Posts Tagged ‘ theology ’

God Never Changes

See the thing about this idea is that it does get at some important
things about reality, but if considered alone, gives us an incomplete
picture.

Whether you think God is unchanging depends on your perspective on what God actually is.

If
God is transcendent, outside us and outside of time, he is unchanging.
For those of you who can’t handle straight theological sentences, I’ll
say it a different way. Amidst all the change in the world there is an
essence that remains fixed. This God is the ground of being. When we
say God is unchanging, we mean that there is something fundamental to
existence that is eternal and ever present. For instance, I find that
there is a place deep within me (the place where God and I are one)
where no matter what happens to me on the outside, somehow everything
is okay. I’m not always aware of it, but when I do see it, I realize
it’s always been there, and all I had to do was let go of my own
imposed desires and fears. For instance, if you go to the forests, or
stand on a mountain, or look at the stars…the essential experience,
though outwardly different, often feels the same. There is a certain
unity of experience, a deep level where everything is one, only
accessible when your mind is still and somewhat detached from your
daily life. And this is an eternal and unchanging aspect of reality.

If
God is immanent, in everything and everyone, then he changes every
second. This God is dynamic and alive. He reacts and flows and changes
along with circumstances, always in an effort to gently push in the
right direction. This God is in contact with everything, this is the
God of the details, the God of the living organism of the universe. And
like any living organism, it must be willing to adapt and change as
other parts of the ecosystem do. This is what it means to be alive. And
we would all (well, those of us who believe in him) agree that God is a
living God, right? If you still have trouble with it, think of it this
way. God gives us what we need, doesn’t he? Well, what if what we need
in order to grow changes? He’s going to change along with us isn’t he?
This God is very much *with us* down here, in every second of our
lives, improvising with us continuously like a jazz ensemble.

Personally, I believe that God is both. Unchanging *and* ever-changing. The whole *and* the part. The heart *and* the limbs.

The
next question is: where does the dogma belong? To which category? The
eternal and ever present core? Or the outer, grounded in the world,
constantly changing aspect? Or perhaps it belongs to both on different
levels. smile.gif

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Response to some Theological Speculation

"The
free will we are endowed by our Creator is the very thing that defines
our existence– creation without free will is creation without love;
ironically, it is love, and only love, that can create life, for all
goodness rests in love. That which is not love is only for tearing down." -Amanda

Your point about love being the only thing that can create free
will…that is an interesting one.  Fear creates, ignorance creates,
but they do so without free will.  Why?  Because they are possessive,
they create only to benefit themselves.  Love creates for the pleasure
of letting go.  And this marks two ways that we as humans can create,
or approach life.  If we approach life through fear and ignorance
(which we all to often do), what we call love is really an attempt to
fortify ourselves and fill an emptiness within our hearts that we are
afraid of.  We don't want a person to be who they are, we want a person
to act in a way that benefits us.

If we approach life through love, then we are much more relaxed.  We do
not grasp at things or at people.  We love them without wanting to
possess them because we do not fear emptiness.  We have found that
emptiness is a window through which we might view love, truth, and
authenticity on the deepest level.  Love, it seems, is about letting
go.  And this letting go does imply a will to let each and every
creature or force behave as it is.

"This is what is meant of the Something More when I say it is "the individuality and unity of life."" -Amanda

You seem to be getting at something essential here.  Two components of
God.  Individuality, unity.  Others have labeled them immanence and
transcendence, or the Sophia and the Logos.  It is an ironic view of
God, because it holds two seemingly opposite qualities together.  For
me, this idea is absolutely essential to my concept of God. 

I understand your flirting with pantheism, because strict monotheism
doesn't seem to give you the same impression of cohesiveness and
unity.  It emphasizes God being set apart, transcendent.  While this
feels true to you, it doesn't emphasize how present God feels. How he
brings us together and exists in every level of his creation.

I also understand your hesitance to take on pantheism.  Christians have
long looked down on it.  You do not want to lose the transcendent
aspect of God.  But you don't have to. 🙂

I suggest you look into panentheism. It's monotheism and pantheism
combined.  The ironic God.  Both immanent and transcendent.  And the
fun part?  You can find traces of it (along with mysticism) in every
single religion.  I believe it is a more accurate description of how
God feels to us.

