It speaks to the levels of spiritual development and how so many become trapped at the most basic level.

At the most basic level of spiritual development one is at a juvenile stage. It speaks to the only way in which spiritual symbols and stories can be related to children who are not developed enough to comprehend metaphor and symbolism. We tell children about Santa Claus as if he is an actual person because the broader concept that fuels the image of Santa Claus as a symbol of giving is not one they can truly understand. So it becomes a literal story about a literal person who flies around on a sled getting involved in home invasions and never getting shot by anyone. It is the same with the symbolism that conceals core meanings in religion. At first they are told as literal stories about actual people and actual events rather than what they are. Most people generally have a hard time forming a belief system out of thin air and need a starter kit, which is what organized religion provides. What happens is that a majority of people get trapped at this stage and never advance beyond it. Instead of moving towards the within, where the true bastion of spiritual life is, they seek the without, interpreting mythical figures and events as that which they must strive to develop a relationship with. The real purpose is to develop a relationship with oneself to bring about change from within.

This level most commonly endures because of the fellowship that comes from being part of an organized religion. Others support and promote the belief system on a literal level. One becomes part of the machine that does just that. One is never shown any way to move beyond these limitations. The biggest problem here, aside from the obvious, is that a personification of a deity is not a deity. It is an effort to put a human face on a concept that is too difficult to explain and understand without doing so. One can never truly know the unknowable, by definition and design, and comprehending that can be exhausting for those unprepared to accept what it actually means.

The second level of spirituality comes from extrapolating your own personal experiences and interpretations to an existing belief system, or creating your own belief system based on personal experience. In the second case you cannot help but to incorporate existing symbols and metaphors. It is all but impossible to create a belief system out of nothingness. Existing symbols, rituals and personifications naturally become the foundation for any personal mythology.

The personal spiritual experience is far more meaningful than learning holy books and rites by rote. It is colored by your own experiences with religion and whatever else manages to find its way in. For those who are devoted to a strict interpretation of the spiritual through the lens of a single religion, the experience is bound to be colored exclusively to be viewed via that lens. If you expect to see Jesus on your spiritual journey, you will. If you expect to see Dog Boy the Leper King, you will. It all depends on what holds meaning for you because what these things represent is a symbolic interpretation of that which cannot be understood or known. It requires translation through a sort of dumbing down matrix so that we can begin to comprehend the path we are travelling on, a path I am quite convinced goes on eternally and does not have a destination.

We are each travelers on a journey that can be filled with much adventure. Each of us has a unique adventure. Every aspect of life can be turned into an adventure, but many people wallow in the sort of misery that comes from fighting meaningless battles over trivial matters. And often they translate these trivial matters into The Big Thing because it fills the emptiness of their lives. And then they seek justification for the importance of those matters.

The third level of spiritual development is this: If you meet the Buddha on the road, kill him. Once your symbols, your personifications, become real to you on the road of spiritual life you must destroy them. When they become real they are no longer metaphors, they are no longer symbols calling on you to seek deeper within yourself, they have become It. And embracing It is a very dangerous path because it stops our spiritual development in its tracks.

Translating faith in the unknowable into concrete forms, into literal figures to be taken as historical realities, makes your belief system about defending absurdities and disarming faith by convincing yourself it is science and history. It separates you from the universal experience. It puts you into immediate conflict with any who do not accept your professed truths. The personifications and forms are like training wheels on a bicycle. If you never take them off, are you really ever riding a bike?

Faith is the inward journey, not the outward interpretation of the world around you. It is about becoming one with all things, about becoming able to hear the song of the universe and to enable ourselves to move in tune with it. It is about knowing we are all part of that song and that our real conflicts are not with others but within ourselves.