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Put Out That Fire
Posted: October 17th, 2007, 12:51 pm
I am saddend by the amount of time some folks put into the endless legalistinc debates that characterize "orthodox" Christianity. One of those is the debate about "Hell," is ther really fire, whom does God "send" there, etc. Such a debate is running on the other message board I particpate in. I just posted this on the subject and thought I'd share it here to see if I'm on the right rack or need to shut up and study some more. Input welcome!
Giving serious attention to the awsome nature of the universe gives you a new perspective. As Eric Butterworth says, "Shocking as it may seem, the 'God of our fathers' is no longer adequate. Life in the space age calls for a larger thought of God." Not a new god, not a different god, but a larger understanding of the real God.
I think we must let go, and the sooner the better, of the Tribal God. Jesus moved beyond that and so must we. Paul got just so far, but could not let go of the Tribal God who gets ticked off, demands blood and death to cool his temper, reveals himself only to one small cluster of folks in one small place on earth, and prepares a huge bonfire to roast all the rest plus all who don't buy his plan (probably because they are scared to death of him). God simply cannot be that small. The One Who envisioned and therefore made the universe is not subject to being named or second-guessed. Think of it: the universe consists of 100 billion galaxies, each with 100 billion stars (averaged) and 100 billion planets. And it may be only one of many universes. It has been shown that there is more energy present in the "space" between physical objects that there are physical objects in the universe. Energy and Light are inseparable concepts ... and we are told that God is Light. The fact that we can relate at all to that Being Who did all of that is beyond amazing, but we can. He is in us, as the ocean is in a wave.
When you get to an understanding of God as the ultimate ground of all Being, infinte, eternal, unchangeable, then endless debates about what He may or may not do with any particular individual become moot. They are shown to be mere intellectual exercises, ego-motivated. If I am secure about my place in the mind of the Infinite Being, I need not concern myself about hells and limbos and purgatories. Only if I need to feel like "God likes me better than He likes you" do I need to envision a hell for you. Jesus put effort, tremendous, life-threatening effort, into revealing the greatness, the gentleness, the infinite mercy, of God, and as soon as He died His message was transformed into an extension of Judaism. It was codified, crystalized and encapsulated by a crack team of Jewish lawyers. But One can still read the Gospels and hear from Him directly.
What about hell? We can take the statements about it in the Gospels literally, of course. But then we had better be prepared to take everything he said literally -- and on that basis, perhaps mount an expedition to Israel to look for the bones of the prodigal son. We are told that "without a parable he did not speak to them." Everything He said was parabolic, and we must seek His meaning in it, not the easy way out, the literal interpretation. Hell is right here, right now, and so is Heaven. Hell is what you have when you think you can run some little part, or deal with certain aspects of your life, alone. Hell is what you have when you do not believe Jesus' words that "the kingdom of God is within you."
We can take one of two paths: we can debate endlessly about hell, Heaven, salvation, Law, etc., or we can be still and know that He is God. When Peter got curious about the destiny of John, Jesus rebuked him (See John 21:20-22). Basically His message was, "Mind your own business about your brother and my plans for him. Concentrate on following Me." So why do we go on endlessly about Hell and who God may (we hope) send there?
If God is infinite, who are you?
Posted: October 19th, 2007, 12:21 pm
If God is infinite, who are you?
Good question, the very question that was once posed to me, and which I eventually called The Sacred Riddle
As for your post, it makes a lot of sense to me, and is well put.
Your use of the expression “tribal god” is quite right. As Anna has written somewhere on Open Forum, we do have herd or tribal instincts. We like (need?) to be part of a group, for, just as in the jungle, it is in a group that we feel secure from predators. Contrast that with the wonderful image evoked by UG’s line, “the courage to stand alone”.
