My First Non-Memorial

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Transcript of OnionUnlimited podcast episode 048

HELLO AND WELCOME TO EPISODE 48 OF ONIONUNLIMITED—THE PODCAST. I’m your host, Daniel Torridon and you join me on “a most sacred night”. There’s a phrase that will be familiar to anyone who has ever been or is a Jehovah’s Witnesses. I am, of course, referring to the annual memorial of Jesus’ death. This evening as the sun is setting begins the Jewish date Nisan 14—the Passover—and the day that Jesus held the Last Supper with his 12 apostles. 

As a Jehovah’s Witness I was taught to obey Jesus’ instruction[s] to his disciples at that meal, namely “Keep doing this in remembrance of me”, and so in obedience to that command as a Jehovah’s Witness I faithfully commemorated Jesus’ death once a year on Passover for no less than 52 years. What’s more, I partook of the bread and wine for the last 17 years which, if you know anything about Jehovah’s Witnesses, is something reserved for those who feel they are “anointed”, which is to say “born again” with a hope of going to heaven when they die. Most Jehovah’s Witnesses of course do not entertain that hope, believing instead that they will get to live forever as humans on a paradise earth after Armageddon has destroyed everyone who isn’t a Witness. I was brought up by my parents to believe I had an earthly destiny but it never sat right with me. I always felt that if I died I would wake up in heaven as a spirit with God, or “Jehovah” as I knew him at the time. 2004 was the year I really embraced that belief. 

After a great deal of Bible reading and prayer, I came to the conclusion that if I wanted to have a relationship as a child of God through Christ it was necessary for me to be in what the Bible calls “the New Covenant”. This seemed to me to be a Bible hope for all Christians, one which Jehovah’s Witnesses were circumnavigating with their “two hopes” doctrine—heavenly and earthly. More specifically, I felt I had to be born again or anointed in order to enjoy eternal life in Christ Jesus and that, I felt, happened in August 2004. 

This was a time of great spiritual awakening for me and it inevitably led to me questioning things I had been taught as a Jehovah’s Witness. At the time, my beliefs were more aligned with born again Christians—Pentecostals and the like—than Jehovah’s Witnesses. I had a great love for Jesus and acknowledged him as “the Way, the Truth and the Life”. This resulted in me questioning why Jehovah’s Witnesses, a religious organisation, called themselves “the Truth” and why Jesus was rarely mentioned by Witnesses. In fact, when I dared to speak about Jesus and my “relationship” with him it drew negative attention from certain Witnesses, especially a few of the elders who, I think, were just jealous of me. I was accused of “sounding like a born again Christian”, an insult in JW terms since they honestly do think “born agains”—as they call them—are possessed by the Devil. If a Jehovah’s Witness calls at your door and you really want to get rid of them, just tell them you’re a born again Christian and ask them if they’ve accepted Jesus into their heart. Trust me, most Jehovah’s Witnesses will run a mile!

I first partook of the emblems at the 2005 memorial, which caused a great stir in our congregation as I was only 35 years old, and it wasn’t long before my expressed love for Jesus drew the attention of one particular elder who I’d crossed swords with when I was an elder. Within a year I was disfellowshipped on a trumped-up charge of “apostasy”. I wasn’t an apostate at the time. I was still very much “for” the organisation, although I did question the way it was developing, especially the way the governing body seemed to like the limelight. 

And so I was disfellowshipped from 2006 to 2009 and during that time I continued to attend meetings at the Kingdom Hall each week and of course the memorial each year, and I never stopped partaking of the bread and wine much to the disgust of some Witnesses who viewed me as if I was deserving of death at Armageddon! I did get reinstated in 2009, mostly for family, but also out of a sense of responsibility to help those in the organisation who I felt were following men rather than Christ, but I was never really the same again. I no longer thought of Jehovah’s Witnesses as “the Truth”. I never referred to it as “the Truth” in conversation. That, I felt, was a title reserved for Jesus. And so I spent the next 10 years feeling like a born again Christian trapped in a cult, but I felt I did some good. I drew attention to Jesus whenever I could, in my talks and in my comments, and I used my time to encourage the depressed, and over the course of 10 years, quite a number of Witness friends came to accept that yes, I was anointed. 

