Attributed to Cima da Conegliano [Public domain],
via Wikimedia Commons
There is a priesthood of physicists that say that there is only one vast, complex machine. They say that by learning the rules and components of the machine, which they call nature or reality, mankind can persist and advance. This priesthood has many disciples.
There is another priesthood, this one of metaphysicians, who hold that the machine goes beyond the material, that through consciousness we can learn of subtler rules and subtler components. Oftentimes, they call their multilayered machine God and speak of affirmations, visualizations, and prayer as skill sets. They, too, have many disciples.
There is a third priesthood of theologians who hold that God is a vast, mysterious creature quite apart from us. These tell us that the machine is a creation of that creature and that it is subject to occasional corrections – miracles. This priesthood is under suspicion of immaturity because their tales often remind us of temper tantrums by ancient Greek gods. Surely, we suppose, this is just anthropomorphism taken to a spiritual degree. Regardless, these too have many disciples.
Apart from the hallowed halls of academia and temples, there are scattered mystics who write that the machine is a dream and that God does not have temper tantrums. He is, they say, most essentially love. Everything is God, but God is not merely everything. They strip away the human characteristics of God the scriptures refer to, and their writings lead many mistaken adventurers back to the priesthood of metaphysicians. It also leads the multitude that cannot comprehend their flowing metaphor back to the flatland dreams of the physicists.
The problem here is one of mental structures.
It is true that there is a mechanical dream that we call the universe and that there is a mental dream that we call this life. Yet, life and the universe are not God, for He is not just series or systems. He is the truth to which we awaken when at last we stop dreaming, but in the meanwhile we dream of Him.
It is true that there is awakening, and that ego leads us away from it while spirit leads us to it. Yet, our basic awareness and the leading hand of spirit are not God, for He is not just unmoving tranquility or an ethereal spirit. We could not lead ourselves astray in ego had He not provisioned us to create as He does; in even our decrepitude we are derived from Him. He can be moved away from, but the moving away still demonstrates Him.
It is true that God is most essentially love, and that we are most essentially love, and that spirit is most essentially love. Yet God is not a fishbowl and we are not fish. We can make things out of fictions instead of love, we can create darkness instead of light – and God is not fictions or darkness. Our truth is in Him, everything is in Him, but our untruth lives in our faulty perception and God has no faulty perception.
The truth can only be indicated by contradiction.
You are in God and God is in you. Both you and He are fishbowls and fish, but not the same ones. You are in the universe and the universe is in you. You are in your life and your life is the historical record of you. You are in me and I am in you. More fishbowls and fish, yet still not the same ones.
You dream yet sit forever at the right side of God – you are in time yet immortally outside it. God is immortal and infinite, yet adjusts the dream and leads you on back to Him – He is immortally outside of time, yet in it as well.
All our thinking is in terms of space and time. We try to imagine God as a character in our dream, then switch over and try to think of Him as an ether, then change tracks again and think of Him as the first cause. Trying to position pieces on a chess board, struggling to make a timeline of the universe that includes the ground from which it rises.
You can establish a final description of yourself no more than you can God. You too are characters and causes. But all of those are peripherals and not you; they can be seen arising from rigpa – another ether that is also you, but you are not just that. Nor are God’s peripherals suitable to encapsulate Him. We feel that He too has that same pure awareness. But greater, incalculably greater, for ours is wholly dependent on His. Draw down in yourself and strive to find the fountain from which yours arises, and you will edge closer to comprehension of that fractal.
All descriptions of God are Venn diagrams about fractals.
But you’ll never comprehend – you’ll never fathom God, that which is both the essence of mind and the mind that made the essence. How can you draw lines that show the essence of love, the artist that creates endlessly with love, and the creations that are also artists? There can be no comprehension through duality and diverse language bound up in spatial and temporal terms.
Thoughts arise and subside in awareness like subatomic particles appear and disappear in a vacuum. But, knowing that, you’re no closer to Him.
Don’t build up some abstract concept of God purely from scripture or the priesthoods of men, lest you start worshipping fishbowls, ethers, vast machines, or psychological routines.
God is a living god, and He’s with you now as it was in the beginning.
You’ve been led to all these spiritual revelations from the written word, life events, and your companions. Stop making architectural drawings in your head and pay attention.
Right here and now is where miracles are found.
The Beloved is always with you, engaged in a merry dance that includes the moon and the sun, the birds and the buildings, the thoughts and the particles. For He is no ether, not some water in a fish tank – no, He is a living God that can be engaged and communicated with! He creates movement, song, and celebration, and you can join in.
The truth can’t be written or mapped, but it can be danced. Just follow His lead as He draws you on closer to and deeper into Him.
An ‘impersonal God’ – well and good. A subjective God of beauty, truth and goodness, inside our own heads – better still. A formless life-force surging through us, a vast power which we can tap – best of all. But God Himself, alive, pulling at the other end of the cord, perhaps approaching at an infinite speed, the hunter, king, husband – that is quite another matter. There comes a moment when the children who have been playing at burglars hush suddenly: was that a real footstep in the hall? There comes a moment when people who have been dabbling in religion (‘Man’s search for God!’) suddenly draw back. Supposing we really found Him? We never meant it to come to that! Worse still, supposing He had found us?
So it is a sort of Rubicon. One goes across; or not. But if one does, there is no manner of security against miracles. One may be in for anything.
Miracles, by C.S. Lewis