When we are young (however measured), it is difficult to stand alone. That freedom comes with maturity. I think it was Oscar Wilde who defined freedom as being able to say simply, politely, easily, and without any sense of guilt, “No, thank you” when you receive a dinner invitation you do not wish to accept. As you suggest in your piece, that kind of stainless self-confidence comes with maturity. So does the understanding of God which you describe. It cannot be forced, it cannot be hurried, it cannot be faked.
As I see it, then, while I understand exactly what you mean, there is no need to be saddened. The human condition, divinely created, includes this characteristic along with lots of others. Each is just an equally divine place along the wholly divine infinite spectrum of being.
Speaking of literal interpretations of hell and other things, I remember reading (and posting here somewhere) in John Paul II’s book Crossing The Threshold of Hope
that when he was asked if hell really exists and if damnation is really eternal (that is, without hope of redemption), he replied, referring to Jesus’s words at Matthew 25:46, “the words of Christ are unequivocal”. And yet, a few pages earlier in the book, he was asked if it was appropriate for people to address him as “Father” in view of Jesus’s admonition that we “call no man father” (Matthew 23:9). Here, he replied that doing so “evolved out of a long tradition, becoming part of common usage. One must not be afraid” therefore of calling him “Father”.
What can I say? We believe and act (and preach) according to our needs for as long as we have needs. And if God is Infinite, they are, like everything else, Divine.
The challenge for us is to see that divinity, and embrace it.
Posted: October 22nd, 2007, 2:46 pm
When you get to an understanding of God as the ultimate ground of all Being, infinte, eternal, unchangeable, then endless debates about what He may or may not do with any particular individual become moot. They are shown to be mere intellectual exercises, ego-motivated.
Art, I think you have said it well here. I have never stopped and thought about it, but isn't that what the hell issue is all about. Ego competitivenes about who is better and who has failed? So very insightful. It seems this is very important to many that are religious, because their God activity is based out of their ego's. I may tend to disagree that this is an intellectual exercise though, for I believe that ego comes a step below intellectual understandings of God. Maybe more out the emotional level?
I'm still struggling with the Sacred Riddle, and it has changed my perception of myself and God a lot. I'm still coming to a stumbling block on it though. It is a riddle that answers only our conception of God/us through our intellect and I believe and most mystics teach that it is not our intellect that takes us to God, so maybe this understanding only takes us to the doorstep?
Posted: October 24th, 2007, 10:10 pm
I'm still struggling with the Sacred Riddle, and it has changed my perception of myself and God a lot. I'm still coming to a stumbling block on it though. It is a riddle that answers only our conception of God/us through our intellect
Think of it as zen koan, which can be solvd only by the entirety of self. It is the absence of intellect ,feeling, and like.They cant solve it, only the whole can.
Posted: October 27th, 2007, 3:57 pm
Neo wrote, "Think of it as a zen koan".
That's exactly right, a koan
And isn’t that sometimes the nature of riddles, anyway? They don’t quite make sense because they are not supposed to make sense, exactly. They are supposed to stump or stretch the brain, even transcend it. That’s what makes them funny, even sometimes a little breath-taking. Koans do that, too. Their “solution” is not susceptible to intellectualizing. Their solution is beyond the “self” (me) and all its tools. That’s the whole point of a koan, to push the seeker over the edge of self, past the self-confidence of "I can solve this", even if just for a moment. It is in that very moment when the solution is seen! (Immediately, of course, we reach out to grab it, and we lose it.)
The idea of a koan is not limited to Zen. Sufism is full of such stuff. The Gospels Teacher, too. “Where I am going, you cannot come” is, effectively, a koan. To be sure, there are undoubtedly dozens, hundreds, of theological tomes deciphering the Teacher's meaning there, but seekers know that to truly understand it, you need to leap beyond understanding it.
Now, we tackle all of this stuff with our intellect, of course, because that is always our tool of first resort. We always want immediately to identify and categorize and “solve” everything we encounter, because failing to do so makes us uncomfortable, leaves us a feeling of being out of control, which, of course, we are!
