If I have succeeded in relativizing most or all of the religious establishment, what remains for me to look to? Where is my spiritual authority?
I can only speak for myself. First of all I feel strongly that everyone's spiritual authority is unique to himself. True as long as we are individuals.
In all liklihood yours may be nothing like mine. You and I may be unique, but we do have a certain amount of congruence, some things in common. Here's what I feel may be shared by a certain number of people:
There is the initiating experience (unique, but containing shared portions), and there is the community: a group of people with whom we have enough congruence to be comfortable.
Using two familiar words already loaded with baggage we could call it the new birth and the church. I believe that all those who sincerely seek God will find what is most appropriate for themselves. Call that the new birth, or even baptism (two metaphors that have widely varying meanings).
With a new lease on life one begins to look around for fellows, people with approximately common values. We call this church, which may be as few as three people.
I try to remember that I must be born again, and again, and again. In fact it seems to be happening more frequently.
[This will contain other, and perhaps different material tomorrow.]
Onward (the above was written late at night, in an exhausted state; but let it stand:
Realizing that it's between us and God (with no middleman!) we then know that it's up to each of us to be responsible for ourselves--
our values, our behaviour, our attitudes. Everything that I have formerly discounted becomes a resource. Your conscience is baptized, and you must pick and choose.
I chose the statement of Jesus that God loves me. I believed it, acted on it, got all sorts of gracious answers. But I remained perplexed about Jesus-- who, what is he.
For me he has always been primarily the one who told me about a loving God. He is a son of God, and following his guidance, so am I.
We are brothers. Also brothers of Buddha, and all the others. We have only to love. (Love is much more than a four letter word.)
My first reaction was to love myself. Suddenly hey! I'm okay. I looked around and saw how much worse off almost everybody was. I thought I was sick. Hah!
My second reaction was to love God. Simple gratitude for what had happened to me; the desire to do things pleasing to God. I can never repay, but I can show my gratitude, and be thankful. Cultivate the gift of thankfulness.
Then, knowing that God has commanded me to love everyone else, I set out to try. 47 years later I'm still trying. But whatever little vestige of love I can achieve God accepts.
That's the whole ball game.