Do you feel your life is missing something? Are you interested in higher states of awareness? For example the awe and wonder you might have once felt when contemplating the world of nature. Or the sense of peace, contentment, and even joy that perhaps you had as an infant or you fleetingly glimpse in the ordinary life of work and home. Wherever you find these inspirations, the question remains what are their source? What is it that inspires? Many people intuitively feel there is a higher entity beyond themselves that is the divine source of such feelings. One that might be able to provide them with direction and purpose.
If you have this inkling, you may be interested in reconstructing the idea of ‘divine being’. Not with a view to paying homage to an angry controlling judge in the sky that has often come to be seen to do with sexism, racism, ecological exploitation, as well as the exercise of power over others. Instead you may be seeking to put your hope in a creative spirit beyond our ordinary consciousness. One that promotes equality, the natural world and freedom.
The universe came into being from a conscious, spiritual source, but that conscious spiritual source is not necessarily similar to how our cultural interpretations describe their “god.” (Emanuel Kuntzelman, spiritual writer)
Can any rational ideas help towards finding this divine source in personal spiritual experience? How can we think of a mystical origin of all that is good?
The divine not a controlling deity
There is plenty of suffering in the world. Hunger, homelessness, murder, theft etc. People ask if there really were a God, then why does He allow this? Why does He permit human beings to greedily take more than their fair share of resources, to kill and steal.
But I would ask whether this is the kind of deity we really want? One who imposes social justice in everything and prevents all crime? I would suggest that if human freedom to behave badly, even wickedly, were taken away from us by a such an absolute degree of supernatural control, then the inner freedom inherent in our human nature would be destroyed.
An alternative view of our divine source
In other words I am arguing that a divine source of love is one that wants our deeper happiness. A good spiritual state can only come in the long run when we freely choose to act in humane ways. Even if this means that we might bring suffering upon ourselves in the meantime.
I would suggest one way forward in our thinking is to imagine a real presence of love and wisdom quietly acting in the world. Not controlling what is going on but nevertheless compensating to some degree for what is negative and bad. This divine image is very different from the god figure who determines all that happens that some dogmatic religious people arrogantly tell us to believe in.
People sometimes ask if there really is some spiritual reality beyond ourselves, why cannot it be obvious to all? But I would say that not being subject to proof shows its non-controlling nature. We have the freedom to believe as we wish; to follow one path or another.
In my opinion, the divine Source offers the gift of liberation from all within our minds that causes us unhappiness of heart. The gift of our inner freedom is precious.
The divine not a condemning deity
According to Christianity, mankind deserves to be punished but Jesus gets punished for us. Unlike the traditional Christian doctrine, my understanding of our divine Source is not one that wants to see painful suffering as atonement. You cannot conceive of compassionate love as condemning. Love wants the best for someone, not the worst.
The Divine seen as a Sun
In a state of vision, the mystical philosopher Emanuel Swedenborg reports inwardly seeing, what he thought of as, the divine Source. It appeared as a sun shining on the populace of heaven with the heat of love and the light of wisdom. He says it is the origin of all spiritual and natural things such as our natural sun which shines on the earth.
The divine not a trinity of individuals
One biblical idea is that of a tri-personal god. Taken literally, this seems to be a godhead of three male divine persons in one God, called Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Many think this has no rational logic to it. Clear thinking people thus understandably reject it.
However, if we consider these three figures as metaphors for three aspects of the divine, then arguably the picture becomes more acceptable. I’m thinking of divinity with the three-some nature of humanity. We each have a heart of feeling, a head of understanding and hands for action. Thus we can conceive of a divine heart of love, divine head of wisdom and divine hands of power doing what is loving and wise through the agency of us human beings. Can we not inwardly experienced these as three aspects of the one divine source called the Christ-within? Or you might prefer the term ‘Christ-consciousness’. This, I feel, is the divine source beyond me, who is also present within me. I know this presence as my inner teacher, my inner comforter, my inner inspiration.
I think those who reject the Christian religion are throwing out the dirty bath water. They rightly, get rid of the old dogmas that even many good church-goers only pay lip service to these days. But are the non-religious also throwing out the baby with the bath water? The innocent baby that I believe reveals the beautiful idea of divine love and wisdom that lies hidden behind the universe. The secret presence within my soul I can learn to better experience and follow.
Copyright 2017 Stephen Russell-Lacy
Author of Heart, Head & Hands Swedenborg’s perspective on emotional problems