Last week we began to think of God as the agent of the universal phenomenon of ‘rising complexity’ as such agent continues the process of evolution through the development of our person, and how the acknowledgement of and cooperation with this fundamental agent is necessary to our growth and fulfillment of our potential.
This week we will beg to address the idea of a relationship to this agent by taking a look at the many approaches that the ancient sages have taken in the search for this universal thread which runs through our lives.
The Search for the ‘Basic Spark’
Last week we saw that if Teilhard’s assertion is true that
“It is through that which is most incommunicably personal in us that we make contact with the universal“
then our search for God begins with a search for ourselves. Most of the ancient sages, including Jesus, point to the belief that the most essential core of our being must be uncovered for us to attain our most authentic expression of being. This isn’t necessarily the ‘happiest’ or ‘most powerful’ state, but rather one in which we are ‘more complete’ and more aware of and able to achieve our full potential as persons.
Karen Armstrong, in her sweeping narrative, “The Great Transformation” identifies several areas of common ground among the six lines of thought in four parts of the world that constituted a new understanding of God and Self in the ‘Axial Age’ (900-200 BCE). She describes one of the earliest such insights in the Upanishads as:
“There is an immortal spark at the core of the human person, which participated in – was of the same nature as – the immortal Brahman that sustained and gave life to the entire cosmos. This was a discovery of immense importance and it would become a central insight in every major religious tradition. The ultimate reality was an immanent presence in every single human being.” (italics mine)
Armstrong saw this emerging realization as
“For the first time, human beings were systematically making themselves aware of the deeper layers of human consciousness. By disciplined introspection, the sages of the Axial Age were awakening to the vast reaches of selfhood that lay beneath the surface of their minds. They were becoming fully ‘Self-conscious’. This was one of the clearest expressions of a fundamental principle of the Axial Age. Enlightened persons would discover within themselves the means of rising above the world; they would experience transcendence by plumbing the mysteries of their own nature, not simply by taking part in magical rituals.” (italics mine)
From our perspective as seeing God as the upwelling of complexity in evolution that leads to the ‘person’, we can begin to see how ‘plumbing the mysteries or our own nature’ is a primary means of connecting to the ‘mystery of all nature’. It opens the door for a secular approach to “Finding God”.
Each of these six lines of thought (Confucianism and Daoism in China, Hinduism and Buddhism in India, Monotheism in Israel and philosophical rationalism in Greece) brought their own practices to this undertaking. Further, with the seemingly inevitable duality that emerges in each new philosophy (as addressed in 14-Apr What is Religion? Part 6: Stability Part 2) many different and often contradictory practices emerged even within each of the lines. Within Christianity, as we saw, the influence of Greek thinking led to seeing God as ‘other’, as opposed to an agent of being and growth at the basis of our person.
So, as it is easy to see, the path towards developing a connection to this inner source of life that is recognized by nearly all religions is not a simple thing. Finding a way to do so without being bound by the scaffolding and facades which abound in the canons of traditional religion is a very difficult undertaking.
The Next Post
This week we began to address the search for God as an active, immanent agent of our personal life.
But this does not answer the second part of our question: what does it mean to say that we can have a ‘relationship’ with such a God? Having now seen how we are connected to God by participating in this cosmic upwelling of complexity, next week we will address the undertaking of such a relationship.