Wednesday, June 6, 2007

"God"

It struck me forcefully this morning that whenever we use the word "God," we really ought to put it in quotation marks, for who has the slightest, vaguest idea what he or she is talking about? Who has any idea at all, really, whoever or whatever "God" might signify?

Of course, those who have a handy "holy book" that for them spells it all out will say that they know very well who "God" is. He's the Being, for example, who created the world in six days and on the seventh day rested, etc.

Well, I formulated my views on that yesterday, in response to Maliha's excellent observation that "We all have our own narratives that help us make sense of the world and help us figure out our own place in the universe." I replied that I guess mine, at the moment, is that man created [the concept of] "God" and concocted a fabulous marketing campaign to convince the masses that it was the other way around. The Roman Catholic Church, for example, has developed a stern regimen of "papal infallibility" to keep the troops in line. I guess it wasn't so much a "marketing campaign" as a political power play.

Maliha also observed that a person's background affects the way he or she perceives the world. I suspected, in my case, that my distrust of authority must be among the most salient factors influencing me. Papal infallibility, of course, works really well into my anti-authoritarian strain.

Ironically (or maybe just naturally) it was the authoritarian weight of the Bush administration's pandering to the American religious right that seems to have provoked my current reexamination of religion and my relationship to it....

Whether or not Howard Nemerov was right that
The world's just mad enough to have been made
By the Being his beings into Being prayed*
I myself do seem mad enough for something...yet to be determined.
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* That's Nemerov's poem "Myth of Creation on a Moebius Band" in its entirety.

2 comments:

  1. Peace,
    My concept of "God" is tied to purpose and meaning...I wonder how a narrative that questions His existence would answer the big question of "Why we are here?" or the purpose of our existence.

    You asked me about the "myriad ways of knowing" and I will pick it up here, since it's related:

    Intuition, dreams, visions, prophecy, Revelation, Imagination, Insight, Inspiration...Okay that's eight, if I think of two more I will be back.

    Einstein mentioned once that he had flashes of insight into the solution to the most complex problems he worked on; and then set about the arduous task of laying out the proof.

    Maybe there is wisdom in the fact that we can't "prove to each other beyond doubt..." these intangibles we hold dear. The journey to unfolding is necessarily a solitary one.

    take care of you.

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  2. Thanks, dear Maliha, for enumerating a few "ways of knowing." I'm not sure, though, that intuition, imagination, insight, inspiration (and even dreams and visions) aren't just synonyms of the same thing. I'm familiar with a fair amount of the literature on creativity (and have even given workshops in "creative problem-solving"). I see all of these words or concepts as ways of trying to understand the workings of the unconscious (or "subconscious").

    If I've tended to think of them as being facilitated by one's muse, I've done so using "muse" as hardly more than another synonym, a poetic way of speaking about the workings of mind.

    A twentieth-century giant of practical creativity, Napoleon Hill (who was charged and funded by Andrew Carnegie to go out and study the subject), had the concept of a "Master Mind," which he certainly talked about as though it were some sort of metaphysical entity, but he may really have thought of it as another poetic way of talking.

    It is of course more comforting (and maybe even truer) to think that one really has a muse, that there really is a Master Mind (and that I really do have a "spirit self" who knows at what point on the tape I fell asleep listening to a book).

    Robert Louis Stevenson said that he intentionally exploited hypnagogic imagery and purposely dreamed variations on works in progress (if he wasn't satisfied with an idea he had "received" previously).

    Einstein's case is particularly interesting, for he even said that he could feel solutions or ideas with his body, kinetically. And cases like Mozart's are utterly astounding, that he and other such artists were "delivered" entire works, which they wrote as though "taking dictation." (I think of the image of Muhammad as it has been represented to me, although I believe he "took dictation" over a number of years, whereas Mozart apparently "got his inspirations" in a flash, all at once.)

    Is it fair to ask: Maybe we aren't here for a reason? Maybe there is no purpose? Maybe we have the option to make our own reason, discover our own purpose?

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