Seeking God-Reflexive Spirituality

I’ve been thinking that it’s pretty reasonable to assume god, spirit, soul are non-material entities and since modern science acknowledges an inability to deal with the non-material, empirical knowledge of god is pretty much out of the question. How, after all, can one know for certain without empirical evidence (assuming we can know anything for certain at all)?
But, given the non-causal synchronicities that appear to exist in the quantum universe, who knows what non-material entities may be floating around out there. It seems to me even modern science leaves the door open, maybe even anticipates a glimpse of the ineffable. There’s no specific knowledge as to what the Other might be but I think that whatever it is it must be that which we require to sustain our enthusiasm for existence; that which necessarily is definable by each of us in terms of however or whatever we view the mystery of existence to be.
While dwelling on this recently the concept of Reflexive Spirituality came to my attention. The basic tenets of this, I guess one would call it a discipline, are: metaphorical interpretations of traditional scriptures, a strong pluralistic attitude regarding religious beliefs and an ongoing critical inquiry into religious meanings such as the makeup and nature of God.
I know it all sounds a bit ‘new agie’ but while I’ve never been able to fit myself within any set of formal religious labels, I think reflexive spiritualist may just be what I am.
I trust this realization doesn’t mean I need to join a group or anything. Surrounding one’s self with like- minds I guess can be comforting to some but joining really seems to me to be counter-productive when my motive is seeking personal enlightenment. Group think, dealing with diverse personalities and the inevitable politics would interfere with the primary intention.
From a distance, though, I do like the concept of reflexive spirituality. Embracing the spiritual in whatever form it takes, wherever, whenever, however I’m moved whether it be viewing a Kandinsky painting, celebrating a Hindu festival of lights, meditating beside a mountain stream or …………..
I don’t think anyone really knows when or what it will take for that non-material essence we may call God to make an appearance. I guess I’ll just maintain a positive perspective, avoid distraction and stay alert.

The Sacred and The Profane

The Sacred and The Profane

Seeking God-The presuppositional Apologist

I got to talking to a presuppositional apologist the other day. He assured me everyone knows God exists whether they realize it or not, God being the source of all our knowledge.
I told him that I was presently seeking God and had a number of good candidates but wasn’t absolutely sure I had found the right one and was really questioning the idea of an entity with all the omni’s in tow.

He said that since I already knew that the one true God (specifically, the Christian God of the Bible) existed I was just obscuring that realization by pretending to seek; I was suppressing the knowledge of God; I was being unrighteous. He said God was behind my ability to reason and think logically, that there was only one true world view and that was the Christian one and said, once again, that I knew all of this was true.

Not being aware that I knew something of which I was unaware, I told him that now, since he’s explained to me that I do know these things that I didn’t know I knew that perhaps there were other things I knew that I didn’t know I knew. And, supposing these things to be outside of the empirical realm, maybe I knew when I felt particularly safe and secure that there were invisible protector beings keeping me safe or that my dreams weren’t just dreams but were a parallel reality visited in my sleep or, maybe, I didn’t know that I knew all along that I am God herself creator and maintainer of my world.

I think the presuppositional apologist thought I was truly an unrighteous individual suppressing the truth that he and I knew it to be and went away believing I was a lost soul. But, I must admit I kind of like the idea of maybe knowing things I don’t know.

billy sunday

Seeking God-Master Carpenter

The rich mythology of the Northwest Pacific coast cultures identifies a number of characters that seem likely to have god-like potential. One of these, among the Haida, is Master Carpenter who taught the people how to carve and paint the meaningful imagery that appears on the clan houses.

The story goes that before the people knew very much about art Master Carpenter appeared in a halo of light. He told the Haida to go inside their houses and no matter what they might hear during the night, not to rise from their beds. Even though much pounding and scraping and other noises were heard the people did as they were told. In the morning they found their houses decorated with magnificent carved corner poles and the walls painted with beautiful clan totem designs. Then Master Carpenter told the people he would return each day to teach them the arts of carving and painting.

So, I’m wondering if the Haida people saw Master Carpenter as God. You’ve got the halo and the unreal amount of art produced in a very short time which is pretty potent if not omnipotent. It seems to pretty clearly place him into the realm of the supernatural at least.

I would think that, for the carvers and painters, he should carry a lot of weight-someone to appeal to for inspiration, thank for well-received work and blame for poor performance. I’m just not sure, after he did his initial teaching, how much he continues to hang around.

There’s no doubt he could be useful but I’m not sure he belongs on the short list.

mastercarpenter

 

 

Seeking God-Greek Philosophers

In the interests of my ongoing pursuit I’ve been considering some of the Greek philosophers who appear to have made some in-roads into the nature of God, or, god-likeness anyway.

