I truly believe my grandma could walk on water. Seriously. If she’d only wanted to. The power of her faith was as strong as the steel they produced in the factories of my hometown.
I remember her praying: every morning and every night before bed. She knew volumes of them by heart. She would read a prayer over me, when I was all tucked in… She knew all the services and all the holy holidays. She knew how to fast and how to make the most delicious kulich* (in Russia it’s a sweet bread made on Easter, usually decorated with icing, dry fruit and sprinkles). There were silver-clad icons in her house, which she’d inherited from her mother and her mother in her turn from her mother. I guess they were pretty antique-y… and cost a pretty penny, but to me they were just that – sacred. She’s never missed a church on Sunday. She was a saint.
When I was 10 a middle-aged man all the way from America came to visit one day. A family friend. I don’t know what religion or belief he was, but he called all the few icons that my mom had at home – pictures. My world shattered. I couldn’t sleep that night. How dared he?! I loved America, I loved jeans, Bruce Willis and Disney, but honestly how dared he?!
I knew God was real. I was sitting in my family’s garden reading the kids’ Bible one fine summer. I still remember it clear as day: a beautiful volume in a heavenly blue cover with glossy gilded pages. The pictures were coloured. I was totally immersed in it. It was so exciting to read, especially the Old Testament. Loads of different characters and I loved their costumes, especially armour. But I caught myself thinking that it was just as exciting to read it as the tales of Grimm Brothers’ or any other book for that matter and that it actually had nothing to do with what or, more importantly, how I believed and perceived God. I decided to put the Bible aside for a second. The moment this thought struck me – a blazing vein of lightning struck few metres away from me and a raving storm broke out for the rest of the day. I knew – He was real.
I was always reading as far as I remember. Nose always stuck in a book. I loved everything: adventures, novels, history books and, especially, the books on ancient history and religion. I was totally mesmerised by the ancient gods of Egyptians. My own Slavic gods were not as cool. Leshy* doesn’t stand a freaking chance against Anubis! (in a Slavic mythology a god of forests, https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leshy ) .The shenanigans of the gods in the Northern realm just made me burst out laughing! Just like us humans, honestly, what knobs! At least the inhabitants of the Olympus got in trouble for love not booze or money! Still, I knew that all those fables had a much deeper meaning to them. Metaphoric. I loved it. For centuries people of all nations craved, accepted and worshipped the supernatural, they witnessed in their everyday life, but also something that was much more than them, thus creating first – gods, then God. I felt there was a unique connection among them all and one common root to the universal truth, which was up to me to discover. I desperately wanted to be an archaeologist. I wanted to find the message and decipher it once and for all! But then I turned 16 and realised that I needed to earn money and be reasonable…
When I was in the university studying languages to become a professional interpreter we had Religion as part of our curriculum. A “no-bullshit” looking sturdy lady with a firm mouth, a snow-white bun, in glasses, wearing a skirt of nun-length came in to the lecture theatre. We all mentally prepared ourselves for the 2 hours ‘No Sex Before Marriage’ lecture (eye-roll), but in 15 minutes I was catching her every word, had my eyes and my mouth wide open! Each lecture was a profound study on each religious doctrine of the world! No brainwashing, no sprinkling holy water on the computers, no converting/exorcising anyone. After that the library became my second home: karma, sansara, nirvana, Holy Grail, angels, Koran, jihad, Buddha, Shinigami, … I just couldn’t get enough. What is the message?
I don’t recall the exact time or day when I experienced my first belief crisis, but I know for sure that the walls of my Jericho shook and crumbled after the end credits of Stigmata (1999) had stopped rolling. “The Kingdom of God is within you and all around you, not in mansions of wood and stone <…>”
The year 1999 was marked in my biography (if I ever write one) as the year of my awakening, because in spring The Matrix was released. I remember how I was walking among the ruins of my inner Jericho, raising clouds of dust, listening to the sand of what used to be the mighty walls hissing under my feet dissolving into nothingness, when a bright light of something bigger than truth burned my eyes out! “There is no spoon”. That’s it. You can throw away your pretty ribbons and your cuddly teddy-bears, straighten your naïve curls and, oh, put your lovely blue Bible on the top shelf, and with your lipstick in gentle pink write – “There is no spoon”. We can fly, change circumstances and even master jiu jiujitsu if we only believe.
