I attended a large Meeting today, surrounded by good people talking a lot about "Love" but saying nothing about "God."

And later a committee meeting, in which people talked about "being effective" but again couldn't bring the "G word" to their lips-- and when I brought that up, several people there there were eager to shut me up and render me more 'peaceful'-- but some responses got me wondering...

Later, at home reading a Ram Dass book, a couple of things struck me. One was a story about a time when he'd been really disturbed about people not meeting his expectations-- which he was also having trouble meeting.

And then there was this, apropos my own spiritual life lately...

"What, in fact, is the point of any of these practices, if we already are [Brahma]? They're to get rid of whatever in us prevents us from knowing who we are at this moment. See, from a practical point of view, we're faced with an interesting paradox. At one level of our intellectual understanding, we know that we already have all the riches-- we know that we are the atman, that we are the Buddha, that we are free. We know all that. But if we look inside, we'll notice that although we know it, we somehow don't believe it. ... All of [these practices], by one route or another, are designed to get around that roadblock between our knowing and our believing."

At least this points up, for me, much of the difficulty of talking about God.

I used to think that "knowing" God was obviously better than "believing in" God, because it does mean direct experience rather than "pretending to believe something you really don't."

But confronted with people who have been socially conditioned to avoid God-talk, knowing they're violating the accepted consensus view of Rationality&Reasonableness if they allow it any credence, it sometimes feels a lot safer not to risk "offering pearls to the poor hungry swine." Even for me.

It may be that I'm just a bit more "out" about "Theism-- the love that dares not speak its name" [these days] than some people...

We all have to struggle between our initial "common sense" and recognition of God at work in, around, & through us... and while Friends are supposed to embody a certain consistency, some of the more fruitful influences may just need to work covertly within our inconsistencies, for now...

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Four (& sometimes 3)-letter words have more oomph! Euphemism... is not supposed to be a Quaker thing; we're supposed to be plain in our speech. (I know, committeespeak has replaced Plain Speech as the new Quaker language, but not for poets! We waste away, we suffer miseries under its pollution!)

 

Sometimes a metaphor will help understanding better than a word, especially one that (as you say) has been subject to a certain amount of misreading. But "Founder of the firm"? "Founder of the Firmament," if we want to get archaic about this, but I don't think we get far using a business as a model for the universe and its workings, not nearly as much mileage as considering the universe a garden or a pasture.... "Ground of our being" makes sense if you already understand what it means... but I don't expect it works on anyone who doesn't already understand 'existence' as a side-effect of the nature of God.

 

"Love" and "acceptance" are nice things... but pretty wimpy, pretty thin as foundations for the intensely real life in us and for the universe we find ourselves inhabiting.

Unfortunately the word "God" brings all kinds of baggage with it. St. Francis of Assisi told his monks to speak of God by their lives first and their words last. People need to see compassion and caring in action rather than someone talking to them 'about God.' 

People need a world fit to live in... and they don't get that from materialist scientism, no matter how compassionately it might be conveyed to them. What it takes to help a person actually know that they're living within God's compassion, well, that's an open question.

 

"Baggage?" That would be 'the Gotcha God' of various Christian (& some Islamic) orthodoxies...? Definitely an impediment to faith, but can be distinguished from the God We've Got.

 

"Compassion & caring" probably does help, in terms of convincing people that "I'd like to be like those people"-- but when it turns out to be all "those people" have to offer, it's pretty thin stuff.

Very few of those religions, Karen, carry quite the burden that it does in Christian circles. Need I remind followers of the Prince of Peace of the wars started in His name? Who told the rich young ruler to "give all he had to the poor", how much damage has been done to nations and peoples under the guise of Christianity-endorsed rampant capitalism?

I don't find many people eager to explore the "complexities" of "what people mean by the word "God";

 

I find people who:

a) Know God and are usually willing to share what we've learned from God.

 

b) Don't know God, but do have a concept of God which they may think ought to be imposed on people, for one well-intentioned purpose or another

 

c) Find themselves, for now, knowing God "through a glass darkly" while still partially captive to their initial "ideas about" God.

or

 

d) Don't know that reality we call "God," and seem scared to death that the word "God", despite it's misuses, really does point to something beyond 'reality' as they know it, something more powerful than them which may not care about "what they think" , but only about "how things are."

I haven't read all the thoughtful responses, but will respond directly to the question Forrest. I have to admit, I am one who has a "knee jerk" reaction to God, Jesus, and Christian. It's largely because of the context in which I learned them. "God" was usually followed by some variant of "you/these people are wrong and going to hell." "Jesus" tended to mean "if you were a real Christian", and Christian- was used most and loudest by the most hypocritical people.

 So I suppose I'm dealing with a sort of spiritual PTSD. I respond to those things I learned before, even though they are not now being said. It is *my* struggle, and I think I am on the road to recovery. But I still am a bit leary of folks who use those words often. They still sound exclusive and judgemental to my ears, but  my brain and heart can step in.

There were many years-- after I'd first become acquainted with God via funny pills and an overly-interesting life-- when I literally couldn't stand to read most "Christian" books.

Other religions sometimes fit what I was experiencing. And Jesus, in the occasional "historical Jesus" book-- because I very much wanted to know what was "really going on" with the world, and knew he fit in there somehow!

It was after some years, and being quite sure of the answer, that I could timidly ask-- "Hey, You don't really do that to people, do you?" Way too much human politics in religion, from the very beginning. It's meant to be the other way around, whenever we get there!

What if God wanted this Meeting to wait for 5 years before hearing His voice? The Israelites wandered for 40 years in the desert -- are we so much better than they? In waiting to hear the Inner voice, it must be said that we wait on God's time. "To everything there is a season" means many things, but it certainly means that we don't plant when the ground is lying fallow, but lying fallow is not a bad thing to do.

Waiting is not inactivity. It is very active. It doesn't look like much, but it isn't apathy.

Dr. Bruce R. Arnold said:

> ....In waiting to hear the Inner voice, it must be said that we wait on God's time...

I'd put it, rather: that this "God's time" is not some arbitrary decision, but what God's wisdom recognizes as the time people will need to "ripen",  for that "voice" to work according to God's purposes.

People's efforts to hurry that time... can just be part of that ripening process, whether it's working towards their own ripening or somebody else's. I've had all sorts of people telling me things I didn't understand at the time-- but later I recognized them as belonging to God's "voice."

"The Harmonious Hand is now holding

Lord Krishna's ring, the eagle's wing,

the voice of mother, everything..."

[Incredible String Band ~ 1968]

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