Thursday, April 26, 2012

Our Relation To The Spiritual: God Belongs To Us All

I am here attempting to take back or redefine the common conceptualization that is "God" and place it fully back within the sphere of humanity from which it originally was born. Just as the declaration of the term chair brings to mind any number of images to each person, based in no small part on their past experiences and imaginative power, so the term "God" brings to mind another set of images, albeit ones with far more social and emotionally-laden individual meaning than chair. As noted, these images arise out of an interconnected array of memories, sensations, emotions and cognitive heuristics. This is as it is and should be, possessing the mind/brain that we have, we creatures who through the power of our intellect and ability to share ideas, not by speed or brawn, stand at the top of the so-called food chain of nature. We cannot help but automatically create in our mind’s eye, the constant unfolding of potential into actual the inevitable outpouring of a creative energy always bubbling back in our imagination.

Just as we can create a better chair for different and changing purposes or create a better form of transportation or build on the ideas of the Greeks and the Enlightenment and thus give us the representative democracy of the United States and the idealized notions of equality for all, so I propose we can create a better "God" from out of the muck and unfortunate associations with history.

The term need not be swallowed by antiquity or overly burdened with the injustices and bigotry of those seeking dominion over others, it does not by necessity require usage only by those who scream the loudest or are the most audacious in their claims. It has a reference outside of any particular manifestation of its usage, just as chair is in reference to an object used to support oneself in a sitting position, and not to any particular form in a department store. The locus is found in a relationship between an object and an experience, between the individual person and the feeling of the transcendent. We do a disservice to the power of our imaginative capacity when we abdicate our relationship to the spiritual to others simply because they have come before us and laid down self-proclaimed immutable dogma.

If, as noted by George Lakoff and Mark Johnson, language is derived in no small part from the relationship our bodies have with the so-called external world, such that the “face” of a tree is that which we are looking upon or as movement is a transversing of a space the dimensions of which are laid out in the mental picture of our mind (what is a “field” and why can it reference both hay and the magnetic space around an atom for instance?), the meaning back of words are derived from our reciprocal relationship between body and nature, therefore the words themselves have little intrinsic meaning beyond the phonemes that give them form.

Let me be perfectly clear. I in no way am declaring the notion that all religions worship the same thing, quite the opposite in fact, as merely referencing "god" does not in any way determine to what religious form is being discussed and even the most basic perusal of doctrine from various religions will indicate the plethora of meanings attached to it. Nor am I saying that because words have no inherent meaning of themselves there is no such thing as objective truth, in fact here truth is even more strongly grounded in the very real interaction people have with the rest of the natural world and provides a means then of ascertaining across a shared existence the meaning any person attaches. The intellectual solipsism of post-modernism is a destructive thing both to science and spirituality.

I am not ignoring either the very real difficulties associated with the term "God", most notably its long history of association with power-mad people and institutions ready and willing to employ any means necessary to establish their own myopic rule upon others. If anything, keeping these things in mind makes the issue of reclaiming the term all the more pressing. Such a word as "God", capable of being filled with such disparate and powerful social forces, should not be ignored nor assumed to belong only to one group. Given the powerful nature of the term and the shared relationship with it by the various believers and unbelievers within humanity, it, like any other term, belongs to humanity as a whole.

It is quite easy to fall into the trap of social assumption and use the term "God" as if everyone that is confronted means the same thing. We are each raised in a family and community with certain notions instilled, overtly or otherwise. Most of us quite innocently go around using the term assuming that if anybody has a problem with what we’re saying, they’ll say something, all the while forgetting that despite the overt nature of such speaking in our political arena these days, issues of spirituality are still largely considered a personal matter. While true at a level of personal behavior, the individuality of such should not be linked with silence. In dialogue there is required for real progress to occur the understanding that the person with whom you are engaged is participating in the discussion with a largely similar definition or topic. I would not go to a car mechanic and ask to have my oil changed but really have in my mind the meaning of having my spark plugs changed. Of a greater import then there is no reason for me to participate in dialogue with someone concerning "God," have a completely different idea than them of what I’m talking about and expect there to be any real movement as to growth in understanding.

