Introduction from God(s) and Consciousness.
Ray leaned over his desk working fervently on his sermon. He’d been serving the congregation since graduating from a Unitarian Universalist seminary a little over a year before. He thought of himself as “spiritual without being religious.” His progressive religion didn’t provide answers – it encouraged people to find their own. Ray was grateful for this as he poured himself into shaping his message.
Meanwhile, Jimmy, Ray’s six-year-old son, wandered into the little study. He saw his dad working away and knew enough not to disturb him. Instead, he walked to the window and gazed out.
It was raining that morning. The wind blew the trees as raindrops splattered the window and rivulets meandered beside the road. The sky was puffy grey.
After a few minutes he asked aloud, “Daddy, why is there anything?”
Ray looked up from his desk without turning around. His sermon crumbled to dust. His mind went blank. This wasn’t a flash of insight. It was a cloud of unknowing. He hadn’t a clue as to how to answer his son’s simple question.
He turned to Jimmy who was still gazing at the blustery world. “I don’t know,” Ray said.
Something in Ray’s tone caught Jimmy’s attention. He turned and looked at his dad. “It’s okay,” he said. “I just wondered.” He walked over, gave his dad a hug and walked out of the room.
Ray didn’t get any more writing done that morning.
The traditional answer to Jimmy’s question is, “God did it.” For some, this answer is satisfying and comforting. For others it’s neither. It just kicks the metaphysical can down the road without answering anything. It raises more questions: “Why did God do it?” “Why is there God?” “If God was here before anything else, where did God come from?” “What made God?” “And what made whatever made God?” “Why is there anything?”
Those who don’t embrace this kind of God may turn to science for explanations: complex creatures evolved from simpler creatures and simpler creatures evolved from the earliest life and organic matter evolved from inorganic matter and it all started with a Big Bang a long, long time ago. However, this doesn’t answer the question either. It explains how things evolved but doesn’t answer why there is anything to evolve in the first place.
Sooner or later we confront simple, basic questions about existence for which we have no answers. They may come from a theological professor, a beloved progeny, the stillness of a star-filled night or the contemplation of a stormy morning. We may ponder these deeply or brush them aside. But they arise.
Perhaps God language first arose in the attempt to speak about such things – to speak about that which is beyond our capacities to articulate clearly.
I am a Unitarian Universalist minister and long-time student of Buddhist meditation among other things. I rarely talk to my congregation using God language other than to share stories like the one about Ray and Jimmy. I find the language confusing. For some, the word “God” touches what is most deeply real and meaningful. For others it touches painful memories of being judged or made to feel guilt. For others it sounds like intellectual childishness.
So I usually steer clear of God language and look for ways to share direct experiences.
However, if we are to engage in conversations with people across the religious spectrum (much less across the political spectrum), it’s helpful to have language that is both embracing and discerning. To develop this, we must look at the consciousness that is engaging the issues.
In the Spring of 2011 I decided to see what I could contribute to that engagement. The results were a series of talks. I collected them under the title “God(s) and Consciousness” not because there are pantheons of gods out there in the universe but because there are pantheons of gods “in here” in the collective human consciousness. Understanding these various “gods” gives us clues to understanding the structures of our own and other’s consciousness and the ways we assign meaning to our experience.
Each talk contained a short recap of the previous material. I’ve left them as is in hopes they will underline key ideas and experiences as I expand on them.
Note: This writing leans very heavily on the work of Ken Wilber. A good introduction to his work as it relates to this material is Integral Spirituality (Integral Books: Boston and London, 2007) and an audio recording called One Two Three of God (Sounds True, www.soundstrue.com).
Copyright 2012 by Doug Kraft
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