Wednesday, July 11, 2012

The Living Universe

Religions are created by people who have had moments of spiritual insight. As they attempt to share their discovery, they describe it as best they can, as it appeared to them.

When they try to share their moment of "mysterium tremendum" -- as William James called it -- they try to define their communion with this Great Mystery. To them, The Divine may have appeared as a single God, consciously ruling the universe. Or they may have seen The Divine as a general force which flows throughout creation. They may have seen the various things working together toward the same aim. Or perhaps they saw an independant spirit at work in every thing. They may have seen everything working together without an apparent consciousness linking it all together. Or perhaps they saw the Divine Mystery working together, but it was unclear to them if there was anything more behind It.

Depending on how the universe appeared to them, they may have believed in monotheism, or pantheism. They may have believed in polytheism, or animism. They may have seen the universe in an atheistic manner, of perhaps an agnostic one. The amazing thing is that these general patterns of religious thought are repeated around the globe. Monotheism, polytheism, pantheism, animism, atheism, and agnosticism can be found in many places throughout the earth. This would seem to indicate that quite a few religious thinkers have observed the same patterns to the universal whole. I believe, therefore, that these patterns are all valid ways of observing the Divinity.

But how can these points of view all be correct? How can God be one and many at the same time? How can God be formed and formless, conscious and unconscious? How can these vastly different beliefs all be true?

In my own personal search for understanding I labored on this for a good deal of time before finding the only logical solution I could find. I reasoned that the universe itself must be a living thing; that it was a large enclosed sytem which functions cooperatively as a life-form. And if, indeed, the universe is the ultimate organism, which we may call "God", or "The Divine", then these points of view can all be valid. Therefore, God is one: the living universal whole. God is many: the many individual parts which make up the whole -- much as the various organs and cells of our own bodies. God is formed: in the physical substances which make up the universe we can observe. And God is formless: what many refer to as the "Web of Life" -- the connection we all share to the greater cosmic whole. The matter of the consciousness of God is a difficult one, as it is most likely on a level which we can not hope to understand.

Understanding "The Divine" as the Living Universe opens up a great many doors of understanding. As we are contained withing the universe -- and indeed we are a part of it -- we are a part of God, just as the cells of our bodies are a part of us. So, wherever we turn we are looking at another part of the Divine Being. And just as the cells in our bodies contain DNA marking them as parts of our selves, so also do we each contain a part of the holiness of the Divinity within us.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Changing Times

As the days and nights soon pass being lengths, the days are becoming warmer. And I am again amazed at the magical transformation the world is undergoing.

Oh, I have things I enjoy about each season of the year. But the warmer months have my full attention. And I am just as happy to leave the cold days of Winter behind. The brown earth. The skeletal trees. And the only birds which had such little variety in their coloring!

There seems to be a half-week every year when the native plants all burst forth in color. And we are getting close to that time. Already familiar birds of color are returning to the skies. And our winter coats are being phased out for yet another year.

Many of us spend this time doing what we call Spring Cleaning: out with the old, in with the new, and dusting off the rest. Everything is changing, from the cold sleepy days of the dark months, to the warm, vibrant days of the sun. And so also do those of us with seasonal affective disorders climb out of our shells.

But what world do we come out into? This is a time of inreaching; a time of planting the seeds of our future. And here is where we control what our future will be.

Change is the only constant in the universe. Our world is changing before our eyes. The rather comfortable times we've lived in since the last great wars have been replaced by times of fear and terror.

The world is rocked by wars and rumor of wars. Artificial climate changes are becoming apparent. And the voices of intolerance seem to grow each day.

In our time of inreach, we may find many things in the world which bring the fighter out of each of us. But it is important to know when to fight and when to stand firm. Sometimes patience is the best defense against a world of injustice.

This is the time when we must do what our species does best: stop, ask questions to understand the situation more fully, and then make enlightened decisions. As quickly as our world is changing today, we cannot afford the mistakes which often come with knee-jerk reactions.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011


My faith is sometimes a very difficult subject to put into words. I believe that the Divine -- or "God" -- is the living universe: the sum total of all that exists. I find comfort in this belief, as I have studied many of the world's religions for some time and I find that this is the simplest explanation to account for all their differing perspectives. For the theologies of the world vary, from a single God to many, from a God with form to God without form, and from personal Divinity to impersonal -- or even absent -- Divinity.

I find, that a living universe is a simple large organism we may call the single God. I find that It is manifested by the various beings and forces of which It is composed: God the many. I find that It exists as both the many formed parts which we can see and measure, and the abiding unity which binds it all together. I find that It can be personal in our relationship to It or impersonal in the larger view of Its everyday existence.

