Faith and the concept of God


Dedication

 

To Pam

My Gift of God

 

Acknowledgements and explanation

This paper probably began with a pastoral visit to John Bodycomb and Lorraine Parkinson where, as usual, I gained more than I gave. We spoke of the meaning of God and the effect on prayer.

Not long after John took leave of this world, but Lorraine continued to encourage me in my thoughts and, when Covid gave the gift of time, to continue some initial notes. She continued to read the developing pages and to make extensive suggestions and correct many of the typos and poor phraseology. Despite her own considerable knowledge, she always encouraged me to record my own thoughts and never tried to direct or change them other than in improving the expression.  Lorraine also kindly wrote a foreword when the work was complete. I am grateful to them both for their generous time and sharing of their amazing scholarship and now it is time to record where my thinking is at present.

Some friends and family have taken the time to pore over a number of drafts and make comments and suggestions and raise their own questions. My thanks to all of them.

This is not a scholarly paper but a record of my own journey and current conclusions. I chose not to include references to keep the flow and avoid distracting the reader, but it will be evident that many great scholars have seeped into my consciousness and contributed to my development. My gratitude extends to them and their constant quest for truth.

My aim is not to produce a final solution in any sense but to encourage honest and respectful debate. Any contribution to this debate will be welcomed.

Bob Ridley, January 2022.

 

 Foreword for Faith and the concept of God


Increasingly, whether it involve clergy or laity, the journey of faith for Christians in 2022 is one often marked by a kind of ‘holy curiosity’.  That may or may not entail leaving the church, and may or not entail losing faith in the existence of God.  For the Rev Bob Ridley it has been neither of those, but a growing awareness of ways other than traditional in his understanding of God.  That kind of God-awareness has led him to a related and continuing reappraisal of his understanding and appreciation of the life and purpose of Jesus.

Wanting to share those insights with other seekers has led to Bob producing an engaging, insightful and very honest piece of writing.  He calls it a ‘novelette’, as its length places it between an article and a small book.  It will appeal to people across the board in and out of church life, in part because of its length and readability, but primarily because he has set out with honest clarity the highs and lows of exploring his changing views of the faith.  Bob would not want to say this is his final, complete and definitive view of the transcendent, and of Jesus.  Rather it is where he is now, in his ongoing journey in the faith.

Faith and the concept of God ranges across many of the big questions facing those who have begun to doubt traditional Christian answers to the meaning of faith in God and the identity of Jesus.  For that reason most readers should find that he has explored and addressed at least some of the questions they themselves have wrestled with, either in group life or in personal reflection.  There is much to contemplate, from changing understandings of the reality of God, the view of Christian belief from the perspective of science, and big questions about the problem of so much that is evil in a world created by a good God.  Bob has also set out clearly his view of ways the teachings of Jesus have utterly changed the world.  He does not flinch from condemning traditional atonement-based Christian doctrine and creeds.  That kind of honesty will be gladly received by many readers and may come as a surprise to those who have known him through the length and breadth of his ministry.

For all who read this ‘novelette’, the height and depth of Bob Ridley’s spirituality will engage and reassure those who hesitate to undertake their own journey of ‘holy curiosity’.

                                                                

                                                                 Rev Dr Lorraine Parkinson, January 2022.

 

Faith and the concept of God.

In the beginning.

“In the beginning” in the Bible relates to the time of the earth as they knew it and was contained as two creation stories (Gen 1-Gen 2:4, and Gen 2:5 – Gen 2:25). The “Beginnings of Civilisation” section does not commence until Gen 4:17 and lists the known ancestors of the Hebrews.

‘In the beginning’ in science goes back much further and to date is commonly seen as beginning with the small ball of energy or ‘singularity’ contributing to what is known as the Big Bang where this rapidly expanded and led to the formation of all that is, including all known matter. This is still expanding and at present the rate of expansion is increasing and may eventually exceed the speed of light. Eventually far-off constellations will seemingly disappear as they will no longer be visible at this distance. The Big Bang is variously dated but seems to be considered to have commenced motion and therefore time at around 13.8 billion years ago.

What intrigues me is that this energy is said still to be present within everything that is. Hence, we are part of and intimately connected to all that is. When we consider the dreadful destructions and ongoing hatred which has continued seemingly since civilisation began, they are usually due to a sense of separation. This leads to the conclusion that ‘the other’ is less valuable, a threat, are intending violence towards us, or many other common ‘delusions’. The reality of separation or otherwise may be one of our most important questions. Buddhists refer to separation as an illusion and in a sense, this seems to be in agreement with the Big Bang Theory.

Different views of ‘God’

There are many different faiths still current, and many have long since become extinct. Some suggest that this occurs when faiths are no longer useful in changing circumstances, so they are simply abandoned in favour of something more practical. Some conflicts have led to attempts to wipe out beliefs, with varying degrees of success. The attack of communism on Christianity and other faiths and the attitude of early Christian settlers to indigenous beliefs are glaring examples.

Often faiths have proclaimed an exclusive God who supports one tribe or nation or group against others. Frequently this can lead to justification for attacking the surrounding groups. Often this has been in a quest for new land as space for building or crops, or where particularly valued natural treasures – gold, diamonds, herds of particular animals, oil, or other resources – are seen as necessary for the survival of one group over another.

In these instances, it is common that the tribe on the attack will claim that they have the support of God and that this justifies any action.

There are also interesting differences in the way the gods that have been worshipped which may be related to the characteristics of their own adherents. The Roman gods seem to have led dissolute lives and used humans as playthings or pawns in their squabbles. The gods of ancient Babylon looked for power and conquest.

The early gods of the Bible have both features. In Genesis 6:4 we are told that there were giants or mighty men of old who came from the actions of the sons of God with the human females. Interestingly there have been immense skeletons found, so perhaps this verse is an attempt to explain the unusual occurrences. Goliath’s bed was said to be 13.5 feet long, but perhaps he liked to stretch out!

Instances of God ordering merciless conquest are so common that at one stage when I tried to listen to a dramatic version of the bible on tape, I found I needed a rest from the constant violence of the Old Testament. For example, Deuteronomy 20:17 “You must completely destroy all the people—the Hittites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites. The Lord your God has commanded you to do this.” Six small nations or tribes to be utterly wiped out.

In other places God is equated with love, and obedience to God is an expression of Love. Only 10 chapters earlier we read in Deuteronomy 10:12 The Essence of the Law:

“So now, O Israel, what does the Lord your God require of you? Only to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul.”

