Glendalough, Co. Wicklow

Who is responsible for our path?, for our journey?, for how far we travel? for which path we take? or for in whose company we travel?

Ourselves of course, ourselves alone.

We can receive guidance, help, companionship and love but our journey is our responsibility alone.  There are many paths to God, to spiritual development,  this we must accept.  It is not likely, not possible even, that there is only one true path, although many believe that.  So many religions, so many varieties of each religion, so many individuals in each variety; how could there be only one path.

Why would there be such diversity?  Is it possible that there are many gods, each with a different path to them so that they might hold an annual competition to see how many followers each attracted?  How many people do you know who are exactly like yourself – if you have the same opinion as most of us, the answer is ‘none’.  And, of course, this planet, this universe is populated with many organisms other than humans.  So, it is likely that the diversity lies in us, in the humans, in the pilgrims.  Sometimes this diversity causes us to argue, to fight even, to spill blood and lives, but there is no indication that the divine does not approve of this diversity, maybe even welcomes it.  What kind of God would desire a boring creation, only a boring God of course and such a possibility does not seem to exist.  Wiser beings, such as the great religious leaders, try to show us how to approach God, how to develop spiritually, how to become enlightened.  They set us an example, it influences us a little, for a little while but it doesn’t last.  We drift off on our own routes, testing the steps for ourselves.  Such is the human condition.

Spiritual development may be like a great mountain with many trails to the summit, some more difficult than others, some passing through plateaus where the traveler might rest for a while, some trails more vertical with little options for pausing or delaying.


I have climbed Croagh Patrick, Ireland’s Holy Mountain, in County Mayo on the west coast, each year for the last three years and hope to do it again this year.  Yes, i know, like many things i started it late in life.  We always do it with extended family members which makes it a little bit more special.  The mountain only stretches to a height of 764 metres but as the climb starts almost at sea level it is still a serious hike.  It is a traditional pilgrimage, which helps to focus the mind on things spiritual, but the slow, step-by-step ascent also calms the mind and eases the entry of spiritual thoughts.  The traditional day for the pilgrimage is known as ‘Reek Sunday’, the mountain also been known as the Reek, and is the last Sunday in July.  It is believed that the pilgrimage has been held yearly for about 1,500 years and the path to the summit is well worn, although very rocky and steep in places.  St Patrick is believed to have fasted on the mountain top for forty days in about the fifth century AD.   Numbers which climb on Reek Sunday vary between 15,000 and 30,000 but people climb the mountain nearly every day of the year, nearly 100,000 of them.  Like all, or certainly most, Christian traditions, it is believed that the mountain was a location for pagan pilgrimages, associated with the summer solstice, going back to about 3,000 BC.  That’s a lot of footsteps to be walking in, a lot of history to be following, and a lot of spirituality to absorb.  Long may it continue.  Who would say that any of those pilgrims who trod this ancient path over the last 5,000 years were not on a spiritual path?; who would say that any of those hundreds of thousands pilgrims were on the wrong route to spiritual enlightenment?


God, the divine being, is a God of variety and diversity. A lover of variety and diversity, otherwise why would such a multiplicity of life, of forms be created?  There are many paths, just as there are many beings, but there is only one God.  I have seen our spiritual journey described as being like a wheel.  God is the hub.  The spokes of the wheel represent the paths, the religions and the individual paths which lead to God.  The spokes are innumerable.


Such is the wheel of life.

Many of us prefer to journey around the rim, taking the easy route, never moving closer to God, but our purpose here, our destiny, is to move towards the divine, the summit, our spiritual enlightenment.

Scott Peck, in ‘The Road Less Traveled’, acknowledges that many wish to be brought along the path, to be transported without having to make any effort.  He comments, “There are many who, by virtue of their passivity, dependency, fear and laziness, seek to be shown every inch of the way and have it demonstrated to them that each step will be safe and worth their while.  This cannot be done.”  

This may be where faith comes into the equation, we cannot be shown that each step will be safe and worthwhile, we must believe it, and believing it, take that step and the next one and the next.  Of course, like all the advertisements about financial investments, the past is no guarantee for the future; just because all has gone well to date does not mean that there is not a precipice around the next corner.  Each step is truly a new and unique step, the past is only significant insofar as it got us to here, to this present moment.  And that we can learn from it, from our past, from that of others and from tales of past times and events of our civilization.  Other than that, we can dismiss it.  There is no need to hold on to it, to old grudges, or memories of mistakes.  If we accept that we can change, that we can redeem ourselves, then we must accept that others have the same powers and that they may have utilized them without informing us personally.  To live is to change.



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