I am sitting with my lovely niece Wendy having a delightful lunch in Hemingway’s in Yorkville when she sprang a
question on me that I was not expecting. “So what do you believe in at the moment?” It is the beginning of the New Year and my annual visit to friends and family in Toronto and Oakville and it seemed a perfect contemplation for a new year. My beliefs have continually shifted form atheist twenty years ago, to a theist perhaps in the late nineties to something that is perhaps much more a mystery and therefore more difficult to define. I responded by saying that the foundation of my belief was the conviction that there was an essential element of the human being that survived the body. I like to refer to it as the soul. Exactly what survives I have no idea but I am convinced that something does – be it our energy, our essence, our spirit, our higher self – does not really matter. As the renowned teacher/philosopher Jean Houston says, “you are more than you think you are and something in you knows it” I am convinced that I am a spiritual being having a human experience.
My certainty diminishes at this point. I suspect that we are an aspect of something much greater than our individual selves but what, is a mystery. The word God does not bother me as long as it represents this mystery; we could also use creation, universe, cosmos, nature, spirit, presence, again the naming is less critical than letting go of certainty. I like the word ineffable: too great or intense to be expressed in words; unutterable, too sacred to be uttered, indescribable; indefinable. I suspect that as human beings we are not capable of understanding God. In the Torah there is a story that when Moses asked to see God’s face the response was, “I will take away mine hand, and thou shalt see my back parts: but my face shall not be seen.”
I think trying to understand God is a bit like trying to comprehend the universe from the perspective of an inhabitant of planet earth, one planet of a fairly insignificant star in a backwater spiral arm of the Milky Way Galaxy that contains another 400 million such celestial bodies. That is daunting enough but to then see the Milky Way as only one of a possible 100 billion galaxies. That boggles the mind so why would we expect to comprehend the nature of Divine principle whatever that may mean.
I like to think of the God principle as a process of order unfolding out of chaos although on a macro scale that belief can be sorely tested by the numerous calamities on a global scale. Yet on the micro scale, in my own life, I feel that my soul journey is sustained and supported in its evolution by some force I don’t really comprehend. The moments of awe, wonder and mystery that defy the logical paradigm. Writer Julia Cameron once observed, “Synchronicity, coincidence, reinforcement and serendipity – these are friendly companions that clearly speak to me of higher realms.”
Although I crave to believe in a loving supportive Divine presence, I have to admit that from my purely human perspective it does not always look that way. Although at times the power and creativity of human love and imagination can inspire, the paradox of humanity’s dark side is deeply disillusioning. So I use the word mystery a lot, it helps me deal with the uneven hand of justice in the world.
Based on my own experience of this mystery and mystical experience, all of us have the capacity to interact with the divine but early encounters with mystical experience can be so powerful that we become convinced that we are unique and that our insight is to be proclaimed to others. I recall a time of great passion and enthusiasm for my new beliefs at the Unity Church that my ex-wife referred to it as my “Messianic” period. All of us, with no exception, channel the mystery through our human experience and therefore no channel is entirely pure, and free of contamination from the ego. As the poet Rabia said, “no one knows anything about god and those who say they do are just troublemakers” It is tragic how much damage those troublemakers do in the world as they insist on imposing their projection of this mystery on others.
I love the concept that I encountered first at Unity School that we are God experiencing itself and that God needs us as much as we need God. Perhaps consciousness is an evolutionary process supported by the Divine Mystery. Sometimes I need to be reminded on the dark days, that humanity has evolved positively during the past 500 years just not at the same pace. But of course time is an imagined human construct and who knows how long this journey may really be and what seems like lifetimes are but an instant in cosmic time.