The way I understand being Born Again,it is a deep initiation that can do some very interesting things to your spirit.For me,it led to a sense of inner freedom and power.A sensitivity to a capacity to reshape my life in a relationship with that invisible and yet loving presence,a presence not often felt but which emerges from time to time into the heart and mind.
Its such a pity that the spiritual potency of Pentecostal Christianity has been bastardized by pastors who use the fruits of that great re-examination of the achievement of the man from Galilee and his followers in living opulent lives paid for by parishioners, often in countries where many are poor.Some Christians also dont help the faith by the fact they are not known for the example of compassion that marked the Nazarene when he was with us.Also their ignorance of cultural history and of the history of their own religion feeds their parochial and fundamentalist stance on their beliefs.
I have gone through the Born Again ritual twice. The second time being particularly decisive.It can have some very real, positive and permanent effects.
As it is,right now,I have not been a church goer for at least a decade.I hardly read the Bible,although I ought to,al;though I have significant knowledge of it. The idea of Jesus as the Son of God in a literal sense looks preposterous to me.I know much of the Old Testament is shaped by Jewish propaganda.
In the midst of my attitude to Judaeo-Christianity,however,I realize that this religion represents some of the most profound descriptions of the human effort to find meaning,as well as of irruptions into human reality of something difficult to categorize in human terms,but which is known as the sacred.
The genius of the Born Again movement is to return to the pristine simplicity of Jesus summation of his understanding of an aspect of the transformative essence of the faith of his ancestors in the intriguing night meeting with Nicodemus where the master states "Unless a [person] be born again of water and the spirit,he cannot enter the Kingdom of Heaven".Nicodemus,not realising he is in the Book of John,which is the most mystical and symbolic of the Four Gospels,asks in perplexity " How can a man re-enter his mother's womb and be born again?",at which point the adept informs him that it is not meant literally.
Yes,you can return to your mother's womb and be born again.That mother is your creator.How do you do it?
1. You need to acknowledge your limitations.You need to recognise that you often fall short of the best you can be.Of the list of shortcomings,the famous Ten Commandments is a small list that most people would agree with,although I personally think that adultery should be limited to extra-marital sex.
Having acknowledged your limitations,for the Book says,"all have sinned and come short of the glory of God" for is it not written that 'God said let us make man in our image and likeness"?,you therefore need to understand,relate with and live in terms of that divine image.
2.You then need to acknowledge as your Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ,who died for your sins.
Now,to present my own view here.When I became Born Again,like many people,I expect,I was undergoing a crisis.So it was not difficult to accept an idea that in the more sober light of time I could not fully identify with.At the same time,however,to me,that does not reduce the intensity of the permanent stamp of the Born Again initiation on me.Some aspects of spiritual experience remain permanent and fundamentally unaffected by your rational response to them.
Ironically,I still believe in the divine significance of Jesus and his name,even using the name in my dreams,and regularly in prayer,but I will not pretend to understand what this divine significance might be nor have I devoted much attention to it because my focus now is on other spiritualities.I believe,however,that anyone who wants to explore this question can do so through prayer and meditation and is likely to come away sooner or later with some new understanding.
I think that even if one is not willing to accept Jesus as the son of God,or savior in a literal sense,the initiation will succeed if one approaches it with sincerity.One could accept him as a representative of the spirit of self sacrifice and in that sense,as demonstrating a quality that has saving value for the human race because of the positive significance of such a noble example of dying for one's beliefs, and in that spirit call upon his name.
It is my view that this summation I have provided sums up a central aspect of what Christ represents and the spirit that corresponds to that description will respond if called upon with sincerity of purpose.
From my experiences with Ifa,the Orisa tradition,Buddhism,Eckankar,AMORC(Roscicrucian school)Bini traditional religion and Christianity,Akan/Gyaman Adinkra philosophy and spirituality,Hinduism,Western,Asian and African philosophies,as well as the arts of various cultures and the sciences,I am convinced that these approaches to understanding the cosmos provide maps of getting in touch with transformative capacities in nature and humanity that are not dependent on minute adherence to particular ways in terms of which these possibilities are perceived. These maps are necessarily incomplete,and are circumscribed by the individual and cultural limitations of those who made them and of those who interpret them across the centuries.
As maps,they are not identical with whatever realities might correspond,with varying degrees of accuracy, to what they to describe.