As a seeker, all of this is relevant because in the end what a seeker does, what every seeker knows he or she must eventually do, is release the desire for control, and let Divine Chaos reign (in the words of some of the so-called New Thought churches, “let go, and let God”).
The idea of chaos terrifies us; we much prefer order! But man-made order is an illusion; indeed, it is an aspect of the
illusion. We think that by labeling things, compartmentalizing everything, setting limits on and around all we encounter, that we have “ordered the environment”.
Of course, we haven’t ordered the environment, we have just drawn lines. The environment cannot be
ordered, because, despite our separative perception of it, the environment is not a thing composed of other things. It is One Whole, it is our very self, perceived outwardly. And it does not need our ordering, because it is not in disarray. Our perception of it is in disarray.
And that is precisely because we are created that way, precisely – as I have suggested – so that the Infinite One could perceive itself as myriad many, and feel what it feels like to feel. But, again, happily, there is a built-in fix that eventually -- when "I don't find this stuff amusing anymore" -- kicks in, and we stumble across a book by Krishnamurti or Alan Watts or a Rumi poem or a Zen Koan. As Anna and I used to say, "Look what just fell into my hands!"
Posted: October 28th, 2007, 5:45 am
The idea of a Zen koan and what Zoofence wrote is good stuff. I've been mulling it around most of the day and then happened onto this from http://www.spiritualsisters.com
The Three Levels of Existence
Now it is a paradox of human life, often observed even by the most concrete and unimaginative of philosophers, that man seems to be poised between two contradictory orders of Reality. Two planes of existence - or, perhaps, two ways of apprehending exist-ence - lie within the possible span of his consciousness. That great pair of opposites which metaphysicians call Being and Becoming, Eternity and Time, Unity and Multiplicity, and others mean, when they speak of the Spiritual and the Natural Worlds, represents the two extreme forms under which the universe can be realised by him.
The greatest men, those whose consciousness is extended to full span, can grasp, be aware of, both. They know themselves to live, both in the discrete, manifested, ever-changeful parts and appearances, and also in the Whole Fact. They react fully to both: for them there is no conflict between the parochial and the patriotic sense. More than this, a deep instinct sometimes assures them that the inner spring or secret of that Whole Fact is also the inner spring and secret of their individual lives: and that here, in this third factor, the disharmonies between the part and the whole are resolved.
As they know themselves to dwell in the world of time and yet to be capable of transcending it, so the Ultimate Reality, they think, inhabits yet inconceivably exceeds all that they know to be - as the soul of the musician controls and exceeds not merely each note of the flowing melody, but also the whole of that symphony in which these cadences must play their part.
That invulnerable spark of vivid life, that "inward light" which these men find at their own centres when they seek for it, is for them an earnest of the Uncreated Light, the ineffable splendour of God, dwelling at, and energising within the heart of things: for this spark is at once one with, yet separate from, the Universal Soul.
So then, man, in the person of his greatest and most living representatives, feels himself to have implicit correspondences with three levels of existence; which we may call the Natural, the Spiritual, and the Divine. The road on which he is to travel therefore, the mystical education which he is to undertake, shall successively unite him with these three worlds; stretching his consciousness to the point at which he finds them first as three, and at last as One.
Practical Mysticism: A Little Book for Normal People and Abba: Meditations Based on the Lord's Prayer
Posted: October 29th, 2007, 12:02 pm
"They know themselves to live, both in the discrete, manifested, ever-changeful parts and appearances, and also in the Whole Fact."
This is a very nice and helpful little essay; thanks for posting it.
That statement in particular is good for me to hear. I know that I tend to go charging off on my white horse into some rather ludicrous positions, not unlike the Christian Scientists, attemtping to live in tomorrow while it is yet today, so to speak, and trying to deny the "web of sub-creation" as if it did not exist, when in fact so long as I perceive it it does. ACIM if not properly understood can lead to the same situation. So such a reminder is a good thing for me.
