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Adam Blatner

(Revised, September 23, 2007)   See also my related paper on this website: "God Actively Being Everything"

People generate an image of God, and this is often subconscious. They may consciously try to deny that they hold any image of God, because they've been taught not to do so. It's quite taboo in Islamic and Jewish traditions to ever paint or draw a picture of God, and for Jews, even God's name is taboo. (In Islam, portraying the prophet Mohammed's face is also generally avoided.) Such customs show respect, honoring an awareness of the inability of humans to even grasp or conceptualize much less express the ineffable nature of Divinity. Nevertheless, the nature of mind is such that it does generate images, at least at a subconscious level. This dynamic operated even in the preverbal stage of infancy and the early toddler years, and even after images became associated with language, the mind's deepest symbols are sensory ones, associations with images, sounds, music, smells, textures, and so forth.

Appealing to the childish mind, parents for most people in many cultures have presented God as an older male---and especially in Western culture, the God of the Bible is imagined as bearded, vigorous, along the lines of images of Zeus. This of course was the God portrayed by Michelangelo on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, as he pointed at Adam in the act of creation. For some cultures, God is represented as woman, or as a male-female image. There is a tendency, though, to personify.

Personification is the attribution of human characteristics to something otherwise formless or abstract. Children's books might put a face on the sun or the wind, for example. Animals are given human expressions, and anyone who has kept a pet inevitably imagines that pet as having some human-like qualities. We do this because we cannot help it–it is intrinsic to the workings of our mind. We need not believe in these images as they flitter deep in our minds.

The icons and portrayals of Christ in Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic traditions recognize the need to have "someone" Divine to relate to, while, in contrast, the iconoclastic revolution in the early Church and later, in most Protestant Churches, and even more with the Quakers, all reflect the rejection of the use of imagery. The hope is that people will mature to a point of intuiting the more abstract aspects of God, beyond any anthropomorphic (human-like in appearence) image. Even allowing for the encouragement to transcend such images, at another level, humans do nevertheless imagine at some level.

This process of imaging God really addresses our implicit theology. Even without a particular visual form, there are qualities we associate with God, and those qualities are derived from qualities we have experienced directly or vicariously (e.g., read about, seen in movies) that are associated mainly with the form of humans. So this exercise simply invites us all to become more explicitly conscious of this inevitable imaging process, so we can work with the images, make conscious choices how we want to modify them. They need not be human-oid, but they can't be entirely abstract, either. Some visual association, some "map," guides our other associations.

Of course, I need to make the disclaimer that any attempt is feeble and only serves to support intuitions about how the Divine works in the Cosmos. There is no assumption that any of these images have any factual basis; rather, I do believe that the human mind cannot begin to encompass or understand the fullness of Divinity. So, the following is a sort of compromise: Recognizing that everyone who does conceive of God does so with some degree of more or less conscious somewhat personified associations, instead of simply by-passing the exercise, I'm going to go with it, and allow images to become more clear and explicit in my mind.

Personal Background

I believe all philosophy (or, in this case, philosophical quasi-poetry) reflects the individual's bias. So, to acknowledge the influences found in this paper, here's a little background: I was raised in a semi-assimilated Jewish family and community. There was little actual "spirituality" in terms of really thinking about metaphysical questions. It was lightly religious and mainly ethnic continuity.

At thirteen, I read about Thomas Paine and his critique of traditional religion, and was persuaded; Robert Ingersoll's writings further carried on this free-thinking critique, and I became an agnostic. (Paine, incidentally, was more of a Deist–his God existed and created nature, but not the Bible.) In spite of this intellectual rebellion, I continued to be interested in religion, making it my major in College. My friends and I argued all the time about religion at the University of California at Berkeley where I attended during my undergraduate years. Later, after medical school, I found the interface of spirit and science challenged by Jung's psychology and in my later twenties, a variety of esoteric approaches. I found these intriguing, but not convincing.

Only when I was 46, in 1983, did I discover process philosophy–the intellectual current developed by Alfred North Whitehead in the 1920s and carried further by Charles Hartshorne–whom I had the honor to meet at that point. I found his ideas compelling and they resolved many of my intellectual reservations about a kind of spirituality, or relationship to again a not-particularly-traditional image of God. These ideas matured along with continuing study in various esoteric ideas, transpersonal psychology, and the like.