As far as the art and artist, I think God's presence goes deeper than
that.  To me, God is the artist, but he is also the canvas, the paint,
the will and the life of the art itself.  Once he has created, he lets
it take on a life of its own, but it is not separate, not on the most
fundamental level.  For though it does as it wills, it is made of the
canvas and paint.  It is free and separate on one level, but it is made
of God on another.  In every living thing exists a spark of God's
presence.

And on the topic of free will…I actually think that the more you
reveal this spark, the freer you are.  The more you let it become
buried, the more ignorant you are of your true nature, and the more
bound to separation you become.

So, paradoxically, I think that to be free *is* to be one with God.  To
have your will freely join with his.  It is rather ironic that in order
to become truly free, we do not start bound and have to separate
ourselves, but the reverse.  The moment we are born we are introduced
to separation, and our lives are a quest to find a way to rebind
(re-lig  the root of the word religion) ourselves with the essential
unity and become free.

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Upanishads

Bolded are the lines I love the most.  So you know, Ajñāna means ignorance.  If the Hinduism terms bog you down, read only the bold:

"I am without Māyā. I am without compare. I am solely the thing that
is of the nature of wisdom. I am without Ahaṅkāra (I-am-ness). I am
without the difference of the universe, Jīva and Īśwara. I am the
Supreme that is not different from Praṭyagāṭmā (individual Āṭmā). I am
with ordinances and prohibitions destroyed without remainder. I am with
Āśramas (observances of life) well given up. I am of the nature of the
vast and all-full wisdom. I am one that is witness and without desire.
I reside in My glory alone. I am without motion. I am without old
age—without destruction—without the differences of My party or another.
I have wisdom as chief essence. I am the mere ocean of bliss called
salvation. I am the subtle. I am without change.
I am Āṭmā merely,
without the illusion of qualities. I am the Seat devoid of the three
Guṇas. I am the cause of the many worlds in (My) stomach. I am the
Kūtasṭha-Chaiṭanya (supreme Cosmic-mind). I am of the form of the
Jyoṭis (light) free from motion. I am not one that can be known by
inference. I alone am full. I am of the form of the stainless
salvation. I am without limbs or birth. I am the essence which is Saṭ
itself. I am of the nature of the true wisdom without limit. I am the
state of excellent happiness. I am One that cannot be differentiated. I
am the all-pervading and without stain.
I am the limitless and endless
Saṭṭwa alone. I am fit to be known through Veḍānṭa. I am the one fit to
be worshipped. I am the heart of all the worlds. I am replete with
Supreme Bliss. I am of the nature of happiness, which is Supreme Bliss.
I am pure, secondless, and eternal. I am devoid of beginning. I am free
from the three bodies (gross, subtle, and causal). I am of the nature
of wisdom. I am the emancipated One. I have a wondrous form. I am free
from impurity. I am the One latent (in all).
I am the equal Āṭmā of
eternal Vijñāna. I am the refined Supreme Truth. I am of the nature of
Wisdom-Bliss alone.

