Yesterday, I wrote a blurb about The God Above God. In order to be fair and balanced, I felt that I should give some airtime to the God Below God. By that I mean, the latter god of the first sentence is the same as the former god of the second sentence. But like I’ve said before, it just seems that that’s one god too many.
It all started for me when I was a kid going to Sunday school. I had questions, lots of questions and the answers, if any, only raised more questions still. Later when I was in college, the roles were reversed with me as the Sunday school teacher. Alas, the results were no different.
Just as I have done, people have gone to church on Sunday, even read the Bible regularly, and yet gotten little out of their experiences. What’s missing? Well for starters, God is missing. For most people, God is nowhere to be found in their lives. What’s worse, they feel that God plays favorites (i.e. appears only to his Chosen People). In fact, the only time that God has seemingly ever visited his creation was a small window of time over 2,000 years ago. How’s that for being an absent parent! Accordingly, many people that I know have become atheists, which is in reality sort of a learned behavior (i.e. no direct experience of God turns into no belief in God).
So the concept of an invisible God that can only be discerned spiritually doesn’t play very well in Peoria. Worse yet, religious dogma with respect to the existence of God is extremely hard to fathom for the average person. Of course, most people truly need a higher power to believe in. As Voltaire said, “If God didn’t exist, it would be necessary to invent him”.
So exactly who is to blame for this situation? Well, I vote for the Bible. To be more precise, I vote for man’s interpretation of the Bible. By that I mean that the Bible has often been either mistranslated, misquoted or misunderstood. As George Bernard Shaw said, “No man ever believes that the Bible means what it says – he is always convinced that it says what he means”. So for example, we have the argument that God created everything out of nothing. Now, most people just aren’t able to wrap their minds around that one (something out of nothing, that is); Aristotle didn’t like the concept much either. I have two takes on this issue. One is that we(man) were essentially created out of nothing because everything originally came from nothingness (God). But of course, that’s not the way that it is generally interpreted. Heck, the whole concept of creatio ex nihilo isn’t even in the Bible.
My second take is that it’s way too convenient for the church to declare that man needs to be saved because our souls were created out of nothing. In that scenario, the church gets to play mediator between man and God. I refer to it as the selling of salvation. On the other hand if our souls did come from God, then by definition we would not need to be saved at all!
As for the God Below God, I never could quite embrace the revengeful, wrathful god of Genesis as the type of god that I wanted to pray to. I wanted to know why God couldn’t act more like…well, like God. How could you violate your own commandments and why would you need to establish a covenant with your own creation? After all, you either are the prime creator or you aren’t. There’s really no choice in the matter. You can’t choose to be someone’s god if you already are their god. Only a jealous, insecure(and inferior) god worries about man choosing a different god to worship.
As I got older, what bothered me the most about the Genesis stories was the fact that they happened at all. Most people that I know believe in the concept of free will and God’s involvement in the realm of man is certainly a direct violation of his free will. The point is probably moot, however, because the Bible says repeatedly that no one has ever seen God (see the Book of John).
So one day, I’m going on a rant about this to my wife and she innocently asks me just who then was the god of Genesis. The question surprised me because I had never taken the issue to that level and so I couldn’t immediately respond to her. But then, almost immediately, I had a flash of enlightenment; the god of Genesis in fact wasn’t God (the First Cause). That’s how it all came together for me. There was no way that this could have been God because no one had ever seen God. With that in mind, the use of the terms “us” and “our” in Genesis started to make sense to me in that god was apparently not alone with Adam and Eve in the garden. Actually, the Bible is replete with references to many gods (and angels and other heavenly hosts) and so it is not unreasonable to assume there were other divine entities with him, especially since the Bible refers to the god in the Garden of Eden by using the much-maligned Hebrew word Elohim and then elsewhere refers to “gods” with the same word Elohim (see Psalm 82:1 and John 10:34-36, for example).
