Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Where is God?

My last two posts have been about inner healing by searching within and the radical idea of treating every moment as sacred. I'm now going to combine them in my personal answer to the question "where is God?"

A disclaimer upfront: it would be absolutely arrogant to claim to actually have an answer to this and other questions I address in my blog. Everything I write and the conclusions I come to are based completely and entirely off observations of my own inner living and the results that I achieve with these thoughts. Interact with them how you will.

To the question of where God is located, the honest Mormon would answer: "housed in a body of flesh and bones reigning supreme on a planet nearest the star Kolob, though his power is omnipresent."

An atheist would answer: "nowhere. There is no God."

I answer: "God is the dynamic of my own interior."

As I discussed in my last post, to me, the actuality of the existence of a being called "God" is far less important than what interaction with the concept does to my mind. Notice that I use the word "interaction" and not "belief." That is important. I don't think one needs to have any sort of belief whatsoever in God to interact with the concept and observe the results.

Ultimately, to me, God is a useful personification of something that exists inside of us that defies categorizations or labeling (that thing referred to in the first two sentences of the Daode Jing as the path that cannot be walked and the name that cannot be named). And you don't even need the personification of "God" to interact with the concepts I'm discussing. Many systems, such as Daoism and Buddhism, largely skip the concept entirely. The personification is most useful for people who have interacted with God in the past, but find themselves drifting in religious persuasion and want to reconnect with God but don't know how.

God's location is discovered by active interaction with the concept and observing what it changes in your mind and heart.

The first problem encountered in interaction with God is the problem of knowing. We have to examine the processes by which we make judgments and gain knowledge. We are beings floating through an ever-changing dynamic we call "the present." Our mind gathers data and makes judgments based on the perceptions--based on sight, sound, touch, taste, etc. The world external to us is interpreted through senses and memories. But a fundamental question underlies the whole process: how do we know we can trust anything we sense or remember to be an actual indication of the realities of the external world?

We could say that data over time gives us different levels of certainty about our data collections--but this assumes the veracity of memory. Nothing is absolute.

Many thinkers find this level of questioning dangerous. It can lead the soul down paths of nihilism and skepticism that seem dangerous and destructive to many. But I disagree. Questions are, to me, the ultimate expression of faith. The truth will protect itself, and it is the obligation of a thinking person to let the questions take us where they will in the hope that where we end up will be better or more complete than when we started. Uncertainty is frightening to many; I find it liberating. Religious observance throughout time has often been a celebration of mysteries!

To me, questioning the processes by which we sense the outside world result in a marriage of the internal and external. Because the external world is only perceived and interpreted internally, reactions to external factors are as much an indication of the internal reality as they are of the external. The two together form a complete whole.

If you have been religious or spiritual in your life, reflect with me on the process by which you would interact with God. For me, the primary avenue was through prayer. I would say words in my mind and then wait for feelings or impressions as answers. I would also connect God to certain events or experiences--it was the feeling of transcendence, or "the spirit," that accompanied great acts of kindness, looking down from mountain tops, or staring up at a starry night. It was associated with internal feelings of what ought or ought not to be done.

As we apply the same mindfulness we did to the process of knowledge to the process of feeling or interacting with God, we must come to the conclusion that God is a primarily an internal phenomenon. These places of wisdom, mindfulness, compassion, and transcendence that I find myself capable of achieving are precisely that force that I label "God." And they reside within me. To find them fully, I must embark on an inward-facing journey.

To the theist: the reason I think this rather than seeing God as a being external to myself is that I once believed completely that God was an actual being who controlled the universe. It was only after abandoning the trappings of the God I thought I knew that I was able to discover the processes that were actually happening inside me--awe induced by mindfulness that results in compassion, loving-kindness, and equanimity. This same process is evoked by many different religious structures. As I changed structures, I became aware that the core experience did not change.

This reminds me of a quote by Meister Eckhart, a fourteenth century Christian mystic:

"The ultimate and highest leave taking is leaving God for GOD, leaving your notion of God for an experience of that which transcends all notions."

And, of course, who would I be if this didn't bring me back to a poem by Hafiz?

Tiny Gods

Some gods say, the tiny ones,
"I am not here in your vibrant, moist lips
That need to beach themselves upon
the golden shore of a
Naked body."

Some gods say, "I am not
the sacred yearning in the unrequited soul;
I am not the blushing cheek
Of every star and Planet--

I am not the applauding Chef
Of those precious sections that can distill
The whole mind into a perfect wincing jewel, if only
For a moment
Nor do I reside in every pile of sweet warm dung
Born of earth's
Gratuity."

Some gods say, the ones we need to hang,
"your mouth is not designed to know His,
Love was not born to consume
the luminous
realms."

Dear ones,
Beware of the tiny gods frightened men
Create
To bring an anesthetic relief
To their sad
Days.

One of the most wonderful things these thoughts evoke within me is a respect for all life. If God is the dynamic of my own interior, then he is the dynamic of yours as well! Each pair of eyes I look into are part of the very face of God. I love the symbolism Christ's atonement. He transcended the bonds of separation to become at one with each of us--our pains and sorrows are literally the passion of the Christ! All of these symbols point to me of what I see as the ultimate truth--that the Ultimate is accessible within and lends to a view of all things as unified, which evokes loving kindness, compassion, and equanimity in the heart.

Once again, these thoughts are more the catalog of my own personal journeyings through spiritual thinking. The joy is that everyone, as Rumi puts it, can "unfold your own myth," and hence the need for spiritual and theological creativity.

My advice to anyone searching for God would be this: watch your thoughts and feelings closely. Find what gives you nourishment, and walk in that direction. But always keep in mind the limits of knowledge. I've found that a good appreciation of mystery is more important than a sure knowledge when it comes to spirituality.

2 comments:

  1. While I hold a different view of who God is, I can't help but find your answer beautiful and inspiring.

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