Dear old and new friends,
We live in a time of religious confusion and uncertainty when after several thousand years institutional religion is dying. As membership in the major religious churches is rapidly shrinking many are confused if their religious feelings are still valid. Their question is answered by Carl Jung, the great Swiss psychiatrist of our time, who affirmed that the human spirit is “by nature religious.”
If that is true he formulated our wonderment when he said, “Christians often ask why God does not speak to them, as he is believed to have done in former days.” Jung could have responded that today our daily lives are so noisily filled with continuous music, news or entertainment we couldn’t hear God if he shouted at us. Or Jung could have said, “The ears of those of former times were empty except for the living sounds of nature, so they heard God speaking to their non-scientific ears communicating in code by ear-piercing thunder, mystifying inexplicable diseases and an abundant harvest.
Instead wise Carl Jung answered that question with a story! He said whenever he hears that God no longer speaks as in olden times he is reminded of the story of a rabbi who was asked the same question. The rabbi replied, “Nowadays there is no longer anybody who can bow low enough!” And we could answer, “Nowadays there is no longer anybody who bows (period).”
Bowing is an ancient human gesture so it has numerous meanings; it is used both as a greeting and a sign of assenting to a request. It can indicate respect or recognition of another’s rank…and added to a bow before royalty was touching one knee to the floor as in genuflecting. In the rabbi’s story the bowing was an act of worship, and the deeper the head and shoulders were bowed down the more profound the veneration.
All symbolic actions like bowing or genuflecting can easily become hollow and empty of authentic reverence, which is a real temptation for us who had a revolution to be liberated from all that bowing and scraping before nobility. Powerfully imbedded in our American spirit is social equality and classlessness that even influences us religiously. Is our Religious Americanism the reason for half-hearted, hasty if not sloppy gestures of religious reverence? As has been said, “One can tell the depth of a man’s faith by the way he makes the sign of the cross!” If so, then wouldn’t a casual glance at our public worship reveal a rather shallow depth of faith?
So let us consider adopting bowing as a daily sign of reverence. With a slight nod of your head greet with respect all those who serve you in whatever capacity. With a bow acknowledge the Invisible Presence in a beautiful flower or the song of a bird. Employ the same awesomely profound bow you’d make to a storm-damaged black-snaking high voltage cable to your next Divine visitation in the escape from a fatal accident, the innocence in the face of small child or being touched by affectionate bottomless love.