Diogenes the Cynic maintained virtue as the true path to happiness. Living in poverty, reviling social constructs and the accumulation of wealth he assumed dog-likeness, living in the present without anxiety, a simple life of virtue depending on the kindness of others for his survival. The purity of his motives seem pretty god-like to me. Can dog-likeness be akin to God-likeness?

Chrysippus was a stoic philosopher who believed that, while one’s fate was pretty much set in stone if one controlled his soul crushing passions and adjusted his will to intersect with what was going to happen anyway, peace and tranquility were a real possibility. He also believed in the equality of all men (but, unfortunately, I’m not sure he meant women to be included in that generality). Still, he was certainly an honorable and virtuous man who deserves inclusion in any consideration of god-likeness.

Epicurus, founder of the Epicureans, expounded this very reasonable way of life based on moderation of desires and the seeking of a state of static pleasures which amounted to minimizing pain, anxiety and suffering. Among other things he believed the gods held little sway regarding the goings-on in the world and that the only true knowledge one could acquire came through the senses.

One of Epicurus’ chief disciples, Lucretius wrote a poem in which he goes to considerable lengths describing how the world formed within the infinite universe which had to do with the movements of tiny particles from which all things, wind, water, fire , earth and all that inhabit the world are composed. All things including the gods and men’s souls, Epicurus put forth, must expect a terminal existence, have a limited shelf-life, is subject to mortal demise over time.  Well, this did not sit well with the temple-goers. Despite the fact Epicurus was clearly an honorable person; celibate and a vegetarian to boot and clearly not a hedonist, his name became synonymous with heretic; he was persona non grata amongst the believers. He may not be God but if he was around today I’d definitely invite him to the ashram.

All three of these men point the way toward god-like qualities but omniscience is probably not among their attributes. I guess I can rule out omnipotency and omnipresence as well. Maybe perfection is an unreasonable assumption.

greek philosophers

Seeking God

I’m on a quest. I intend to find God. Well, I hope to anyway. Maybe it’ll only be a glimpse if anything. I know one of the problems with this seeking is how to recognize God once he’s, well maybe I should say it’s, in the vicinity. I’m pretty sure all this anthropomorphizing that has occurred vis a vis God’s appearance can’t be right; it’s just too far-fetched to expect God to have a physical form at all given his/her/it’s penchant for omni-presence, omni-power and all those other omnis. Although I guess if it wanted to assume a physical form it certainly could.

Anyway, I was reading about these Indian mystics who spend years in intense meditation, living in austerity, intent on achieving connection with the unnameable essence within all things and from which all things emanate. And, amazingly, some of them do find what they’re looking for. Their experiences differ but usually have in common a direct consciousness of the ground of being; a sense of becoming one with the absolute; an enlightened sense of a unified cosmos bound together by love.

Well, it’s pretty clear one doesn’t reach such a level of understanding overnight. This God-seeking is a serious endeavor not to be taken lightly if one expects results. I’m going for it; I’ll spend more time in contemplation; discipline myself to reach beyond; set aside timeout from daily routine.

I’ll let you know what happens.

ecstatic vision 3

Kinship

I was reading recently about the Tlingit people of the northwest Pacific coast. They have an incredibly rich mythology illustrated and enhanced by the beautifully crafted art they create.

Much of their mythology focuses on the close relationship of the people with their animal kin. At one time, it’s believed, all life was one until Raven released the sun. Then, in the light, the people scattered: some to the woods where they assumed four legs and heightened senses of smell and sight, some to the air where they became the birds and some to the sea becoming fish.

And still, the kinship remains a sacred connection with all sentient life, which is not to say these people are all vegetarians.

But, I don’t think they should be thought of as cannibals either. I think the animal in his self-sacrifice is offering himself for the good of the clan. And, I think the people recognize this.

Anyway, a lot of stories are told through the exquisitely carved poles these people continue to produce about the inter-relationships between clansmen and animals. In some cases, like the story of Kat and his bear wife unions are formed and progeny produced reinforcing the notion of kinship considerably.

I think the concept is a good one. Respect for all life forms and the knowledge of our mutual dependence upon one another bodes well for our extended existence.

clanhouse

 

Worldview

I got asked the other day what my worldview was. I was unable to come up with much of an answer. When I thought about the physical universe I couldn’t get past the dilemma modern science seems to be having regarding quantum theories that posit the idea of sub-atomic particles that are nearly unknowable. I mean, really, if the invisible, unknowable is what the universe consists of then what am I to make of reality at all?