Various changes in doctrine by the governing body, themselves now younger than had been the accepted norm over the years, also helped establish me as a bonafide member of the anointed remnant and for the most part, I didn’t have much trouble from other Witnesses. There was still the occasional negative person who would cast doubt over my claim to have a heavenly hope but most people were fine with me. They were either supportive, or they said nothing. Then, in 2019 I was disfellowshipped again. My marriage had been on the rocks for some time. One thing led to another and, in the end, I found myself facing divorce proceedings. As a disfellowshipped one I was shunned by my family and JW friends, although the general feeling was that I would “return to Jehovah”, and so some family members, and even one or two Witness friends, kept in touch with me for a while, checking in on my welfare from time to time. 

Despite having a breakdown and attempting suicide on several occasions, I kept attending meetings, first in-person and then when COVID hit via Zoom.  Come the memorial of 2020 I made my own bread and wine and held a mini commemoration of the memorial with a non-JW friend. At the time I was trying to get reinstated in order to regain some semblance of normality in my life, but I also felt my time as a Jehovah’s Witness was probably over. I didn’t believe it was “the Truth” and I was sick of pretending in order to be accepted. In March 2021 I dutifully made my bread and bought a bottle of red wine again but this time I commemorated it on my own, and then in April I had a reinstatement hearing, but the elders were just so unreasonable, cruel even, that I decided I’d just had enough and I was walking away from Jehovah’s Witnesses for good.

To begin with, I intended to continue pursuing a Christian path, but I had a lot of questions in my mind. If Jehovah’s Witnesses were not “the Truth”, but a cult, was there a true religion out there? I did look around, I even attended a few online services with different Christian groups, but I wasn’t feeling it. In every case I looked into, I felt like religions lacked any genuine spirituality. They seemed to offer a default set of beliefs that you were supposed to believe or accept with varying degrees of strictness. Everything seemed very secular to me, packaged almost, not at all spiritual, and that’s when I started to question everything, even the nature of God himself. Ultimately, this led me down a path of spirituality that I can honestly say was, and is, my own. I feel comfortable with what I believe now. While it’s true that some of my beliefs are similar or even the same as certain religious groups—I’m thinking Buddhism, Hinduism and other eastern religions—I don’t subscribe 100% to any religion. There are teachings in various religions that resonate with me, philosophies if you will, even in Christianity still, but my spirituality is now a mishmash of various beliefs that sit right with me, and that’s how I think spirituality should be. 

Religion, I feel, kills spirituality. It takes the wisdom of a spiritual Master—Jesus, Buddha, different Gurus—and turns it into a “club” to belong to. When you identify with a particular religion you cease to walk your own spiritual path and instead become a follower. That doesn’t work for me any longer. I feel like I’ve outgrown it. Religion is too cramped for me. My spiritual ascension, which I still believe began when I felt I was anointed in 2004, is very much a work in progress. Much as I love and respect Jesus still, and appreciate many of his teachings, I no longer identify so narrowly as “Christian”, born again or otherwise. I feel that my “anointing” in 2004 was, in fact, a spiritual awakening. I labelled it “being anointed” because that’s the only framework I had to work with outside of a belief of living forever on a paradise earth. Now I see things from a much wider perspective. Most notably, I don’t feel that Christianity, Jesus, following Christ, is the only “way” to God. Even my understanding of God has changed. I no longer believe in a God that sits in judgement of humans, overseeing their every action, defining what is “good” or “evil”, and punishing “sinners”. I don’t even call him “God” anymore, and certainly not “Jehovah”.

If you’ve been following my podcast you’ll know that I believe in a Source from which everything has arisen. This Source, I feel, is indifferent to worship and doesn’t judge anyone as being worthy of life or death. Source “just is”. Yes, Source is aware, but not in the sense that we think of consciousness, one thought after another, making choices and decisions. Source is more of an energy field, vibrating at a very high frequency, emitting quantum waves that bunch up into packets of matter—what we consider “real”. Source feels everything but chooses, and judges, nothing. Source is more of an “it” than a “he”, at least as we understand persons to be.

