If any of the foregoing is anywhere near the mark, then one thing at least is certain: We and our world are a phenomenon considerably different than what we were brought up to believe. Despite the appearances, we are not threatened and vulnerable creatures inhabiting a lonely, isolated planet suspended in an impersonal universe, a universe more or less overseen but always only from a distance, and then, judging from the effects, not all that well, by an inaccessible god long on grudges and, all the published reports to the contrary notwithstanding, short on forgiveness and love. Quite the opposite, the fact seems to be that our Reality — what we are and where we are — is somehow God-being-us-and-our-lives, in order to observe Himself as that, and precisely for the purpose of understanding the experience of being, what it feels like to feel, and what it is to know oneself. You and I and our universe are not things in and of themselves, created umpteen million years ago and then abandoned to function more or less on our own, each operating independently of the others, each struggling for its own survival. Instead, we are a point of view, a perspective, a vantage point, like a panoramic lookout alongside an interstate highway, from which God can observe Himself in order to see what He looks like. God is imagining Himself in His Own Mind, and we are the product of that process, we are that image.
Why have we had it all wrong all the millennia? Is it because we are cosmic criminals, guilty of sins unspeakable and indelible? Absolutely not. We have had it all wrong all these millennia precisely because that is the way God wants it, the way it had to be. In the beginning, you will remember, we said God was unable to know Himself, or to look upon Himself as you and I might, because everywhere He looked was He, and there was nothing in the Whole One beside which He could stand say, “This is Me, and that isn’t”. And He wanted to be able to do that. Having Happened (and how that occurred is another question altogether!), God wanted to observe Himself, to touch Himself, to experience Himself, to know what it is to know What It Is. He knew He could not create an other, an other He could stand apart from and compare Himself to as you and I do, because as we have seen, that is the one thing an infinite being cannot do. So, He did the next best thing, He created the illusion of an other. God created a sense of separation or the appearance of separateness. It is, of course, just a trick, a sleight of hand, but it is a trick with a purpose. And, once again, the purpose was to give God the feeling of being more-than-one-thing so that the apparent many things could look at themselves and at one another, and observe, “This is me, and that isn’t”, and experience the feeling of knowing what that means, an experience which would then be God’s because it would be He of course Who is being the many things even though as them He will have, according to the plan, forgotten that He is them.
And the trick worked. After all, you and I really do believe that we are separate from one another and from everything else. In fact, if a poll were to be taken today among the entire human race, I do not doubt that at the very top of a list of concepts each of us finds most difficult to believe and even harder to live, even though just as many of us would probably publicly state it to be self-evidently true, is the idea “We are one”. And the worst of it is that in our hearts we would feel guilty about being unable to see ourselves that way, and we would live lives stained and in some cases crippled by that guilt, when all along it was God Himself Who created us (imagined Himself as us) precisely as we are, precisely so that we would not perceive that “we are one” (at least not initially).
Some years ago, a professor at a seminary put to his class the question, “How can mankind allay God’s anger at us?” The class struggled with that query long and hard, attacking it from every angle, but every solution failed under close scrutiny as offering not enough, or being too late, or doing for God what He could far better do for Himself. Finally, it was decided that there was nothing mankind could do but beg for mercy and bear in silence whatever comes. Later, in a continuing search for a more satisfactory answer to that question, one member of the class came across a reference to a ploy used by courtroom lawyers, by which a question is framed in such a manner that there is no way to answer it without making the point intended by the questioner. A common example heard in law school is the question, “Have you stopped beating your wife?” asked of a husband by a prosecutor seeking a conviction for wife abuse. Forced to reply either “Yes” or “No”, the hapless man condemns himself as soon as he opens his mouth, even though he may never have raised a hand against his mate.
Clearly, the seminarian’s inquiry about God’s anger was just such a trap. For generations, mankind has labored under the assumption that God is furious at us, and then proceeded from that point, and, understandably, rather lamely. Instead, if we will question the basic assumption as we have done in this book, we may find that it is not only probably false, but more to the point, impossible, and that therefore we need not spend the rest of our lives figuring out how to get out from under a shadow which does not exist!
Many of us raised in a Christian environment can remember having been taught that what the arrival on the scene of Jesus meant, in effect, was that we no longer needed to sacrifice our lambs and goats to appease the Lord God. As it was explained to me, the reason for that was that Jesus had offered the ultimate sacrifice, himself, thereby clearing all our accounts, and that therefore any guilt or debt I might have felt toward God, I should now feel toward Jesus. But is that the meaning of the Gospels message? As I see it now, what Jesus would have us learn from what he learned and taught is not that his life has been traded for an unspecified number of livestock, but that God is now and never has been an appropriate subject of our guilt or a justified object of our appeasement, for He has never been angry at us. Jesus did not sacrifice his life as in give up something that he treasured; rather he sacrificed it as in made it sacred. That is, Jesus recognized that his life (and your life, and my life) is sacred precisely because it is God, precisely because what we have called the dreamscape and all its parts and all its inhabitants are the dreamer, and in this case, the Dreamer is God.
What do we do with this discovery? How shall it change our lives? How shall it change us? Right off, I should think that being able to release our sense of guilt as regards so-called Original Sin should make a considerable difference, even among those of us who do not think of ourselves as being burdened by such theological baggage. After all, as we suggested earlier, if we were brought up in any Islamic-Judeao-Christian environment, some of that is bound to have rubbed off, even if only at a subconscious level. So, in an instant, God changes from being (or, more accurately, being perceived as) our jailer at worst, and our creditor at best, to being, what, our Source, truly, direct, and immediate, as in the one “dreaming” or “imagining” us, thus even the one somehow being us.