Though I cognize as the secondless Āṭmā by
means of discriminative wisdom and reason, yet is found the relation
between bondage and salvation. Though to Me the universe is gone, yet
it shines as true always.
Like the truth in the (illusory conception of
a) snake, etc., in the rope, so the truth of Brahman alone is, and is
the substratum on which this universe is playing. Therefore the
universe is not. Just as sugar is found permeating all the sugar-juice
(from which the sugar is extracted), so I am full in the three worlds
in the form of the non-dual Brahman. Like the bubbles, waves, etc., in
the ocean, so all beings, from Brahmā down to worm, are fashioned in
Me; just as the ocean does not long after the motion of the waves, so
to Me, there is no longing after sensual happiness, being Myself of the
form of (spiritual) Bliss.
Just as in a wealthy person the desire for
poverty does not arise, so in Me who am immersed in Brāhmic Bliss, the
desire for sensual happiness cannot arise. An intelligent person who
sees both nectar and poison rejects poison; so having cognized Āṭmā, I
reject those that are not-Āṭmā. The sun that illuminates the pot (both
within and without) is not destroyed with the destruction of the pot
;
so the Sākshī (witness) that illuminates the body is not destroyed with
the destruction of the body. To Me there is no bondage; there is no
salvation, there are no books, there is no Guru; for these shine
through Māyā and I have crossed them and am secondless. Let Prāṇas
(vital airs) according to their laws be fluctuating. Let Manas (mind)
be blown about by desire. How can pains affect Me who am by nature full
of Bliss? I have truly known Āṭmā. My Ajñāna has fled away. The egoism
of actorship has left Me. There is nothing I should yet do. Brāhman’s
duties, family, Goṭra (clan), name, beauty, and class—all these belong
to the gross body and not to Me who am without any mark (of body).
Inertness, love, and joy—these attributes appertain to the causal body
and not to Me, who am eternal and of changeless nature. Just as an owl
sees darkness only in the sun, so a fool sees only darkness in the
self-shining Supreme Bliss. Should the clouds screen the eyesight, a
fool thinks there is no sun; so an embodied person full of Ajñāna
thinks there is no Brahman. Just as nectar which is other than poison
does not commingle with it, so I, who am different from inert matter,
do not mix with its stains. As the light of a lamp, however small,
dispels immense darkness, so wisdom, however slight, makes Ajñāna,
however immense, to perish. Just as (the delusion) of the serpent does
not exist in the rope in all the three periods of time (past, present,
and future), so the universe from Ahaṅkāra (down) to body does not
exist in Me who am the non-dual One. Being of the nature of
Consciousness alone, there is not inertness in Me. Being of the nature
of Truth, there is not non-truth to Me. Being of the nature of Bliss,
there is not sorrow in Me. It is through Ajñāna that the universe
shines as truth
."

I love that so much. It is through ignorance that the universe shines as truth.  I love the seeming contradiction.  I am finding I understand this stuff more and more, and its layers of meaning are becoming clearer and clearer. And to me, just the way this is constructed is very beautiful.  So many good parts to it!

This post was inspired by a quote that Ben gave to me, which I like even more:

'I am your tongue and eyes.
I am all your senses.
I am your happiness and anger.
You are my property,
but I belong to you.
Sometimes I say, "you are you."
Other times I say, "you are me."
Whichever way-
I am the Sun which illuminates it.'

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When a mystic talks theology…

When a mystic talks theology, it's poetic.   They feel their dogma and
doctrine is perfectly true because they feel it with the whole of their
being, and it's an expression of their heart, not a rule or a
regulation.  But when the theologian gets a hold of it, it loses that
intuitive truth and becomes something we are *supposed* to believe in the
hope that we might experience reality the same way the mystic did…until even that goal is lost and the dogma becomes an end in itself rather than a means towards union with God.

Kristen: from a mystic's
standpoint

Kristen: all religions seem right
Kristen: because theology
Kristen: is developed by mystics
Kristen: however reality feels to
them
Pip: ahh okay
Pip: interesting
Kristen: and then other people take
it as rules and regulations, something to be imitated
Kristen: but for
the mystic it's an expression
Kristen: a description
Kristen: and sometimes God feels like
a person
Kristen: and sometimes God feels like
he's in everything
Kristen: and sometimes he feels so
large in comparison to us
Kristen: and sometimes he feels so
incredible that he could never be limited to just a being
Kristen: and so as a mystic I see
truth in all of those points of view
Kristen: atheism, theism, pantheism,
etc
Kristen: it's like they are all true
Pip: ahhh…….yeah disagree
Kristen: hehe
Pip: its okay whatever
Pip: doesnt change much
Kristen: yeah it doesn't
Kristen: but even just between you
and me
Kristen: you experience god as a
person
Kristen: and that's wonderful and
amazing and enviable
Kristen: and beautiful
Pip: enviable?
Pip: you can believe that if you want!
Kristen: heh, yeah, sometimes
Kristen: and sometimes I feel it that
way too
Kristen: but more often I experience
God as something that is urgently present in everything
Kristen: an all encompassing reality
Kristen: in which i cannot take a
breath without feeling God's presence
Pip: hmm
Kristen: and it makes my heart seize
up a bit
Kristen: with the beauty of it all
Kristen: and I just want to be with
it
Kristen: with the whole of my being
Kristen: even in pain
Kristen: the beauty is overtaking
Kristen: but the differences in how
we experience God, to me, are amazing
Kristen: and cause for an even
greater devotion to him
Kristen: how amazing is God that he
could appear to someone exactly how they need him to be?
Kristen: exactly in the way that will
move their heart the most
Pip: yeah and that's all true
Pip: but that doesnt mean that all religions are
right