In 1993 I discovered the renewed argument from design, and again I've found this approach rather compelling, and also complementary to the Process Theology approach, Jung, and other threads. My wife's personal spiritual journey partook of the philosophies of India and these, too, reinforced my thinking. So these are some of the threads that continue to weave and thicken into the tapestry of my thought.

Finally, also in the early 1990s, I learned about postmodernism, and to some extent–not completely, mind you, but some–I found their critique of the accessibility of objective truth again–there's that word again: "compelling." A darn good argument. What it meant to me is that you can't get there through mere intellect. Yet to give up on the game of philosophy was a cop-out.

I saw philosophy as the effort to "rationally coordinate" what we know, what we intuit, and to build the best explanation of everything we can. It's more like a sand-castle-building contest than a win-lose. And we can all be on the same team, seeking to build the finest mental structure. There would have to be arguments about which criteria of "better" we would use, for example, and other issues will continue to be explored. Also, I found that the postmodernist current wove in a systematic exercise of intellectual humility. My background as a psychiatrist who learned his trade during the era when psychoanalysis was dominant also left me with a continuing tendency to critical introspection, seeking to discriminate between what I wanted to believe and which thoughts operated somewhat logically.

Yet these themes also allow for ventures into what we might consider philosophically informed poetry. What follows is more intuitive, feeling, and imagery-driven, with some rational concepts and approaches operating in the background. It doesn't pretend to be a logical argument. Think of it more like poetry or song lyrics rather than prose theory; it's not a theory, it's a rhapsody. It's completely figurative, and not at all literal. I imagine that my attempts to imagine are worthy perhaps of a young child's attempts at art or philosophy. I grant myself the indulgence and blessing for reaching and opening, and have no criticism of the inadequacy of the effort. (To presume that any of these ideas attained to the status even of "near-truth" would be too much.) However, the alternative–simply decline the challenge–would be for me at this time, well, a cop-out.

The paper was written because a friend casually asked me in August, 2004, what my image of God was. An ambitious, perhaps outrageous question, perhaps, but we're the kind of buddies who "get down" and talk about what is most important to us, and both of us really care about philosophy. To my own surprise, I felt I had an answer! I was surprised because I was pretty sure that a few years earlier my sense of the coherence of the ideas that had been incubating in my psyche would not have coalesced to the point of my having any intuition that I was ready to answer this question. Respecting that hunch, I dared to put it all down.

Back to the original question. My friend, who asked me that evocative question, what my image of God was, went on to explain that he had believed in the old bearded patriarch on the throne as an image well into young adulthood, but this image had dissolved over the previous decade, and he found himself seeking a more fitting image. He wasn't inclined to simply move into non-belief, atheism; and agnosticism, too, wasn't really expressive of his faith, which involved a strong intuition of presence, but little else at this point.

I found myself surprisingly ready to answer. The paradox here is that I know that my answer is partial, tentative, and really cannot begin to grasp the greatness of the object of my contemplation. Nevertheless, I've come to a point of coherence, mixing a goodly number of associated ideas in an integrated fashion, so that intellectually a kind of "picture" emerges. This complex of images seems to be already more sophisticated and comprehensive, heuristic–i.e., generating practical implications and extensions– and inspiring, that its contemplation draws me into a deeper sense of faith and appreciation, even joy and excitement and bliss.

The first key to the answer is that there are many images, and all are relevant, in the sense of the fact that we today have a more vivid appreciation of different viewpoints. This concept of viewpoint, perspective, frame of reference, is central, because it includes the awareness that the object of our contemplation can appear quite different from such different viewpoints.


One example of this is the way that researchers attempting to understand light find that it is both a particle and a wave. Our own limitations of theory reflect a tendency to think that particles are distinct in time and space, while waves can exist over vast distances, and so something can't be both–but there it is: Light, photons, waves, seems to be both, which makes us stretch our theories beyond our present understanding. One implication to me is that many things that seem bounded in space may not really have those boundaries, but only the appearance of that shape.

