Defining the Spiritual Situation
With palms together,
Good Afternoon Sangha,
I beg your indulgence here. I am working out some thoughts.
This morning I went out for the first time in three days. My Little Honey dropped me off at the Bountiful Bakery where I ate a fruit cup and sipped coffee while the rabbi and I discussed meditation with the group. We then got into a discussion about the Gospel of Judas, God, Jesus and the whole enchilada. Within this discussion the notion of our images of God became noticable.
Images of God are so interesting to me, as they seem reflections of a person's spiritual presence and growth. If we are interested in people these images become very informative, revealing much of what is underneath the public surface. Those needing punitive images, mean old granddads, in the sky are on one side, those without need for an image at all on the other. Most everyone is somewhere sandwiched in between and the sandwich is, per chance, getting tighter.
Images of God can become in-service to political and societal needs. Fear creates one sort of need, love another, acceptance still another, forgiveness yet another.. Depending on our definition of the spiritual situation, God and the image we create for him changes. It is important to see this. As it reveals much about who we are and more importantly still, who we are becoming.
In times of turmoil and uncertainty, human beings want or need a degree of comfort. We have a felt need for control and God becomes the agent we apply to. In times of oppression, God becomes a hero who frees us from our slavery. In times of plenty, we are free to reach for self-actualization and God becomes a partner in the manifestation of this effort.
In today's world, there is a growing conflict between vastly different needs for, and understandings of, God. On the one hand, the sweep of change, rapid information flow, explosive growth of knowledge, fuels tremendous fear on the part of those either disenfranchised by that change or those who are a part of a group being dragged along by the force of such a change. On the other hand, there are those who are leading the change. These are the modernists, the scientists, developers, capitalists, and the highly skilled and trained information specialists.
A question arises in the midst, is there a God unaffected by our needs? Do we matter to God? Is God on the one hand "Wholly Other" or are we infinately "One with Him"?
Is God an anthropomorphic reflection or a stand alone deity? What is the spiritual situation?
When contemplating a circle, one first notices its completeness. Something is "inside", something, "outside." Human beings use images to describe thoughts and feelings, attempting to put into a form an abstraction. Infinite is often understood as a vast unbroken circle. The universe a large bubble. We use nouns to name, verbs as action words. Names, by defintion limit the picture. The Hebrew name for God is not a noun, but a verb phrase, I am that I am, I will be that which I will be. And so on. As with God we soon we ask what is outside of infinity?
Miamonides could only define God by negation, as any attempt to positively assert what God was limited God: a paradoxical statement.
Could it be that God is both subject and object, inside and outside, dependent and independent of human beings? Do we create God and are we at the same time created by God?
Systems theory offers us a way of approaching this question. Systems theory simply allows us to see infinately, one system in relation to another in relation to another. Some larger, some smaller, but all interconnected and dependent on all others. There is no "largest" system. No "smallest" system. No outside of infinite. Perspective forms definition and definition forms perspective. We are limited only by our willingness and ability to detail and expand the eco-system.
From a Zen Buddhist perspective, God is or is not, may be or may not be. Like all things, we are because other things are, we are not because other things are not. Causation has no beginning or no end. Such things as beginnings and ends are human inventions created by a limited ability of our mind to grasp infinitude.. In this sense, Zen is neutral on the matter of God. It is this very neutrality that makes it possible for a Zen practitioner to become clear on God, so to speak. And perhaps is one reason why so many people come to Zen or other forms of Buddhism as a practice starting point.
When you sit down and consider God, your consideration paints a picture of your needs. Your need-set interacts with others, sometimes in concordance sometimes in conflict. Regardless of how, the need-set points to an image of God which is then linked to a particular role for both the practitioner and the congregant, as well as the religious institution itself.
Harvey So Daiho Hilbert
May All Beings Be Free From Suffering
On the web at http://www.daihoji.org/
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