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My Exclusive God

Posted: August 18th, 2006, 2:04 pm
by anna
I just completed reading the biography of C.S. Lewis - I had heard so much adoration about this guy, that I felt I ought to check him out first hand. While his conversion to Christianity was an interesting topic, and was the primary reason I read the biography, I had actually recently seen the movie Shadowlands, which depicts his great love affair with his wife, who died in his arms, and wrenched his faith in a God of goodness greatly. This picqued my curiosity, to see if he ever restored his faith, and how he did that, in the face of the grief he experienced and his depth of despair.

Anyway, one of the streams throughout his struggle with God, was his difficulty in believing that Jesus was God incarnate. (He eventually did come to believe that, thanks in many ways to Tolkien, the author of The Hobbit, who was a Roman Catholic and deeply religious, and put forth succinct questions to Lewis, forcing him to reconcile his conflicts.)

However, I came away, once again, as I do from many Christian writers, with the disturbing realization that here again was an individual who, because of his inability to deal with greater possibilities, limited God to ONE incarnation, that of Jesus, instead of realizing that God, in his infinite possibilities, would more than likely incarnate more than once, and in various disguises. Having a "great mind", or at least a great "intellectual mind", it surprised me that he stopped short of wrestling with the obvious conflict between an omnipotent God and that God's manifestations, including incarnations, which has to lead to the inevitable conclusion, therefore, of non-exclusiveness and infinite possibilities. (Limiting God to anything less than this is presumptuous and illogical, I think. And if anything, Lewis was not supposed to be illogical.) I suppose there are reasons as mundane as the fact that he lived at a time in England where the Church was extremely powerful and pervasive, but still, I came away disappointed in his self-imposed limitations.

I can only conclude that the idea that there might be more than one "son of God", throughout the history of mankind, is so revolutionary to a mind which has been thoroughly immersed in one God incarnate and the only God incarnate kind of religious conditioning, that it cannot make that leap without shattering its entire scaffold of exclusivity. (Being exclusive is very comforting to us human beings, after all and without that encircling barrier we find ourselves vulnerable and fearful, naturally.) Alongside this problem, is, of course, the youthful admonitions about going to hell if you dare question this proposition, and that can be a formidable opponent, even in adulthood.

Posted: August 19th, 2006, 1:49 am
by Christine

Posted: August 20th, 2006, 6:58 pm
by zoofence
I wrote the following paragraphs in response to an item that has since been removed by its originator. All the same, I have decided to leave this here, slightly edited, for whatever interest it may have to others.

For me, surrender is a positive, even desirable condition. A goal to be reached for, prayed for. To me, surrender means letting God be God, a concept whose implications are wondrous. For more about that, you may wish to read TZF’s essay by that title here.

To be sure, a seeker’s surrender is made difficult, even terrifying, by the separative, egoic perspective (“I am me, you are you, and God is God”) which we have of ourselves, the world, and the Divine. In this view, anytime another wins, even God, means that we lose (the quintessential expression of this perspective is the saying, “One man’s blessing is another’s misfortune”).

As regards seeing God as "an enemy", I can’t imagine a true seeker coming to that opinion, except perhaps temporarily in the face of a terrible misfortune or loss (as C. S. Lewis might attest, considering his perfectly normal and understandable reaction to the death of his wife, a woman and friend to whom he was devoted). Other than that, I think that “God as enemy” is the stuff of institutionalized religion, where the dogma serves not only as a foundation and an inspiration for aspiring seekers, but also as a framework for society. In the latter -- shall we say "outer" -- function, religion’s prescriptions and proscriptions do indeed sometimes present God as an angry, even vengeful, authority figure, and perhaps with good purpose (if too often misused).

I can’t readily find a supporting quotation, but from my reading of C. S. Lewis, I expect he would agree that a seeker’s surrender to God is not only necessary but inevitable, and desirable. I seem to recall that he defined the difference between heaven and hell as (and this is from my memory, so it may not be word-for-word accurate) “Heaven is man saying to God, ‘Thy will be done’, and hell is God saying to man, ‘Your will be done’”.

Parenthetically, while I like the image C. S. Lewis paints there, I don’t much like the way he has put the latter half of it, because, at least to my ears, it makes God sound sarcastic, which in my mind is not only unlikely, but impossible. I would prefer that it read, ‘hell is man saying to God, my will be done’. It is not as pretty literarily, but I believe it is more accurate, if only because God knows that in Truth man has no will. Our sense of “my will” is an illusion generated by the separative, egoic environment in which we think we live. I think I am “a person separate and distinct from other persons making things happen”, but my thinking it is so, does not make it so. In Truth, there is no such thing as “a person separate and distinct from other persons”. God knows that, and we too come to know it – at first fearfully, in time joyfully – as we travel along the spiritual path.

As should be apparent from our various writings on The Zoo Fence, nothing in these paragraphs here is intended to suggest that surrender is easy or quick. In fact, increasingly I believe that a case could be made that we never actually do surrender. Rather, what happens is that at times and in ways of Her Choosing, God whittles away our sense of separate self (“I am me, and you aren’t me”) and all its implications, until eventually it is extinguished by the Divine, and we not only truly see but fully become the Reality expressed by “There is no God but God, and God is All There Is”. Perhaps the most we can say is that our seeking surrender encourages God to grant it to us.

Here, I am reminded of the Sufi story about the “greater jihad” (which is Islam’s term for the inner struggle all seekers must undergo). Here’s how it appears at TZF’s Quiet Room:

One day, a fellow comes upon another enmeshed in a life-and-death struggle with God.

"Why in the world," the first asks, "would you take on such a formidable opponent? How can you possibly expect to win?"

"You don't understand," gasps the other, between strangleholds, "I hope to lose!"


Posted: September 9th, 2006, 1:36 pm
by anna
Speaking of surrendering.

To clarify what I mean by surrender-- I mean the inevitable struggle between the ego centric vision and the giving up that position in order to embrace God and God's vision, which is non-exclusive, all inclusive, and devoid of ego-centricity. This is a struggle which each of us constantly goes through, even in a non-spiritual sense. It is the small moments of surrender to compromise, in order to live a peacable life, the big moments of surrender when we "give up" a position because we either find it to be ineffective or indeed, destructive. We are constantly asked to "surrender", and it is that unwillingness to surrender that brings us suffering and unhappiness.

I think that those who dig in their heels against this requirement that we surrender are those of us who suffer the most, feel most alienated, and generally feel alone the most. Certainly in my own personal experience, the inability to surrender brought enormous struggle in my own life. After all, consciousness is continuously seeking companionship, and that ability to co-habit with like consciousness, as well as unlike consciousness, determines our happiness or unhappiness - we are social animals in the final analysis.

So, then, surrender to God in my mind is the capacity to "give up" one's "special position" in favor of an immersion or letting go and letting life unwind as it is prepared to do, and will do, despite our resistances. Resistance to others, consciousness, God, life, events, concepts, and all the rest is the opposite of surrender. And that resistance, again, is generated by a sense of separateness and "specialness". Indeed, full surrender to God means full surrender to life as it happens to us, without resistance. The extent that we presume ourselves to be separate and isolated, to that extent we suffer because of that presumption. Surrender undermines and ultimately destroys that presumption.