It’s interesting to note that there is no proof, in the Bible or otherwise, that the god in the Garden of Eden is the prime creator. The best that can be said is that Jehovah was the self-proclaimed god of all creation and insisted that there was no other god besides him. Of course, other religions also tend to be self-proclaimed, as if anyone can prove or disprove the existence of God. As for me, I’ll just take the God Above God and call it a day. I don’t even require a covenant.
Once upon a time in a realm far, far away there was an entity in an infinite sea of nothingness. From this entity (the Absolute), emanated a creative force. This creative force longed to emulate the Absolute and in turn created other creative forces, producing a hierarchy of divine beings.
One of the lower creative forces so created was an abomination, an arrogant beast who did not obey his own creator. This lower creative force, in turn, fashioned man out of the Chaos from already-existing divine essences and man then promptly fell into matter. Despite containing the divine spark, man looked outside of himself for the Creator.
Now, the god of man was a jealous god who took himself for the Absolute. So he told man that “I am God and there is no other God besides me”. So man worshipped him as the one true god without ever realizing that there was another god above him.
There were no male, no female, no black or white
Only projections from the cosmic mind.
God wasn’t out there somewhere
But rather the Kingdom of God was within.
We were all on safari
Eventually to return home, to heaven.
Matter didn’t create consciousness
But consciousness created matter.
There was no sin
And you didn’t need to be saved.
Separation was an illusion
That we were all part of the same family (of God).
The only thing that mattered in life was love
Would you lead your life any differently?
In reading a number of blogs and the comments coming back on them, I find that the people tend to fall into two groups. There are those that believe in the God of the Bible and those that don’t believe in God at all. Yes, there are some people in the middle (agnostics and others) and perhaps they tend not to speak out and there are really more of them than meets the eye.
Nevertheless, the dialogue is almost always about trying to prove the existence or the nonexistence of God. Now personally, I don’t believe that either position is provable. For starters, trying to prove the nonexistence of something seems to be a rather futile exercise. Actually most atheists that I know are extremely intelligent people (moralistic too by the way), so they try to explain the world around them in rational and intellectual terms; a flawed approach I must say for just how is man with his finite intelligence suppose to understand the cosmos and its infinite intelligence? But of course, what else is a person in that position suppose to do? When push comes to shove, though, I’m very sympathetic to the atheists’ arguments.
On the other extreme, we have people who believe in God steadfastly, and quote chapter and verse from the Bible. I’m okay with that too, although the part about everyone else burning in hell gets a little old sometimes. Having faith and believing that the Bible is the Word of God is a fine belief system. It just doesn’t constitute proof, especially when you say that the Bible is the Word of God because it says so. I can hear the atheists complaining about the circular reasoning right about now. Like I said, I’m sympathetic to their arguments.
But remember those people that I mentioned who were in the middle and you rarely hear from them? Well, you’re about to hear from one right now. I have reason to believe that there is another alternative. It’s based on faith and personal experience, as opposed to proof to be sure, but what else is a person in this position suppose to do anyway?
Now, I’ve always had some belief in God. For example, just as one can look at a painting and make certain observations about the painter, so too one can look at the wonder of nature and make certain assumptions about the Creator. But, my belief in God was very ill-defined for many years, and I seemed to like it just that way. However, a string of events forced me one day to admit that there was a higher intelligence at work in the universe. The only question for me then was how to define God, and by extension how to define myself.
One of the first synchronicities that occurred in my life was while I was in college studying, of all things, Freud. Now Freud had come up with this theory which has since formed the framework for psychology for the better part of the last 100 years; part of that theory he referred to as the super-ego. That started me thinking, an affliction that I have been unable to rid myself of. I wondered why couldn’t man exist simultaneously in more than one dimension. However, I really didn’t know what to do with that concept at that time.
Over the years, I struggled with the issue of how to define God. Part of my dilemma had to do with the Bible, which I had been researching for the better part of my life. What was a logical person to make of all the contradicting information about God in the Bible?