Pip: you can find truth in every religion and
every belief

Pip: but we should use that to bring them closer
to the truth

Kristen: not every part of all
religions
Kristen: but the core of the
religious experience
Kristen: is the same
Kristen: the expression is different
Kristen: but the core is the same
Kristen: it's hard to explain
Pip: yeah it is
Kristen: but like
Kristen: i listen to a buddhist
Kristen: talk about how they need to
empty their Self and realize that they are one with Reality, and the insight
they see from that point of view that pain and suffering are something  that we heartbreakingly do to ourselves in our
quest to protect our hearts
Kristen: and if you don't look at the
practices and the culture of it, it just…feels true
Kristen: it's the same intuition
Pip: that's true
Kristen: because there is mysticism
in every religion
Kristen: at the
core of it
Kristen: there is only one humanity
Kristen: one reality
Kristen: we experience it in
different ways, but it's all united
Kristen: and religion has so much to
do with pain and suffering because it's really really true that we all break
the same
Kristen: and in
that experience, it's just…i don't know…
Kristen: sometimes there is so much
beauty in the world that it feels like my heart is going to explode

I feel like Ricky from American Beauty.  Heh.  That looks so much more corny when I read it over.  In the moment it felt different, I promise.

Oh and Pip, if you don't want me to keep this post up, let me know. 🙂

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Origin of Theology

"Sometimes the mystic feels that this Spirit, this ultimate Reality, is
inseparable from the immediate contents of daily experience, and on the
basis of this intuition is often erected the theology of pantheism or
immanentism. At other times he experiences Reality as something
immeasurably other than himself and all created things, as a Being
infinitely great, holy and splendid, before whom the world as we know
it appears ugly, gross, and evil. From this intuition comes the
theology of transcendence, or else the common corollary of pantheism –
the doctrine of the illusory universe. Again, there are times when
Reality presents itself to him as something so alive and intelligent
that he feels himself to be in communion with a person. At other times
he is so impressed with its infinitude and mystery that anything so
suggestive of man as personality seems an unthinkable limitation.

All
of these apparently paradoxical elements will have their place in a
truly complete mysticism, in a full experience of union with God."

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An Orchestra of Monkeys

"In practising spiritual disciplines as well as in trying to acquire
faith, most of us are like monkeys. We do not understand the saint's
inner state, and we are trying to attain it by the mere mimicry of its
outward signs. We copy his actions and ideas, but because they do not
really mean
anything to us the task is an unproductive drudgery. For example, a
monkey might, with some accuracy, describe an orchestra as a collection
of people who blow through metal and wooden tubes, thump upon the skins
of pigs, and scrape the entrails of dead cats with lengths of
horsehair. We, of course, can give a fuller and more intelligible
description of the work and nature of an orchestra because we
understand its true meaning, which is music. But to a monkey music
means nothing; it is simply a succession of noises produced by blowing,
thumping, and scraping. Yet because the monkey is envious of human
accomplishments, he may readily be persuaded (until bored) to imitate
human actions that mean nothing to him, to go through the motions of
playing a trumpet or a violin with results far from meaningful and
musical. A human being, too, can learn and master all the techniques of music and yet never be an inspired musician.

So
too, the moral splendour, the interior peace, and the spiritual power
of saints and mystics are things which millions of us would like to
possess. But it avails nothing to ape the exterior actions or even the
interior ideas of such inspired persons unless we understand the
meaning which these ideas and actions express. Apart from knowledge and
appreciation of this meaning, our efforts to be like the great ones are
so many attempts to produce the cause by the effect, to make the tail
wag the dog. Now the meaning which saint and mystic express in idea and
action is God. They think and act as they do because they are in a
special way possessed by this life which is God, somewhat as the heart
and mind of a dancer are possessed by the music which he interprets as
bodily movement.