Posted: October 30th, 2007, 3:58 pm
I agree, it is a good essay, and nicely put.
Art, I am not sure I understand your reference to Christian Scientists "attempting to live in tomorrow while it is yet today". To be sure, many religions, particularly messianic and apocalyptic religions, seem sometimes to be focused more on the future than the present, but – while I am no expert – I think of Mary Baker Eddy as being more on the “here and now” side of that equation.
Anyway, here, perhaps a little too simplistically, is the way it seems to me.
God sees you through my eyes. God sees me through your eyes. God sees Himself through our eyes. I think that is the “reason” (if there is a reason) for our apparent existence as separate and separative-minded beings.
We are unique and uniquely different apparent manifestations of the Self-Same Divine One. Because God is Infinite, He is wholly in and as each of us (and every other apparent “thing”). Our apparent different-ness is a product of the complexion of the eyes through which we see, and it is Intentional.
As, when our lives evolve into the seeker's spiritual process, we rid our seeing of our ambitions, fears, expectations, memories, etc. (clear the lenses of their original opaqueness, labeled by some “original sin”), the clearer we see one another, and the clearer it becomes to us that we are One; we see what truly is: that God is all there is.
And, while traveling along the way, as long as we seem to ourselves to be “in the world”, we discover that we are always in relationship – with each other, with our lives, with everything in the universe around us. Absent relationship, we come to recognize that we do not, we cannot, exist, for we exist only in context. "Stefan" as a "person" exists only as he perceives and is perceived by others. It is, as I suggest somewhere else on TZF, a seesaw, in which, unless there is some “one” or some “thing” at both ends, there is nothing, just a board. After all, the definition of a seesaw is a board with some "thing" ("me" and "you") at both ends.
And that is precisely because the apparent myriad many (what each of us calls "me" and "my life" and “the world”) is in Truth only One, whole and indivisible. No part of it, however defined, can exist separate from any other part. As long as we perceive ourselves as "I am me, and you aren't", that Reality escapes us. But as we begin to see it, everything changes. By Grace in God's Good Time, our accepting and embracing it and all its implications, evolves into love which enables union and from there, recognition of always-true Identity.
Posted: October 30th, 2007, 10:46 pm
"By Grace in God's Good Time, our accepting and embracing it and all its implications, evolves into love which enables union and from there, recognition of always-true Identity."
Yes. No agument there from me. And really, that is precisely what I meant refering to the Christian Scientists. In the future, in God's Good time, we will all be wakened to the Truth that we cannot be ill, or injured, or stricken, that we are all God in the way that waves are the ocean ... but most of us (at least, I) find we are still progressing in that direction, not fully "arrived." When the Christian Scientist denies his child medical attention because "sickness does not exist," unless he is already AT that point of full awareness; unless he is at the point achieved by the Bodhisattva of Compassion, able to recognize the emptiness and sunder the bonds that cause suffering, he is acting on a future recognition or awareness he has not actually achieved yet, and in some cases the child dies as a result. To put it another way, I cannot greet a sunrise that has not yet occurred, though I know full well it will.
I see the station ahead... but I ain't gettin' off the train until it's at the terminal.
Posted: October 31st, 2007, 1:11 am
The reason I was so drawn to this essay is the triadic foundation of it. This is what I first learned and how I started on my more deeper spiritual path. The idea that we are more than our thoughts and emotions, which make up our ego, and that we have a heart or third part of us that enables us to understand a deeper level of ourselves and the world we are in.
I've been so drawn to this website and the great writings from all of you, including w4tvq. I have struggled with fitting together the triadic view with the idea of Oneness. This essay pulled it all together for me. I understand it to say that when we discover or uncover our true selves after stepping out of the shadow of our ego, we are then able to 'see' the dualistic world and the sacred riddle with new eyes. I think it is wonderful that the essay labeled this third part as the Divine. The next step, where you all are, that I'm not there yet, but I believe I'm here right now to learn from the ZF is...