In the New Testament we read in 1 John 4:16 “God is love and those who abide in love, abide in God, and God abides in them.”

So, it is not unnatural to ask questions such as those following.  Did God change ‘his’ mind? Did God develop into a ‘better’ God? Was there more than one God? Did various people just make up a God that suited them and somehow convince their followers to accept this? If God is Love and in charge of everything how could ‘he’ allow the Holocaust? Were people just justifying their actions by saying, and perhaps believing, that this is what God wanted them to do? Certainly, I have known people who have asserted that they knew God was calling them to act in a particular way. On more than one occasion I suspected that they were doing what they wanted and using the unassailable assertion that it was what they knew was God’s will. For ordination I had to justify my ‘call’. Indeed, I experienced a sense of call at the age of 7, and, since I had been brought up in Scotland on the local hero David Livingstone, wanted to head for Africa immediately.

Many people have decided that it is all rubbish, or simply an illusion. We should ‘grow out’ of faith as is it something childish. Karl Marx somewhat kindly in Critique of Hegel's Philosophy of Right states:

“Religious distress is at the same time the expression of real distress and the protest against real distress. Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, just as it is the spirit of a spiritless situation. It is the opium of the people. The abolition of religion as the illusory happiness of the people is required for their real happiness. The demand to give up the illusion about its condition is the demand to give up a condition which needs illusions. Since the harsh economic reality would make happiness impossible for the poor at least religion gives them some comfort.”

Children in school these days are taught to respect science and be suspicious of myth or folk lore, even though it may have some interesting morals at times. They are taught to question and to demand proof.  They see the atrocities recorded in religious texts, the demands for a form of physical Jihad in almost all religious treatises at some point. Then they see the evidence that such religious atrocities have been acted out in real life throughout history as long as it is recorded. They see this in all forms of faith. They may well, and reasonably, decide that none of it should be taken into account. When they stop being afraid of eternal damnation and begin to suspect that, like Santa Claus, that kind of religion is an adult fantasy created to control them, they may well jettison it all with a sigh of relief.

My adult children display commendable lives of service and caring. They value and protect their children and family life, support sustainable living, and try to teach and encourage moral behaviour. They contribute to their communities and support and encourage friends. But they do not want to attend church. They may see it as not only boring but pointless.

I am hard pressed to argue. I could claim that the moral values of our society are largely based on religious precepts, but it is difficult to be sure that these values do not have some universal form which is then included in religious practices. Often this seems to be accompanied by an allowance for atrocious attitudes to those not part of that faith, or who abandon it, or fail in achieving what the faith demands. I could point out that the lay people of the Church are mostly moral, serve their communities and form the backbone of many other charitable organisations and movements. Perhaps so, but there are many others who serve, and the current balance may be a historic effect of the now receding power and aging population of the church.

Probably the most difficult part is that at times I also am bored and see the worship presentations and liturgies and self-preserving actions of the church as pointless. There have been great moments, but there are increasingly times of uncertainty or a sense of alienation. Moving around so much I have not really sensed the companionship and belonging some feel in congregations. In any case, for years I have been in the figurehead position which limits closeness, so while some no doubt, continue as much for that connection as other matters of faith, that too is alien to me personally. The recent isolation required by the COVID epidemic has not created this alienation for me, but no doubt has given time away for reflection and enabled me to experience separation from attendance at formal worship.

Certainly, there are values I learnt in the context of the Church and in the faith of my ancestors.  I think they are essential, but do they have to come in this particular package? The Church and most other theistic religions still struggle with the problem of evil. If a good god created the world, how does evil exist? Why do bad things happen to good people?

Sometimes I think it must be confusing for God when people make differing and incompatible demands. How does God ensure both sides win the war as they are asking? How does God satisfy the radical theologian and the fundamental Christian as both pray? How does God make sure the Demons of all people beat the Saints!? But then much of that is my quirky sense of humour because I have long since ceased believing in a creator who waits to make decisions based on the number of followers pleading a cause. Rarely have religions espoused democracy – unless they are aligned with a significant political interest.


 

So, is there a God or gods?

Jews, Christians, and followers of Islam insist on one God who has created and will create everything. Hindus opt for many to cover all the portfolios. Some estimate around 24 major deities and perhaps over a hundred minor ones, though all may be assumed to be expressions of the one Brahman. Where there is more than one God, there is usually a hierarchy and Christians have managed to introduce the confusion of one God with three forms or manifestations.

What interest me particularly are the ways in which the various gods operate. Some are angry, destructive, and unforgiving. Some are loving. Many are said to be both, as discussed above, although historical criticism frequently uncovers various streams which have been combined and originally may have been from groups following quite different gods or entities. The people who followed Abraham, Moses and Elijah, and Isaiah seem to have had different views of God, as even did John the Baptist and Jesus much closer in time to us.

Regularly the various expressions of ‘God’ claim that God is all-loving, all-powerful, partial, swayed by human intervention, jealous, playful, revengeful, or in fact displays all the common emotions of humans themselves. It seems increasingly clear that people follow gods that suit them. I once heard a statement attributed to Gandhi that “There are as many gods as there are people since each man worships his own”, though I have been unable to find this. Nevertheless, it has a ring of truth. Indeed, I would go further and suggest that believers see their god differently at different times. Sometimes demanding and punishing, sometimes caring, sometimes healing and soothing. For different situations at least we can cry out to our god in different ways. Some recent theologians have suggested that the word ‘God’ is an embarrassment since there is so much baggage attached and seek a different term with varying success.

What if God is neutral?

I began to think – what if there is in fact only one entity which all are trying to describe and what if that entity is in fact neutral or impersonal. By this I do not mean merely refusing to take sides but in fact operating by ‘its’ very nature in a way that takes no account of one person or side or need over another. Simply an energy that like water or electricity operates according to its own nature. In this case, all the statements about the various gods or forms of god are projections of the believers at various times and in various situations?

In that frame of mind, I returned to the energy of the ‘Big Bang’. This energy can take material form, and in fact has, in every ‘Thing’ we know. This energy has in a sense created the heavens and the earth – all the universe or cosmos and people and trees and animals and birds and bugs and genes and atoms and all that is. This energy is inseparable from every ‘Thing’ and in a sense unifies everything. This energy is constantly developing and results in different forms of life. Even new stars appear. Yet the energy can seemingly be diverted or withdrawn in what we know as death.  In Genesis 6:3 we read “Then the Lord said, ‘My Spirit will not contend with humans forever, for they are mortal; their days will be a hundred and twenty years’.” Although a lifespan of 120 years may be extreme, it was noted even that that this energy would not remain with some individual creation for ever. Both science and some religions would seem to have the concept of the energy returning to the original store, since it is indestructible but can change its form.