Another example is the old story of the blind men of Hindustan who encountered an elephant. Each one felt a different part of the beast and reported accordingly, associating the part they felt with the whole: The one who felt the ear said that the elephant is like a fan; the tusk, a sword; trunk =  snake; tail =  rope; leg = tree trunk; side = wall; and so forth. They then fell to arguing which one was right. The irony was that they were all just a little bit right, if they would more wisely compile their different perceptions and dare to imagine that what they encountered could embody all those characteristics!

Those who have imagined what it is to be human have had as many contrasting perceptions, all to some degree "true": Between an ape and an angel, determined by history and childhood conditioning, yet surprisingly free; playing multiple roles and channeling multiple types of motivation, yet strangely unified, at least in the illusion of self; capable of remarkable virtue and equally astonishing wickedness–and which is "more"true? Which is more essential?

That reality may have many types of perspective brings together the mystery of mind in its reflection on matter, time, space, energy, and the three-dimensional world we live in. Or is it limited only to three dimensions? In recent years responsible scientists have begun to take seriously the idea of reality actually involving more dimensions. (The question comes up, are all dimensions more characterized by "space" – as the three dimensions of height, width, and depth–or is a dimension as a word better understood as some category that affects all other metaphysical categories–such as time and energy.

I'll confess my own bias here: I think mind needs to be recognized as both different from and yet absolutely actual, a dimension of reality as authentic as time or energy, space or matter. Indeed, there may be a number of different kinds of mind-dimensions, just as there are three sub-dimensions of space–and possibly more that we cannot perceive. It's less a matter of proof as a way of thinking about how dimensionality is defined.

So, with the emergence of "string" theory in cosmology and sub-atomic physics, theories seeking to explain the nature of matter and energy are now hypothesizing ten or eleven dimensions, and this opens all sorts of doors: What do we mean by a "higher" dimension, anyway, and can such hypothetical and difficult-to-imagine intellectual constructs offer us anything in the way we imagine God?

Well, it has to, in the following way: Our most complex mysteries tend to be framed in terms of the most current breakthroughs in technology. For example, the mind was viewed in terms of complex hydraulic systems and pressures a century ago, in Freud's theories; by mid-century, computer programming was applied to the understanding of the way the psyche operates, applying to education, the neurosciences, psychiatry–with limited value. Applied to computer science, "artificial intelligence" may have more value in the design of robots.

But this metaphor of mind as computer is increasingly recognized as limited as we become more sharply aware of chaos theory, fractal theory in mathematics, and also theories of different dimensions. In postmodernist philosophy, the theory of different frames of reference adds a different sort of complexity to our view of mind and society.

So, to restate our game of philosophy: The goal is to come up with a better complex of ideas than what had come before. No pretension need be made that the present solution is final, complete, or perfect. The spirit of dialectic invites others to counter, and offer a better synthesis. It's not win-lose, but more how can we build an even more glorious sand castle.

My intuitions about the nature of God draws upon all these current idea systems, as well as utilizing some ancient models of understanding of the great mysteries of God and the cosmos. The following theology, then, is presented in a number of vignettes which all may be imagined to be different views of the same ineffable object–with, again, the humble disclaimer that I am most distinctly aware of the essential impossibility of even a relatively feeble approximation of truth–from God's viewpoint.

The Creative Advance

Drawing from the process philosophy of Alfred North Whitehead and Charles Hartshorne, which seem most persuasive to me, compared with other philosophies, I view God as a kind of glorious, expanding sphere, a radiant sphere, perhaps like the sun. (In dimensional terms, this would be the equivalent of projecting a three–or maybe ten!–dimensional object onto a two dimensional space, akin to the allegory of the cave in Plato's writings. But we only imagine three-dimensional space, with the exception of a few math geniuses who can perhaps imagine higher-dimensional images.) More about the analogy to the sun a little later. But, unlike the sun, this sphere is expanding gradually.

The surface of the sphere is light-like in one perspective, but its essence is more a combination of mind and activity, in the forms of all the stories and lives associated with different fields of endeavor. This might include all life forms in the universe, but for our purposes of imagining, I limit these fields to all the endeavors of humanity, which is still a remarkably wide range of sub-types. It would include all the arts, sciences, recreations, religions, rituals, politics, family and community dynamics, love stories, tragedies, comedies, and so forth, of every culture.