Before I could find the answer to that question, something truly remarkable happened. I was coming home from dinner one night with my wife and four year-old daughter, with my daughter sitting in the back seat of the car. The topic of conversation was about religion and at some point my daughter interjected that she knew everything about God. She proceeded to explain that God was invisible, wasn’t male or female but rather genderless and that you could pray to him. Oh yes, and God was love. Needless to say that both my wife and I were flabbergasted. Upon questioning, our daughter told us that she hadn’t simply overheard any of our conversations or even read it in a book. What she finally told us was as stunning as it was revealing. She said that this information “was God’s gift to her”. What is it that they say about “out of the mouths of babes”?
That got me to thinking again about God and the Bible. If God was love, then what about the God of the Old Testament – you know, the angry, jealous, fearful God that broke his own commandments. He didn’t exactly fit my vision of how God should be. Could it be that he wasn’t the god who created the heavens and the earth, but possibly just a lower god that only created man?
As I would later find out, my issue of trying to define God had perhaps been dealt with 2,000 years ago by a group referred to as the Gnostics, who were contributors to early Christian thought. This discovery confirmed for me my thinking that there was a hierarchy of gods with one God at the top of the pyramid, the first cause. The actual identity of the God of the Bible was not of much importance to me but there are sources that do speak about a lower creation god; for example, in the Gospel of Judas he is referred to as Ildabaoth.
The rest of the story is much too long for this blog, which is why I’m currently writing a book about it. But along the way, I’ve had some interesting finds in some rather interesting places; places like quantum physics. Scientists have delved into the world of sub-atomic particles and found something totally unexpected. What they discovered was an invisible world that serves as the foundation for our own reality. In this other reality, space and time do not exist and everything is part of the whole. With this information, I would then come to a better understanding of our multi-dimensional selves and to the realization that separation is merely an illusion.
Now, how does any of this relate to those still debating the existence of God? Well, I’m not sure that it does, at least not just yet for most people. My take on life is that it is a journey, a journey of self-discovery that has no beginning and no end. Accordingly as a true seeker, you should never stop looking for the truth. Socrates said it best when he said, “The only thing I know is that I know nothing at all”. Now exactly what was it that you thought that you knew about the existence or nonexistence of God?
According to the Bible, man was first created about 5,800 years ago. Likewise, the Jewish calendar, which is dated from similar biblical texts, is currently in the year 5,773. Science, on the other hand, dates man’s first appearance (in Africa) to roughly 200,000 years ago. Since many Christians take the Bible literally, religion and science have been at loggerheads ever since. The conundrum for religion is that if it were proven that man was born 200,000 years ago, then the Bible would be wrong and, by extension, could not be taken literally at all. It’s an even more precarious position for scientists, who are at the same time Christian, and want to believe in the Bible but are faced with the results of their own scientific research.
Now the history books state that man evolved slowly and gradually from 200,000 years ago and, according to science, the first significant milestone for man was the development of agriculture at least 10,000 years ago (as opposed to the Bible’s rendering of 5,800 years ago for first man). Prior to that, man was a hunter/gatherer who had not yet even invented anything more than very rudimentary tools… and yet.
The world of archaeology is currently upstaging both religion and science. Everyone has probably heard of the more famous sites like the Great Pyramid or Machu Picchu. However, some of the more recent discoveries are truly amazing. For starters there are the pyramids in Bosnia, which are larger and significantly older than the pyramids in Egypt. In addition, there are pyramids and whole cities that have been discovered beneath the oceans. Underwater ruins have been discovered around the world, from Japan to Cuba to India to the North Sea (just to name a few). What makes these discoveries stand out from discoveries on land is that these sites mostly can be dated to the ending of the last ice age, some 12,000 years ago, when the world’s sea level rose significantly.
Now progress in civilization normally takes thousands of years. To understand when life began you have to work backward from what is known to the beginning. In the case of these latest archaeological finds, fully developed civilization existed in some places prior to 10,000BC and you need to then work backward from there. This makes the scientific estimate of 200,000 years ago for the appearance of man seem reasonable, although it does raise other significant issues. Even more recent developments surround the discovery of cities in Mexico and South Africa that have both been dated to at least 200,000 years. If true, that would blow any and all theories out of the water.
