Rose walks past the junction toward St. Louis and puts out her thumb. Cars go by then a brown pinto wagon comes to a stop, with a fortyish couple on board, Ron and Ruth, Ron at the wheel.
Ron puts his head out the window. “Hello! We’re going to Chicago.”
“I’m going to Akron.” Rose introduces herself and settles into the backseat, enjoying the string quartet on the radio.
“How’s your trip been so far?” Ruth has a kind face.
“Thanks to nice people like you it’s been just great!”
“We can go through Cincinnati,” Ron said.
“Please don’t put yourselves out of your way!”
Ruth says, “It’s really no problem. We were just discussing stopping to see Aunt Sally…”
“Who is in Cincinnati.” Ron finishes for her.
“Okay, thank you, that would be great!” Rose nods off to sleep. She awakens later during a heated discussion giving on in the front seat.
“Are you saying that we can go around committing crimes until the day we die and then just say, ‘Whoops sorry, Jesus, I messed up, please forgive me,’ and everything will be just hunky-dory in the afterlife?” Ron’s voice is starting to develop an edge.
“Are you denying the power of God to forgive sins?” Ruth asks calmly.
“Of course not! But your heart has to be right. You can make some honest mistakes and be forgiven, but a willful life of crime will take a lot more work than just a simple, ‘Whoops I blew it.'”
“I think Christians know that, Ron. The vicarious atonement of Christ isn’t available to hardened criminals unless they truly repent. They must stop denying their guilt, confess it before God, understand the gravity of the judgment against them, through prayer and humility forge a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, and work out their salvation with fear and trembling.”
Rose contributes to the conversation. “There are people who go around feeling guilty all of the time, and then there are others who don’t feel a shred of guilt when they should!”
“Which one are you?” Ruth turns in her seat to make eye contact.
“I’m plagued by guilt. I’m wrong if I do what other people want, and I’m wrong if I stick up for myself.”
“Are you really wrong when you stick up for yourself, or are you just made to feel wrong?” Ron makes eye contact through the rear view mirror.
“I get pushed around way too easy! I’ve got huge guilt buttons that anybody can use.” Then after a short pause, “Maybe I shouldn’t be telling you this.”
They all laugh.
“I try to do what I do for Jesus, not for the other people. If I can keep that focus, it is harder for others to make me feel bad when I don’t meet their expectations.” (Ruth)
“Or whatever name you give your Higher Power.”
“With Ron it’s Buddha.”
“Not exactly. Buddhists don’t believe in a personal God the way Christians believe in Christ as their personal savior.”
“I heard something about all religions teaching basically the same thing, just using different metaphors sometimes. I wonder if that’s true.” (Rose)
“Yes, Seventh Day Adventists believe there are other ways to the truth besides ours.”
“The SDA teaches that Jesus will appear supernaturally in the sky and pull the believers into the clouds to meet him.” Ron said with a touch or sarcasm.
“Yes, Adventists are looking to the second Advent of Christ.” Ruth says sidestepping Ron’s irony.
“Yet the scriptures used to prove the unrealistic scenario I just mentioned appear to actually be describing what happens to the soul at death.”
“Are you two married?” asked Rose.
“Yes, going on seven years.” (Ruth)
“We have diet in common. We are both vegetarian.” (Ron)
“That’s a nice thing to have in common with the person you eat with. I gave up vegetarianism for my husband.” (Rose)
“Yes. both Ron and I had conflict in the kitchen in the past with our exes.”
“I think with Buddhism, salvation, or enlightenment if you prefer, results from a careful balance of the various tendencies within yourself. Once enlightened, YOU become Buddha. He is not outside you but within.” (Ron)
“Christians believe that too. We believe that Christ is within, but primarily it is the relationship between the individual and Christ that is emphasized.”
“Precisely, but in Buddhism it is the attainment of enlightenment, which we all have the potential of attaining, that is emphasized. When we are craving things, comparing ourselves to other people and wanting what they have, we are about as unenlightened as we can get. This is the primary cause of suffering, according to Siddhartha Buddha. When you value the opinion of others about yourself more than you value your own opinion about yourself, you are in deep trouble. This is another kind of craving, wanting other people to like us. This is ignorance and works against our enlightenment. Siddhartha Buddha taught about 8 areas within ourselves that we need to get right in order to receive enlightenment.”
“Known as the 8-fold path of Buddhism.”
“Can you name them, Ruth?”
“Let’s see. Right understanding, right concentration, right effort… That’s three. Oh, right contemplation… Half way there. There was right livelihood, and is right speech one of them? Oh and right conduct, right behavior? No behavior is the same as conduct. I guess there is one more. It must be right mindfulness. Or is that the same as right contemplation?”