Recently, I’ve begun to think more about who I am, who we are are as humans, and I can’t get away from the idea of a “soul”—the idea that the “real me”, the “real you”, isn’t this body but something spiritual. Call it spirit, soul, a Light Being of some kind, I sense that the true nature of ourselves is spiritual. As Pierre Teilhard de Chardin wrote: “We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience.” This fits very much with my understanding that we have lived before, perhaps many times, both in our natural spirit form and as an incarnated, or reincarnated, “blend” of spirit and flesh. We are, essentially, spirit beings housed inside an animal body. I believe we had a choice prior to incarnation, whether to experience life as a temporal human—vibrating at a much slower frequency than our natural rate—or to remain on the spirit plane. We may even have been given the choice to be reabsorbed back into Source, effectively surrendering our sense of “self”, or individuality. While that idea might smack of spiritual suicide I think it depends on our outlook. If we think of ourselves as separate to Source, as individuals, as “Atman” in Hindu philosophy then yes, we may well want to hold on to our sense of individuality. However, if we come to see ego as an illusion, that we are in fact all One, all Source, then surrendering to the Whole may not seem as unpalatable. One thing I do now think is that it doesn’t matter who we are, what religion we follow, whether we do “good” or “evil” in our human shells—we all return to Source. Our experiences as temporal humans are of value to Source. It doesn’t judge. It doesn’t punish. It just “knows”, and this Universal Knowledge, I feel, is what is being referred to in Genesis 3:22 where God is reported to have said: “Here the man has become like one of us in knowing good and bad”. 

Who that “God” was I’m not so sure. I certainly don’t think it was Source. In the original Hebrew text, it uses both the term “Elohim”, meaning “god” or “gods” (plural) and Yahweh. Hence, as a Jehovah’s Witness, I used to believe this was Jehovah God, the only true God, the Creator God. These days I tend to think Jehovah is more likely either a made-up deity, imagined by the Midianites or Canaanites and absorbed by the Israelites into the Jewish faith and hence the Old Testament. Or maybe even a spirit of some kind, a Light Being emanating from Source, perhaps, who took on the mantle of “God”. Maybe there are “gods”, spirits, out there. Maybe we are of their kind. Maybe they, we, did come to earth and reproduce with humans. Perhaps Genesis 6:4 is a poetic reference to this. Or maybe as spirit “gods” we found a way to “blend” ourselves with humans, perhaps at conception or while in the womb, or maybe as a developing infant. Maybe there are “good” spirits and “bad spirits”—Light Beings and Not-So-Light-Beings—that inhabit human flesh. This could explain why some humans commit atrocities that we condemn, but regardless of how “bad” a human is, I think at death our soul, our spirit, returns to Source, or at least to the spirit plane.

Once we’re released from our fleshly bodies and ascend to spirit, I believe we have a choice. We might re-enter human form to experience another life, or to put things right from our previous life. Maybe it’s all part of Source experiencing, learning, and adding to the Universal Knowledge pool. In spirit form, we may have access to that information. It may even be possible for a Light Being to access Universal Knowledge while still contained in a human body, perhaps through meditation. Certainly death, I’m sure, brings this knowledge to all.   

So, it’s memorial night and this will be the first time in 53 years that I’ve not commemorated Jesus’ death. It will also be the first time in 18 years that I‘ve not partaken of the memorial emblems as one of the “anointed”. It’s not because I no longer believe in Jesus, or no longer value his teachings. I do. I think he was a spiritual Master. I think he was against religion and for spirituality. I don’t think he intended Christianity as a religion to arise from his death, and certainly not cults like Jehovah’s Witnesses. I don’t feel it’s necessary for me to perform a particular ritual each year—once it was, but not now. I feel I’ve ascended to a place spiritually where the physical rites and rituals are just no longer needed. I don’t view my 2004 “born again” experience as narrowly as a “Christian” experience, or Jesus as the only “Son of God”—an instance of Source, yes, but no more than me or you, perhaps more enlightened, more aware if you will of who he was, what his nature was—but that, I believe, is open to all of us if we just stop to think, really ponder, who are we really?

Thanks for joining me. Bye for now.