Revised September 23, 2007:   See also a related webpage:  "Imaging God"

Instead of the idea that God “is” everything—one interpretation of Spinoza’s theology—mere pantheism—, consider a slight change in the verb: Instead of the more static “is,” substitute “being” everything. God "is" in the sense of a more active process of being, and this implies in turn doing, experiencing, connecting, and evolving. The "everything" part implies that the Divine operates not so much from a single source, like a puppet master, but fully decentralized, working (and playing and restfully enjoying) within the subjectivity of each atom, blade of grass, asteroid, butterfly, person.

To enjoy this contemplation, one must take on the role, envision what it might like to be, and add that the enjoyment of the role outweighs the imagined disadvantages. A key theme is the necessity of stretching our imaginations beyond our own personal and egocentric preferences, enjoyments, and even sense of time and space. Imagine, for example, that as a given, it could be a fun experience “being” an asteroid. From our human perspective, it’s dry, cold, and infinitely boring, but consider that we are most constrained about time. There are beings we know about who live at a pace a thousand times faster than our own, and we can perhaps imagine (and have theories about) other entities that dynamically transform at a pace a billion times faster or more, such as sub-atomic particles. Other beings move at a glacial pace and a billion times slower, and yet with the help of imagination, imagine that the aforementioned asteroid’s lifetime could be encapsulated into the time of, say, a movie documentary, so we see it being born from an explosion of a star, coming together through a million small collisions of other components, and dissolving again in some cosmic cataclysm, or falling into a larger planet as a meteor. Imagine further that these events were experiences for God-being-that-asteroid.

In this sense, the angle of approach is not so much that you are God, or you are a part of God, nor even that God indwells you or fills you with Holy Spirit, but rather this: Consider that God is enjoying being you! Just as, with a touch of attention and higher consciousness, you can enjoy breathing, so God is enjoying you-ing. You are breathing and in a sense the breath, and you can experience it with more attention, and so, too, you can align with the Divine and, by your recognition—re-cognizing meaning re-thinking and perceiving and understanding in a fresh way----, you amplify God’s enjoyment in being / becoming you. This extends Swami Muktananda’s saying, “God vibrates through you as you.”

This neo-Spinoza-ism may be in a sense, religious (related to the word root, to re-tie (ligio) oneself to the Source), not by worshiping in the old way, in the style of me as lowly subject and you as great king, flattering and importuning for favors, but rather in a new way, by aligning with the Divine urge to be and become everything, by extending ourselves through our imaginations and intuitions to consider what it’s like to be all sorts of things. Each prayer, as it were, would be a bit of a psychodramatic role-taking would be a kind of a prayer in this new view, a kind of joining in the enjoyment of the sheer wonder and compassion and glory of wondering what it might be like for God-as-whatever: What’s it like to be a cloud? A beetle? A star—really a giant sun-like long-term fusion reaction—what’s it like?  What if this extension of our minds to include other forms, time-spans, sizes, sources and types of enjoyment, challenges, understandings, what if this were a worthy way to pray, to align, to express, also, appreciation and co-enjoyment and compassion with the widest range of events in the cosmos?

Within this schema, traditional religions would be viewed as complexes of historical, cultural, family and social, artistic, and other elements that offer symbol structures that make it easier for many to feel more connected to the great Wholeness of Becoming. This schema offers at least a candidate for a common denominator for an inter-faith spirituality.

Again, the emphasis shifts from thinking in the static terms humans tend to use, reflecting the human tendency to think of other as “it,” (in Martin Buber’s terminology) rather than “Thou.” Instead, remind yourself that what is imagined isn’t a static state, but a living becoming, an adventuring, experiencing subject, mixed with a process of deepening interconnectivity, insight, curiosity, spontaneity, improvisation, creativity, and even capable of making mistakes and suffering as part of the greater growing and evolving process. As a whole, extending your imagination to the cosmos this way, it is a truly Glorious enterprise, one fully worthy of God.

The origins of this breakthrough insight really set the stage. In other writings years back I imagined God shifting from throne-sitting and judging to getting out there and experiencing, becoming, doing. (See my "Myths for Today.") Process philosophy, the philosophical ideas of J.L. Moreno, Carl Jung, various Kabbalists and other philosophers, and many others also, all contributed to this idea.

I test this concept—that God is actively being-experiencing—by noticing that it is basically fun and heuristic: It generates new images, ideas, hypotheses. For example, what if compassion is something that we cannot do by will, but is exercised by imaginatively role-taking. Similarly, what if “love,” too, is not something we can will ourselves to do; but rather, by extending our imagination in wondering what it’s like to be something else in the cosmos we are loving it?