In any event, pre-history was apparently witness to an advanced civilization of some kind that was light years beyond what otherwise was in existence at that time. As one civilization morphed from hunter/gatherers to farmers and later into the Bronze Age and the development of more sophisticated weapons and even later to the advent of Greek Civilization and then 3,000 more years to modern man and his string of impressive technological discoveries (beginning in the 20th century), a more advanced civilization somehow came and went.
How does one solve this enigma? Well to begin with, religion needs to admit that man existed before Adam and Eve. Perhaps, that’s the real story of how Cain was able to leave the Garden of Eden and find a wife. As for science, they need to stop being politically correct and admit that the process of gradual evolution is not a completely workable thesis. After all, there apparently were two completely different civilizations living on this planet at the very same time (overlapping for at least some period of history). So many ancient cultures, the Mayans and Incans included, were visited by “gods” who brought the seeds of civilization with them. Mayan legend states that these men came from and returned to the stars. Other cultures, like the well-documented Dogon tribe of West Africa, tell a similar story.
The story of this lost civilization has been suppressed for thousands of years. Most legends and religions do state, however, that the gods will return. However, I can only imagine what would happen if they do and found that the masses didn’t even know that they had been here.
In the stillness of the night he came acrawlin’
Upon my window sill
He whispered something in my ear
And lingers near me still
He is here tho I can’t see him
I feel him in the air
My mind becomes a radio
His breath upon my hair
No one believes that he exists
And so they don’t rejoice
They simply have to listen tho
For the faint sound of his voice
My faith restored, I live again
My soul stirs ever deep
And now to know that he is there
It’s safe to go to sleep
Though darkness comes, I fear it not
I know I’m not alone
Love conquers all, let there be light
In the stillness of the night
Hate to be the one that breaks it to you, but…. WE’RE BROKE. By we, I mean the government of course. Now you may be wondering how that’s possible or why you haven’t heard about it. Those are fair questions that deserve a decent answer.
So how bad is it you might ask. Well, the value of the U.S. dollar is now worth about 3% of what it was worth in 1900. As a result, a loaf of bread that cost $.05 in 1900 now costs $2.75. That’s inflation for you. You see, inflation is primarily the result of the Federal Reserve printing too much money; in other words, too many dollars chasing a finite amount of goods for sale. Milton Friedman, who won a Nobel Prize for economics, must be rolling over in his grave. In addition, the government spending has ballooned totally out of control over the last 8 years or so. If it were you or me of course, they would have cut off our credit cards long ago. As if that wasn’t bad enough, the really bad news is that the light at the end of a tunnel is an oncoming runaway train loaded with increases in entitlement programs (primarily Obamacare and social security) as the demographics in this country change dramatically with the retirement of the Baby Boomers.
The reason that you haven’t heard about this issue during the presidential campaign is that neither candidate wants to talk about it – since there is little to nothing that they can do about it that won’t totally piss off the voters. Mitt Romney gave lip-service to government spending in his economic plan, but it’s a drop in the bucket compared to what it will really take and as for President Obama, well he seems to be proposing four more years of Hope and Change.
As things stand right now :
You can say good-bye to the American Dream.
You can say goodbye to America being a world leader.
You can say goodbye to your standard of living.
You might even have to say goodbye to your very way of life.
So the country is swimming in debt (the real deficit is closer to $200 trillion) and the two candidates have totally side-stepped, or are ignorant of, the issue. Former Senator Everett Dirksen should have been around to see this. He would have been right in his element. However because of the escalation in government spending, he would have had to adjust his famous quote to something like the following: “A trillion here and a trillion there and pretty soon you’re talking about real money.” Yes, and pretty soon you’re broke too.
So the debates are over and the presidential campaign is winding down. Yet, I haven’t heard either of the candidates, never mind the totally biased political pundits, talk about the only issue that really matters; namely, the economy. Okay, I was just joking about that, sort of. Here’s why.