Various species and constellations and land masses come and go. The creation of something new may at times mean the end of what was before. In the 70’s the Gaia theory spoke of the earth as a living organism which operates to perpetuate its own existence and in some ways all that we know operates in much this manner, adapting to changed conditions and situations.

What then if in observing the operation of this energy people have seen it as something living and personalised it by the term God?

But this energy is not partial. It will not support one nation or person against another. It will not keep a record in the book of life and hand out punishments or rewards accordingly. If then religious statements have seen god(s) in such ways, perhaps those who make the statements are projecting their own views on to a neutral object, which is living in the sense of continuing, forming and creating, but not with all the baggage of human emotions. Hence we would have an energy which certainly is not reacting emotionally. This energy has been described initially as a singularity with no attributes either way.

It is difficult probably for people to consider a merely neutral energy. We tend to want to appropriate everything for ourselves and perhaps it is easier to do so if we attribute some kind of personal reference and some preferences, even if that is as simple as Good or Loving.

Naturally, of course our scientific bent leads to a search for the equal and opposite reaction in every action, so we also attribute Bad and Hate. We can even have Good Hate where something seen as evil is destroyed or Bad Love where something unpalatable or immoral is desired! But at times, even in faith, people recognised that God would not be made to be something, nor act in a specified manner. “I am who I am” says the God of Moses. Even in their desire to have a God who would deliver them and would see them as the chosen nation the ancient Israelites realised at some level that they could not manipulate of control the entity they called God. If this energy is “all and in all” to use one of the religious phrases, then we cannot continue the illusion of separation. We are linked inevitably to all creation and need to act in harmony with all other people and our environment, the animals, the streams and oceans, the air and all that exists. So, we have to begin to understand its nature and learn to move in harmony with it. Not to do so can only mean we operate to our detriment since the energy is neutral and will take that path of its own development. It will adapt to environmental changes and may well destroy all that we know. This will not be done in anger but simply as a natural consequence of existing conditions, and we must bear an equal responsibility with those conditions with all other being or entities. Indeed, since for some reason we have developed the ability to think and to create different conditions and machinery and ideas, it may well be asserted that we have the greatest responsibility. We may be the only part of this section of creation called earth that has the ability to direct its future one way or the other, not by controlling the existent energy since we cannot, but by finding a way of harmony.

What of faith concepts?

 Most faiths have depended on the ability to somehow influence our world. At its most basic, appeasement of the deity was seen to assure our survival. If we performed certain rituals or made particular sacrifices, we could be more sure of the provision of rain, food, protection and so on. So, we developed rituals, forms of prayer and worship, moral and ethical codes and practices, the requirement of commitment even where a personal disadvantage or imposition my advantage the whole or pacify the deity concerned. We formed groups to advance the cause, and to ensure commitment to the particular form of faith, and to provide training and guidance in what was required. We developed hierarchical structures, or particular skills, which would assist in this. Priests and priestesses intervened. Pastors comforted. Rabbis instructed. Sorcerers developed special powers or practices to keep the people healthy or in favour. Witchdoctors brought healing and discerned the will of the deity. Guards ensured conformity, and so on.

Our present society continues to have most of these structures even outside of religious communities. They are part of communal living.

But, if what we have called ‘God’ is this primal energy, is prayer merely a form of placebo?

As I thought further it occurred to me that certain people have a particular ability to align themselves with this energy. So, it was asserted that Moses could go into the presence of God where others could not risk it. We all know that energy is dangerous and must be treated with care and respect. It seems that Jesus had an ability to use an energy of some form for healing and to fortify himself. So, he is said to have known when the energy went out of him when a woman was healed by touching him. He is reputed to be able to calm a violent and insane man. He had the power to draw crowds and encourage more loving and compassionate behaviour. St Francis is reputed to have asked to be a channel of the peace of God’s spirit. None of these people thought of themselves as the energy but as being dependent on it and somehow using or channelling the energy for good. Reiki practitioners today see themselves as using the energy of the universe for healing. The laying on of hands is a common method both of healing and of transferring this ability or energy to others.

However, if the energy is neutral it seems likely that others could align themselves with this energy in a way that is designed to initiate actions or events we would generally classify as evil. So, Hitler could also draw crowds and encourage national pride to the exclusion of other nations and somehow get rational people to commit the most atrocious crimes against Jews and the disabled. Just as a Gandhi could encourage humility and freedom, a Stalin could encourage pride and suppression, or a Pol Pot order the destruction of opponents and learning.

A further possibility is that the energy is neutral but has two aspects. Before the Big Bang the energy is described as a singularity, but as it then expanded there seem to be two actions occurring. There is Development and there is Destruction. Evolution requires both acting in some form of harmony. They are not different energies but different functions of the one energy which together lead to the development of all things, but none of them permanently. I find it interesting that most philosophies and faith have a dualistic presentation. Even basic computer language is binary. Buddhist philosophy speaks of a duality of Yin and Yang such that, in an ever moving system, as one increases the other reduces. As one begins the other is ending, and each has within it the seeds of the other. This is expressed in the well-known Yin Yang symbol which seems static but should be thought of as a moving symbol. Energy during Tai Chi for instance moves constantly from the one section to the other and back again. The two forces are seen as inseparable and contradictory forces which are the elements of creation. Neither is superior and both are necessary.

Hence at times people or things may be moving towards Development or towards Destruction. As people experience this, they find themselves in contact with forces beyond themselves and attribute this to what they describe as ‘God’. Yet each description is unable to encompass the whole.

I have always been fascinated by the statement attributed to Jesus that his followers would be able to do what he did and more. The Buddha is reputed to have said that all could be Buddha or enlightened.

All of these leaders and visionaries seem to have spent time alone in meditation or planning and to have a certainty about their actions. Perhaps this is not just a feature of leadership, but their ability to attune themselves with the primal energy of the universe.

If this is the case then, perhaps, as the sages suggest, everyone has some ability to do this too.

So, is ‘faith’ possible?

Strangely, it seems to me that if this neutral and creative and constantly renewing and changing energy is what people have tried to describe in their concept of ‘God’, it is not only practicable to have some kind of faith but also liberating. It means that I have to accept responsibility for my existence and activity on the earth even more than when I rely on an outside source.

