Thursday, 26 May 2016

A Stone and a Lump of Gold

There is a saying in India that to the enlightened person a stone is the same as a lump of gold. Such a person sees God everywhere and to him everything is God and equally so. There is nothing but God. Now on the face of it this might seem quite profound but it is not actually true. That doesn't stop it being a commonly held opinion among those who turn to certain mystical forms of spirituality after reacting against the materialism or 'Churchianity' of their upbringing. This may well be because while the saying, as it stands, is incorrect, there is an element of truth in it. However it is one that needs to be understood in a very different way to that implied if the statement that a stone and a lump of gold are the same to the wise is taken literally.  

For although both may contain the presence of God, they are by no means the same. The truth in the statement is that everything, all of nature, all of existence, shines with the glory of the Lord for those who have eyes to see. But this is not to be understood in a pantheistic sense. God may be in nature but he is not nature. He stands above his creation in his true being even if his presence informs it and holds it together. Perhaps the clue is in the word creation. God and his creation are not the same but God is present in his creation as he must be in anything for it to have existence. If his presence were withdrawn from something then that thing would simply cease to be.

So God is present in everything as its being but, in himself, he remains transcendent. Moreover he is present in things to a different degree depending on their nearness, in the sense of correspondence to his true nature, to beauty, to goodness, to him. Let me quote from the Masters here. They said that beauty is everywhere. It varies in degree according to its closeness to God but there is God in everything and that means beauty. Now this statement can be understood as saying that God is in everything but each thing only reflects God according to the degree of its closeness to him. In other words, the degree to which it expresses his qualities or has unfolded them from within itself. So a stone is not the same as a lump of gold because it does not reflect God as much as the gold does even though his presence informs them both.

In like manner God is in the sinner just as he is in the saint but the saint reveals more of God because he has developed more of his divine nature.  However in this case there is the additional factor that the sinner, unlike the stone, is gifted with free will, and he has not only failed to develop his divine nature, he has also corrupted that with negative qualities that do not come from God, and these are a kind of minus that result in a loss of God. God is still present in the sinner but if the sinner denies or rejects God that presence is diminished. He is then deliberately seeking God's absence and this means that he is moving further and further away from God and will eventually, if he does not turn around through contrition or repentance, reach the point where God is not.  This is the definition of Hell.

Of course, there can be nowhere where God truly is not but the sinner at this point has so isolated himself by rejection of God that he has reached a condition of total remoteness from God’s presence in which the only remaining indication of God is existence itself. So he still exists but he has turned his consciousness to stone.

The idea of this post is to show how the twin principles of unity and hierarchy are built into the created world and us. I have chosen two extreme types of human being to make a point here but the basic patterns of God's presence and God's unfoldment exist within all of us.


Bruce Charlton said...

@William - I like the way that you tease-out the matter, from what sounds like an 'enlightened' statement, to its not-so-enlightened consequences.

This question of degree is a difficult one, and always has been for Christians. I think that Christianity is intrinsically the most complex of religions (although it does not, of course, have to be anything-like as complex as some churches have made it!). My point is that the divinity of Christ as well as God the Father (plus whatever other divine personages may be acknowledged and effectual - such as the Holy Ghost, and for Mormons Mother in Heaven) means that Christianity can never go all-out in the way that purely monotheistic religion can.

Christian virtue is, uniquely, Love - but when this is unpacked it leads to a range of virtues which *must* be balanced one against the others if the end-result is not to be un-loving. Because any virtue (except Love - and that requires to be translated into a decision) will become a vice if pursued as a single issue and without regard for other virtues.

Christians regard obedience to God as a virtue, but cannot be submissively obendient like the other major monotheism - because that is incompatible with the primacy of Love; Christians regard kindness and the prevention and alleviation of suffering as very important (as do secualr Liberals/ Leftists) - but not when this leads to the encouragement of sin, despair, and humane suicide/ murder as matters of policy; Christians believe in justice - but only when tempered by mercy - and not when justice becomes impersonal legalism.

This links with your post in that Christians believe in the universal prescence of divinity, of beauty etc - but in a qualified way as you describe.

I think humans find this kind of balance and quantitative thinking very difficult to manage - especially when combined with abstraction (matters are often much clearer on a case by case basis - but people then tend to use the earlier decision as a binding precedent).

In sum, Men are really too immature to live properly by God's law - because it is the law of a *fully* divine world (not of the partially divine world that we inhabit). In our lives we must muddle along, and often make a mess of things - and this is why the greatest Gift to Men was repentance and divine forgiveness: the Gift of Christ.

Effective repentance is what simplifies Christian human life to manageable proportions! - otherwise we would be overwhelmed (and discouraged).

William Wildblood said...

The problem for us humans is that we much prefer, or find easier to deal with, an either/or scenario. Either justice or mercy, either oneness or hierarchy etc. But the reality of things is much more along the lines of both/and so we need to take two complementary things into account in any given situation. Of course this makes life much richer and gives it its creativity but it can also be seen as complicated if we are reacting intellectually and rigidly rather than with our intuition and just taking life as it is without projecting our assumptions onto it.

I think one thing true repentance can do is relieve us of the awful burden of always having to be right and in control. Over to you, God! You show me the way and I will follow!