The weather was bad - very wet which made the climb even harder but the group was not deterred. Facing the mountain was an equalising and inclusive experience as everyone faced the same daunting task and was equally challenged by the climb. No thought of being Muslim, Jew or Christian as each one concentrated on the climb. But there was plenty of opportunity for talk and dialogue and for those of us in the foothills an opportunity to relax in a nearby hotel when the rain got too much. Whether on the mountain or by the loch we all prayed for peace in our world. In that beautiful setting it's easy to drink in peace and beauty and to wonder at the scenery but we also carried sorrow at what we are doing to creation and the violence and conflict throughout the world ,often associated with religion. So our walk which was a kind of pilgrimage was a hope for peace and a desire to send out peaceful energy into our world. Would it make any difference to our world? Well I believe it would and who knows who might have wondered or been impressed by such a group hill cimbing together. Certainly the couple from Belguim whom we met were. They didn't know such things happened. This is often the case when people realise that many good interfaith moments happen, such as our climb or the Eid meal we shared earlier in the week when fifty of us gathered in a public restaurent to share a meal and conversation.
Mountains hold a fascination for people. For some the call of the mountains is to climb them, become part of them and enjoy the success of having reached the summit. But achieving this goal is not necessarily the priority and it cannot be hurried if it is to be a transcendent or spiritual experience as the story of the sherpas who have to stop climbing to let their souls catch up reminds us. I have on my desk a card which tells me that it's not the destination that matters but the glory of the ride - or the climb.
For centuries human beings have associated mountains with transcendence and mystery and they have captured the religious imagination. For some they are the abode of the Gods as was Mt Olympus for the Greeks, for others they are places of revelation. Moses received the Torah on Mt Sinai; Mohammed had his foundational revelation in a cave on Mt Jabal al-Nour and Jesus revealed something of who he was in the moment known as the Transfiguration on Mt Tabor. For others, particularly eastern religions, mountains are places where holy men and women go to practice intense meditaion and austerities. For Hindus, Buddhists and Jains the world itself is founded on Mt Meru which reaches from the underworld right up to the heavens and many temples are designed to reflect this so that entering a temple has cosmic significance.
Our walk up Ben Lomond seemed very mundane but it was a moment of real encounter and dialogue - who is not to say that that in itself didn't have cosmic significance.