“Very good, Ruth. Mindfulness means awareness. It is usually the 7th on the list. The 8th, right contemplation, is a culmination of the other 7. It can only be developed with a consistent meditation practice.
“The only other thing I didn’t hear on your list was right emotion or right attitude, a very important milestone on the path to enlightenment. How often do you find yourself with a bad attitude, indulging yourself in self-pity or anger? The minute your find something to be grateful for, you feel better.”
“I am very grateful for this discussion, Ron and Ruth.”
Ron laughs. “Rose, the founder of Ruth’s organization, Ellen White,and the Founder of mine, Helena Blavatsky, were contemporaries a century ago. There were a whole lot of things founded or developed during that time period.”
“Yes, SDA arose out of the preaching of William Miller who believed Christ would return in 1844 based on prophecies in Revelation and Daniel.” (Ruth)
“About that same time period Russian born, Madam Blavatsky was studying esoteric Buddhism in India and later Tibet. She also became adept in the English language while living in London. In New York, two young women kicked off the spiritualist movement. Madam Blavatsky’s teachers sent her to New York to teach what was right — and wrong — with Spiritualism.” (Ron)
“At the same time church attendance across the spectrum was soaring in what is referred to as the Second Great Awakening. The health teachings of Natural Hygiene, Homeopathy and Naturopathy were developed and refined. Mary Baker Eddy founded Christian Science, Ellen White directed the Millerites into the Seventh Day Adventists, Emerson and Thoreau were writing their essays, the Holiness movement was becoming Pentecostal. The Mormons, Jehovah’s witnesses, and even the American Indian Ghost Dance all developed during the 19th Century. Slaves were emancipated and women’s rights gained momentum. Theorists of various fields, such as Freud and Darwin expounded their ideas.” (Ruth)
“Theosophy, based on the teachings of Helena Blavatsky, her teachers and associates, began in New York in 1875.” (Ron)
“Almost one hundred years ago.” (Rose)
“While SDA was wondering what had gone wrong with the Second Coming that was supposed to have taken place in 1844…” (Ron)
“It happened in Heaven.” (Ruth)
“As above, so below, Ruth. How so?”
“In 1844, Christ went from the Holy Place to the Holy of Holies.”
“Do you understand that, Rose?”
“It is a complicated and convoluted doctrine. It would require a time-consuming study to get it. It is the SDA excuse for not having recognized the appearance of the Divine Being in 1844, after having predicted that He would appear.” (Ron)
“Theosophy also predicted the appearance of a Divine Being, claimed it was Krishnamurti — until Krishnamurti denied that he was it.” (Ruth)
“Really? I saw him in person about 5 years ago. He is probably not quite 100, though he may be close.” (Rose)
“Did you hear him speak, Rose?” (Ron)
“Yes, in Ojai, California, outdoors, to a crowd gathered around. Made me think of what it must have been like to have heard Christ deliver the Sermon on the Mount. A very spiritual man, a humble man. I’m glad he doesn’t claim to be the return of Christ!” (Rose)
“I think the Theosophists wanted him to be the Maitreya, the Messianic figure expected by Buddhists,” explains Ruth.
“If Christ were to return in today’s world, he would have to fulfill the expectations of all religions and thus bring about world unity.”
“Very good insight, Rose! If we are ready to move away from the ill-founded notion that Christ will appear by supernatural means, and accept that he will appear as all beings on this planet, great and small, have always appeared, that is, by being born and growing up, then we might theorize that he has made his expected appearance, but thus far we have not discovered him.” (Ron)
“Buddhists send little children to monasteries where they grow up away from their families, being raised by celibate priests and nuns. Many grow up with severe emotional problems due to being isolated from their families. The monastic life is attractive to pedophiles because of the access to children and unattractive to the truly spiritual because of its prohibition against marriage.”
“Ruth, monasticism is an ancient tradition. In the Bible, Samuel was brought to the monastery by his parents and grew up there. Parents want to dedicate their children.” (Ron)
“I am thankful for the family values of SDA and other Protestant churches. Monogamous marriage is encouraged and the spiritual training of children is done in their homes and aided by other family oriented believers in children’s classes.” (Ruth)
“I have had Catholic friends tell me they were abused by the nuns in parochial schools. I think sexual frustration makes a woman angry” (Rose)
“It is certainly more natural and fulfilling for most people to be part of a monogamous, committed marriage, or a child in the care of one. All other qualifications aside, people with happy home lives make better teachers.” (Ruth)
“There was knowledge built up and checked and rechecked in Buddhist and Hindu monasteries. The adept who underwent the rigorous training in clairvoyance and clairaudience were mostly celibate. They gave up that part of themselves in order to devote themselves to the gathering and checking of esoteric knowledge.” (Ron)
“Well Ellen White received visions, spoke and wrote prolifically WHILE being married and raising a family.” (Ruth)
“Unfortunately, Ellen White didn’t have the opportunity to check her visions with other visionaries. Much of it, though inspiring, is inaccurate. The dead don’t just become inert for a period of time, they go to a place called Kamaloka, the place of desires. There they review their lives. The more we review our lives in our daily meditation practice, the easier and quicker Kamaloka, or purgatory, will be. We will spent roughly one quarter the time we spent on earth in Kamaloka, then the soul-personality disintegrates. The spiritual essence, along with whatever virtues you were able to acquire while on earth, ascend to Devachan, or heaven. There is perfect peace and bliss for a period roughly ten times as long as was your earthly life-span, then reincarnation.
