Wednesday, January 17, 2018

God is Transpersonal: Dialouge

This is an old dialogue i found from 2012. That was a great year for me. It's a dialogue with two good friends whose view points I admire  The  subject is God and personal nature, see th original and the comment sction (20 comets) Here:

Dave and Kristen are two of the long time readers of the blog who have contributed comments on and off throughout the years. In this lattest round of disaluge with the two we have piled up a huge aount of text, far too much to use more than just one passage from each. I will focus on one issue, the personal/impersonal nature of God. Dave accuses me of sneaking anthropomorphism in through the back door with the concept of "trans-personal" (God is at least personal but on a higher level) While Kristen just reverses the charge: Dave is sneaking in an impersonal God. He's not sneaking it he's making frontal assault really.

Dave said...

Yes, analogies can be over-extended, but it still leaves "believers" with the inability to claim that others just don't want to find God, which is Metacrock's basic position. And it also begs the question of how important finding God is to God if God doesn't make such communication readily available to all.

I deny that my basic position is that others just don't want to find God. How could I claim that and also claim that God is working in other cultures? My habit is probably colored by my struggles with atheists over the last thirteen years. It's primarily the kind of people I find on CARM that I'm speaking of when I say things about how they don't want God. I do have good valid social scinece behind me to assume that atheists have a negative image of God connected to their own self images. The studies of Leslie Francis is a good start toward suggesting this. There's even more fundamental research on self image and God image done before Leslie.

Dave then asserts that if God doesn't make such communication viable, whatever he means by that(?) maybe he doesn't care about it either. My argument based upon the research of William James and of Robert Wuthnow assumes that revelation is primarily at a subliminal level and that there's a continuum of religious experience that can be most subtle at a level barely more overt than a tear drop or a warm fuzzy, all the way up to the kind of visions Isaiah had. This sort of communication is there all the time. Now for some it may be manifested through meditation. We think of meditation as an active thing, something we do. It's really listening. Maybe we just need to learn the language God is using to speak to us individually? Remember the Psalm "be still and know that I am God" (46:10). The first step there is "be still." It's a matter of listening to something that is unfolding in our own consciousness. It's a realization. Not "be still and hear" it's "be still and KNOW."

Dave imagines that what I mean by that is if you sit and think about it you have to be a Christian. I think no such thing. I've said before many times that we experience this communion with God at a subliminal level and then to talk about it, since it is beyond words, we must filter it through cultural constructs. That means that the Dalai Lama and Billy Graham are both experiencing the same reality but understand it in two radically different ways. The difference is in culture not in the divine. For a fuller explanation and Biblical evidence see my essay on "Salvation and Other Faiths." Yet, this does not preclude that reality manifesting itself in the flesh as a man from Nazareth. The man form Nazareth modeled divine love for us so we can see it up close and expressed in a human way. At the same time he never said "Join my social club."
Thus it makes much more sense to not think of God as a being with a personality and a personal will, because all the problems people have with God (from theodicy on down) stem from this image. "God wants", "God thinks", "God feels", "God wills". It's just human projection onto the divine that makes God either impotent, incompetent, incoherent, or immoral. If these personified views of God were themselves seen as over-extended analogies of the divine, God would have no qualities of planned action or volition except as realized in sentient beings.
I've said in the past that I don't use the term "personal" as it complicates the issues by dragging personality into it. This is hinting at the nature of trans-personal. Personality implies personal hang ups. In psychology personality theory is about what's wrong with people. That casts God in the role of big man in the sky and reduces him to human dimensions. So don't disagree with Dave here except in two ways: (1) there's a distinction between "personal" and conscious; (2) there's a distinction between willfull will or arbitrariness, and purpose. We speak of the will of God that's party an attempt to communicate the grandeur of the monarchical model of God's presence. Yet that is just a metaphor. If God was literally a king it would be a great come down from "that which nothing greater than can be conceived." Consciousness can be other directed and has to do with awareness; yet it does include self awareness. If God can distinguish between himself and us then he has a will different from our own. Purpose is not reduced to mere "will" becuase will can be stubborn and arbitrary and petulant, but purpose can be elevated and eligant and unselfish.
If "God" is instead a reaction to a recognition or realization or perception of some more inclusive and profound aspect of reality, that is, a cultural construct or image to capture the reaction to this new orientation to existence, then these other problems are avoided. God really does go beyond human language and categories of "personal" and "impersonal". Unlike mere claims that God is beyond these things which then turn around and try to sneak this anthropomorphic, personified "God" in through the back door: "Oh, God is beyond human categories and labels, but God wills this and God does that."
Here I think Dave is trying to herd all consciousness phenomena under the same rue-brick. He's not distinguishing between cultural constructs and consciousness itself. Nor is he being fair about the concessions we have to make to our own corporeal nature, or that God would have to make for us to understanding something. We can escape the need to understand and communicate by just falling in too silence and having mystical union. That's more than merely communicating, ti's communing. Yet we are still sentient beings, we are still social beings, we have to talk about it. We should put the "personal" in trans-personal. We have to deal with God through the construct or ewe can't talk about "him" at all. We can only related to things that can be said in words. All thinking is words, all words are culture. Everything that we can put into words is a cultural construct. That means even mathematics is such as this. I don't think Dave would suggest that doing mathematics si sneaking anthropomorphism in through he back door.