My mind was in turmoil. How? How is that possible? Who are we? What are we? Who am I? P.O.D. is seconding me on that whist I write this: “Do you see what I see? Can you hear what I hear? Do you feel like I feel?” pumping “Sleeping Awake” on my speakers. With whatever limited internet I had* (20th century Russia) I researched anything I could find about the directors and the major ‘whys’. Every character was a symbol, every conversation had multiple levels of religious and philosophical believes. It was so much better than the Bible! “The main inspiration for the Wachowski Brothers”, the source said, “was a 1995 anime Ghost in the Shell”. I was done for. Being forever fascinated with the idea of a cyborg with a human brain looking powerfully fragile just like my childhood hero, Blue Sonnet* (1989) (https://youtu.be/5pmnJ80YuTA ). But this took on a totally different meaning! Neo was not a cyborg. He was a 2-meter-tall pure human awesomeness in drop-shaped sunglasses and a long black coat! Jesus!!! No! NEO!
I needed to restart my hard-drive. The truth, the realisation, the comprehension was on the tips of my fingers but I knew that I simply couldn’t just cock my head right and with a mocking smile on my lips simply disappear in the middle of the boring lecture on Locutionary and Illocutionary Acts. I came home and took the Bible from the top shelve. Again. This one was big, not pretty and glossy anymore, but black, without any pictures, printed on a simple yellowish paper. Only the cross on the front was pressed in gold. I began reading. Slowly. Carefully. Rereading at times the lines or passages I did not quite understand. And then in Genesis 1:27 I read: “So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them”. That was it. I closed the Bible. Forever.
Holy Ghost… What is it? Isn’t it that substance that leaves our bodies when we die? It’s actually has a weight of 21 grams. Proven by science (a religion I have the outmost respect for and wouldn’t dare to question, because at the end of the day it studies “what’s within us and all around us”). Where does it live? How does it work? How does it define us? Is it in our heart when it aches when we are sad? Is it in the wounds when they bleed? Is it in our laugh? Is it in our eyes? It’s been confirmed that once the organs such as heart, liver, lungs etc have failed and consequently died, the brain still lives on. So, do those 21 grams of awareness live there and dissolve into the physical world when the brain finally stops functioning? God surely couldn’t have created us after His image in terms of our bodies! Now that would be from my light-blue children’s Bible. We are like God in terms of our brains! Scientists have been out there far enough and long enough studying the material and even immaterial (the work of Dr Caroline Leaf also provides a great empirical support, and even though you can discard some of the quotes in the book, the facts remain). In the end of the day it is all Science – you can’t argue with any of its fundamental laws: e.g. everything around us is matter. Just comprehend it! You think your words disappear when you utter them? No, they are waves. What about your thoughts?
The complete awakening. We are Gods. And there’s truly no spoon, nor fork, nor knife or plate, for that matter, because if God’s created land and sea, light and darkness, so can we… This is what the true belief is about. Believe in yourself. There are no independent standards of anything in the man-made world. Thus, our minds have no limit. Can you imagine an apple without actually holding it in your hand? More importantly, can you imagine its taste?
My holy ghost is cheeky. At times extremely vulnerable and very inquisitive. The ego is sometimes too big for this humble shell… It knows that there’s no spoon, but very often forgets to remind me of that. It knows the outcomes and the consequences of every decision I make but seldom tells me, because mocks the Thomas in me. This is my Neo and he wears a long black leather coat and flies. So if you ask me if I believe in God. My answer is yes. Nosce te ipsum.