And I further find this echoed in the various traditions of the world. I hear the Tenrikyo faith say that "any and everything is all the body of God". I hear the words of Mohammed in the Koran: "wheresoever you turn, there is the face of God." And I hear the words of the Greek mathematician Empedocles: "the nature of God is a circle whose center is everywhere, and whose circumference is nowhere."

I find that this starting point opens us up to a much broader world of spiritual understanding. For we cannot remove ourselves from the Cosmic equation, as we are want to do. Rather, we find that we are part of the living universe; that we are part of the body of God! We find that each and every thing is part of the body of God, and therefore every thing has a tiny piece of God with it: Cosmic DNA, if you will. That is to say that that which makes God holy and sacred: a piece of that is contained within us all. And so we each have that Holy Spirit within us. There are no worthless or useless people. There are simply people who fail to live up to their potential.

As we each contain a piece of God within us we find that we should love our neighbor as we should love ourselves, for "wheresoever we turn, there is the face of God!" We may find God in nature, or in a stranger, or the eyes of a child, or in our own mirror.

We also discover that we are not the separate beings we appear to be. We are all interconnected, interrelated, and interdependent. How can we be as cruel to one another as we are? For we simply harm ourselves when we harm others.

And so I shake my head as I watch the ways people treat one another daily, from abuse and disputes and murder to the saber-rattling and wars around the globe. So many people want to destroy so many others. And we treat each other and our world as useless and disposable.

Perhaps we would get along better if we could only see ourselves in the eyes of others.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011


Look how screwed up our culture is! We rob our children of their childhood and then we wonder why they fail to act like children! We expose them to killing without teaching them that all life is sacred. And we wonder why they are killing each other without remorse.
Many argue that we need to teach our children values. But they use this as an excuse to push their own religious agendas. I say that we can teach them values without forcing a particular religion on them.
We need to teach them that all life is sacred. Instead, we teach them that killing is good, killing is fun, killing is sport.
We need to teach them that all people have value. Instead, we teach them that some people are "better" than others. We divide people into upper-class/lower-class, first-class/second-class, good-Christian/evil-atheistic or Satanic. We need to teach them that all people have good in them, and that we should never underestimate the goodness of another.
We need to teach them self-worth. Too often we allow our children to be victimized by those who are serving their own self-interests. We allow them to have low opinions of themselves and to grow up unable to be responsible for their own actions -- after all, they can always blame those who have control over them, right?
We need to teach them responsibility. When they screw up we help them blame it on someone else, or we try to protect them from the consequences. We need to let them take the blame for their missteps. We need to let them know that everything they do has a consequence -- everything they do makes a difference.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Myth and "Myth-understanding"

Your religion is full of myths.

Now that I have your attention, let me explain further:

Many of the religious stories we take for granted are myths. Now, many people assume that myths are simply "fairy tales" -- that they are pointless made-up stories. However, this is not the case.

"Myth" is a writing style -- like a fable, or a letter, or a poem, or a parable. In fact, parables and legends are very similar to myths. A myth is simply a stylized story which is meant to teach us a spiritual truth.

Myths are not meant to be taken literally, however. They use symbols and metaphors to convey their message. Often the symbols used in myths are the same as those used in symbolic dreams, and rightly so: they both come from the sub-concious mind. Their message is hidden just below the surface.

For example, in the Gilgamesh story,Gilgamesh faces one of the greatest troubles of his life as his good friend Enkidu lies dying. He seeks out Utanapishtim, the oldest man in the world, for help. The old man had once built a great boat to escape the floods which destroyed the world. The old man was successful in helping Gilgamesh find a remedy which could save his friend.

In many myths water represents the world -- the current state of affairs of people. "Troubled waters" represent problems with the state of things -- in fact, we still use the term today! In this story, Gilgamesh faces his own "troubled waters", so he seeks help from someone who has defeated similar problems. Perhaps this is a message for us, the readers. Maybe, the author(s) of the Gilgamesh story want us to understand that we can get help with our crises from others who have faced similar problems.

In other myths a person may command the "troubled waters" to become silent -- which they do. This shows us that this person is able to solve the problems simply by speaking or teaching. These myths hold greater meaning than they, at first, appear to. A spiritual leader may walk upon the waters, or build a great boat to remain alive as Utanapishtim did in the story above. By rising above the waters the leader is able to keep from drowning in the troubles of his time, as we are supposed to do – being the audience for the myth.

Still other myths may teach us to avoid getting bogged down in the trappings of tradition. A spiritual teacher may attend a festival, when suddenly those holding the festival run out of wine. Well, according to tradition, the festival may require wine. And so the teacher may instruct them to use water instead – the water becoming wine. The purpose of this story is not a literal miracle where the water turns into fermented grapes, but rather that the water symbolically becomes as wine. The point of the myth is that the celebration of the festival is important, not whether there is enough wine to go around or not.

