Have you ever wondered if God really exists, or if religion is all just a bunch of fables and myths? If you can’t really see God, or point to Him, does He even matter? In fact, why would God have to be a HE, rather than a SHE?
How can God be an old man with fluffy white whiskers in the sky on a rocking chair smoking a corn cob pipe and looking down upon the planet? What ideas or images can fit our advanced post-modern society?
When most of us think of God, we don’t often realize that the word “God” is simply a place holder for what may be called the Supreme Identity or the Transcendent Mystery. When we think of Him as Creator of the Universe, we too often think of Him as an architect or engineer. Given the English language, it is awkward to speak of God without reference to gender.
If God is simply an electric plug in the wall, what is there to get excited about? Surely, we think of God as, in some way, personal, meaning He cares for us, but that He is more than another person with a name. Theologians would rather say that God is TRANSPERSONAL. God includes the personal, but goes way beyond it.
Several decades back, the pop singer, John Denver, starred in Oh, God! with George Burns playing the role of God. John finds himself chatting it up with God in the supermarket, who appears to him as George Burns.
When John looks up at an overhead mirror, he sees a black lady. When he looks down, George is gone. George is emphatic throughout that “I am not gas.” The point of the film was that when God appears to us, He may do so in a very meaningful way. However, it is so that we can make a difference on the planet, not indulge our fantasies.
When we clarify our thinking, we are really asking, “Does the Universe have a Source?” and, “Do I have a Source?” The answer is definitely “Yes.” The New Physics has demolished simplistic notions of materialism, that things are really “out there” totally independent of an observer.
Albert Einstein, with his Theory of Relativity, established that time and space comprise a single fabric, and ultimately, they are conceptual, not actual. There is no Universe without some kind of observer. God, of course, is that observer.
If we integrate Eastern and Western religious traditions, we will soon discover that God is pure subjectivity. God is not any kind of object. Technically, God is “nothing” in the sense of being NO THING.
Thus, everything we know and experience is a living expression of God. We could say that we are all thoughts in the Mind of God. Better yet, God is that Consciousness that pervades the Universe, in which the Universe dances.
Light from the West
If we want to experience God directly, any person or thing we might look upon is but a pointer or medium to God. The ancient Hebrews associated God with the Word. When Moses came across the living God for the first time, he stumbled upon a burning bush in the wilderness and marveled why it was not immediately consumed.
Moses then hears a voice telling him to unlatch his sandals, because he is standing on Holy Ground. When Moses questions the voice as to Who He is, the voice replies, “I AM THAT I AM.” In other words, God is none other than I AM, the supreme Self of the Universe. This name became so sacred to the Hebrews that it was hardly ever pronounced in public.
Light from the East
Today, we most often have to look East to realize that to find “I AM,” we have to look within. I AM is actually our only True and Ultimate self.
We are not our nametags, not our bodies, not even our minds.
In order to grasp this I AM, we have to give up every attachment and dissociate ourselves from everything we think about ourselves. If we totally let go of our human identity, then we will find that we are inherently divine. To look upon each other is to look upon God.
That is why the South Indians greet one another with folded hands and the word, “Namaste” (I salute the divinity within you).
How then do we experience God for ourselves as a practice? The East basically offers us four different directions: Devotion, Service, Self-Knowledge and Meditation.
These correspond to the basic types of people. Devotion is for emotional people; Service is for practical types; Self-Knowledge is for intellectuals; Meditation is for inner-directed people highly in touch with their bodies, such as yogis.
The incomparable Sri Ramakrishna of Calcutta, who brought all religions together in a common unity, discouraged Hindus from being too wrapped up in ancient practices. He felt that, in the modern era, everyday people didn’t have time to go through elaborate ceremonies on a daily basis.
Besides, he felt that, too often, these practices distracted from the primary objective, which is direct experience of God. Instead, this great master urged people to turn to love and devotion as the ultimate way to experience God. Since God is in our heart of hearts, why look anywhere else?
This dovetails perfectly with the Gospel, which we come to recognize is a hugely popular form of Bhakti Yoga, expressed as supreme devotion to the Avatar of Avatars, the Messiah, Christ Jesus.
When we cut through all the institutional baggage, the doctrines and theology, Christianity is nothing more or less than a divine love affair with God, in the person of Christ as the incarnation of Absolute Love.
The premise is that, if we know Christ in His essence, we will come to know what God is like. We fall totally in love with Jesus, only to fall totally in love with the world, and with one another.
You may question some forms of Christianity as being incredibly naïve. Yet, there are enough sincere practitioners that you will be reluctant to throw out the baby with the bathwater. One need only consider the current Pope Francis I. Some people are experiencing God in a way that transforms their lives and makes a difference in the world. Why can’t that be YOU?
How, then, can you personally experience God? You simply need to open up your heart and mind. While you might go out and find a personal guru, you will ultimately be directed to what the Hindus call the Sat Guru (the true guru), the inner witness. God was within us all the time; yet we didn’t even bother to look.
Practically speaking, you need to be conscious of your own consciousness. Realize that there is a Presence within always listening and watching. That Sacred Presence is in no way out to judge you. It is leading you through the process of divinization, or Becoming God. Incidentally, this process has long been recognized by the Eastern Orthodox Church as totally legitimate, what it is all about.
You may want to broadly review all the great faith and spiritual traditions. It is highly recommended that you look closely at BOTH a Western AND an Eastern faith. When we seek to gaze upon the face of God, we are really looking at pieces of a magnificent puzzle scattered around each continent. When you put all the pieces together, then only do you see the full Face of God.
You may come to the point where you commit to awaken in this lifetime, no matter what. Believe it or not, that very decision is divinely inspired. Nobody comes to God without inner hunger and thirst. That very craving is God speaking through you.
To cut to the chase, just invoke the living presence of God. Ask Him / Her / It to occupy you. You may be delightfully surprised at the results.
Does it matter if God exists?
You might as well ask, “Does it matter if the Universe exists or I exist?”
Of course it does.
Knowing God, experiencing God gives you direct access to the gifts for which the early Christians in the coliseum gave their all: joy unspeakable and full of glory, unquenchable love that no one and nothing can stop, and total peace transcending any and all circumstances.
For me, God is pure love… and when I got in touch with the deepest layer of that love, I begin to experience consistent inner peace, joy (independent of outer circumstances) and appreciation for everything around me. It gave me freedom to be who I AM and to experience all there IS.
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