For one thing, as enjoined in Taoism, it is foolish to try to act against this energy. Rather, I must accept its primary nature. There will be, as one passage says, “a time to live and a time to die …. a time to break down and a time to build up.” (Eccl, 3.2) The passage even suggests there is “a time to kill and a time to heal.”

Prayer and spiritual discipline then mean taking time to become ‘at one’ with this strange force and perhaps the ‘singularity’ behind it. Often in church and elsewhere we produce a list of the things we are concerned about or consider important and take time to find eloquent ways of bringing them to mind in prayers for the world. It seems to me that meditation and prayer are not a matter of asking an outside Being or Force to fix whatever we consider is wrong in our lives or community or world. Rather, we must take the responsibility to act ourselves as best we can and to see how this can be done in harmony with the energy that is behind and within all. If the energy is neutral, then we have a greater responsibility not only to act, but to find how the energy can be channelled towards the areas we are concerned about. It means we are bound to use our own lives to achieve these changes.

Reading the Bible, or other sacred texts will be more a matter of discovering how the ancients were relating to their gods and how we might learn from their successes and failures. Fortunately, the Bible honestly details both. We will also be enjoined to understand what they were trying to achieve and what particular liturgies or practices seemed effective. Rather than the ‘Word of God for all time’ as some suggest, it becomes a record of other people’s experience of faith and their god(s) to challenge and inspire us.

Participation in worship will no longer be a matter of passive receiving of wisdom or even trying our best to use the right words and sing as loudly, and as well as we can. Rather we will be seeking to join with others in the understanding of how this energy is operating and the effectiveness of jointly harmonising with it to achieve a better world for all.

Hence faith is in the reality of our responsibility and the effectiveness of being in touch with and receiving and giving this energy. Faith requires recognition of the greatness and humility of leaders such as Jesus, who took the time to ‘be’ in the required harmony. We hear of him saying that he needed time apart, of going ahead to pray, of telling his disciples that some healing required prayer and fasting more than others. We read of his being aware of the presence of that energy within him and when it went elsewhere.

The writer of the letter to the Hebrews is recorded as saying that “faith is the substance of things hoped for” (Hebrews 11.1). It is not a present reality, nor is it a set of facts to which we assent. It is a future possibility to which we commit. In aligning with the creative energy of the Universe we will not be stuck in a particular situation, attitude or understanding. We will be in harmony with the development in both its destructive and creative elements of the future that might be. ‘Destructive’ in this paper is not intended to mean something inappropriate or evil. Rather it is allowing the passing of what is no longer required. One suggestion I read recently based on a Hindu understanding of the world suggests we move from simplicity towards an ‘ultimate complexity’. If that concept has any validity, then we can never hold to a simplistic notion of anything – statements of belief, our view of how people react and their reasons for it. Rather, we will come into an increasing complexity which by its very nature would seem to be beyond our possibility of description. Our scientific understanding and our faith will progress only as one proposition after another is discarded by new evidence. In the end we will be left only with an experience of awe and wonder.

Some theological battles may disappear.

I remember hearing that some learned people spent time considering how many angels could stand on the end of a pin. I guess this depends on whether there are angels, if they are interested in standing, particularly on the end of a pin, and for that matter, who cares!

One of the issues that the church has fought over with disastrous consequences has been the problem of evolution. Is it just a scientific progression by pure chance, or is there is ‘God’ or ‘Mind’ or ‘Logos’ (Word) who created all things? Did that power, whatever it is called, finish the job and go away to some eternal Sabbath, or does it still create now, and will it do so in the future?

If, as I have suggested, the power is both neutral and includes creativity and destruction, then it seems to me that in some ways there is no conflict. If this power was the energy or singularity of the beginning, whether at the big bang or in fact before, then the energy may change form but will never cease. Creation and Destruction (the natural end of some things as others come to be) will continue. As I understand it, Einstein suggested that energy does not cease to exist but may change form, including becoming matter. In this case the Original Energy not only created, but continues do so, and will continue to do so in future. If this is what we describe as God, and if that energy includes our own creation and that of everything we know then we are indeed as some have suggested, in and within God. The writer of Acts quotes a popular line from a Greek Poem written around 600-700 B.C. by Epimenides when he says, “For in him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17.28).   In some ways this equally suggests that we are part of, within, and also express, this same energy which created all things. It is still my contention that we can relate to that of which we are a part, and thus there is the existence of a personal relationship of harmony but not control.

Another theological problem which may have used up more time and space than it was worth is the problem of evil. This becomes a problem if we assume there is a ‘Good’ God and then define ‘good’ as meaning much the same as the Hippocratic oath “to do no harm”. It becomes a problem because we suppose a good god cannot do anything which harms or destroys anything. We then attribute everything that happens to the mind of a god who wills everything that occurs or allows everything that happens. I have suggested earlier that this is an error and that the original force which we tend to term ‘God’ when we experience it is in fact neutral. We attribute to this force some kind of mind similar to our own. From there we decide that evil actions (measured in terms of morality) must have been allowed or caused by a god who wielded extreme power and could have done otherwise. The energy I suggest is not acting by will or mind. It cannot do other than be what it is – a combination of creation and destruction. Hence ‘natural’ disasters are in some ways just that – natural. They are part of the eternal cycle of creation and destruction.

However, there are actions which we can rightly classify as evil. The massacres of the Holocaust and Pol Pot, the rape of children or indeed anyone, the wilful use of power to destroy, or to gain accumulation of wealth at the expense of others are all evil. They are not however, natural in the sense of natural disasters, since they are acts of choice and are the decisions of their perpetrators. They have nothing to do with the Original Energy of the universe. It is too easy to step back and blame some god for what has happened. Surely, we have all in some way contributed to encouraging, allowing, or instigating the idea of separation which leads to such things. Similarly, where natural disasters are increasing because of the wonton disregard for our planet and universe, this is our responsibility and our challenge. They are not in fact natural in the sense of inevitable results of the Original Energy’s activity but clearly attributable to our own greed, ignorance or lack of concern, or perhaps all of these.

The problem of evil is not a problem of some god whom we project and blame, but a result of our own assumption of ‘god-like’ omnipotence and self-interest.

 What of Jesus?

While many scholars dispute the gospel details of the life of Jesus, and some suggest that much of what we read in the Gospels is largely a reflection of the experience of the early church, it seems to me that there are some views of Jesus about which we can be fairly confident. Wherever these stories came from they suggest a view of Jesus from the gospel writers and their oral or written sources, plus something of the experience or belief of the early church.

