Monday, 1 August 2016

Meeting the Masters Addendum

In chapter 3 of Meeting the Masters I talk about the Creator God emerging from the impersonal absolute, a process that is sometimes described as being emerging from beyond being. Here I would like to qualify that in the light of what I have subsequently come to believe is a better understanding. The earlier description never sat entirely comfortably with me as stated but it seemed the most reasonable view, especially in the light of Eastern metaphysics. I would now say that it is not entirely wrong (bearing in mind that we are talking about things that are way beyond our comprehension and only remotely graspable even in symbolical terms), but there is a vital extra detail to take into account. Which is this. The Creator God and the impersonal absolute are not two different things, and one is not higher than the other or the producer of the other. For how could that be? How could the impersonal absolute produce the Creator God unless he were already there in some way? It would be like some thing coming from no thing, an impossibility.

No, the truth is that they are the same thing. Just God at rest and God in action, asleep and awake, you might say, or, better, conceived as in the non-manifest state before creation and seen in terms of creation. God is God and never just an impersonal absolute without feature, even in his essence. That is just an aspect of his being when seen as separate from becoming but, in fact, the two are not separate at all and each presupposes the other. They simply relate to God in different modes, and it is important to get this right in order to understand the real purpose of creation and our own spiritual destiny. That purpose is not for created beings just to be reabsorbed into the impersonal absolute, renouncing all sense of individuality, as many Eastern philosophies teach. It is to use creation to bring the one and the many, being and becoming, into full harmony. It is to fulfil individuality not to renounce it. Thus the soul (created by God as an individual) and spirit (the spark of the divine within us) are united in full consciousness. The former is not abandoned for the latter, and only in this way can love and creativity be expressed as they must be. Only thus can life become more abundant as we have been taught is its goal and purpose.

Most people nowadays think that all religions say basically the same thing but there is a clear line to be drawn between the view that everything ultimately boils down to one (Buddhism, advaita Vedanta and some of the early Greek philosophers), and the view that, although we are all one in God, variety and multiplicity endure, indeed are the very point of creation which is a real thing not an illusion or significant only in terms of the relative world (Christianity and other forms of theism). For the former God is ultimately impersonal but for the latter God is the great I AM, both the source of all being and wholly, completely, utterly personal in nature. Hence the wonderful statement that God is love. For the former individuality is, as it were, short term, a blot on consciousness, eventually to be swallowed up in pure being, but for the latter the creation of free individuals was the very reason for this whole manifested universe. God does not make something just to throw it away again but in order to watch it grow and fully partake in his life whilst, at the same time, remaining itself. What would be the point of him just making clones of himself that had no potential to surprise and delight him, if one can put it that way? He wants to grow and he can only do that through free individuals. 

When I wrote Meeting the Masters I was still trying to reconcile these two approaches to religion whilst always being aware of the difficulty. I don't think I succeeded but that's partly because I don't think they can be completely reconciled or, if they are, it would be along the lines suggested in the post God Transcends Nirvana or elaborated here which was a previous 'upgrade' of the book. Thus the basic truth for me now is that the Christian view of how reality is structured, of what God is and what the human destiny and purpose are, is truer and more accurate than any other. In actual fact, I always thought this but didn't know how to reconcile it with other approaches that also seemed true in their way. Now I believe I do. The Buddhist achievement is extraordinary and represents the highest the unaided human can attain. But the Christian understanding is based on revelation and goes further than simple unqualified oneness as the root of things. For instance, the doctrine of the Trinity existing at the highest level, or before any idea of level, is something that human beings on their own could not have perceived. But it is the only metaphysical teaching that can provide a basis for the idea that God is Love, and that we ourselves have any enduring reality other than as mere aspects of God. Indeed, to return to the opening sentence of this post, I don’t see how Beyond Being could ever have become Being unless there was some sense of difference right at the root of the Absolute. That is the Trinity.


2 comments:

Bruce Charlton said...

Amen!

I am re-reading Meeting the Masters, slowly - and taking notes as I go (this is perhaps my major meditative practice). It is a fine achievement, and I am enjoying it even more second time round, because I can now 'trust' the book in a way I could not during the first reading.

I think you are right to leave the MtM book alone, treating it as completed; but adding to it here - rather than going back and trying to revise parts but threatening the integrity of the whole.

If it ever were republished, you *could* append further comments - although even that can have a subversive effect on a text. I remember when Robert M Pirsig added a postscript to Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance in which he revealed what happened after the end of ZAMM - and this spoilt the structure and the otherwise excellent ending.

William Wildblood said...

I also re-read the book a little while ago which is why I've thought it worthwhile to post these updates on it. They're slight reassessments perhaps but important ones too I think. Interestingly, the Masters never gave me any theology or metaphysics as such but their teaching and, most significantly, they themselves as regards to what they were definitely point to the position here more than the more typical Eastern view. As I wrote in the book, they were more like wise abbots of a Christian monastery than present day teachers of enlightenment though, as far as I am concerned, they incorporated everything that such a state might imply.

Good idea about what to do if republished. I'd have to sell a few more copies to make that happen though!