From my perspective, neither of the candidates has a meaningful plan to turn the country around, let alone return it to greatness. Heck, Obama seemingly doesn’t have any plan at all. The elephant in the room that everyone is ignoring is the federal deficit which may be as high as $200 trillion (as opposed to the published figure of $16 trillion), which means that you could conceivably shut down the entire federal government and the country could go still go further into the hole. Of course, these numbers don’t even count the black budget which absolutely no one ever talks about.
The reason is that the government lies about most things pertaining to the economy. By that, I mean they lie about little things and they lie about big things; certainly important things like the rate of inflation and the unemployment rate. For example, if the inflation rate is kept artificially low then workers’ salaries, most of which are driven either directly or indirectly by the Consumer Price Index, have less value relative to the cost of products that they buy (food, gas, housing etc). This is one of the reasons why the savings rate has plummeted over the last 30 years.
David Walker, a highly-respected and former U.S. Comptroller General, has launched the Comeback America Initiative to discuss the looming crisis in government spending which he says is a bigger threat to the country than terrorism. In fact, he has labeled it a threat to the very survival of the republic. Yet, go on the six-o-clock news and see if anyone is talking about it. Alternatively, attend a local town hall meeting and see if anyone is even remotely aware of the issue. One must also question why Mitt Romney is not making a big deal out of this either, as this has the potential to swing the election to him. I’ll leave that to you to ponder.
The bottom line is that the government wants to hide how bad things really are. Sure, Obama is politically motivated to suppress the truth – he has an election to win. However, this problem has been around for a while. President Clinton left office with a surplus so just how could things have gotten so bad so fast?
So there you have it – political intrigue, government bailouts to corrupt financial institutions, including foreign banks, and a cast of characters worthy of an Agatha Christie novel. It’s a $200 trillion secret that they don’t want you to know about… but, of course, now you know.
Is it only me? Am I going senile in my old age? I normally wouldn’t expect to be so confused about something that I have observed many times before in my life.
You see, I thought that the young people of today were getting smarter (than the previous generation). My daughter’s intelligence for example is simply off the charts, no thanks to me. But if there’s one thing that I’ve learned in life, it’s that raw intelligence is not nearly enough. There’s a critical element called life wisdom. You typically can’t find it in books and you can’t get it from your guru du jour either. I remember reading an interview of a well-known author who had spent a number of years studying in Nepal with some maharishi. At some point, the author/student became disenchanted with the lack of progress and asked the maharishi about it. He recited an old Buddhist saying “If you meet the Buddha on the road, kill him,” which means that the answers you seek do not come from any holy person, but rather from yourself.
So here’s the confusing part. I’ve had a number of conversations with young people about their faith, or lack thereof. These people have typically fallen into two groups, Christians or atheists/agnostics. Now I consider most of these people that I have talked to as being very intelligent. They can recite quotations from the Bible and/or can easily converse about theology. Certainly, they do not seem to be lacking in self-confidence, particularly with respect to this topic.
But when I ask them one simple question, the conversation quickly deteriorates. The question is “why do believe in what you believe in”. Now there are only two possible ways that a person can develop a belief system. They could have an experience, through which they obtained some life wisdom, or they could have accepted someone else’s opinion.
Most young people are not old enough to have had the necessary experiences to have a truly informed, reasoned opinion on religion. For example, I asked them if they had had life experiences, such as being married – mostly no, but limited in any event; kids – no; a real job – they’re still in school or perhaps recently graduated; lived in a foreign country – no; been exposed to another culture – no; been to religious services in a faith not their own – rarely; well-read on other faiths, say Buddhism or Judaism – a couple of yesses. Therefore, my conclusion is that most of them had simply adopted someone else’s opinion/belief/faith.