·      He was seen by some to have special meaning and perhaps some special attributes as a child (here I think of the stories of his birth whatever their origin), his aunt makes remarks that suggest a special destiny, his infancy visit to the temple where two seers are said to have proclaimed his destiny, his childhood visit to the temple where he is reputed to have discussed concepts with doctors of the law. He grew up in favour with God and man (Luke 2.41-52). John the Baptist seems to have regarded him as a significant spiritual person.

·      At his baptism Jesus is said to have some experience of his destiny as well. I think this is a time when he had a particular experience of the Original Energy or force suggested in this paper.

·      In the desert he battled with the possible ways in which this force and experience might be used by him for personal gain and satisfaction, for personal power and wealth, for tricks to impress the masses and gain him their following. In the end he seems to have chosen the way of submission.

·      His ministry seems to have included the use of particular powers of healing not uncommon in indigenous or pre-scientific societies.  As well it included his recognition of the rights and equality of all people, his openness to forgiveness and his

encouragement of welcoming and open-hearted living.

·      This approach, which perhaps became known as ‘The Way’ was exemplified in his life and taught to his followers.  Most seem to have been among the more powerless of the community, but some had positions of authority.

·      He did not refuse to accept or assist those of any class, although he seems to have been more likely to correct or confront those whose positions of power gave them added responsibility.

·      He encouraged this approach and the powers he used in his disciples and seemed to consider that all people could use these powers and live in this way.

·      He contrasted:

The Kingdoms of this world - the way of exerting authority among people most powerful in society, who often abused their power to gain personal wealth or to subject others to slavery or poverty - with the:

Kingdom of God – his acceptance of all people and refusal to entertain the idea of separation.  The use of personal powers or possessions for the benefit of others, particularly for those most in need of support.

Towards the end of his ministry, he left the (relatively) safe rural areas and deliberately entered the seat of both Temple and Roman power.

·      In the end, he chose to continue his “way” even in the face of official opposition and the likelihood of arrest and execution.

I believe he had a particular ability to relate to the Original Energy and that this enabled him to provide healing as a channel of that power. In the experience of that power, I think he came to recognise the connection between all things and the inevitable conclusion that separation is an illusion and that all people are equal. In that knowledge (rather than just belief) he could only act as he did and invite others to recognise the presence of the ‘Kingdom’ within them, close to them and in everything. When he died some suggest that his followers began to realise that they could act in this way when he was no longer here and that in this way the risen Christ continues.

I have always felt mere acceptance of a philosophy is too small a thing to encourage self-sacrifice and change the world. I consider that, in fact, they had also received a similar experience of the eternal or Original Energy, and that this is what empowered them.

Perhaps this occurred in two ways. As Jesus included them in their mission early disciples experience amazement that they could themselves offer healing and build a community of acceptance. They are said to have reported this on return from their initial mission. Since this was a personal experience of the Original Energy in some ways it ceased to be something related to Jesus but was something in their own life and experience. Secondly, as I will discuss in a later suggestion I believe that after death some trace of the person who died can continue and be experienced others and particularly be those deeply connected to them.

Jesus came from the Original Energy in the sense that it was for some reason evident and recognisable in him from his earliest years. Perhaps the Original Energy is within all but was particularly open and recognised in him. He returned to it in the sense that the energy within him returned to its source. People of the time spoke of recognising this as his coming from Heaven and returning there.

I would contend that this is true to some degree for all of us though some may have more of a predisposition to recognise and harmonise with the Original Energy more than others. Jesus may have been unique in the degree to which this was possible.

Many biblical passages not only suggest that Jesus is a son of God but that those who follow him are too. Many passages, particularly in the epistles, speak of us as children of God and heirs to “his” promises. This is not absent in the Old Testament either, for example Deuteronomy 14:1: “You are the sons of your Lord God.”

Jesus was observed to have seen himself as in and within God.  John’s Gospel says he longed for the disciples to be ‘one’ as he and his Father were one. I remember somewhere hearing a mention of atonement as being at–One-ment, and perhaps that is the gift Jesus brought to his disciples and has appeared regularly in others since. It seems to be the experience of John of the Cross, of Meister Eckhart, of Brother Lawrence, of Julian of Norwich, of Martin Luther King and of Mother Theresa, for example. The experience of being one with all things also appears in the teachings of Buddhism and Taoism and perhaps in most religions. I like the suggestion that this is not just God being in everything (pantheism) but also everything being in God (panentheism). Perhaps Jesus is the supreme example of what life is like if all separation is taken as illusion, and it is recognising this in him that we are connected to everything and everything. In this realisation justice and equity are essential and obvious.

Clearly the early church saw itself as heir to the divinity of Jesus, but that divinity encompassed the whole world. Unfortunately, from the quarrels of James and John to the gas ovens of Auschwitz many of those who claimed fellowship with Jesus have clung to their special power and division despite this teaching and experience.

Light and sound shows

There are many of strange sounds and visions of enormous importance in our Bible and they are certainly part of indigenous cultures generally.

To consider just a few I have chosen the following:

·      Moses was ‘on the run’ for a long period. He had recognised the cruelty of the Egyptian overlords and lashed out in anger killing one of the guards or overseers. After a considerable time, he came across a burning bush which strangely was burning but not consumed, In this encounter he understood the call to return to Egypt and free his people.

·      Jesus withdrew with a group of his most trusted disciples to a mountain and the disciple awoke to see Jesus shining so that even his clothing seemed radiant, and they saw him talking with Moses and Elijah. They heard a voice recognising Jesus and then the vision faded. Interestingly, Peter wanted to stay in this situation, but Jesus led them down the mountain where they encountered other disciples who were puzzled because they could not affect the cure of a boy suffering convulsions.

·      After the death of Jesus, the disciples seem to have been in hiding and very frightened. After a while the book of Acts records a time of reorganisation and recognition of their future task. The story goes that there was sound of a turbulent wind sufficient to shake the house and then there suddenly appeared tongues LIKE fire which rested on their heads. In this moment they were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in languages they had not known before which were recognised by native speakers of those languages.

No doubt each of these stories is recorded by the writers for a particular reason related to their theological views. But it is of interest to consider how some of these events might relate to the idea of an original energy.  Some people have an affinity for such energy in particular times or places when they are more likely to experience such things. In each case the events above occurred around a time of personal crisis and decision making.

·      Moses was, I assume, struggling with his desire for his people’s freedom, plus his fear and self-imposed exile. He felt the need for some guidance and support.

·      Jesus, when he was preparing to hand over to his still ill-equipped disciples, struggled to explain to them the stupendous risk he intended for his immediate future.