“Now, isn’t that nice to know? That knowledge represents years of meditation on the part of many individuals trained in clairvoyance. We cannot assume that the visionary experiences of one person, for instance Ellen White, are correct unless her visions collaborate, and are collaborated by, the visions of others. I can personally confirm many of her health teachings with my own knowledge and intuition.”
“Thanks, Ron, for the simplified version. I have looked in your Spiritual Science books, and there is a mind boggling number of realms and layers to the being, all with Sanskrit names. Thanks for the layman’s terminology!
“I just want to express the concern that in the monasteries is a culture of alcohol and drug use. That is why married people are not allowed. They can’t derange their minds with alcohol and drugs then go home to their children. But the monks enhance their vision quests with drugs. That is why they have such short life spans!” (Ruth)
“I don’t believe that is true in Buddhism. Drunkenness is forbidden.” (Ron)
“Ostensibly yes. However, I have heard proponents of eastern philosophy admit to the use of vision enhancing drugs, and even to encourage their use by others! Personally I don’t trust the revelations of visionaries who rely on drugs! (Ellen white never used drugs or alcohol.) Also the misery of children growing up away from their families, then being denied love and marriage when they are grown, is a potent contributing factor to alcoholism and drug addiction!” (Ruth)
“Well, I wouldn’t like the monastic life either, and I certainly wouldn’t force it on another person!” Ron was ready to set aside his strong opinions and agree with his wife.
“We are close to our destination in Cincinnati now, Rose. It was wonderful traveling with you.”
“I am grateful for the help and insight of the two of you!”
“Look at the weather, Rose, it’s raining! Please let us treat you to dinner at a nearby restaurant and put you up for the night with us in a hotel!”
The next day, Rose is walking with her guitar on her back. She turns to a door and knocks.
In a crowded living room, members of an extended Afro-American family of all ages are sitting, moving around, conversing and playing. Rose and 25-year-old, light-skinned black Derek are sitting on a couch together.
“Not sure where you can stay,” says Derek.
“I’ll get a job and an apartment.”
“I’ll try to work something out until then. Maybe my brother Walter has room.”
One month later, Rose has a studio apartment. Inside, Derek is playing the Congo drum while Rose dances.
Two weeks later in the same apartment, Rose is in a chair reading. Derek enters through the door holding an object.
“Look at this!” he says excitedly.
Rose looks into a little viewer and sees a sexy picture of a hefty but good looking black woman whom she recognizes as Connie, a former (she thought) girlfriend of Derek’s.
“So you are still going with Connie? If I had known you were two timing me I would never have come back!” Rose throws the viewer in the toilet and flushes.
Derek picks up the Congo drum and throws it into Rose’s face.
In a doctor’s office, Dr. Grey is stitching up a long gash on Rose’s forehead. “Who did this to you?”
“It was an accident.”
“I’m going to send Officer Brown in to speak with you.” Dr. Grey finishes the stitches. “Please wait for Officer Brown.” Dr. Grey leaves the room.
Rose relaxes on the table. Officer Brown enters the room. “Rose, you have the right to file charges against whoever did this to you.”
“I don’t choose to file charges.”
“Be sure to let us know if you change your mind, okay?”
Later that night, Rose with her bandaged head and Derek are in bed together.
“Do you forgive me?” he asks.
“Okay I forgive you for flushing Connie’s picture.” Derek mounts Rose and they kiss.
A week later Rose is in her apartment wearing pajamas. Her gash is partly healed and no longer bandaged. She is standing by the closet hanging something up.
Suddenly Derek enters through the door. “Rose! Walter say he fucked you!”
“That’s not true, Derek, I’ve never been with Walter!”
“You’re lying Rose!” Derek approaches with his hands raised. Rose backs toward the bed until her legs touch it and then sits down. Derek throttles her throat.
“My own brother! How could you?” Rose goes limp.