Epilogue: Experiencing God
What is God?
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It was not easy to think of a fitting conclusion to this portion of our project. God-talk, in the rare times that it does happen in Jewish circles, tends to be heavy on the intellectual. We’ve had enough intellectual God-talk in this project to satisfy all but the most intellectual of God-talkers. It’s time to get experiential. Let’s leave off the questions about who, what, where, and why God is, and get down to the brass tacks of how to experience God.
Let us venture out beyond the normal bounds of rational inquiry. Let us drop standard assumptions about the purely physical nature of the world and the purely chemical/electrical nature of the mind. Let us assume that another dimension exists which is not purely physical. Let us assume that a bridge exists between the physical and this other dimension upon which the mind can travel. Suppose for a moment that the method to cross that bridge is with the faculty of imagination. This does not mean that every time the imagination goes off one is communicating with God. It simply means that there is a bridge between the two dimensions and that the method to go from the physical to the other dimension is through the imagination. It is a matter of going through the subtle and fine-tuned process of training the imagination to reach its higher purpose.
This process should not be looked upon as an intellectual exercise. It is a process of the mind that runs parallel to the intellectual but works by a completely different logic and methodology. Instead of focusing the mind on a particular intellectual problem that one wants to solve, it entails letting the mind go free to wherever it chooses. It is through the use of the greatest tool the mind possesses – the will – that both processes take place. In the intellectual pathways, the will restrains the mind from going off as it focuses the mind in a particular direction. In the imaginative pathways it is just the opposite. The will must use its mysterious power to allow the imagination the leeway to venture out, while maintaining enough control over it to keep it from falling into the chasm of randomness.
Where does the imagination go? To the typical scientific type the question is silly – it does not go anywhere. It just wanders around by subjecting itself to the random fluctuations of the memory. But to those who are not bound by such rigid scientific dictates, the field is quite open. Perhaps the imagination is a means to journey deeper into the mind to access areas that are inaccessible under normal modes of consciousness. Or perhaps it goes elsewhere – outside of the normal borders of the mind into that domain that cannot be defined by the usual restrictions of time and space. For lack of a better term, we shall call this domain the ‘spiritual universe’.
It is a universe that lacks many of the restrictions of the physical but retains some ties to it. Even something as fundamental as time plays a peripheral role here, as many explorers of this region can testify. This is a domain that lies parallel to the ‘normal’ universe of the physical, overlapping it in many areas, but completely distinct in others. The spiritual is a world awaiting discovery and the vehicle to get there is the imagination.
Using the imagination to access the spiritual is a daunting challenge. Focus too hard to control it and one is merely thinking intellectually - a wonderful thing to do, but not the goal at hand. Letting go too much and one is simply spacing out and not really going anywhere at all. Accessing the spiritual through the imagination is more like walking a tightrope than crossing a bridge. It is by walking across that tightrope that the mind experiences God.
The essence that we call God is more present in the spiritual than in the physical. In the physical, God is so completely veiled as to be of debatable existence. In the spiritual this is not the case. Those who are confident of their journeys in the spiritual realms, frequently find the presence of a ‘source of being’ undeniable. They may also find that this reality carries over into the physical and takes the form of a spiritual presence that permeates all. For those with considerable experience in the spiritual dimension the debate on God’s existence is nothing more than an intellectual sideline that makes good conversation but is of little real substance. There is something ‘there’ - what we call it is immaterial.
How does one get ‘there’? To begin with, it is absolutely essential to create an environment that is free of disturbance. No matter how much one is convinced of one’s ability to multitask, it is of little value in genuine spirituality. The ultimate goal is the singular quest of God-consciousness, in whatever form or image it takes. It is not a goal that can be achieved while surfing the net. It requires purity of thought and a high degree of dedication to a personal quest – qualities that are sorely lacking in today’s world. The gadgets must be turned off. Even a thought in the back of the mind that some message must be read or sent is enough to overwhelm any true sense of spirituality. There are no short-cuts on this quest. There is no substitute for dedication of time and will, and complete devotion to the goal.
Once the proper environment is achieved, one must clear the mind of all distractions. This is a standard feature of all meditation. In fact, it almost defines the meditative process. When this has been accomplished to a satisfactory degree, one is ready for positive input from the mind. The mind must send the imagination on its path. This is a matter of personal choice and each person must be his or her own guide. The various images of God that have been discussed in this project may be of help here, but they are no substitute for inner feelings. One’s own religious or spiritual background will probably work better than something from a different time, place, or culture.
As a possible image that may help in getting started, one may consider the ‘out there - in there’ image that emerged towards the end of this project. We shall work with this image as a model. There are three directions to go with this image, none of which is mutually exclusive to the others. One direction is through sensing the presence of God in creation. Another is through sensing the ‘essence’ of God – the Source of Being. The third is through the very personal path of finding meaning and purpose.