·      The disciples are said to have completed the administrative task of recognising a new leader and beginning to understand what had happened to Jesus in a new way.  In the beginning they apparently were without much idea of what to do to start their mission.

Leaving aside arguments about the authenticity of such stories, their details or the assumed purpose of telling these stories to the community concerned, it seems that in each case they were seeking inspiration and understanding.  They may thus have been receptive to the presence of the Original Energy. Something so bright it seems like fire but neither burns the bush nor the disciples’ heads seems as good a way as any to describe an experience beyond words. It clearly wasn’t fire but there appears to have been the presence of a powerful energy. The appearance of Jesus on the mountaintop, and even his clothes shining, equally seems a way of trying to describe such an experience.

Directive voices and sounds like wind could relate to an experience of new understanding. The experience of such energy could well be what is colloquially described as “mind-blowing”.

In some ways it is not systemically different to my own certainly much milder experiences of being ‘directed’ into ministry, of needing help to face it and recognising this help in my wife.  Or being ‘directed’ to particular pastoral situations, or of a woman named Grace arriving in our time of need. All of these are mentioned in the section headed personal experiences.

Clearly this does not ‘explain’ all of the elements of these stories nor the reasons for their retention in scripture but perhaps it gives a greater sense of the possible experience.

Time, like an ever rolling stream

Time around earth currently is measured in imposed zones beginning with an imaginary line of longitude passing through Greenwich Observatory in London. This was adopted in 1884 at a conference of 25 nations after over 13 years of debate. It is a useful means of relating to various parts of the globe for commerce and shipping. This is a convenient choice, but throughout history time and distance have been measured in various ways. We find it useful to have a shared measurement of time to arrange meetings, fix dates and mark anniversaries. Most creatures consider time in terms of sunrise and sunset or various seasons, as we do to some extent, but we impose an apparent rigidity on these fluctuations to suit our own purposes. This can give an impression of the passage of time as a fixed and rigid process though indeed it relates much more to the movement of spheres in the universe and can entertain considerable variation. It seems that in space and with extreme movement time itself can be distorted and depend on factors not usually considered in our daily lives. For convenience we think in terms of past, present and future.

However, it may be that time cannot be measured and divided into strict segments despite the convenience in many situations. It may be that time is more like the “ever-rolling stream” and is one continuous connected ‘experience’. We tend to regard time as beginning with the ‘Big Bang’ though this too may be something we impose for the convenience of measurement. If there was a time when the single element existed, perhaps there was something before that too. Given all of this, as we begin to be aware of the experience of Original Energy, perhaps time can be experienced as a single element where past, present and future are seamlessly connected. Hence, if we connect to time at any point we would be connected to all time simultaneously. It may be that we do not normally experience this because of our own limited connection with Original Energy and that when we manage that connection on occasions we have, as has been reported, an experience as if time stood still and we are connected to all things.

I recall such a time, high on a hill on my own, when practicing Tai Chi. I had withdrawn from an intense conference I was leading for a while to regain my energy. At some point, I had the experience that time stopped, even as I continued the movements. It seemed that even the birds stopped singing. This continued until I began to notice it and then the experience disappeared, the birds seemed to continue from where they had left off, and I was back to focussing on the movements with awareness. As the Set I was practicing took around 20 minutes and I could recall what movement I was doing when the experience started and again when it finished, it probably was 5 – 7 minutes. I had no recollection of the movements in between except that they continued. Perhaps this is similar to the description of ‘being in the zone’ from athletes almost unaware of all but the action they are involved in, or artists who capture something they were not expecting, and yet that communicates without words to others.

If time is a unity, then when we contact any part of it we must be in some sense in contact with all of it. It seems to me that mystical experiences of people at a distance or even people who have died may be possible in such a state of being.

Many people report such experiences which are often dismissed as some sort of wish fulfilment, but it may be that in grief or other highly ecstatic states, awareness of other times and events and people is possible. The transfiguration of Jesus experience reported in the gospels and referred to above may have been an experience of the distortion of time, at a moment of significant contact with Original Energy.

Death and beyond

Most faiths have some reflection on what lies beyond death, and this has at times been dismissed as a neurotic need or condescendingly accepted as helpful to those who were not strong enough to face the stark fact of death in their own lives. Many anticipate meeting again with those they loved after they die, although I have rarely heard any ecstasy at the thought of meeting again with enemies. Perhaps they are assumed to be destined elsewhere. Some speak of the loved ones who have died as constantly watching over them. This is often a comforting thought, although if we reflect on all our departed relations watching absolutely everything we do, this could be somewhat disconcerting!

In fact, we don’t know, although in most faiths there is some suggestion of heroes who survived death. There are certainly varieties of suggestions including re-incarnation, resurrection, and rapture, and even suggestions of continuing on another plane or energy level.

If the thesis of this paper is followed it would seem most likely that the elements of the body return to the earth while the Original Energy which is shared by the body and all else returns to it source and can be used in other ways. This does not necessarily mean that there is a continuing personality and in fact it is more likely that any personality ceases or is absorbed within the remaining universe. At the same time, if the suggestions above regarding time and regarding death are considered, it may be that some experience of who the person was can occur at times in the present or future of those with a deep connection to them.

Perhaps this experience is more likely when the connection between people is very strong and there has been a habit of seeking connection to the original energy. It may even be that in the context of fluid time some conversation with the one who was and the one who remains is possible. Some of the reported experiences between particular disciples and Jesus after his death may be considered in this light.  It may even be that someone who has lived in a constant experience of Original Energy has an ability to contact or continue for a particular purpose and time.

I do not think that suggestions of Heaven and Hell or Limbo are required for such an experience. Rather they seem to me to be the end result of worrying about theological conundrums that come from acceptance of dogmas as fact, whereas they are only particular theoretical and philosophical suggestions at a particular time.

Perhaps the most telling comment I recall reading at one time, is of the Roman Emperor and Philosopher, Marcus Aurelius who is reputed to have said: “There was a time before we were born when we did not exist, so why fear a time after death when we again will not exist.” He is also said to have commented, “If there are gods, they will look after you. If there are not then it doesn’t matter.”

Personal experience

I suppose some of my personal experience is negative even though more has been positive.

