Greetings all! Once in a while I’m going to be interviewing people who have inspired me, either in the blogosphere or in the world at large. This is not something I’ve done before, but I’m delighted to kick things off with one of my favourite bloggers, David Robertson, who always writes fascinating posts on his blog, A Perennial Follower.
Without further ado, let’s jump into the interview!
1) Your blog is entitled ‘A Perennial Follower’. Could you please explain what this means and why you chose the title?
Thanks for this opportunity first of all, Steven. It’s a great idea to do a Q & A between bloggers.
So I chose the title of my blog primarily because of the word “perennial” in it. I am a strong believer in the concept of a perennial philosophy. Which in essence is not the idea that all religions are pretty much the same, differences certainly exist. But rather it’s more the idea that all religions stem from the same Ultimate Truth about reality. That truth is that something greater than the universe exists, God, you could say. Virtually all cultures have identified this, labelled and tried to understand it, which is how there are so many differences among religions, they all tend to have the same essence. Moreover, there are ways, most notably through the various mystical traditions, of coming into union with this Ultimate Reality.
I consider myself a follower (albeit a layman) of this philosophy and tradition, so I named my blog thusly, as I wanted to share its ideas and its potential benefit for humanity, which aren’t very well known, despite how ancient and timeless they are.
2) Who have been your biggest influences on your spiritual journey?
I’m quite into the big thinkers who have shaped my way of looking at the world. Since there’s countless examples of incredible inspirational people who make me want to better myself, I’ll stick to those who have shaped my outlook, spiritually speaking.
My first big influence was Karen Armstrong, who writes incredibly eloquent historical books on religion that reveal their value to the world. Her book “The Case for God” basically woke me out of my atheistic slumber by presenting me with this whole new way of seeing and understanding religion and God.
This for me, laid the foundations for my future influences, the next big one being Aldous Huxley, but mainly just for his book “The Perennial Philosophy” which provided me coherently with the concept of the perennial philosophy. (Although I do love his other work too).
Another major influence for me has been Alan Watts. He introduced the wealth of knowledge the Eastern religious traditions provide, particularly Taoism, Buddhism and Vedanta, as well as showed a way of living that brought me more in tune with the divine and the present moment.
More recently, Jordan Peterson has become a big influence. He has some of the most profound work I’ve read and listened to in recent memory. I’ve actually just finished his somewhat mind blowing book “12 Rules For Life” – perhaps the greatest so-to-speak “self-help” book I’ve ever read. He offers a profound look at humanity by delving into psychology, biology and (most interesting for me) mythology. He’s very much in the tradition of thinking established by Karl Jung.
3) Many of my readers are Christians, and you live in China. What are your observations about Christianity, and religious life in general, in China?
Good question, and luckily enough I feel as though I’m in a position to answer it quite well. My fiancé’s mother and grandmother are both Christian, so I have gotten a little bit of insight into how Chinese see the religion. It’s quite fascinating, China’s understanding of Christianity is very… peculiar. I think it’s because it isn’t very widespread in the country.
For example, Chinese (generally) see Catholicism and Christianity as entirely separate things, and have this huge misunderstanding that Catholics only worship Mary and not Jesus at all. Which I found quite hilarious until I realised how widespread this belief is.
My fiancé’s Christian relatives are also Biblical literalists, and because they don’t have access to the wealth of knowledge us in the West have of Christianity, their understanding remains quite limited, and I haven’t come across any who are aware of the depths of the religion. There also seems to be a bit of a fusion of Chinese traditional religious practices/rituals with Christianity, which appears quite alien if not overly superstitious to an outside observer. But with that being said, both her mother and grandmother seem to get the core message of Christianity right – work towards the Good and be kind to one another.
Religious life in general is more prevalent than one may initially think. On the surface, it appears that there is none, with Communism superseding any chance of religious expression. But just dip a bit below the surface, and a multitude of traditions are observed, from Islam, to Buddhism, Daoism and Christianity. There’s also the traditional ancestor worship practices and beliefs that remain quite prevalent too. I personally think that one day there will be a big renewal of religiosity in China, and there are some rumblings of that already on display.
4) What’s the meaning of life?
This is the toughest question, one that I guess I can’t really answer sufficiently, because I myself don’t really know. But I’ll have a shot.
I believe that the absolute ultimate purpose of life may be to come into union with ultimate reality, to transform oneself into a godly person, expanding oneself until they are one with God. Experiencing the infinite and merging with it.
But recognising this may be only for a few people with that particular inclination, there is another purpose for our lives, which is similar, but more in tune with how most of us conduct our daily lives. I think that is finding one’s true meaning, true passion for life, as long as that brings the betterment of all of us, in line with the ultimate Good. Finding your role in God’s plan, so to speak, and pursuing it truthfully and always with the goal of bringing more good in the world. I believe everybody has the potential for that, can find something they can bring to make the world a better place, and by that give life meaning.
5) In terms of your writing, what are your ambitions moving forward?
My key ambition moving forward is writing novels and non-fiction books that help show people the value of religions and mysticism in the world. I want to do my part in showing how the ancient wisdom of our ancestors is still relevant to this world and that we shouldn’t just dismiss it.
So to pursue that, I’m currently in the beginning stages of a second novel. After sending the manuscript of my first to an editor, who gave me some brutal but very useful criticism, I thought I’d put that one on the back-burner and start something fresh.
Regarding my blog, I’m very much enjoying sharing ideas and engaging with others, and I wholeheartedly want to keep expanding it and using it as a platform of communication.
I would really one day like to make a career out of writing, so I can give my full attention to developing ideas and spreading the value of religion to those who have perhaps given up on it all too readily. So hopefully this is the path that I’m meant to be on, because it is my passion, at least as far as productive ones for society go.
Thanks again for the opportunity Steven! It’s been a lot of fun.
Be sure to check out David’s blog and if this interview has piqued your interest in his writing, consider subscribing. Thank you for reading!