The idea of God is itself no more than
an interpretation of the mysterious reality whereby the saint is moved
and possessed; it is a life, a being, translated into a form of thought
as one might try to represent a colour by a shape, striving to
interpret beauty of tone by beauty of line. Such interpretations are
the genesis of all religious doctrine, both metaphysical and moral;
they are the instruments and techniques for expressing the divine
meaning. But in the hands of so many persons they become like musical
instruments in the hands of monkeys; they lack all inner significance
to those who use them and those who watch them so used. The one hopes
that this process of imitation will somehow make him a saint and a
possessor of eternal life, though he knows not the true nature of these
ideals. The other stands by in sheer bewilderment at so much activity
without meaningful result.

Christian faith and practice have lost
force because the enormous majority of Christians, both devout and
nominal, do not know what they mean. Let it be said at once that such
knowledge is not a matter of mere learning, of philosophical and
theological acumen. Indeed, the theologian has often just as little
grasp of the meaning of his religion as anyone else. He knows ideas; he
knows the relations between these ideas; he knows the historical
events–the story of Christ–upon which these ideas are based. He knows
the doctrines of the Trinity, the Incarnation, the Virgin Birth, and
the Atonement and can describe them with accuracy. But because he does
not know, or even apprehend, what they mean, having no consciousness of
union with God, his description of them–while correct as far as it
goes–is as uninformative and lacking in significance as the monkey's
description of an orchestra.

This theologian does not fail to
grasp the meaning of his religion just because he is a pure academician
without interest in its practice. For his practice, as much as his
thought, is imitation. Monkey-fashion, he imitates the actions of the
Fathers and the saints along with their ideas, attributing the fact
that he does not become a saint to not imitating hard enough."

Alan Watts
Behold the Spirit
Written in 1947

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Musings on Hell

Stuff I posted on a message board I frequent.  None of it is certain, no matter how strongly I argued for it…I was just sort of letting my imagination go.  It was also a discussion that involved people from all different levels of Christian faith, so I sometimes used terms in order to relate better to them.

*****

I just can't fathom Hell as a meaningful part of how the universe
works. The ultimate reality is, I think, beyond our categories of good
and evil and is in some ways inescapable. How do you get away from the
deepest part of reality? You can't. We're saturated with it. And that's
a good thing.

I
also think people tend to overestimate what free will means. We don't
choose to be born, isn't that okay? We don't choose where we're born,
isn't that okay? We don't choose to die, unless we commit suicide, but
isn't that okay? If we have no control over many of the most
significant parts of this life, what makes us think we have control
over where we end up after death? Like Sleeper said, if we can't make
ourselves go to Heaven, what makes us think we can force ourselves into
Hell?

I think we'd all agree about what Hell is: complete
separation from God. I guess the only question then is what does this
separation mean? Is it just a turning away from admitting that there
exists a being that loves you? Or is it something deeper? Are we not
giving God enough credit? If God is the ultimate reality, pure being,
saturating everything that exists with his beauty and power…then how
do we get away from him? By denying reality. By lying to ourselves. By
becoming so wrapped up in the surface that we never glimpse the depth.
By being ignorant of who we truly are and instead convincing ourselves
that our identity lies in what kinds of clothes we buy, and what we
decorate our houses with. If God is the ultimate reality, then Hell is
the ultimate lie.

And so I can imagine a spectrum. Hell on one
side…people denying reality, and living only for the surface. And
because they are living a lie, they don't believe they are in Hell.
They're convinced that their life is real and meaningful, and don't see
that they're only living as an empty shell of a person. Then gradually
they begin to sound the depths and thereby make themselves more real,
more genuine. As they begin to shed the masks that keep them from being
who they really are, their level of reality increases. And the deeper
we go, the more beautiful everything is. Things get more complicated,
more intricate, and the further we can zoom out the more we realize
that so much of our lives are a game we play, thinking it's real, and
that the true reality is something so much more beautiful and intricate
and perfect and glorious.