To be compassionate with all doesn’t mean that we approve of it, excuse it, feel satisfied with it. Much of the world is incomplete, foolish, and limited in consciousness. In another domain of thought it might be wise to judge it as folly or even evil, but in the domain of compassion, all that is needed is to more fully imagine other aspects, leading to understanding.

In the sense of development and evolution, I imagine God becoming in all possible ways, and this includes innumerable blind alleys, evolutionary dead ends, destructive as well as constructive possibilities. The overall process is so complex that we must transcend our human tendency to identify with this or that “victim” of the greater process. The principle of the Hindu God, Shiva, is a recognition that the universe is a recycling process and the trick is to discern the underlying greater process, one that transcends specific examples.

Extending imagination, one can glimpse at the enjoyment of the game apart from the winning and losing of various plays or hands; and beyond that, the enjoyment of the sport beyond the winning and losing of various games. This is not mere intellectual abstraction, but also maturation. We can tolerate better the ups and downs of marriage and the growth of our children if we keep some awareness that these events operate within a greater evolving process. This has many levels, including the many ups and downs of a lifetime, and the many lifetimes, full of ups and downs collectively—also known as “history”—that suggest progress or human evolution. Human evolution may be viewed within the larger lens of species and planetary evolution, stellar and galactic evolution, the “big bang” and universe-as-we-conceive it (which may only represent a few dimensions out of many possible ones).

Science fiction has in the last century given us some opportunities to stretch our imaginations, and the increasing of intercultural mixing through easier travel, the internet, communications of all kinds, all generate an exponentially rising curve of evolution and change. (The next step is to try to bring our psychological, social and spiritual evolution up to par with our technological advances before we commit “species-cide.”)

I suspect that identifying each other not just as having the seed of the Divine in each soul—which is itself nice—but going even further and recognizing that others (and oneself) are God being. Perhaps I am not the totality of God-being (hardly!), but I’m a part! It’s a slightly different emphasis, a subtle twist that’s better than and different from saying God expresses through me (but only in my “nicer” behaviors) or that I have God seed “within.” No, I’m suggesting that all this is God, and that I am God doing Adam, and you are God doing you. You’re not all of God, but you are All God, God finding out what it’s like to be all those different threads of your individuality, your temperament, interests, abilities, trying to work out those variables within an equally complex environment of particular family members, geographical and political instruments, historical era, and so forth.

This is an aesthetic theory (as suggested by the process philosopher, Charles Hartshorne): It’s as if we are God’s musical compositions, with a finite number of variations based on certain basic themes. Each of us are remarkably complex, though, including hundreds of different types of development all trying to work out a balancing of differentiation and integration; and then there are the collective dimensions in which we as individuals seek to work out our individuality in a way that is relatively harmonious with our social networks; and us as groups trying to do likewise with other groups, or nations, or species.

In summary, I had been playing with the idea that Spinoza’s pantheism was not just a dry complex of rationally- coordinated abstractions, but rather, it was “juicy,” emotionally compelling, exciting. This is sort of like a chemist trying different combinations in his laboratory. What seemed to click was the idea that instead of thinking of God as being (in the sense of simple is-ness) everything, that verb is made more active: Being becomes more alive and sentient, including willing, experiencing, exploring, understanding, deepening in insight and interconnectivity, loving, enjoying, suffering. This idea worked for me, for my sense of aesthetic fullness. God being everything in this sense was what Whitehead meant by the Creative Advance, and it was Alive and truly, in the fullest sense, glorious. It was so glorious that my puny lifetime of endeavors could be relinquished, given over to this greater enterprise. I didn’t have to worry about “my” living forever, any more than a musical symphony should not try to keep playing its own themes and variations forever. It is enough that I have contributed to the unfolding of the Greater Becoming.

Worship, then, might be re-thought as a mixture of living in harmony, doing one's vocation (i.e., “calling”—from the Latin word root, “vocare”), making some contributions, learning some deep soul-lessons, making the world a little nicer, and so forth. A worship service might involve a group of us contemplating how we can celebrate God best by imagining all sorts of ways God is being-becoming in the cosmos. (In another paper on this website, I suggest how psychodrama can also function as a spiritual ritual, in that bringing others forth is also a worthy celebration of the Great Becoming.) Each person might be helped to engage in a creative expression, in poetry, art, dance, words, whatever, in sharing his or her own vision. Our cross-validation and support would be imagined to be as sweet to God as the cells in a heart joining to offer a coordinated heartbeat.

(P.S. That God is everything and more than everything is termed "pan-en-theism"---a term that suggests a wider sense of the cosmos than Spinoza's pantheism. This term was used by Charles Hartshorne as part of his elaboration of Whitehad's process philosophy.)