20 July 2010


I read that someone prayed through the space of all the millions of galaxies to Heaven, where God resides." Since childhood, as have many people, I wondered where Heaven and God were located, especially at night when gazing up at the Milky Way. It was good practice for gazing into Nothingness. Many people think of Heaven as upward through the sky and beyond the galaxies. Ancient civilizations did the same: They thought the stars were actual lights from the abode of the Gods.

Explanation of one's personal theology. That, of course, is quite a project which few people have done. In fact, though, I have written a fair amount concerning my personal theological beliefs, scattered among various poems and short essays. Really, poetry in face of the Ultimate Sublime is a legitimate refuge for what normally is ineffable. Here is an sample I wrote ("Pyrenean" refers to the mountains; "transhumant" refers to moving sheep up and down mountains following the seasons):

--"Like transhumant Pyrenean shepherds
my thoughts at times nourish in lowlands
revolving about quotidian physicality
such as whether Cajun seasoning works
in adzuki bean soup simmering on my hearth
or whether Roncal sheep cheese
will make my palate zing
--make it zing and zing.

At times my mind migrates upslope
to nourish seasonally at montane heights
on alpine meadow flowers and forbs
of rarified thought
such as whether black holes sing
or on the topology of the Universe,
whether space curves back onto itself
returning to where it all began
with no edges or ledges falling into nowhere
and whether as it circles around
it sings
--circling around it sings.

I’d like to think that space-time,
matter, light and thought all sing
as they zing upslope and down
and round and round.
And, like alpenglow at dusk and dawn
irradiating empyrean heights in lights
of life and thought flowing up, down, around
in a knowable Universe of arcing shape
that thinks, knows, and sings
--it thinks and knows
and knows
as it sings and glows." --

"Transcendental" is a curious word and speaks to my personal religious project over the last decade. However, I would say I have been attempting to what might be (or not) the opposite: to "DEtranscendentalize" my thinking. A familiar example of this thinking comes from the well known poem by William Blake:

--"To see a World in a Grain of Sand
And a Heaven in a Wild Flower
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand
And Eternity in an hour."--

This is not to say I am a Naturalist, with Naturalism the view that the only things that exist are matter and energy and that which supervenes upon matter and energy--in a word, an atheist. "Supervene" is interesting here; an example is the quality of "wetness" is a supervention of the molecules of oxygen and hydrogen. Another example is the science view of epiphenomenalism, that the mind, for example, is only the product of the material brain. Tried that for a while during years of spiritual anomie in my very early twenties while undergraduate at U. of Kentucky. It didn't fit well.

But, here it gets complex--that is, if I can explain it at all.

Let me back up to outline my own religio-bio-narrative. In Christian shorthand, I was "saved" twice, first as a nine-year-old, convicted partly by the God-as-Adjudicator sentiment, and later as part of the Charismatic Jesus Freak movement during the very early 1970s. I remember we danced in the spirit looking like bearded Apostles and Mary Magdelenes with tambourines and bathed-in-the-spirit rapturousness. Later, I flip-flopped and became intrigued with Buddhism, meeting first with a group of Japanese Buddhists, later with Tibetan Buddhists, gazing, again, into Nothingness (it looked familiar!). The Christian group with whom I feel the most affinity is the Quakers, with whom I have met during several different periods of time. Also, I was initiated into a sect of Taoism in Taiwan.Zen continues to appeal to me with its irreverential stance. But, a large influence in my spiritual life has been initiation into Sant Mat, an ancient Indian practice that has much similarity to Gnosticsm, traveling to India four times to a desert ashram in Rajastan and to California many times for extended meditations. But, I won't bring in the extremely esoteric teachings of Sant Mat.

Let me revert to some formal theology (before flying off!): Paul Tillich defines God as the "ground of Being." If so, then its realization, for me, becomes an interplay between a transcendental/detranscendental state of consciousness. I do not mean to imply a pantheism (although, it seems to me that the most promising work being done today in theology is in eco-feminist theology), but a consciousness in which the mysterious facticity of existence itself is deeply internalized in a realization of a blessed state--the mysterium tremendum.

So, it's another of the numerous paradoxes (paradox constitutes a big part of my worldview): we must transcend by descending into wonder; wonder of the material Universe, that experience of the radical and ineffable mystery of Being encountered at the boundaries of understanding. I see it gazing into the night sky; I experience it when I gaze deeply inward. The inward gaze into Nothingness is also to contact with Ground of Being.

As I like to say, I strive to be a conscious co-worker of the Divine Plan, even though I might not know the Plan, and sometimes expressed it as having faith in non-faith. That's okay, I know that I am but a drop in the Ocean of All-Consciousness and the "ground of Being" is deep within.

With the Being I dance an unfettered pas-de-deux with the terpsichorean, Embracing Universe.

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