The path of creation is the most familiar and should probably be tried first. This path uses the fullness of the world - the vast panorama of everything that is - as a means to detect the unifying force that binds it all together. One can use almost any combination of physical or mental experiences to aid in this process, though some are more conducive than others. Natural settings work best, preferably those that are free of distractions. Try to contemplate the fullness of whatever setting you find yourself in – the forces of nature at work, the various systems interacting with each other, the infinite processes taking place in all their complexity and simplicity.
Gazing at the heavens evokes feelings of vastness, yet it brings that vastness right down to earth. The sensations associated with darkness come into play – fear and awe, even fright of the unknown. But these feelings are also part of the fullness of the universe. It is all there awaiting our awareness and our acknowledgment of its vastness. It is our bridge to the infinite, though in truth it is no more infinite than a blade of grass. They are both members of the cast of the play called reality. We also play our part. We sense our vital role as those who can animate the inanimate and give it the power to let its speech be heard and acknowledged. The song of nature, and the even greater song of reality, is played by all. Permeating it all is the unifying theme of subtle oneness that at sublime moments becomes revealed in the form of glory.
This glory is God. It resides in the fullness of all creation. It cannot be detected by a machine, but it fills the mind with wonder. It is tasted in the indefinable taste of water and felt in the murkiness of fog. It infuses the fragrance of a flower and tunes the sound of the wind. It is everywhere and everything. It passes between the continuity of moments of time and is the energy that gives movement to all things. It is thought and emotion and the very sense of awareness that one is part of it all. It is every note of the song and it is all the notes together. It is God filling the world with godliness. The fullness of the world is God’s glory.
The Source of Being path is not as familiar. We readily accept that creation exists and that we are part of it. We are not as prepared to disregard created reality and descend down to the level of simply being. One route to this state is through journeying into the nebulous and somewhat unsettling state of being known as ‘nothingness’. Nothingness is a state of mind that is so contrary to what is deemed normal that upon first encounter it seems frightening. But it allows the mind to zero in on its own essence, and to be temporarily free of the limitations of the ego.
The Source of Being can be sensed through freeing the imagination from all personal desires and experiences. What is left is only the awareness of being. ‘I exist’ – that is all. Nothingness allows the imagination the freedom to discover that on the most basic level, there is only Being. Everything else is superfluous. My own existence is a consequence of the reality of Being. “I’ am a part of Being. ‘I’ am not distinct from Being. Experiencing such a state is to experience God, for God is Being.
There is a third path to experience God. Thankfully, this path is much easier to access and requires no extensive training in meditation or spiritual perception. It only requires an open mind. This third path seeks to experience God through seeking out meaning and purpose in life. Being as this is a crucial element of how God permeates all creation it is really just another side to that path. But instead of looking at the vastness or wonder of creation, the mind (imagination) is directed to one’s personal experience as a part of creation.
We all sense that we are the most important part of all creation. This is a natural feeling that can only be overcome with great willpower. But this feeling is so fundamental to our being that it must be there for a reason. In addition to using the will to overcome this feeling, we can use the will to gain great spiritual insight from the feeling. That spiritual insight comes in the form of sensing our purpose in life. It means the awareness that we matter, and that everything experienced is one more purposeful event in our personal universe.
A chance encounter with another person is not just an accident. It is an integral part of the purposeful journey of life. A deep relationship is an opportunity to experience the godliness of another person on a parallel journey to your own. Together, two can climb to heights that may have been inaccessible to one alone. The emotions of love and shared joy are windows into the mind and experiences of another. What could be more meaningful than feeling the love of someone else and reciprocating that feeling with one’s own love? Every person one meets along the journey is another source of purpose in life - another opportunity to give of one’s self and to grow from a fellow traveler. We are all here to experience a sense of purposeful being. Each person is a unique road to God.
But other human beings are not the only path to meaning. The rest of the world, from living things to rocks, from powerful energy to profound stillness, is pulsating with purpose. God lurks in it all, even in the unseemly things. It is simply a matter of opening up one’s mind and soul to all that exists and sensing that it is there for a reason. We all share in the amazing journey of existence, the revelation of the mind of God as it is played out according to some divine plan or some open-ended story. Everything that happens, every moment that passes, every bit of space, is another part of the great unfolding of reality.
The world drips with purpose; it bursts with meaning. God created it all to let it experience what it means to exist with purpose. Experiencing that purpose is the royal road to experiencing God. God waits patiently for us to seek out that purpose and experience the ultimate. It is entirely within our hands to begin the search, to set out on the quest. What are we waiting for?
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