Now, what really got me was that not one of those people were able to intelligently discuss the origins of their faith. Actually, atheists tended to make the most sense but that’s because they simply said there’s no proof that God exists and therefore he doesn’t exist. The criteria of proof for them, by the way, appears to be that they themselves would needed to have had a personal experience re. God. The group also couldn’t verbalize why they chose their faith over all of the other faiths. For example, some Christians responded by saying because the Bible is the Word of God. When I asked them why it was the Word of God, they responded by saying because the Bible says so. That kind of thinking, called circular reasoning, is the by-product of having accepted someone else’s opinion as opposed to having made a reasoned decision based upon one’s own personal knowledge and experience.
So I’m still trying to distill down my confusion and hoping that the next time I ask these questions, I might get different answers. Of course, there’s still the senility possibility; or maybe I haven’t had enough of the right experiences in my own life. But explain something to me: Is this the coming of the young prophets, or what? How else can you explain that these young people are so absolutely sure about something which is so far beyond human comprehension? Fortunately, the great philosopher Voltaire may have actually answered that question already. He simply said that if God didn’t exist, man would have had to invent him anyway. How’s that for life wisdom?
“I only know that I know nothing”
Religiously speaking, I’ve been around the block a time or two and have been in and out of every church, temple or mosque within driving distance from my home. After all my experiences, I’m still looking for the perfect religion. Needless to say, I didn’t find God attending any of their services.
I jotted down a few notes relating to each religion which you may or may not be able to relate to, as follows:
I loved the music of Cat Stevens, especially “Peace Train.” If he could be a Muslim, then why not me? Being a peaceful person, though, I found that I couldn’t reconcile with the fact that Muslims shoot 14 year-old girls(for promoting education for girls), or their honor killings. I ask you, when can a killing be for the sake of honor anyway?
Burning Question: Did Mohammed have a real vision (referred to as the miraj in Islamic tradition) or was it simply a desert mirage?
Besides: I could never learn enough Arabic to be able to pray the way that Islam demands.
I like it that Buddhists sit on a mountain top to gain enlightenment and become spiritual. I’m also impressed that they wouldn’t harm a fly (literally), but then I could never live in a house full of flies.
Burning Question: I wonder, though, just how spiritual they would be if they had to come down off their mountaintop into the real world and then get caught in a serious traffic jam, say in Bombay?
Besides: I had always heard that they were non-violent, which appealed to me, but I later found out that they have an expression, “If you meet the Buddha on the road, kill him.”
Love the setting: the young cherub-faced altar boys looking perfectly angelic, all the candles and the choir. The priests seemed to have an air of invincibility about them. I really wanted to participate more in the services, but the masses were in Latin. I guess they didn’t want us to know that it’s really a pagan religion.
Burning Question: Is the Pope really infallible?
Besides: I don’t like praying to the mother of the messiah; I should be good enough to pray directly to God.
I thought the disciples were pretty cool (something on the order of the Three Musketeers). But it was like the old heavy-metal bands; underneath all the make-up were some totally grotesque figures. In the end, I couldn’t relate to a bunch of illiterates. I know what you’re going to say, that I’m just intellectually arrogant and blah, blah, blah. Okay, you’re absolutely right, but I just can’t wrap my arms, and mind, around a religion whose teachings even the disciples couldn’t understand (at least that’s what the Bible stories said). To tell you the truth, I liked the religious scriptures that were left out of the Bible(like, say, the Gospel of Judas) better than the ones that were included.
Burning Question: Did the disciples really see Jesus after the Resurrection? After all, how could they not recognize him?
Besides: Isn’t a messiah important enough to deserve their own special days? For example, why is Christ’s birthday celebrated on a pagan holiday? For that matter, why is the resurrection commemorated on a pagan holiday(Easter)?
Today, I’m in between religions. However, there’s a Baha’i temple not to far away that I just might check out soon. It would be nice, though, if I could find a religion that would pay me to attend, rather than the other way around. Maybe the local 7- Eleven store could have religious in-store videos, or something like that. That way even the homeless people would be able to have their own house of God.
Last Question: So, tell me, why do I need religion at all?