Then of course there is the concept of Godprophorphism. Can't some aspect of our consciousness and awareness be the image of God we think we are made in? That's not a real word by the way, that "Godpromorphism." If real term in Christina context is Imago Dei. I see not reason to exclude totally the Imago dei from an understanding of God. Both major types of musical experience are constant throughout all cultures and faiths. There is the sense of the numinous. This includes the Idea of the Holy and the all pervasive sense of love. Even eastern mystics go through a stage where they experience love and Bhuddists make a big deal out of the compassion of the Bhudda. No doubt they don't build it up the way we do as the expression of a personal God. Yet it's hard to see how love can exist apart form a mind or a consciousness or a purpose. The purpose of love is the will to the good of the other, definition of agape. So love very much involves purpose. There is also the the mysticism proper where one senses the undifferentiatd unity of all things. That's what westerners emphasize most in the east. That tends to be impersonal and to see like a void. Yet both are experienced by the same mystics all over the world. That is an absolute contradiction unless we realize that ni the trans-personal we have "personality plus," rather, getting away form personalty, consciousnesses and purpose and univeral mind (so that god is in all our minds--but not directing our thinking all the time) and yet behind all of that. God is conscious and beyond consciousness. This love is in God and he can relate to us (slumming) but he can also transcend our level and be totally beyond anything we can know. I can play with my cat, Vincent. Oddly enough he actually seem to understand the difference in a book (which he has not torn up yet) and a scarp of paper which he loves to tear up. Even though he has not torn up a book (if he touches one Legion of Superheroes out he goes) he's nto much a dialogue partner, he never discusses Tillich with me. The dog Arnie he wa a great dialogue partner. Everything I said about Tillich he agreed with and licked my face to prove it.

Lastly, some scholars suggest that belief in an afterlife and in resurrection became popular in Judaism after the Babylonian captivity because it was clear that the righteous weren't receiving justice in this life. Hence a new life was needed to settle accounts. But even in the time Jesus taught, as I am sure folks who read this blog know, there were still many in Judaism who did not believe in an afterlife.
I try to live in an eternal now. I relate the present moment to eternity. Now is what matters but now has a place in relation to forever.

Even among those who favor some notion of an afterlife in the Judeo-Christian tradition, before the whole "this world is nothing only the next world counts" attitude became common among some Christians, it was (and in many cases still is) very important not to make too much over such distinctions. As one monk said, what matters isn't whether you live in the next world but whether you are alive in this one.
That attitude is an ancient part of historic Christianity. We can trace it back to the 300s and St. Anthony the first monk in Egypt. I think i'ts a hold over from Gnosticism.

And to to some extent that is important even for those centered on the "next life". That is, either one must come to know God in "this life" to have an afterlife (or one without torture) or one actually comes to know that there is no afterlife per se, simply finding the true depth of life within this temporary bodily experience.
Anything we say about this is pure speculation, that goes as much for eastern models as Western. I invision it in a number of differnt ways. I hope it's a replay of my childhood but I doubt it. I think it may feel that way. Who cares? that can't be anything more than speculation. I envision a sort of eastern Nervonic unity with Christ in God.

Even those who favor the "this life"/"afterlife" scenario without hell or eternal damnation recognize the value and importance of what people learn and how much they grow and mature in "this life". So claims that everyone will come to know God, even if it isn't in this life, ring hollow. It sounds just like the claims of those who needed to believe in divine justice by believing in an afterlife or resurrection so that they could maintain a view of God consistent with their pre-established beliefs.
We need to be careful not to mistake our own sense of disillusionment with eastern maturity. We can talk about what others "need to believe" that's a way of hiding what we need to believe. I don't necessarily agree with the universalist senerio that everyone will believe and be saved. Yet I don't see why it would ring hallow?

Again, if "God" is just a personified construct of some deeper experience of consciousness and if consciousness is the ground of being, then all of these rationalizations and theological assertions about why God would or wouldn't do X, Y, Z become moot along with much of the distinction between "this life" and an "after life".
Why rationalizations? He seems to just be condemning the "known" end of the spectrum of analogical language. All religious language is analogical. Does he think the east get's it literally right and we are the only one's with a metaphor? The Buddhists are literaizing the metaphors too. They hav etheir fundies. If you think not you should hear Sakai Goki devotees talk about eh Hinayana style of Buddhism. We have endless string of metaphors that lead inexorably close and closer to the literal truth of God and yet never get there. We can't go thinking that we are so much closer than the others just becasue your metaphors are different. We can't stop using the metaphors because that's what we have to navigate by. That's why they are there so we can relate to something we know.

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