius, Buddha, Socrates, and many more. With the passion and skill of an artisan, Karen reveals the players, the forces, the decisions and the beliefs that fueled the birth and blossoming of spiritual thought.

What she found might surprise you - spiritual focus and insight were provoked by the destructive forces of their day. “All Axil Age faiths began in principled and visceral recoil from the unprecedented violence of their time. Despite some differences in emphasis, there was a remarkable consensus in their call for an abandonment of selfishness and a spirituality of compassion.”

I find comfort in this broad, panoramic view. This isn’t the first go-around. Mankind has lost perspective before - many times, apparently - and we have, with the help of poets, and wise men and women, found our way back to higher ground. It seems as though we need to fall apart on a semi-regular basis in order to remind ourselves about what's essential and what's optional. I suppose this falling apart, as painful as it may be, is a good thing, an opportunity to let go of old assumptions that no longer work and seek out deeper, fundamental truths.