I have at times been aware that as I attend worship, I wonder what we are all doing. It seems as if we are speaking to an entity we cannot see or feel. People use prayers to bring home the sermon point yet again, or we may use fine-sounding words to badger some deity into taking action when we are either unwilling or unable to do this ourselves. We sing hymns based on well-known myths but often they are worded or sung as if we are talking about historic reality. Preachers have to be careful to be somehow true to their own theology but at the same time avoid offence to those who think differently. Or perhaps they avoid offending those who hardly think at all and cling to what they were taught years before as a child. At times I have been in despair trying to be honest to myself and wondering whether the new ways of thinking lead me to no faith at all.

Yet within all that I experience sincere people.

·      People who spend hours helping and supporting others.

·      People who are pillars of their community.

·      People who take the time to reflect on the words they will use and keep up to date enough on world affairs and personal tragedies that the words might make some sense and be of some comfort.

·      People who are engrossed in every aspect of the worship services, and people who attend for the sake of others.

·      People who enjoy the social contact and those who seek stillness and renewal.

For myself, I find that the older I get the less sure I am. However, I remember a dictum of philosophy which suggests that that which cannot be doubted cannot be believed. I suppose if something cannot be doubted then it is fact and can just be accepted, rather than having to be believed. However, what we accept as fact is constantly changing. Once we believed in Santa Claus. Our parents told us the story, so it had to be true!!  Later my mother told me there had been a kind man who loved children and gave them presents before Christmas and the habit spread. Now I am aware that that is only part of the story. I learned how Cocoa Cola invented the Jolly Man in the Red suit for advertising, and how commercialism drives much of the celebration and gift giving. I heard that Christmas was Jesus’ birthday but then it seems that was a chosen date. Apparently the date in December was a Pagan festival taken over by the Church. I learned to speak of the year of our Lord and of BC and AD, but then find Jesus was probably born 4 years earlier than first thought. It may in fact have been any time in about a 10 year period. Of course, none of that is the whole story either. There is the joy and reverence and spirit of kindness often associated with this time. There is the love and faith the stories have engendered.

My Uncle Lewis told me he was taught in school that the atom was indivisible. At what cost and at what gain we learned it could be split!!

In my family there were stories of people in white who appeared especially at the time of death. They appeared in locked rooms, went through closed doors, and welcomed those who were dying. Perfectly rational people, some of whom had had horrific experience of human cruelty, bore witness to these appearances. Usually, it was a positive experience that gave hope and banished fear.

As I grew up, I had a sense of being accompanied and protected by ‘someone’ or ‘something’ beyond normal human existence which cared for me and watched over me. Fortunately, I experienced this as benevolent and supportive and comforting. For some people such a sense was terrifying. Probably this was due to those who taught me and cared for me, but in some ways this remains with me. I meet people who have little personal relationship to religion who still will say things such as ‘someone’s looking after us.’ People on football grounds and at funerals somehow instinctively look up and point up and say, “Thanks Mate”, or “This one’s for you.” In some way we seem to have a sense of something beyond us and of life continuing in some form. It could be denial, or it could be a way of expressing something we can’t explain.

Then there were the people of faith with whom I grew up. There were people who were related, or well known, for whom there was a certainty and a sense of belonging and of having a responsibility and mission because of their faith. Many would give their time within the context of their faith community, but also in every part of their daily lives, to enhance love, to confront injustice and to care for others. For the most part I knew few early on who held destructive or fearsome views of God or religion. Certainly, there were some prejudices, but they rarely if ever seemed to suggest that they or we were better than or more deserving than others, or that we should reject people because of their circumstances or birth. Even criminal or, in wartime, disloyal behaviour, while condemned, did not mean that the person should be regarded as less than human or not deserving of help and compassion. I guess I was fortunate. I lived a protected life even in the midst of war.

At about the age of 7, I had an experience during an Easter play of recognising that the actors were misinterpreting what people said about Jesus and his message. Obviously, my Uncle Sunter who had written the play was pretty smart! Still, I felt a compulsion to do something about this from that time on and knew that I should be doing something about it. As I had learnt about David Livingstone and visited Blantyre as a child it seemed natural that I should become a medical missionary and go to Africa. This stayed with me even when I diverted to a career in the Navy. Africa was not the requirement, but a life of faith and service and eventually ordination seemed natural. When other kids were aiming to be soldiers or sailors or fireman, I intended to be a minister or a medical missionary. This could be a matter explained by childish infatuation, but it remains some 75 years later. I grew up in the church and Life Boys and in a kind of certainty.

I was devastated by the loss of family when we moved to Australia, and it was not long before I saw a way back by joining the Navy. I was not then particularly academic and had only been in the country about a year when I applied, so not unreasonably my family thought I wouldn’t be successful.  For that reason, they didn’t oppose my application. Somehow I was accepted, perhaps in part to a smart response during my interview. Or perhaps because I was supported by my parents even though they didn’t really want me to go. Perhaps I applied myself to these exams as never before, being so determined to return to my homeland.

The Naval College wasn’t really a place to engender feelings of faith and security, but I found comfort in the familiar hymns and prayers, and the safety of the voluntary evening service. Officially obedience to God was in the first part of the Navy manual. Theirs was a vindictive and demanding form of God.

On leaving the Naval College I attended church when I was with family, and youth groups were the most available social experience around. Eventually, as I reached sufficient seniority in the Navy to no longer live in fear, I began again to find myself drawn into church circles. I took on responsibility as a leader in youth groups, responded to a call for lay preachers, accepted responsibility in the Board of the local church, and became an Elder. Even as an officer I found myself encouraging some sense of social responsibility in the men for whom I was responsible. One of the highlights was organising a group of sailors to provide service to a local children’s home and to assist some struggling families. I was skirting round the edges of my original ‘call’ but keeping some safe limits. I have some sympathy with the attitude attributed to St. Augustine to be called and changed but not yet!

In Port Melbourne I became involved in the local PFA partly because the minister told me I probably wouldn’t fit in or enjoy that group! In fact, the acceptance of those young people who were from very different situations from mine as a young Lieutenant, brought me into the life of the church more than ever. With the encouragement of the new young Home Missionary, I eventually realised that my life belonged more with the Church than in the Navy and I resigned. So, I came to believe that if God sets his hand on you, then eventually you had to give in. I also felt supported in what was a fairly frightening change in some ways, as my future wife appeared, and it seemed that God had provided me with the support I needed. That at least has proved to be true.

During the remaining years of active ministry, the style of my faith moved from a fairly conservative view to what would now be called progressive. Yet there were many times where there were ‘coincidences’.

When we were so low on funds that it looked as if we would have to give up ministry for a while to replenish the bank account, money arrived from an unexpected source. When we had no food left, we were invited out to a meal by someone who never did so before and never did again. When we were struggling to cope with the demands of home and children and parish and studies a woman named Grace arrived. She needed a place to stay and stayed with us about 6 months helping us as well. When we were back in control she left just as mysteriously. When I was lost, opportunities for new learning came, and when we needed friendship or help it arrived.

