Dec. 16, 2004)
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 picture God, and for Jews, even God's name is
taboo. All this is to honor the awareness of our inability to
conceptualize much less express the ineffable nature of Divinity.
Still, the nature of mind is such that it works with images, even
before images are associated with language.
For many, the image is male, bearded, elderly, 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 a number of 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.
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
). 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!)
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
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."
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,
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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 also...me!"
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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