It is useful but not indispensable,to use one or more of these maps,but in the long run,you need to create your own map. Even as you travel using maps shared by others,the map that describes your personal journey is not identical with,although it will be related to those of others using the same map. This is so partly beceause the journey consists in a synergy between internal and external realities.
In the long run,it is useful to develop your own map through listening to yourself,seeing what works for you and through a study of your history.
Did Jesus not state that even those who have raised the dead in his name will not enter his father's kingdom because they did not give him food to eat,himself as represented by our fellow humans?Did Paul not state that whatever gifts one possesses, if one does not have love one is like an empty bell? These elevations of compassion above the sectarian religious faith and belief which in other contexts is championed by these two men suggests that they were talking about complex but simple realities,in which,ideally, one should not neglect one part for another but even if one is to do so,one needs to choose love.This is where many Christians have fallen short. They replace love with Christian faith and are not able to give an inspiring example.
3.Having accepted Christ as lord and saviour the next act is to invite the holy spirit,the spirit through which the universe was created,and through which it is sustained,into your self.
If you believe these ideas,good.To me,even if you dont,the initiation can still work. Contrary to some commonly held views,I dont think belief is fundamental to spirituality.I think faith is better than and is not necessarily identical with belief.
Paul in the great Hebrews 11 sums up faith in a few pregnant and paradoxical terms-'faith is the substance of things hoped for,the essence of things not seen'. It is therefore a contradiction.It acknowledges that its focus is on the unachieved,the hoped for,the invisible,the country yet unbuilt,not something that can be made immediately evident,the 'city not built with hands', as Paul describes it.
Along simlar lines,I hold that spiritual activities may succeed through imaginative assumption and dont need belief.Yes,you dont believe.You dont need to.Just,for the moment of the ritual or prayer,behave as if you do.Even better, behave like a person watching a film or reading a novel,or best of all,acting a play:nothing you are watching or doing is real in the sense of embodying a concrete actuality.Whatever reality it has is in what people experience from watching or participating.
To me,spiritual possibilities and realities are like the sea a fish swims in.You may not see the water but it is there.Your lack of faith is irrelevant to its existence.Faith and belief are methods of relating with this unseen reality.But they are not the only methods.
I believe I can confidently guarantee anybody who follows the procedure I have described here will not be the same again.In my view,you dont even need to believe in God or even the historical or spiritual reality of Jesus.Just follow the procedure bcs you want to see what will happen.
It would help if before performing this ritual you read the sections of the Bible that the Pentecostalists draw particularly on to define their perspective:
Genesis-God creating the world through his spirit
Genesis-God creating humanity in his image
The Book of John,chapter 1 on the living light,the Word that is God
The Book of John-Jesus conversation with Nicodemus on spiritual rebirth
The Acts of the Apostles-the descent of the holy spirit
To me,these works are best read meditatively and critically.You dont need to believe anything written there as true in a literal and metaphorical sense.I think that the very fact of meditating on the ideas and images embodied in those works,particularly with a curious mind, could put you in touch with the spiritual current that inspired those writers and to which they point. Faith and belief are helpful but are not necessary for the transmission of that current. Your mind simply needs to pay the ideas serious attention,even if to criticise them.
Then after reading and mediating on these works perform the Born Again ritual.
Everybody's experience could show some distinctiveness.Dont expect anything dramatic.But be sensitive to the way your mind works from that point.Be attentive to your dreams.
You dont need to attend any church,discuss with anybody,or even read any spiritual literature after this ritual,including the Bible.
You do not need to do any of these for the initiation to affect you because you have made a fundamental commitment that is unchanged by those activities.
Such activities,however, can help to deepen your experience and develop you further after the initiation.
This initiation might succeed even more definitively if you perform some seclusion,partial or total, while preparing yourself for and during the initiation,as well as after it.
You could spend some time each day,preferably alone,in silence, reading those Biblical texts.
You could do the initiation alone if you wish.
After the initiation,you could spend some each day in mediation.At least a week after.
Even better if you do the entire exercise in a retreat,perhaps one to two weeks.If you talk to no one in that time, the better.
Then you are likely to see that real spirituality is not dependent on belief or on agreeing to anybody's opinion,whether written in any book, or proclaimed by anyone,no matter how revered the book is,including the Bible.
If God existed and he/she were so keen on being publicly acknowledged as people want to claim then he should have made his presence very clear.