Thursday, December 26, 2013

Universal Wisdom


At this time of the year, when "religion" becomes more visible in the public forum, it's no wonder that people would reflect upon what it is that they believe in, or perhaps what they don't believe in.

Yesterday I had a very interesting online conversation with someone responding to my post.  He said, "I don't believe in God, but I am looking for transcendence in my life."

I wondered just exactly what he meant by that phrase? I have been reflecting upon what he didn't believe and what he did believe; and I wondered if maybe he and I actually believed the same things.

I think people are born with and into a "universal wisdom" - an innate sense that there is something bigger than the individual, something "transcendent" about life that gives meaning to life, and somehow makes sense of it all. 

As I see it, at some deep level, every human being is "looking for transcendence in their life." Everyone has a spiritual hunger -it's just part of who we are as people.

As we grow up, everyone engages in some form of a spiritual quest, but oftentimes the spiritual answers we come up with further cloud and confuse us, taking us away from the transcendent rather than drawing us closer.

The problem is that whatever "answers"we come up with about who "God" is will always make God smaller. Our human attempts to name or define or categorize the transcendent always diminishes it. 

And so God is reduced to a set of beliefs and ideas. God is anthropomorphized, made into a magical, distant person sitting on high, creating and controlling. 

Some people are content with this diminishment of the transcendent - the "old-time religion is good enough for them." Others want more. So they reject all the conventional "God" answers but, like all human beings, they never give up their search for the transcendent. 

As I see it, many times the people who say they do not believe in God are actually saying that they do not believe in the "concept" of God -  words about God that no longer make sense. 

In some ways, many people who claim to be atheists may actually be rejecting the "diminishment of God."

Yesterday I came across one of the most cogent and articulate statements about "God" that I have ever read. In his new book, "The Experience of God," David Bentley Hart suggests that if you scrape beneath the surface of all the teaching, all the scriptures, all the accumulated doctrines of all religious traditions of all times and all places -Christianity, Judaism,  Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, Sikhism, various pagan traditions, you basically will find a "wide area of vast accord" about "God"- a universal wisdom about divine transcendence. 

God is Spirit, incorporeal not an object located somewhere in space, not subject to the limitations of time, not simply some craftsman who creates by manipulating materials external to himself, not composed of parts, but rather residing in all things while remaining perfectly one, present to every one of us in the depth of our own being.

I wonder if my "atheist" friend and I might actually be able to agree on this universal wisdom about "God." 

"God" - Abiding Energy, Holy Presence. 

"God" -  the source and the goal of an innate, universal human wisdom.

"God" - diminished by being named, defined and categorized. 

We are all looking for transcendence. "God" is transcendence.

I wonder if my "atheist" friend and I might actually both believe in the same thing?

my book on amazon

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