An associated image that helped form this idea of many types of endeavor was my enjoyment of perusing the college catalog, and being in awe of the range of types of classes being given. Just in the titles and course descriptions was a hint of realms of discovery, in fields I hardly knew about.

 It was like seeing some kind of exotic beast and wondering at its actual ecological relationships, social and sexual behaviors, and so on. I began to appreciate the sheer multiplicity of types of endeavor. For every field of study, there were specialists, sub-specialists, and those who are creating whole new sub-specialties based on some technological or conceptual breakthrough. As I grew, this wonder has continued: Almost every field of endeavor continues to differentiate further! Meanwhile, a few fields wither, become neglected. In time, some insights of those fields, now unfashionable, may be redeemed. I've been interested in how elements of native American and other indigenous spirituality, once scorned as merely primitive, are now being reconsidered as embodying wisdom that had been lost in the so-called progress of modernization. It is like evolution speeded up, with new variants, associations, groupings, political struggles, happening over months and decades instead of millennia.

I see God in this activity, in the sheer creativity, discovery, hunger, curiosity, insight, pursuit up blind alleys and false starts. There is a profound vitality in the history of any field, oceanography, marine biology, military history, agriculture. There are stories of each innovator's struggle to have his or her invention or discovery recognized. There are stories within those stories in which the inventor finds that he's half-wrong, and needs to revise his theory, or model, or invention, perhaps several times. There are parallel stories as these innovators have to deal with family, friends, some of whom help, others hinder. The sheer dynamism of these lives express the glory of a God who is becoming, awakening, becoming re-born (in certain respects), discovering, inspiring, sustaining faith and courage and love through the awkward, punctuated, creative advance in all these myriad areas of human endeavor.

The surface of the sun, as our astronomical tools have been refined, is revealed not as a smooth white light, but rather amazingly granular. What we can infer from these patterns is something suggesting an extensive field of small bubbles –ah, but considering the sun's size, each bubble possibly being the size of a whole country on the face of the earth, in which there are convection currents, areas of relatively hot upflows, and relatively cooler sinkings of inconceivably heated gas, plasma, so hot that electrons are stripped from their atoms. But the point is that there are dynamic structures and flow patterns even in this maelstrom of almost pure energy!

I can slide into fantasy and imagine a special sort of light-fire being that lives and has its own sort of adventure and story, its own sort of discovery and dance. Who am I to deny our great and glorious mother-sun her own complex life story?  (Remember as children when we didn't really recognize that our parents had their own dramatic struggles? They were merely extensions of our own egocentric perspectives.) I suspect that we continue to be more egocentric, ethno-centric, human-centric, and limited in our consciousness, in comparison with an imagined archangel who has a much more mature viewpoint. And I fantasize further that this archangel's perspective is in turn limited compared to the awareness field of, say, a seraphim whose province is, say, a galaxy. Thus, science fiction and fantasy, as well as contemporary technology, contribute to the process of image-construction.

Under the Surface

Under the surface of this vast, expanding "sphere" of living struggle, work, play, dance, discovery, experimentation, publicizing, and other forms of becoming–always becoming–this "creative advance" that is God's expanding "skin," there is also another equally dynamic process: Each of these fields of endeavor are making increasing inter-disciplinary connections with an ever-expanding range of other fields.  Now we have the internet, speeding up this global process of connection. For example, in some of my specialized interests, I am hearing from others across the globe who tell me that they found something on my website that was helpful, or perhaps something that deserves to be corrected. On occasion, I travel to international meetings and meet people who share certain common interests, yet also show a delightful variety of sub-interests, different approaches, and we cross-fertilize each others' imaginations. This, too, I see as the dancing play of Lila, the personification of God as player in the Hindu tradition.

The Cosmic Embryo

Another image here is that our cosmos, which includes the stories, experiences, and mental activities of all its inhabitants as well as the material forms generated in this activity, may also be compared to the development of a developing embryo. It wasn't just a splash and outward movement in differentiation, but also the emergence of increasing forms of integration, cross-connections, as the forces of gravity, fusion, and other coming-togethers began to weave the different elements into more complex forms. In life, soon after its emergence, patterns of symbiosis and co-evolution emerged along with mere competition, and ecological and highly complex systems express the reality of the unfoldingness of the Divine even more than individualism.