The road on which he is to travel therefore, the mystical education which he is to undertake, shall successively unite him with these three worlds; stretching his consciousness to the point at which he finds them first as three, and at last as One.
I'm also trying to understand why I'm so drawn to Anna's picture called The Empty Boat
. For me right now, it seems to be saying that I don't need the boat anymore, or my old ways of understanding the world and it is time Be in the Oneness, (the boat symbolizing our separatness) When I first looked at the picture, I felt the fear and pain of life--- the little boat so small and fragile, soon to be torn apart by the overpowing waves... then I saw the painting without the fear(with new eyes?), The waves are rolling beauty that I'm a part of. They can only hurt me if I attempt to stay separate in the boat.
So, my earlier spiritual education and path were not wrong, but leading to here and it helps me so much to see this. It also helps me to open my mind and heart to all the different paths that can eventually bring us here, even if it is hidden beneath a religion.
Posted: October 31st, 2007, 3:57 am
My question tonight, that is keeping me awake is this. The 'riddle' of Jesus is fully human and fully God. Is this very answerable from a different 'sight'?
Jesus = fully God
So, fully God = fully human? Is this what Jesus was telling us? I'm not well enough versed in the Bible to know if Jesus really made this point or if it was Church doctrine. When Jesus stated I am God, was he saying we all are God? If Jesus was the Logos, then he was the third something, the way to connect the other two, the 'word' or 'the light' or 'the way' so we could come to the One.
If this is already discussed somewhere, please steer me there, Thanks.
Posted: October 31st, 2007, 12:39 pm
You're on the right track, Jen, or so it seems to me. Orthodox theologians point to Jesus' "I AM" statements, sich as "I am the bread of life" and "I am Alpha and Omega," and argue that he was claiming uniqueness, that these statements prove he and he alone was "the way, the truth and the life." Yet, having said "I am the light of the world," He also said, "you are the light of the world." I think that is what he intended to convey: every one of us can say, "I am the bread of life." Every one of us can say, "I am the door." It's all collected together in his statment, "the works I do, you shall do also, and greater works than these."
Was he God? You bet. So are you. So am I. I love Butterworth's illustration of that truth, that "God is not in us in the sense that a raisin is in a bun; He is in us as the ocean is in a wave." The Hindus sum it up in the often-used phrase, tat tvam asi: "that art thou." No matter what you see, no matter what you experience, no matter what seems to "happen" to you, tat tvam asi. Is there a sunset? Tat tvam asi. Is there a hurricane? Tat tvam asi. Is there a God? Tat tvam asi. ACIM latches on to the same truth, using the term "Son of God" to apply to everyone.
We are free from having to worry about whether Jesus is or is not God, is or is not the second person of the Trinity: quite simply, He is us and we are he. We are summed up in him and he in us. There can be no "He is Jesus and I am not." Just as there is no "You are Jen and I am not." If we are discrete waves on one ocean, the reality of each of us is the same: ocean. To me, he is the Master, the Teacher, the one who reveals to me the reality of God; he came not to show us who he was but who we are. We lose so much when we make him into just another "god over there, as against us over here."
I put that idea in a poem, about the "death of God," once, not even realizing as I wrote it what it meant, but sensing something that I did not yet grasp:
And so it is. No one remembers Him.
(Before He died, He sent us messengers,
but none would listen -- we would make them gods,
walking on water where we could not follow,
or in the wind where they could not be heard.)
Gosh, that's a lot of rambling. Hope it was somehow germane to the thread.
Posted: November 1st, 2007, 11:07 pm
"God is not in us in the sense that a raisin is in a bun; He is in us as the ocean is in a wave."
Art, this is exactly where I'm at and the transition that I'm struggling with. Maybe the raisin in the bun is simply coming from trying to understand the Great Spirit in a more concrete way, or looking too much through the lenses of things and matter.
