To see a World in a Grain of Sand
And a Heaven in a Wild Flower,
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand
And Eternity in an hour…
If the doors of perception were cleansed
Every thing would appear to man as it is, Infinite.
Have you ever felt totally alienated from the very idea of God, that the Western conception of God was totally irrelevant? Have you ever felt that the God preached from the pulpits across America was a vengeful deity not worthy of the name?
Have you ever wondered if you might find a viable alternative without becoming either gullible or an atheist?
While many intelligent people have found atheism appealing, they now realize that it leaves them with too many unanswered questions. Classic, Darwinian evolution leads one to believe that this all evolved by accident.
Yet, contemporary physicists have found the conditions of our planet, our solar system, our galaxy and the entire universe to be far too optimal to have happened strictly by chance.
Everything meshes perfectly. For example, if we were a little too close to the sun, we would burn up in seconds flat.
Those physicists who insist on a completely naturalistic explanation that ignores just how perfectly orchestrated is the known universe must resort to truly ridiculous numbers that beg the question. Only when they conjecture probability measured in 10 to the 500th power does blind chance make any sense at all.
This is a number so large that the number of atoms, planets and stars pales in comparison. It seems a lot more gullible than believing God is an old granddaddy in the sky with a corncob pipe winking down at us from the sky.
When we plunge into the quantum level, we see a deeply subjective universe where none of the Newtonian rules apply.
A wave is a particle, and a particle is a wave. A particle is not really a particle, but a probability amplitude, a mathematical ghost. The distance between them is impossibly large. The world we look at from day to day is almost entirely empty space.
A materialistic approach just won’t work anymore.
We usually learn about God as children and are fed images, or pictures, that are, at best, purely symbols, yet taught to believe them uncritically. A myth is like a poem, in that it is a language that, through stories, tries to say what can’t really be said.
Joseph Campbell, who pioneered comparative mythology, referred to God as the Transcendent Mystery. Joseph continually warned against the danger of taking the symbol for the reality to which it points. He preferred those images, which were “transparent to the transcendent.”
For example, if God is depicted as a giant turtle upholding the earth, you know that this can’t possibly be true and will refrain from mistaking the turtle for God.
Because of the historical accent of the Abrahamic faiths (Judaism, Christianity and Islam), we tend to take the words in the Bible, the Gospels and the Qur’an quite literally, missing their symbolism.
For example, in the book of Daniel and Revelation, we see God as “the Ancient of Days,” a white-haired granddaddy on a golden thrown. In other words, an archaic God with whiskers, made in our own image.
God is not Santa Claus or a shiny Christmas tree ornament, and He doesn’t keep a list to visit “who is naughty and who is nice.” Neither is God a vindictive ogre up in the sky just looking for some sinners to send straight to hell.
Yet in far too many fundamentalist churches, preachers try to scare the wits out of their congregation to get them to come forward and repent.
It is surprising to realize that, even in the West, no serious theologian ever took a granddaddy in the sky seriously, any more than an American would actually believe that Uncle Sam wears a stars-and-stripes suit in the White House.
Yet, we all get stuck with those images.
Even Billy Graham, who started out as a fire-and-brimstone preacher ended up portraying a God of love. Believing in free will, Billy warned his audience against the dangers of spending a Christ-less eternity.
In other words, Billy Graham ended up emphasizing that God doesn’t willingly throwing you into hell, but that you can go there if you insist.
More often, we hear of the Universe being composed of matter and energy, with God being thought to be a form of energy. As the movie, Oh, God!, starring John Denver, joked, God “is not gas.”
However, revisiting quantum physics, we realize that God has to be more than matter and energy, as you can’t have “matter” without the observer.
A more intelligent approach to God is that He is the supreme Subject Who continually imagines the Universe into being. In other words, we are God’s dream, and we are God becoming conscious of Himself / Herself as God.
The Anglo-American philosopher, Alan Watts, referred to God as the Supreme Identity. Ramana Maharshi, the great Twentieth Century master, referred to God simply as “the Self.”
One of the greatest breakthroughs in theology comes unexpectedly from the field of psychology, which went through four waves in the Twentieth century, from behavioral to depth to humanistic to transpersonal.
Carl Jung broke away from Sigmund Freud mid-career and began to address spirituality as an essential dimension of human experience.
Abraham Maslow, who pioneered humanistic psychology, insisted that psychology need not only address sick people, but also healthy people. Late in his career, Abraham suggested a transpersonal approach to account for his close study of peak experiences.
The psychologists came up with the transpersonal as a way to account for the kind of experiences people in the 1960’s and 1970’s were having with psychedelics, ESP and Eastern meditation.
The modern model of the human psyche crumbled under the new revelations. In desperation, they, like Baba Ram Das, went East to Hinduism and Buddhism to find a cognitive map, and South to the shamanic world, like Carlos Castaneda.
The very term transpersonal suggests that God is, indeed, personal, in that we can have a direct experience of divine love that cannot be explained, a love that is in no way contingent upon circumstances. The early Christian martyrs, and the Tibetan Lamas, in their ability to forgive their Chinese invaders, are powerful examples of this.
We can know God and experience God through love, coming from within.
Yet we can also go beyond the personal to the Transcendent Mystery, where God is beyond any category. As the Hindu Vedas suggest, we can enter a territory where “no tongue has soiled it.”
As the Tao Chi Ching puts it, “The name that can be named is not the everlasting name, and the way that can be told is not the everlasting way.”
One contemporary mystic at the Abbey of Gethsemani, the monastery of the late Thomas Merton, left his hermitage to greet Father Richard Rohr, a leading Catholic mystic. He admonished Father Rohr to tell all his listeners to stop looking for God “out there.” They will only find God within.
While we may never fully understand God, we need not rely upon a belief system.
As Alan Watts advised as a fruitful approach to enlightenment, be willing to go out of your mind and come to your senses.
Related topic: What Is Awareness?
We can experience God within as our only true and ultimate Self. We can also get in touch with that Self as Absolute Love, the power to utterly transform our lives and impact everyone we encounter.
Even five minutes of meditation a day could make a difference. Father Rohr went on to share a message from a Jewish scientist who informed him of the true meaning of the most sacred name in the Bible, “Yahweh.”
This name was so sacred that Jewish people never pronounced it out loud, but simply breathed it…”Yah” with the in-breath, and “weh” with the out breath. Father Rohr suggested we literally breathe God all day long, with our very first breath as an infant, and our very last breath in the hospital bed.