Here then is the practice I have gotten into and implore people to attempt, for certainly there will be a raising of consciousness when we all begin to note the multi-varied conceptualizations we are all operating with: when anybody mentions the term "God," ask them what they mean. Be sincere for this is not a mere game nor any attempt at being condescending. The imaginative power of humanity finds a great deal of space to play with in the term "God," but is so often ignored, often at our peril. The person who stands before you speaking may be thinking of the Divine Mother, Father, Force or Multiplicity; may have in mind a Divine Beneficence or Judgment; may act out of Divine Balance or of Retribution and in all these will be found some of the core qualities and projections of their relationship to the spiritual. That, my sisters and brothers in humanity, should be of eminent concern to each of us.

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For more there is: The Meaning of God and The Person of God

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Possessing a Spirit of Plenty

"There is really, then, no limitation outside our own ignorance, and since we all can conceive a greater good than we have so far experienced, we all have within our own minds the ability to transcend previous experiences and rise triumphant over them..." (Ernest Holmes, from Can We Talk To God?)
More is more, so says the hobgoblin of the American spirit, that creature of capitalist delights sitting on a shoulder, whispering the sweet nothings of one’s lack. A barrage of messages making everything someone else has something one does not. The grass is always greener on the other side in the land of lack. "I have not found myself" is the cliche of he or she who journeys in the valley of loss. Every shopping venture that ends with having bought too much, every sigh at seeing the happiness of a relationship you are not in, sprouts new weeds of self-doubt and misery. We all see it in the endless grappling to reach “the top,” we all feel that niggling question that if only I had “x” then the world would be a place of sunshine and rainbows, of free-flowing streams of love and the constant budding growth of health and energy.
     
The fundamental reality being created here is self-perpetuating. When one begins with lack, then lack is all one sees. Each new possession, relationship goal met or job found is shaped and molded by the beat and drum of a mind set upon filling an inexhaustible gullet of more is more. There is nothing “good enough” because “enough” is never satisfied, never filled. Lack of love brings forth the notion that all relationships are at some level wrong or deluded. Lack of money promotes the idea that the pie has already been eaten or taken away. Lack of wholeness continues to seed a world "lost in sin,” where shame is indelibly linked to existence. This space is not without a degree of comfort. The tyranny of low expectations smothers the flames of possibility effectively and without much fuss, leaving behind a merely vague feeling of emptiness, of a nebulous something that could have been.

We must find new meanings to life if we hope to create new images which, in their turn, will supply new reflections.” (Ernest Holmes, What Religious Science Teaches: A New Thought Primer) What if, for a moment, the thought of lack is replaced with that of plenty? I am not asserting that reality be ignored. There are very real issues of hunger, financial ruin and social isolation which have a true physical reality. Circumstance is not here what I speak of, rather the intention that gives experience meaning.

A mentality of lack sees and therefore creates lack everywhere due to a limitation of perspective. A mentality of plenty can open us up to situations and emotional responses we thought were impossible or didn't exist. Clouds in the sky that used to contain a storm here become canvases of imagination. Finding $5 in the wallet becomes having more than what was known before. Having no plans for an evening turns into opportunities for self-exploration and seeking out social gatherings. Looking at the happiness of other relationships becomes enjoyment in the ability to empathize and feel a version of that joy.

In every notion of lack lies the kernel of plenty’s birth. There is nothing “only” about what one finds in the mirror, in the day planner, and in the account. Instead there is what is and “enough” takes care of itself. New opportunities do not present themselves to the blind, for imagination needs fuel to create new realities. We come into this universe screaming and hollering, not out of a sense of loss, but from a bone-deep realization that there is so much waiting to be felt. Social media would leave us desperate for anything to slake our hunger for more. Dwelling for a moment in the realization that life is a constant unfolding of actuality, the fruition of energy’s need to create, can bring contentment regardless of the form of our lives. 

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