A multitude may approach a teacher to hear his words of wisdom, and those with the teacher may notice that they are unable to fee them all. The teacher may simply state “I will satisfy them”. The multitude leave satisfied, not because the teacher miraculously turned into a taco stand, but because he gave them what they came seeking: spiritual food. Again, the point of the myth is lost if it’s take literally, but becomes apparent when we examine the symbols.

Every faith contains myths. These are the stories that help illumine our spiritual lives. They teach us about our spiritual teachers, our relationship to the world around us, and about ourselves. If we only dig at them a bit more deeply to understand the symbols and metaphors contained within them we can gain a much better spiritual understanding.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

A Matter of Perspective

I believe that religion is shaped by our perspectives. If I live in the desert and you live in the jungle our views of the world would be quite different. I may believe that God is a fierce and demanding God. You may believe that God is bountiful and always-giving. Yet each view would be true, from our certain points of view.

When I began searching for spiritual meaning I began to examine the various beliefs people have concerning God. These can be classified into various ways of conceptualizing the Deity. Some believe God is one. Some believe God is many. Some believe the Spirit of God flows throughout the universe. Some believe that each person, each animal, each plant, each inanimate object -- that all things have a spirit associated with them. Still others believe that God doesn't exist: at least not in a form that can easily be recognized. I examined these beliefs and wondered how they could all be true. I wondered why people would have so many vastly differing beliefs as to what the Deity is.

I then began looking at how the universe works together. I looked at how things are organized. I saw the atoms as reflections of solar systems and galaxies -- spinning as greater and greater wheels. I looked at how our bodies work: how the cells of our bodies do the many things that they do in order that we may survive. And I looked at the thoughts of other pioneers in the religious, spiritual, and scientific worlds. I looked at the works of Carl Sagan, Joseph Campbell, and Stephen Hawking. I looked at theories such as evolution and the Gaia Hypothesis. And, as always, I looked to the patterns which shape the world we live in.

Perhaps the greatest revelation I had came to me one night as I contemplated these various views of the world and of God. I thought for a moment about how the many parts of the universe work together as the cells of a living body: all interconnected and all interrelated. I thought about how a tiny pebble thrown in the ocean ripples across the entire ocean, even as small as the ripples become. I wondered how God could be one and many, formed and formless, spirit and host. And the conclusion I came to was a radical one indeed: that all this is God. My solution was a simple statement: the universe is alive!

I began to understand the universe a living organism -- in fact, the largest conceivable organism. And I began to think of God, not as a being outside and in control of the universe, but as the living and creative force within the universe itself.

And here is where my re-conceptualization of divinity began to make a lot of sense. All of a sudden the many different ideas about God began to fall into place.

God is one: the largest organism which exists. All things are contained within the universe. In fact, "universe" means "one word" -- the one word which describes everything, both the known and the unknown. The Living Universe has countless parts to it: all which effect all else in a continuous chain of actions and reactions.

God is many: the many faces and voices of which the Living Universe is composed. Every person. Every animal. Every plant. Every grain of sand. Every drop of water in every ocean. Every distant star. Every force of nature. All are different aspects, or faces, of the Divine.

God is formed. For all that exist are parts of the body of God.

God is formless. For as all things which exist are part of the body of God, so do all things have part of that Divine Whole within them. That is to say: just as the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle each have a piece of the whole picture in them, so also does each piece of the Living Universe. Just as each cell within a living body contains DNA: the blueprint to that organism, so also does each thing existing within the Living Universe contain a piece of that (w)Holiness. So it stands to reason that every place, every thing, every plant, every animal, and every person -- we each have that same Sacredness within us which is a part of the Body of God. And so there is Holiness every where if we but look for it!

In the Q'uran it is said "everywhere you turn, there is the face of God!" And rightly so. If we can but find it ourselves, our neighbors, and our world perhaps our future history may be a bit less bloody...

Monday, August 2, 2010

The Web of Being

When we are children we learn about the food chain: the fact that life feeds on life and that some life even feeds on death. We learn that nothing is truly created or destroyed, but that everything simply changes form. And so, we learn that the process of transformation is at the heart of the universe and that everything is connected.

Often in life-affirming religions, we learn about the Web of Life: that all life affects all other life. We learn that the ties which bind one to another transcend the food chain; that is to say, our actions and interactions affect all others. It is as though each action we take is a drop in a great Pool of Life, and whose ripples gradually touch every other drop in the Pool.

However, I believe even this is a narrow view of reality. For I see our interactions as affecting not only life, but also those things which we do not normally consider as living. I see the Web as extending beyond our world, including all things everywhere. It is as though a great candle sits at the center of the universe and all things are touched by its light. For even in the turbulent storm of Creation there is peace at the center.