Now, before we have a chance even to begin digesting that thought, we must note that it is not intended to mean that I am God and you are God and everyone else is God, for then all we have accomplished is turned up the heat on our already existing problem, from a planet inhabited by billions of confused men and women to a planet inhabited by billions of insane men and women! But what it does mean, however, is that the entire entity is God, or rather God is the entire entity (but certainly not only that). All of creation is the Creator being that. What that realization can do for us, if we will let it, is defuse all our old, nagging fears — the fears of insecurity, of rejection, of pain, of illness, and death, the fears upon which most of us base most of life’s decisions, and the fears which color life for all of us, and for many, ruin it.
If we can relax long enough to let sink in the idea that the Universe is God Himself perceiving (imagining) Himself that way, then surely we are bound to see that whatever had us terrified heretofore need be no less scary than the images in a horror house at a carnival. Or, if we insist on continuing to be frightened, at least we can take refuge in the knowledge that it is, after all, the point of the horror house at a carnival to frighten us! After all, many of us have been to carnivals and witnessed people willingly standing in line to pay good money for a chance to go through the horror house to be frightened. Why? Who knows, precisely, but probably because they know it is not real. And probably also because fright is certainly one experience that we can really feel. And why not. When you know it is not real, it can be fun. Just so, if we can come to realize that in the way we have discovered here, our reality is not real either, and is being experienced precisely to be experienced, then presumably it will lose its sting, and we may just be able to enjoy it. That in itself is an important first step. Which will lead inexorably to the next, whatever it might be.
Certainly, from what we have seen so far, you and I can venture to say this much: Down the road there is a place from which you and I will no longer see ourselves as you and me, as your-self and my-self, as we do now, but as one, as One Self, as the One Self, as Jesus did and as Christ does. How do we get from here to there? The best answer to that seems to be simply this, by asking. The teacher, thank God, remains on the job as long as there is a single one of us who has not seen that there is only a Single One.
And now, before we close, we really must acknowledge that the thesis presented in this book is outrageous and, very likely, absurd. Certainly, theologians and other biblical scholars will find our interpretation of the Genesis story and of those passages of the Gospels we addressed to be pure nonsense. In fact, as I write these last words, I wonder if any readers will have stayed with me long enough to read them. Still, as those who have struggled along the spiritual path know far too well, and have the inner bruises to prove it, most often the answers that seem to make sense do not truly answer, and conversely those that seem the most ridiculous are in fact the very One. So, while we may have strayed far from the truth as we perceive it, we may also have stumbled closer to the Truth as It Is than we can yet realize.
And thus, we do well not to reject anything we have found simply because it does not make sense. In fact, that may very well be its most promising characteristic. For it is apparently the nature of Truth to be beyond the mind, and therefore we are ill advised to depend upon the mind to be a judge of it. The mind can lead us to the source, but it cannot know when we have arrived there. That is the province of that aspect within us which has never forgotten, that piece of the infinite which, being infinite, forms and informs every piece of us. Call it the heart, call it the soul, call it the inner, or call it nothing, it is there, and it does hear, and it does speak, and if any of the preceding discussion makes sense there, and each of us will know for ourselves if it does, then we have succeeded.
Finally, we cannot part company without asking the question: Did God actually put Himself to sleep in the Garden of Eden? The answer, of course, is no, He did not. Indeed, God did not do anything at the Garden of Eden, because there never was any such place. All of that, and all that we have talked about here, is simply a story. But not a story that is fiction; rather, a story that is myth. The difference between fiction and myth may seem fuzzy sometimes, but it is telling. Fiction is a story about something that never actually took place; myth is a story about something that actually happened but not precisely as the story tells it. Myth is the telling of Truth as a story because there is no other way to tell it that the listener will understand. Thus, a myth is speaking “as if”. As an illustration, suppose that you are an astronaut who has just returned from travel to a galaxy far, far away, where you visited a planet, let’s call it Kensho, on which nothing is even remotely similar to anything on Earth. In fact, let’s say that Kensho is so different that it is not even a planet in the sense in which we here think of a planet. So, you have come back to Earth, and as soon as you step out of your space vehicle, you are greeted by a crowd of reporters thrusting cameras and microphones in your face. “Tell us about Kensho,” they shout. Uncertain how to reply, you do not speak at first, and then, after a few moments of dead air, you say, “Kensho is so different in every conceivable way from anything any human being has ever experienced that we have no frame of reference by which to describe it. Thus, it would be futile for me to attempt to do so.” Standing beside you is the public affairs director of the space agency, and she pales visibly at your response, for she knows that it was not the kind of stuff that generates continued interest and support for the program. Accordingly, she presses you to try again, and so you do. “Well,” you begin a little hesitantly, “Imagine a place where …” and then you proceed to paint a picture of Kensho as best you can using images and symbols and concepts from Earth, images and symbols and concepts that your listeners are familiar with, but which you know all along will not and cannot describe Kensho as it truly is, because you know as no one else can that on Kensho none of our images and symbols and concepts applies.
Just so, one day a very long time ago, we asked one who had seen the Truth of the Universe to tell us about Life. “Very well, my children,” began the reply, as we all cuddled up close to share in the warmth of the moment, “in the beginning ….”
Note: Kensho is a Japanese word used in Zen to signify the experience of awakening or of self-realization (and especially the initial experience of awakening), all the while recognizing that in Truth there is no one to experience awakening or to become self-realized, and ultimately therefore no such thing as awakening or self-realization, at least not to he or she who is asking about it and grasping for it!
Dear friend, all theory is grey,
And green the golden tree of life.
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