It seemed to me the whole idea of a worldview presupposes some sort of underlying order driving the cogs of the universal machine. Like for the religious faithful, who, I think, can come up with a pretty thorough answer fairly quickly.

So, then I got to thinking about the nature of humankind-whether or not there may be some sort of ordered structure controlling the sentient.

I recently saw this movie, Hannah Arendt that dramatizes the philosopher’s acceptance of an offer by The New Yorker magazine, back in the 1960’s, to travel to Jerusalem to view and write about the trial of the notorious Nazi war criminal Adolph Eichmann. As she views the testimony she becomes increasingly convinced that the man was nothing-simply a cog in the totalitarian machine that was Nazi Germany; amoral, lacking in person hood, simply doing what he was ordered to do.

Although an extreme case it seems to me it’s something we all wrestle with. Lacking a mechanism that balances the good of the group, the political, social or religious motives of the institution with the moral and ethical responsibility of the individual, the nature of humankind is as chaotic as the quantum universe.

I can make no more sense of a concept of worldview now than when I was first asked the question.

worldview

Altered States

I’ve been having these flashes lately of another time and place. Small things: certain smells and sounds, plays of light, will bring to mind thoughts, sometimes remembrances of earlier experiences, sometimes images of times and places I’ve never been.

Most often these ‘flashes of memory’ elicit almost euphoric feelings in me-a sense of idyllic existence, that, when I think about it, are hard to explain. I say most often because sometimes there’s an ominous foreboding which accompanies these forays into the fanciful.

These experiences are like visions into another reality. They occur with varying degrees of strength and fade and disappear fairly quickly.

Now, I’m no scholar mind you but as far as I can tell Martin Heidegger speaks of ‘being’ as a field, an extension of the physical/mental self to include one’s sensible environs. Our extended being can accumulate a lot of the detritus of daily life, an ever increasing weight of familiarity and the efforts and energies required of simply existing. So, by altering one’s being, that is relocating, one becomes new and fresh-at least momentarily.  But, rather than actually physically moving, my mental sojourns into past and fanciful places must serve to offer similar relief.

I’m glad I got this figured out. Now if I can extend these fancies and keep them mostly positive maybe I’ll be content to stay put physically while I travel far and wide mentally. I do know, though, I’ll still need to seek new experiences on occasion.

altered states

Where am I (now)?

I learned recently that modern science views the notion of ‘now’ as nothing more than an illusion. Due to the lag time our sensory apparatus requires to acknowledge occurrences around us along with the finite speed of light means that what we are experiencing at any given moment has already happened. So, if the past is no longer and the future is yet to be and there is no ‘now’ then where, exactly, do I exist? If where I am, I only was I must have to anticipate where I really am.

I must say I find this a bit unsettling as I’ve been operating for some time under the assumption that ‘Eternity is Now’ given the nonexistence of past and future. So if ‘now ‘ is ‘past’ then I’m inclined to discount the idea of eternity.

But, cosmologists make matters even more confusing suggesting we may exist within an eternal multi-verse within which the ‘Big Bang’ that created our universe happened and who’s to say, they hypothesize, this big Bang thing hasn’t happened all sorts of times.

Apparently the ideas is there are passage ways, ‘worm holes’, between these various universes that if we weren’t limited by our vision and movements due to the finite speed of light we might be able to find.

So, between not being here ‘now’ and being a minute speck within one of countless universes I’m thinking I may have to start again from the beginning and agree with that great thinker Rene Descartes that at least I know I’m thinking.

Portal

Portal

Contemplation

I read the other day about a study that found that most people have a really hard time sitting alone with their thoughts.

The story related how researchers had asked volunteers to sit alone in a room for fifteen minutes. The room contained nothing but a table and chair and a machine that would produce mild electrical shocks if one chose to use it. Apparently a fairly large percentage of the research subjects chose to administer shocks to themselves rather than sit alone with their thoughts for even fifteen minutes.

Letting one’s mind wander to past occurrences or future possibilities seems to me pretty natural so I guess I don’t understand what the problem was. Focusing on the eternity of now, I must admit, isn’t always easy but my mind is pretty good at wandering.

In fact, I was just thinking about the movie, Altered States, in which the protagonist, played by William Hurt, submerses himself in a sensory deprivation chamber, which is essentially a tank of warm water in a totally darkened cubicle, for hours on end, day after day. His idea was that by doing this he could get in touch with his primal inner self. And I guess he does because he ends up developing simian characteristics.

So, I’m wondering if the reason most people are unable or unwilling to be alone with their thoughts is that they fear glimpsing their innate animal natures.

If this is the case it sure explains our inclination to constantly be distracting ourselves.

contemplation