11 Now the whole world had one language and a common speech. 2 As people moved eastward, they found a plain in Shinar and settled there.
3 They said to each other, “Come, let’s make bricks and bake them thoroughly.” They used brick instead of stone, and tar for mortar. 4 Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves; otherwise we will be scattered over the face of the whole earth.”
5 But the Lord came down to see the city and the tower the people were building.6 The Lord said, “If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them. 7 Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other.”
8 So the Lord scattered them from there over all the earth, and they stopped building the city. 9 That is why it was called Babel—because there the Lord confused the language of the whole world. From there the Lord scattered them over the face of the whole earth.
-The Bible, New International Version
The story of Babel is a pretty straight forward anecdote, it seems. This story depicts how God confused humans with language to keep them from being able to reach the kingdom of heaven. This story was always simplified to me as the creation of different languages.
Its interesting, because the entire point of the Bible is so that people can eventually create a relationship with God and reach the kingdom of heaven through that relationship, through faith, through hope–through love. However, the point of this anecdote, I believe, is that we cannot reach the kingdom of heaven externally, and though we can encourage each other, we each need to find Heaven on our own through an inner journey.
Depending on your personal theology, Heaven could be a place you go when you die, or a place you know when you’re living. It could be the place where you sit eternally in the right hand of the father God, or it could be finding a peaceful state of mind in your everyday life to ease the suffering of existential living. It could be the completion of a cycle of Samsara, it could be enlightenment, it could be empathy and understanding. It could simply be inner-Love, leading to inner-peace.
Regardless of your personal ideas of Heaven, the successful means to achieving it is through inward reflection–not through outward achievement. Religion calls it prayer and meditation–developing and deepening your relationship with God, Goddess, Jesus, Buddha, Nature, self, the Universe– whoever or whatever you see as divine and unconditional Love. Psychology calls it mindfulness and credits it to calming the mind of its constant rotating function and slowing the function of the body to lessen stress and turmoil. Either way, it is achieved through making an individual and conscious choice to turn inward. It is a choice made by the one who will experience it and it is a choice made in the moment it is needed, which for some is constant.
What I find interesting is the evolution of these biblical anecdotes to fit our modern understanding. Nowadays, the issue they faced in the story of Babel is not an issue. We have learned to bridge the gap of languages. So, if we were to take this story literally, it might prove to show that we could reach the Heavens through combined intellect and group work. However, we know that sky scrapers and airplanes have not gotten us there. We know that space exploration has not gotten us there. We have far exceeded the attempt of the men of Babel to reach the kingdom of Heaven, and yet as a whole we know God, or divine Love, less than ever in many ways.
I think this story has its own evolution, and as we evolve and grown as a species it is important to recognize how this anecdote is relevant to us. I believe that, societally and individually, as our understanding grows there is still always something which keeps us from concretely knowing the great mysteries of the universe. There is always more to know and learn. This brings to mind the question–what is our barrier beyond language, and beyond that?
I believe that once we overcome the confusion of world languages, the next factor of confusion is a different type of language. This is the language of understanding. Now, the differences between English, Spanish, Italian, Tagalog, Japanese, etc. are difficult, but not impossible barriers to overcome. However, within those languages, we speak many other languages linked to our personal understandings of the realities we individually and collectively experience.
Religious dogmas from many different origins have great similarities in their message, in their concept of divinity, in the means to getting there. The thing that keeps us from collectively bringing our thoughts together at that point is this difference in truths and our inability to acknowledge there is more than one way of living a divine life, there is more than one way to develop a lasting relationship with the Love in ourselves and the universe.
For example, Christians often talk about The Truth, The Way. Traditional Christianity believes their means of finding God, their understanding of God, is the only one. So, while many Christians might be incredibly tolerant of other religions, they do not believe that what they have found and what another enlightened person has found are the same thing.
I have a dear friend who is Christian and tell me all about the many ways in which God speaks to her. When I tell her the many ways in which the Universe speaks to me, she discredits them as demonic and ungodly. Not because they are unlike the messages she is receiving, but because I believe the messages are coming from the Universal Divine and she believes hers are coming from God through Jesus.
We are all saying the same things. Almost all the time.
The most important messages which lie underneath every dogma are universal. Unconditional love. Forgiveness. Compassion. Charity. Grace. Faith. Trust. Hope.
These are the universal messages because they are necessities for our being–no mater what you believe yourself to be made of. My soul needs Grace, Faith, Hope, Trust, and Love. My mind needs forgiveness, compassion, charity, and empathy. My being as a whole relies on these things as much as it relies on food and water. The Human Condition is the undeniable craving we have for these things, and all beliefs seek to fulfill that need.
I believe the current “Tower of Babel” is this; we are building up our own beliefs and our own philosophies at the cost and expense of others’. We are allowing some religions to control others, some beliefs to dominate the world. Each dogma is building its own fortress of infrastructure with its beliefs–manipulating gospels to withstand the storms of time. But the pieces of the gospel that withstand the storms of change hold greater strength than the messages which need manipulation.
I think, throughout history, the need to gain a following for any one dogma has been partially motivated by the need to validate the inner experience. It is a task to validate one’s inner experience as real–as it is an abstract experience. So when we have a spiritual awakening, or a moment of clarity, or a conversation with God, or a sensation of love all around us, we need to tell someone about it and have them agree enough to validate, in a more tangible way, that the abstract experience we are having is real. The whole point of seeking that relationship internally is that is shouldn’t matter whether or not we have other people’s validation. Our experiences are real simply because we are experiencing them. It doesn’t matter that they’re not universal experiences of our shared reality. It doesn’t matter if the means by which you experience the divine is different than someone else’s, so long as it is pure and good and brings you peace.
Currently, the forces that be (God, Universe, etc.) are challenging us to see beyond separatism. The current state of our world is showing us the demonic powers of control, greed, fear, hate and individualism. God is tearing down our towers–every single one of them.
We are being reminded that no external power is as strong as the limitless potential that lies within each of us.
The Kingdom of Heaven (or whatever eternal peace you seek) cannot be reached externally, and it is not reached in only one manner. It must be reached internally, and the journey must be made alone. Each individual’s understanding of “God” will be as unique as the person themselves. Their understanding and path to Love will be a comforting collection of wisdom from their own experiences, influences, history, ancestry, and mental/emotional capacity.
If we are able to accept our differences, not as a threat to our identity and sense of reality, but as a difference of experiences and perceptions of reality, then we can bridge the gaps that currently divide our planet currently. We could empathize without ego. We could find purpose without false pride. We could collectively grow as a civilization, rather than watching the privileged defaults of our society constantly win at the expense of the “others”.
I believe the religion of the future will be much like some, less known dogmas have been in the past. It will not be one collective religion, but rather a collective understanding that all beliefs are equal so long as they focus around internal reflection, love, forgiveness, and the other universal messages which have withstood the storms of time in every religion and dogma. For these are the elements of existence which do not hold back or condemn any one group, but which allow us to peacefully coexist without the need to shine brighter or bigger than any other living being.
Every person should, essentially, be taught a variety of beliefs from which they can assemble their own toolkit for connecting with divinity. Some methods will work better for certain people than other methods–and that should be ok. It should certainly not be a means of persecution or isolation–so long as it doesn’t harm or take away freedoms from others.
If we can overcome this modern Tower of Babel and recognize that every being is divine, no matter how they seek it, we will be able to empathize, love, and coexist more peacefully–which will bring us closer to the kingdom of heaven–collectively–then we have ever been before.
The journey must be made alone. Divinity is found, first and foremost, within the Self.