Often when I felt for some reason that I should call on someone in a parish or chaplaincy setting they would prove to be needing someone to help or listen. There have been times when I have been associated with healing which was inexplicable apart from the prayer that was surrounding the person.

My connection with my mother was almost psychic, in that we seemed to know when the other was not well or had some difficulty. We would even know where to meet on a long journey without any pre-arrangement. When my grandfather died in Scotland, my mother woke in the night in Wollongong at the same time crying and saying, “Dad’s gone, he came to say goodbye." The time was later confirmed by telegram.

My reading of such things now is that when we have times of being in touch with our own ‘spirit’, the energy within and around us and within everything allows us to transcend normal communication and awareness and to be ‘in touch’, even when miles apart. If we are seeking to be in harmony with this energy which pervades all things and from which all things were created, then the energy can flow from and within us in a way that allows us to respond to the energy in others and in the universe.  Perhaps this is a way to channel healing or hope without particular planning or words. Some friends who practiced Reiki suggested that the energy of prayer or laying on of hands was very similar to what they experienced. I recall Ian Gawler saying, “Be realistic, expect a miracle.” A number of writers and preachers have suggested that what Jesus taught was a way of living that led naturally to change for the better. They described many of his sayings as natural principles which altered life for the practitioner and for those they served.

Justice shall flow - naturally.

“I take no delight in your solemn assemblies …. but let justice roll down like waters (Amos5:223b and 24a).

I have sat uncomfortably through many solemn assemblies and even been enlightened or exited by a few, but in the end they do not bring justice. However, with the background of the illusionary nature of Separation and the acceptance of everything being ‘One’ due to its participation in, and creation by, Original Energy, justice will flow naturally like waters.

If we are all One – then war should be impossible as we would be attacking that which is part of ourselves.

If we are all One – the racism makes no sense for we cannot be separate from that which we claim to despise.

If we are all One – hunger and poverty and refugees should be an affront which diminishes us as much as those who suffer, or perhaps more since we have the power to do something about it.

If we are all One - superficial differences of gender and colour and culture and colour and creed are irrelevant.

If we are all One - then we have no choice to act for the preservation of the world in which we live since we are of the same substance and will be more vulnerable to extinction than the earth itself.

If we are all One - then every injustice is an aberration; a crazy foolishness and carelessness for ourselves as well as others and everything else.

If we are all One – then justice is the only sane reaction.

Experience or belief or rules or theological statements?

In the end it seems to be a matter of experiencing rather than thinking. Since about the 3rd Century AD the church has transformed the idea of faith and belief into a set of principles or dogmas with which we are supposed to agree. That was very useful for the Roman Emperor who wanted conformity in his empire, but it seems to have been the slow beginning of the death of the Church. It began to be something other than an organisation intended to introduce the Way of Jesus and encourage a passion for justice and hope and love and compassion. These have been sadly lacking in many of the activities of the Church through the ages. It is as if the Church somehow stultified the experience of those who were ‘filled with the Spirit’ and went along the alternative path of power and control. I have vivid memories of faithful people singing “Him serve with mirth his praise forth-tell”, while looking as if they were in deep pain or sadness!

Perhaps the writers of the Bible and other documents, and the people who lived before them with only oral tradition, were trying to put into words an outstanding experience, knowing that it could never be adequate. If so, then we do them a great disservice with literal reading of their words and searching for historical accuracy. They were ‘blown away’, filled with awe, which included both fear and amazement. They felt as though time had shifted. They felt their ‘hearts strangely warmed’, were sometimes reduced to a kind of gibberish or speaking in tongues, sometimes collapsing, sometimes filled with wonder and a sense of oneness and eternity they could not properly describe.  We try to reduce this to history and facts to be accepted. It can’t be done.

In Jeremiah 31.34: “No longer will they teach their neighbour, or say to one another, 'Know the LORD,' because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest."  It is this personal experience that seems to me the only experience worth seeking. Rather than puzzle over the meaning of God and which theology is right or wrong, it seems to me that at times I have managed to find harmony with this mysterious ‘Spirit of the Universe’ - the universal energy that unites and imbues all things including all creatures on earth. In those moments I have had a sense of the ‘holy’. Rather than praying for particular outcomes or changes, I find I now try to experience the harmony of this force within nature and each of us, and bring into this harmony those I love, and the problems of our existence, in prayer. I seek to remain in that space and allow that energy to act to create, and in some case end things. There is no room for control and deciding what must happen for people. It seems to me Jesus exemplified the Way of acceptance of people and systems as they were, noted the injustices, said so and accepted the possibility that his Father, ‘this amazing energy and compassion’, could make a difference. He gave his life by simply being, rather than engaging in violence. In so doing, he showed the futility of those who sought to harness the ‘Spirit’ for their own purposes.

The common factors in all religions seem to be compassion, justice, love and caring. While some religious organisations and leaders have sought to use a personal power to control the way people are and believe, and have been prepared to kill and destroy to enforce this and gain the land and possessions and agreement they sought, they have faded into obscurity. Eventually they have been seen as irrelevant and despised.  Throughout time people have returned again and again to the ‘thin places’ where they have experienced the Spirit or energy or force for themselves and know it to be true. It is through the experience not the dogma, that lives are changed.

People built shrines at ‘thin places’ where it seemed the Eternal Energy could be more easily experienced. Religions successively tore these down and replaced them with their own structures, tacitly recognising the power that was present but seeking to have control of it.

Perhaps absolute love or some basic neutral power is too frightening. The Church and similar organisations throughout history, have seen the need to provide control and guidelines, and to limit what might change the world. No doubt, they will continue to do so.

We can only be aware. There is a story that the Buddha was asked if he was a god and replied, “No, I am a-wake”. While I don’t know if the phrase would work in his language, the sentiment of the story is clear. There comes a point of awareness when all else fades and the Universal Energy comes. Separation becomes a myth. Compassion is paramount, and this is not for certain special people only.

 

Jesus said, “These things I do, you shall do, and even greater things shall you do.” (John 14.12)   The Buddha stated that everyone could become a Buddha – an ‘enlightened one’.

 

Equality is not something to be striven for. It cannot be avoided.

 

We are one, whether we like it, or recognise it or not, for the same Spirit or Energy is within us all.

 

The question is – how shall we live with this knowledge?

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