Recently, a group of us met to discuss a book that fascinates, challenges, perplexes, frustrates, and satisfies us. If you've followed my blog, you've "heard" me talk about it before. To continue my mystifying description, we even said that the book is not well written—“convoluting” was one good adjective offered. And Seth uses sexist language. You know how that offends me.
The book is Seth Speaks; the Eternal Validity of the Soul. Yeah, I know. You thinkers who are atheists just felt your stomach lurch on the word "soul." I'm sorry. It's not what you think.
As I replay our conversation that evening, I find myself smiling. What intelligence! But, no, a different kind of intelligence from the usual meaning. What was it we were saying? Reaching toward the unreachable brings us massive presence, frightening vastness, depth that both warms and alarms. Indescribable.
I’m so lucky that I have people in my life who share my desire to go deeper, people from whom I can learn about the depth, people as bewitched and drawn to the Mystery as I am.
Now darn, this will seem offensive to my atheist friends, but I will say it. I think this is the Reign of God (in the midst of us) that Jesus of Nazareth kept talking about—the reign whose meaning was so abominably corrupted by official Christianity.
You cannot tell by careful watching when the Reign of God will come. Neither is it a matter of reporting that it is ‘here’ or ‘there.’ The reign of God is already in your midst.Deuteronomy 30 hints it as well. (Imagine! Deuteronomy!)
(Gospel of Thomas 113 and Luke 17: 20-21
It is not up in the sky, that you should say, “who will go up in the sky to get it for us and tell us of it, that we may carry it out?’ Nor is it across the sea . . . No, it is something very near to you, already in your mouths and in your hearts; you have only to carry it out.And here is my paraphrase of a passage in an Edgar Cayce book:
There is a Greater Reality, there are higher purposes, there are more enduring truths than day to day activities represent. The existence of this Greater Reality is verified in substantial, objective, and scientific data as well as in personal experiences.But this LARGER Reign of Divinity includes a far greater reality than any of us can imagine. Many non-Christians understand it better than Christians. Whatever our orientation, we need to open our minds and hearts to ever greater possibilities.
CRADLE CHRISTIAN AWARE, March 25
Two email comments that came to me demonstrate the superior quality of spiritual reflections today. First David:
I’ve been following the discussion on your blog.Cradle Christians who’ve become aware that the Christian story is myth are searching for spiritual answers. Tom’s meanderings perfectly illustrate the deep and intelligent thinking that’s occurring:
Atheists don’t admit they have a belief system, yet they want proof of god in accordance with their belief in science, which is impossible by their own definitions. Then because such proof is impossible, atheists declare that they have won the argument. Sounds like circular reasoning to me.
I have a problem with belief myself and would like proof but at the same time one cannot deny one’s feeling without being a hypocrite. I feel the existence of something beyond understanding, something supernatural.
I think calling oneself agnostic can be a cop out, depending on a lot of things.I say, “Right on.” I can’t express it better.
I know people who call themselves Christians, atheists, agnostics, or whatever, who give religion and spiritual matters little more than superficial attention. It can be just as much a cop out—maybe more—for someone to just say they are Christian. It’s safe, and can be very thoughtless in our culture. It’s just what we all are, right?
I’ve sat around campfires listening to friends saying they know nothing more about religion and “all that stuff” than that we have the Bible. “We at least know that’s true,” one friend told me. “We do?” I exclaimed—and then changed the subject. It’s as deep as he cared to go in his life as far as religion was concerned.
I have been on a life-long quest for some kind of spiritual clarity. I was a very strong believer in the Catholic religion as a youth, but fell away as the myth aspect became quite apparent to me. I read a lot about world religions in my early 20s, learned TM (Transcendental Meditation) talked and conversed and argued with many for years and years, then looked at New Age mysticism—beads and crystals, reincarnation, channeling, meditation—which can be totally separate from religion or spiritualism—and more.Do you really think they're entirely "unexplainable"? Seems to me they're obviously messages from the other side. Sure, there are mysteries. We don't know the “technology” of the happenings, but we know these experiences come from a dimension beyond the visible world.
I have really good friends who are very born-again fundamentalist Christians, and I admire them in their lives and families and worship services. I’ve been around them a lot, and love the way they live, but can’t really participate because I don’t share the belief system. I have read about the Dalai Lama for years, and have been reading one of his books (How to Practice). I’ve looked at the lives of religious leaders from across the years and globe, listened to and read Joseph Campbell and many others, and tried to process it all.