No rambling that I'm reading in your words. I absolutely agree that Jesus was teaching us about us, not him and it saddens me to see everyone making him into a symbol of worship, rather than our path. Hmm, I guess worshipping something is much easier than traveling inside ourselves. You said it well...
And so it is. No one remembers Him.
(Before He died, He sent us messengers,
but none would listen -- we would make them gods,
walking on water where we could not follow,
or in the wind where they could not be heard.)
Posted: November 2nd, 2007, 12:14 pm
"Art, this is exactly where I'm at and the transition that I'm struggling with. Maybe the raisin in the bun is simply coming from trying to understand the Great Spirit in a more concrete way, or looking too much through the lenses of things and matter."
Of course. Not one of us but has been through that struggle, and some of us (of whom I am one) are still in it to one degree or another.
There's a lot of help with it. ACIM speaks to it, and the "one book I would take to a desert isle with me," Ruby Nelson's The Door of Everything.
Sometimes, though, I find that I am transferring my loyalty from The One to the books ... as if the wonderful passage in John 1 had ended "the Word became book, and dwelt among us." That is, no doubt, a hangover from having been taught (and believed) for so long that "the Bible is the Woooord of Gawd." Old habits die hard. In reality "the Word of God" is, as I see it, the creative impulse on account of which The One became All That Is, and thus "became flesh." And thus, is in us as the ocean is in the wave. IF that be pantheism, make the most of it...
Posted: November 2nd, 2007, 3:55 pm
Ah yes, pantheism. As you might imagine, TZF gets an accusatory letter about that every so often.
The Random House dictionary definition of pantheism reads more or less: Pantheism is the doctrine that God is the transcendent reality of which the material universe (including us) is only a manifestation. (“Only” is their word. Interesting choice.) It goes on to say that pantheism involves a denial of God’s personality, and expresses a tendency to identify God and nature.
Speaking for myself alone, I don’t have any real problem with pantheism as there defined, except that like all –isms and all definitions, it is self-limiting and therefore insufficient to its purpose.
Here’s the thing: We can’t define God precisely because God – the Divine – is Infinite, and therefore beyond (transcends) all definitions, all limits.
Consider that while Buddhists do not “believe” in God, they do believe in God’s Nature – or, more precisely, Buddha Nature (in Japanese, bussho) which is described (not defined) as emptiness. In this context, I have always understood emptiness to mean “empty of everything that will fit into Stefan’s mind”. Just so, somewhere on TZF, I suggest that if a person’s image of God will fit into his or her mind, it is too small.
All the same, as seekers we describe God as this or that because we feel the need to understand what we are seeking, why we are reaching, where we are treading. Almost immediately, we come to sense that God as an old, bearded man sitting on a gold throne in the clouds, parceling out favors and meting out punishments, doesn’t really work for us, so, bit by bit, we expand that image, until eventually it becomes increasingly transparent, sometimes even not there at all (like the chesire cat in "Alice in Wonderland" about which Alice says, "I wish you wouldn’t keep appearing and vanishing so suddenly; you make one quite giddy!”. What seeker has not been there?) Finally, we begin to sense that somehow – even in a way that at first we are afraid to consider, much less articulate – not only are we and “our lives” (by which I mean everything “out there”) one and the same thing, but so are we and God.
Here it is, as I see it: We create God in our own image of ourselves. That is not meant as a facetious remark. It is the best, it is the most, we can do. And as our image (definition) of ourselves grows and expands, so does our image (definition) of God. All of the images are appropriate and accurate as long as we do not hold onto them past their prime. Paul writes, “When I was a child, I thought like a child … when I became a man, I gave up childish ways”. Notice, he does not suggest there is anything wrong with childish ways, just that they are appropriate for children and inappropriate for adults. In other words, as long as our definition of God works for us, fine; but when it stops working, walk on.