Imagining the brain of a growing fetus, still within the womb: Not only is there incredible cell growth and multiplication near the surface, but these neurons are growing, reaching out, branching, branching again and again, and connecting with the branches of other neurons, making connections, from this part to that part, all around the growing brain. A contemplation of neuro-anatomy leads one to a near-psychedelic sense of wonder at how this structure emerged.  Knowing that similar and only slightly less complex processes apply to the emergence, the embryology, of most mammals, and most animals, just hints at the levels of undreamed of, and still largely unknown complexities that make up the reality of the biology of the animals around us.

A related image was stimulated in reading Teilhard de Chardin's 1966 book, The Vision of the Past (pg 233), in which he writes about the "noosphere," a field of consciousness throughout and around the world's biosphere that is becoming more complex as the world evolves. (I allude to this near the end of my paper on this website, on Our Social Beingness ). I consider the last few billion years and imagine that every communication between sentient beings would be represented by a visible pulse of laser like light, a tiny line that would flash. Viewed from perhaps ten thousand miles away, the Earth would be like a circle on a screen, and in that circle, first a few little close flashes are discernable, but then, with the emergence of humanity and language, those flashes become more prominent and dense, and with the emergence of transportation and writing, even more so. With the invention of telegraphy, the telephone, and finally the internet, the "nervous system" of the world begins to really light up, a shimmering, vibrating, growing-in-complexity "living" being, the way the nervous system of the embryo's brain may come alive over the almost nine months of its gestation.

In this sense, I imagine the Divine enjoying the process of emergence, development, embryogenesis, and birth, again and again, in may ways, throughout the cosmos. (A fitting image for the way I enjoy the many stories associated with Christmas!)

Deeper Structures

Sharing some of this with my friend, drawing diagrams of these images, laughing as I realized how crude and insufficient such diagrams were, I recalled yet another way to think about this image of God that added other dimensions of depth. In the last two centuries we have learned about the way systems of material structure, in biology, for example, and also systems of conceptual structure, in mathematics, for example, or philosophy, can exist within broader systems, and these within broader systems.

We have become aware of hierarchies–strings, quarks, sub-atomic particles, atoms, molecules, macro-molecules, sub-cellular structures, cells, tissues, organs, organ systems, organisms, families, societies, cultures, species, ecosystems, biosphere, planet, solar system, stellar regions, galaxies, galactic clusters, the universe...

There are also hierarchies in the mind, from fleeting perceptions to thoughts to belief systems to world-views to complex philosophies of life, and at each level, greater complexities of integration are happening.  Many aspects of life show such hierarchies, or what the contemporary philosopher Ken Wilber calls "holarchies."

Metaphysically, one can construct levels of abstraction and view reality that way: Here's a structure I've made up that partakes of a combination of the aforementioned creative advance and draws on the ancient diagram called the "Tree of Life" from the Jewish mystical tradition called "Kabbalah."

tree of life diagram

This diagram is generally presented from the top down, the top being closer to the Divine Source, the bottom being the manifestation in material form, as, say, human life. I sort of reverse this, placing the manifested human life near the surface of the aforementioned sphere of human endeavor, the Creative Advance. That's where we are really doing stuff in the world, our bodies exist, we feel, make, suffer, enjoy, dance.

Now in this image, from this structure's viewpoint, the roles we play in life–and there are maybe 20 major roles and a hundred minor roles that most people play–and yet, all these roles are only a small fraction of the roles we imagine, the roles we play in our minds. For every role actually lived out, there may be a couple others that we'd fantasized, wished for, feared, wondered about. Maybe hundreds of others.

When we were kids, we'd play out these alternative lives. We didn't have to actually grow up and learn all we needed to learn to do all we needed to do to get through medical school to be doctors. We just played doctors. It was fail safe, too–none of the dire consequences of rank ignorance comes with play, because that's what play is–you don't really die if the surgeon goofs up. So we could play fireman and superhero and be great actors on stage and do all manner of things. And as much as we have inhibited this capacity for imagination and pretense, it goes on into adulthood with far more deeper truth than most people are aware of.