I have had (like many) striking incidents of possible spiritual connection—premonition dreams; a personal visit after a fit of rage from a very real and mystical young man dressed in a long, white garment in my father’s shoe shop that had me looking at a shattered window on the front entry door of the store; synchronistic episodes of coincidence that are pretty unexplainable; and more. Like everyone.
I can’t bring myself to claim I can define any of that in defendable or definitive terms. I could say it’s from obvious spiritual connection, but it is really a matter of faith. And what is faith but a lack of the defendable and definitive, but believing anyway?When asked if he believed in God, Jung said, "I don't believe; I know." That's where I am and it seems you are. We KNOW that spiritual reality exists; we are drawn to it; we like to read and talk about it, etc.
I’ve come away with a firm belief that it is all beyond our comprehension, and any attempt to define is not much better than a personal opinion. As I read in a book, it’s like the single cell in a huge system that has no comprehension of what it is part of. Can a single cell have comprehension of its place in a tissue that’s in an organ of a body in an environment that nourishes it, and is part of a cosmic reality that goes beyond our own comprehension, and will someday be freely exchanged within that environment as dead skin flakes off, or its host body dies, or by other means? I don’t know.Yes, it’s beyond our comprehension. Still, it's so fascinating and there's so much nonsense to correct, that we go on discussing.
Can we know these things of our own lives and consciousness, and even in a deeper unknown and unseen energy or force or deeper consciousness that has been defined for us in countless ways for countless centuries? Does that deeper force even exist? I don’t know. Can we know? I’m at a point in my life where I believe we cannot know. That is just my belief, and it may evolve. But right now I guess that would make me an agnostic—but a fairly tortured one, wanting so badly to know the truth of life and beyond, a truth that I now believe we will not and cannot know.Do you really doubt that a deeper force exists? In light of your experiences, I don't see how you can doubt that. As I suggest in Agnosticism, a certain core of belief about spiritual reality can be espoused even by agnostics.
William James in Varieties of Religious Experience comments on experiences like Tom’s,
They are states of insight into depths of truth unplumbed by the discursive intellect. They are illuminations, revelations, full of significance and importance, all inarticulate though they remain; and as a rule they carry with them a curious sense of authority for aftertime.Tom again:
I should just stay out of it! I stopped discussing religion with family and friends many years ago. Everyone is locked into their own version of reality, and it takes a lifetime to get there—one way or another (regardless of actual age).I don’t think Tom or others like him should stay out of it because they think more deeply than most. But I know from personal experience that discussing religion and spirituality with people who don’t want to hear unfamiliar interpretations can have unpleasant consequences. I'm fortunate in having a large circle of people with whom I can discuss these matters. And I confess that I like to insert kernels into conversations that set traditional believers to wondering a little, pondering, throwing them off their comfortable groove of thinking.
I am just about done with your book . . . I am so enjoying it, and am so amazed by your thoroughness and reasoning.Thank you.
Reign of God in our midst, September 14, 2008
A few people—surprisingly very few—accuse me of abandoning my Christian faith because I no longer accept the “one, true church” claim. If that’s the case, I am joined by many Catholic leaders.
Father Ed Hays, interviewed for Sacred Journey (August/September 2008), said,
A core belief is different from a dogmatic belief, such as a faith in the divinity of Christ. . . . When your core belief is that you and God are intimately united as one, the implications are astonishing. For the God with whom you are united is a religionless God, a God of no religion, yet the God of all religions.Ed Hays is a Catholic priest, but not an ordinary one. He made a prayer pilgrimage around the world, including India and Tibet, and says we should all aspire to mysticism. Ah, that’s it.
Invariably I find that religious leaders who have touched the mystic deep know that no religion can define It. Religious stories imagine that deep Source and its activity in our ordinary world, and their images truly inspire us but they can’t spell out this spiritual reality with literal clarity. These stories are myths, which is not to say they are foolish fiction.
Fr. Hays again:
Jesus came to the realization that he and God had an intimate unity [and encouraged his followers to] seek the same cherished oneness with God that he experienced.This, in different words, expresses my belief that Jesus was united with the mystic deep that inspires all the world’s mystics. Thus, he preached the Reign of God in our midst, unfortunately translated “Kingdom” and understood as an external thing we earn by being good.