I can imagine that to die would mean
being forced to shed all of your masks. To be forced to face reality
for what it is, unmasked and with nothing to shield you from it. They
say that death is the great equalizer. Dying necessarily takes away all
your worldly concerns, all of what you thought defined yourself,
allowing you to focus completely on what's really there, on what's
really true. You end up on the opposite end of the spectrum from Hell.
In a sense, you become completely real, and are united entirely with
God.

I'm not sure exactly how you can still deny reality when
you are face to face with it. How can you live an ultimate lie when you
are faced with the ultimate truth? I'm not sure it's possible, and I
don't think we need to believe that we have the free will to choose it.
In fact, believing that free will is this strong may just be another
symptom of the lie…believing ourselves to be much more independent
than we really are. The only reason we can believe the ultimate lie is
because we don't see the ultimate truth. When you're forced to see it,
how can you still embrace the lie?

Side Note: In the process of writing this I've just come up with a whole thing on
free will that sounds really interesting. What if our will is only
really truly free when our will equals the will of God/ultimate
reality? And the rest of the time we are just fooling ourselves into
thinking we determine our own lives. We think of our free will as
something that we as individuals can have separate from everything. Not
dependent on other people, things in nature, or God. But we're not
really as free, in that sense, as we think. I know I feel the most free
when I am being most deeply myself. When my actions stem from the
deepest part of who I am. And the deepest part of who I am is
intimately connected to God. So at that point, when I feel the most
free, my will is essentially his.

A response:

"so hell is not so much a prison as a place were God has withdrawn himself completely."

But how can God withdraw himself completely if he's the whole basis of
reality? If he is pure being, how can he ever be absent from anything?
I don't think it's possible. The only way we can do it is to bury him,
and not acknowledge him. The only way we can get away from God is to
focus only on the superficial and ignore the depth. And that
necessarily happens in this lifetime. The point of my post was to say
that Hell is not a place, and it's not an option for the afterlife.
It's a state of being, or really a state of not-very-much being. It's
an option right now, but cannot be an option in the grander scheme of
things.

A few replies later:

Ever looked at an image in the
newspaper really closely? When you hold it right up to your face, there
are just dots. But when you zoom out and get a different perspective,
they come together to make a complete image. Close up they don't make
sense, but further out they do.

If
you looked though a microscope at your own blood, you might be
terrified. Various cells fighting each other constantly, a battle
raging on. If you stay completely in that scale, you might start
cheering for one side or the other, which would be incredibly
dangerous. Zoom out, and it's precisely a battle that you *need* to
keep yourself going.

Apply that to human life. We are all
dots, or blood cells. We're fighting battles and loving and hoping and
dying and afraid. But what we don't realize is that we're all part of
something incredible…and that somehow we *need* every part of life,
even the bad stuff. For we are all pieces of the ultimate reality. We
are all little broken up pieces of God. We are all drops of water that
form an ocean. And when we can stop playing our little game and expand
our awareness, we can come to see the world the way God does. If we
stop being so focused on ourselves, on the role we play out while on
earth, we can begin to see that everything, as broken and beautiful as
it is, is an extension of God. We stop fooling ourselves and see
reality for what it is.

While we're here on earth though, it is
a choice. We can either consent to live the lie, never knowing that
we're lying to ourselves…or we can work to discover the truth, and
then align ourselves and our deeds with it. Ideally, to the person who
is truly awake, every action should come as naturally as breathing.

But
everything that keeps us fooled is here in this life. We're actors in a
play that don't realize that the movie isn't real. But when we
die…when our roles are snatched away from us, how can we do anything
other than embrace reality? It's not a choice at that moment, but a
natural and involuntary movement to join in the dance. We'll see that
beautiful image for what it is. We'll realize that all along we've been
something so much more important, more real than the roles we played on
earth.

"When you realize how perfect everything is, you will tilt your head back and laugh at the sky."
– Buddha

Also, much of what I just said came from Alan Watts. smile.gif

Just posting it here to keep it around. 🙂

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