So, underneath the real lives on this expanding brain/sun surface of creative ferment, there is (in another dimension), a field of imagination far greater than what can be played out. And underneath or beyond that, encompassing this, is still a far greater field: Your imagination, as vast as it is, still selects only a small fraction of all the possible alternatives, life styles, interests, tastes, and activities available within your culture. So this culture represents a deeper context, a more abstract level, underlying the imagination of any given individual.

The structure of reality goes deeper yet, because there are many, many cultures! So that vast field of activities known to a culture only represent one set of possibilities. There are many other ways cultures can take form, and yet all cultures still manifest a certain set of essentially human tendencies. The psychoanalyst Carl Jung called these "archetypes." Every culture has some way of working with the great mystery of birth and mothering; every culture has some way of addressing the impact of puberty. These and thousands of other dimensions of human life can take complex and different configurations in different cultures. In some, the mother's ancestors are more important for certain considerations, while in others, it is the father's lineage that counts. So the archetypal themes can yet take a wide range of forms.  These, too, these deeper patterning dynamics, are part of the Divine Genius!  It's by no means meaningless!

Still Deeper Patterns

While the human imagination can intuit deeper patterns, still, we continue to discover that the farther our mind reaches, the more complexity and mystery we discover. So, for example, although we have hypothesized the atom, and have increasing evidence for the existence of this... something... we can't actually see it. And though we have sort of seen very large ones through super-powerful beyond-electron microscopes, all we see is a heap of stuff, or what appears to be that.

It's like looking at the top of your head in a crowd shot from a thousand feet up. But that photograph can't begin to grasp the full picture of you, or what you look like under your clothes, or what you're made of under your skin, or the fullness of your real existence in your man activities, interests, talents, weaknesses, tastes, personal history, etc.

So may we presume to think we know what an atom really is, just because it's "small" in terms of our measurements of space?  Even our mathematical reconstructions of this entity reveal a host of hard-to-conceive-of patterns of electron fields of probability, full of seeming paradoxes. The point here is that we still don't really understand or appreciate a goodly number of things most people think we know about.

Taking this contemplation back into the problem of ultimate or at least still deeper depths of underlying reality, what patterns determine our existence–and recognizing we're talking about the physiology of God, here–let's now go beyond archetypes: Another yet deeper tendency is that of life's inclination to balance itself, to find harmonies, integrations, make compromises. That way, no single archetype gets carried to its extreme and all the others get extinguished. All are needed. We see this in the homeostatic mechanisms that operate throughout biological systems. Without these, or when they fail to operate, death ensues.

So God serves the dynamic whole by introducing balancing, harmonies, patterns that bring together the diverse parts. Interestingly, there are so many different ways of doing this. Sometimes the harmonies are allowed to range fairly broadly, as happens in modern music, in which some surprising degrees of dissonance are then woven together. Sometimes the balancing act has to be kept within a rather narrow range–as in the amount of oxygen that can sustain the biosphere.

There are even more primal archetypal structures, more refined dimensions that mystics have intuited, akin to the primal Yin Yang and the Tao that they comprise. Suffice it to say that the Divine dynamics continue deeper, ever deeper, and beyond the human capacity for distinct knowledge. That the greatest mystics sometimes glimpse these depths is a contemplation all in itself, along with the mystery of their statements that what is glimpsed cannot begin to be put into ordinary language, and even the rhapsodies of poetry do not do these experiences justice. Still, they write their poetry, paint their dreams, and we do what we can to say as much as we can understand, recognizing it falls short of our most exalted intuitions.

The Feeling States

So much for anatomy and physiology: Let's talk a bit about another frame of reference: What does God feel? (Knowing we can't begin to know the answer, but resolved anyway to try.) First, for me, this whole image structure is glorious. It is the glory of dancing creativity, of improvisation, exploration, the thrill of adventure, the curiosity of the child. It is compassionate and interested in every detail. God finds you, your life, your struggle, your challenge to bring to fullness your interests, talents, and gifts, the resolution of your confusion, the heightening of peace of mind, and your positive (if possible) integration of your work and the benefit to others, family, community, world–all this is great theatre to God. It's a good story.

