I’m a beginner. Perhaps a sophisticated one, but that claim is also a warning — in part it relates to the threats of self-deception and self-obsession, and note that the word “sophisticated” contains the word “sophist.”
In a general sense, I’ve been to the point of tentatively embracing a comprehensive spiritual solution to the meaning of life before — Lutheranism briefly at Concordia (1968), Zen Buddhism (1992-96), Christianity (vaguely)(2009), Jung (2010-13), and an evolving passage through Contemplative Christianity, the Baghavad Gita, Zen and Stoicism in the last three years. Ironically (since modern Stoics affirm the essential materialism of Stoicism), it was Epictetus that led me to Catholicism. He repeatedly affirmed the necessity to embrace the goodness of God’s universe and to align one’s will with God’s will — essentially each person’s will and soul are contingent extensions of Divine Will and God’s all-pervading presence. This insight of Epictetus became for me the precious truth beyond the mere dichotomy of control of popular Stoicism. Yet it was also unsatisfying. Epictetus’s call to alignment with God has so little flesh on its bones that it enables the modern popular belief that he was simply speaking figuratively about the need to be a good citizen of the world in order to find personal serenity.
But my personal inner call for Truth has always insisted on more. That inner voice (God’s call) has always insisted that the Truth that matters is both transcendent and immanent (i.e. it is a reality beyond space and time that also demands comprehensive consequences about how life is to be lived within the finite earthly sphere). The options I flirted with over the years (contemplative prayer, liberal Christianity and Zen notably) left room for the transcendent and implied the connection with the earthly, but mostly just left a lot of wiggle room for my own willfulness. I have long known that it is that willfulness that is the problem, and that surrender and humility were essential. But I needed something to surrender to.
The Roman Catholic Church is unique within my realm of experience in the existence of Mystery at its core, the provision of Answers grounded in Divinely-sanctioned Authority, and most importantly the core beliefs that are simultaneously mysteries and well-defined — namely, the doctrine of the Fall and Redemption through Christ, the Sacraments, the meaning of Incarnate Life and the essential mission of each life as a pilgrimage to union with God (ordained by God at the moment of conception). At this point in my understanding, I believe that failure to dedicate my life to that pilgrimage (as I have failed so far), ignoring that commission, would be a mortal sin subsuming all others.
Therein lies the Solution that impels me.