Thursday, 22 September 2016

Where is God?

I recently noticed that, quite by chance, my last three posts had commenced with a Why, a What and a Who which made me think I should begin the next with a Where. Actually it leads to a good question and one everyone must have asked themselves, believers and non-believers alike, at some point. If God exists then why is he not plainly visible or, at least, why is his presence not manifest in some way?  Where is he? I have approached this question before here but it does no harm to look at something so fundamental more than once.

There are in fact several answers to this depending on where you are coming from. To begin with you can just reject the question and say that God's presence is clear if you look properly. It is clear internally from the fact of your being, your consciousness and your individuality. All these things speak a divine reality; none of them can be explained by a strictly materialistic understanding of the world. They all involve something more than what can be measured or perceived by the senses, and individuality, the sense of 'I', actually requires a prototype, a divine I AM. The Buddhist idea that it is just an assemblage from component parts, that the whole is less than the sum of its parts, is frankly incoherent, making materialistic assumptions about a metaphysical reality. You can apply their line of reasoning to the separate ego but not to individuality per se.

But if that is not enough then the reality of God is clear from the outer world too. First of all, that there is one at all. That there is something rather than nothing. And secondly it is clear from the order in the world, the fact that it is not just chaos (in which case we could not know it at all, of course) but has laws, regular patterns and what you might call a flexible design. By this I mean there is a mixture of design and freedom and it's hard to tell where one leaves off and the other starts. This is precisely what one would expect from a Creator who does not just make things in a rigid, sterile and mechanical way but builds freedom into his creation so that it might, as it were, co-create itself from within. This makes it much more interesting to God but it also confuses us for we expect one thing or another not a dynamic mix of the two. Freedom and necessity. But, as I say, that is just what one would expect from a truly creative spirit who wants what he creates to participate in its own creation.

The reality of God is also made known by the beauty in the world and the fact of its fundamental goodness. To be sure, it is not perfect but the badness in it, as in us, comes from good things gone wrong. It is not a principle in itself any more than destruction can take place without creation preceding it. If beauty and goodness do not speak of a Creator to you then it's hard to know what could, but the difficulty may be that we simply take them for granted and thus fail to see the evidence they provide of God's existence. We are too used to them! That they are not all there is in the world is irrelevant. It just means that the world is not perfect but then why should it be? Perhaps that is not its raison d'etre and it does not exist for its own end but for the fulfilment of a greater purpose.

Obviously nothing I have said here will convince anyone but the already convinced. But that is the point really. God's presence is there if you wish to see it but not if you don't. There is just enough evidence for him if you are willing to make a (relatively small) leap of faith but not enough if you are not. Why should faith be important? I think it must be because faith is the sign of acceptance that there is something more than just you as a separate mind and body and the world out there as it is in appearance. It is an opening up of oneself to the greater truth of spirit, and if you are to know spirit in a conscious and participatory way then obviously you must be willing to know it. You must go towards it, and that is faith.

So that is one way of approaching this question. It's not a serious question because God's presence is not hidden if you are looking properly. But I admit this is a bit unfair. Most of us are not looking properly because we don't know how to do that. And even then you could justifiably say that God's presence might be indicated or implied but it is not so obvious that there can be no dispute about it. The Creator is not right before our eyes in the way that the creation is. Why is this? Why would he hide in this way or, at least, not reveal himself? But there are answers to this too.

The first thing to say is that perhaps God is not hiding from us. It is we who have separated ourselves from him. Our original connection to God was lost at the event (or through the process) known as the Fall as described in the book of Genesis. It was lost by our turning away from God and towards our own selves. So we abandoned God for ego. You cannot have both since the former is oneness and the latter is separation. God was known to us as long as we were true to the fundamental laws of being but when we turned from those in search of our own fulfilment then we cut ourselves off from him. This resulted, so the story goes, in death and suffering which may not have been a necessary part, or so necessary a part, of our spiritual development otherwise. This is not a punishment but an inevitable consequence of our listening to the voice of ego and the separate self.

But then there is this. God wants us to be free and full individuals for only as such can we share in his life and his creativity. And only individuals can love. Separation leads to the development of self which could not happen if we were constantly surrounded by God's presence. We would be unable to grow as individuals and develop our own unique quality if we did not have the freedom so to do, and we would not have this freedom if God's presence were always before us. There would be no real choice, no room to exercise free will properly. Thus God withdraws to give us the freedom to grow and, hopefully, eventually start to look for him ourselves. But in so doing we have to stretch ourselves upwards as seeds in the ground do towards the sun, and by doing that we grow spiritually because we rise to meet God on his own level rather than, as before in the days when we had not fully separated out from life, meeting him where we already were.

So you can say that we have to leave home in order to return to it and recognise it in a new and higher way. Before we can truly see that subject and object are one we have to experience them as separate. But does this mean the Fall was intended? I think not. I think that our spiritual evolution would have involved a lot less suffering if the Fall had not occurred in the way it did. There might still have been a kind of separation but not as complete as the one that took place. The pain of evil might not have bitten so hard. Suffering and death might not have come in the way they did. But God is able to bring good out of ill so he uses the spiritual disaster of the Fall to effect a deeper redemption but one that now requires the incarnation and sacrifice of Christ to bring about.

I hope it can now be seen why it is that the fact of God is not obvious to us. This is a fallen world and we have fallen with it. But it is also a place of learning not a garden of paradise, and if we are to be full and free individuals then we must become so on our own. Just as children must separate themselves in consciousness from their parents to grow up properly so we must know separation from our divine parent if we are ever to approach him on his own level and in his own likeness. For early man may have been one with nature but he was not one with the Creator in a fully conscious sense. The path of spiritual evolution exists to enable him to accomplish this and eventually build a full relationship with his Creator based on love.

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