We are neither separated from God nor on a journey toward God. We are immersed in God, like fish in an infinite ocean
All know that the drop merges into the ocean, but few know that the ocean merges into the drop – Kabir, fifteenth century Hindu mystic
Defining our relationship with God (Divinity/Theos) is a fundamental role of all faiths. Just as defining our relationship to the universe is one question science attempts to answer.
Often, we depend on metaphor to help us do that.
And all metaphors are imperfect. Our culture, our experience and our scientific knowledge all change, which means that our interpretation has to change as well.
Traditional Christianity is grounded in the idea that we can somehow be “separated” from God the way we can be separated from our parents, or family, or friends. Reconciliation, or “repentance”, is treated much like a Dr. Phil intervention: take these actions, say these words, and all will be well.
More contemporary images modify this idea, talking about our “spiritual journey” toward God. They allude to how, though there may be many paths, there’s only one destination – unity with Theos/Divinity/God. But they assume that unity does not now exist.
Science, taking the same isolationist approach to the cosmos, has long treated all of the components of the universe as separate and distinct entities which can be studied and understood independently of each other.
What’s becoming clear, however, as our understanding of Creation evolves, is that there’s no part of it that is, or ever can be, separated from any other. In science, this concept is modeled in disciplines such as quantum mechanics. In theology it would probably best be described as the immanence of God.
We are neither separated from God nor on a journey toward God.
We are, in effect, immersed in God, like fish in an infinite ocean.
That too, of course, is an imperfect metaphor. Fish are as distinct from the water that surrounds them as we are from the air that surrounds us; and the oceans that we know of are not infinite; we can leave them. But I think that it’s an image that can help us move beyond the constricting in or out aspect of our traditional understanding. That makes it a more useful metaphor for our time and place. It reflects our recognition that “God” – however we want to conceive of God – is not only omnipresent, but is inextricably and inseverably interconnected with us and all of Creation.
It requires that we give up, once and for all, the image of Theos as some sort of lightning-wielding Zeus-god in the sky. And that’s okay, because it highlights the importance of our living agapé relationship with all.
For in him we live, and move, and have our being – Christian Bible, Acts 17:28, attributed to Paul, quoting Epimenides, 6th century BC Greek philosopher
We don’t need a “destination” or “reconciliation” to be one with God. Theos was, is and always shall be, one with us.
Being immersed in God means that we experience God in whatever place, time and circumstance we find ourselves. Even if we never move from that place our entire lives.
To experience God more fully, however, we need to “swim.” We need to explore. We need to reach out in myriad different directions; in three dimensions. Having the assurance that we cannot be separated from God gives us the freedom to do that. More, it becomes part of what we’re called to do as people of faith. It’s the only way we can encounter more of God. It’s the only way in which we can discover how God has been understood by other people in other places at other times.
It’s the only way in which we can see God through the eyes of others.
To be immersed in God means that there’s no need to adhere to arcane, artificial doctrine in order to avoid “eternal damnation.”
Literalists claim that without that threat, we have no incentive to be “good.” Although it’s true that human beings do sometimes respond to threats of violence, the reality is that approaching agapé that way reduces life to nothing more than a means to an end. Any good that we do here is inconsequential, the meaning of our lives insignificant.
Atheists, on the other hand, often end up abandoning any meaning whatsoever. They reduce life to nothing more than the material, making immediate self-interest the only motivation worth pursuing.
However to understand ourselves as immersed in God is exactly the opposite. It gives meaning to everything. Every action we take, every decision we make, being interconnected to everything else in Creation, has an effect on every other part of the universe, no matter how great or small.
It’s a living meaning that only grows stronger, deeper and more enriching the more we allow ourselves to become aware of it and to let it guide our choices.
To “love” God – to be in agapé relationship with Creation – is the Greatest Commandment.
Accepting that we’re inseverably immersed in God is only the starting point.
Where will we take it from there?
- PHILOSOPHY: Bibles: 117 Versions? (thomasmcgregor.wordpress.com)