First of all, you're the only you that ever was, and this story, in all its complexity, is really quite unique. From a dramatic, aesthetic, Divine viewpoint, your life is not less significant, less complex, than that of some celebrity of the hour, year, or century. Being known by others of your species is only one of many criteria for significance. It may be that from a Divine viewpoint, the ways you have helped some, inspired others, parented others, in the long run, may have more profound impacts on the greater human story than the gyrations of some highly celebrated but vacuous rock star or pompous pronouncements of some politician.

I imagine God participating further in this story, really crying and suffering with your pain, and rejoicing with your success. Who are we to deny God this rich role as audience and co-participant?  God also works as the lure, the intrinsic sense of value, in all events. What fascinates us, what excites us, why do we love and feel inspired? This is a mysterious power!  It isn't a power that forces things to happen, that imposes or coerces, but rather the power of that peculiar dynamic of "being interesting," "feeling good," "tasting fine."

The funny thing here is that tastes differ, so it's as if God can enjoy offering innumerable different tastes in a field of existence in which there are innumerable beings that resonate with different tastes. Rather than there being one set of that which is good, there are un-ending variations and permutations, which in turn support the kind of diversity needed to make for functional complex ecosystems and human societies. Some folks are natural politicians, others take to being the police. It seems there are people who really like to do most everything.

Let's recognize that funny is as glorious a quality as deep wisdom and exquisite beauty– they're all aesthetic dimensions. Funny offers a special kind of lubrication for the complexities and quirks of existence. It reminds us that viewpoints get a bit fixed in human minds, but in fact they're brittle structures and can be momentarily shattered, and we glimpse through the splinters whole other realities. It doesn't have to use psychedelic drugs–sometimes a joke does the job.

You know all those people you find profoundly un-attractive? There are other people who find them deeply attractive, fall completely in love with those seemingly unattractive others.  Even harder to believe is the fact that there are lots of people who find you unattractive. Or, if you feel too much that this is so, open to the idea that there are also lots of people–not a large percentage, but still, lots–who will find you attractive!  And then relax and laugh, and this is a laugh of faith, of glimpsing that the system is so constructed as to give room for all kinds of creative possibilities.


Here's another great part of this image. God isn't apart from all this creation. God IS the creation. (God is also more than the material creation: "Pantheism" means that God is the sum of all that exists. "Pan-en-theism" means that God is all existence, and there is also a sense that God belongs to a category beyond ordinary existence. It's more open-ended, and open to the idea of transcendence.)

Anyway, the point here is that you are as much a part of God as your fingertip or your eye or a cell in your heart is part of you. And God loves you as much as you would love that cell in your liver, if you knew half of all the different things a liver cell does for you. (Look it up in a textbook on human physiology. These little cells perform so many different life-supporting functions!) And what if you discovered that this little cell and all its neighbors sang joyously each moment, "We're helping God be alive! We're helping God be alive!"-- or that you inserted your name for God, because you are, in a sense, the God of these cells and their enzymes. You'd end up loving those cells back.

And you'd love them even if you knew they didn't know about your existence. They don't need to praise you. It's enough that they do their little jobs. They do what they can, they live and die, just for you. So why can't God be this intimately involved with your life?  Really care about you? Really, in a sense, "be" you? (or you recognize that you, in a reciprocal sense, really "are" part of God!?)

This, too, is glorious. I imagine God thinking, "I don't want to sit on some throne in the sky and judge people! Boring! I want to BE everything, to discover what it's really like to be an exploding star, a sleepy asteroid, to be born and reborn again through generations of stars, to be an emerging rudimentary life form, an infant discovering her toes, I want to be .. You!  I want to join you in living out your life. It's great theatre!"

(God continues;) "...And although it's by no means required, still, it's an especially sweet moment when you wake up just a little bit more, and discover that you.. are!"



Abbott, E. A.  (1952).  Flatland. New York: Dover

Bragdon, C. (1925). Four-dimensional vistas. New York: Alfred A. Knopf.

Burger, D. (1964). Sphereland: a fantasy about curved spaces and an expanding universe. New York: Thomas Y. Crowell.

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