I’ve been thinking about God lately, something I ordinarily do not do. Since today is Sunday, I thought I’d take a closer look at this and see if I can sort out what’s going on.
I was raised in an observant Catholic family in which the existence of God was a given. We always attended Sunday Mass, and my older brother and I attended Catechism classes on Saturday mornings for many years. I made it only so far as the second of the seven sacraments so I tell people I was only dipped in Catholicism, not dyed in the wool. When I was in junior high, we moved to another city for two years, and when we returned to our home town, the Church not only did not seem to have noticed we were ever gone, but also did not welcome us back. During those two years and immediately afterward, each one of us came to his or her own place of disillusionment with the Church and we all “fell away.” None of us has ever gone back.
When I was in high school, I succumbed to peer pressure and had a brief fling with born-again evangelical Christianity. Like most teenage affairs, it swiftly ran its course, but I think it left me a better person. I’ve had nothing to do with any church or religion since high school, and haven’t missed it. Until now.
For whatever reason–getting older, perhaps, and seeing the shadow of mortality falling closer to my parents as well as to myself–my thoughts are turning more often to what I have always called God (singular, male, omnipresent, omnipotent). When I was in the gift shop of a Catholic hospital a few weeks ago, I bought myself a silver bracelet that is a Möbius band engraved with The Lord’s Prayer, and I wear it often now.
I find myself reflecting on the words of the Bible that I know well, such as Psalm 23 or 1 Corinthians, and feeling the urge to pray and even to worship. I was in the bookstore a few nights ago and found myself closely examining the Bibles, wondering whether I should get myself a Daily Study Bible for Women. Then I realized I have four different Bibles at home, from the King James to a contemporary version called “The Message.” I’ve read it. I know the stories. I speak the language. But what do I believe?
All I can say for sure is that I am a deist: I believe God exists, which has been my conditioning from birth as well as my considered conclusion from examining the wondrous complexity and beauty of the world around me. Beyond that, I am a confirmed agnostic. I don’t pretend to know the form or nature or true name of God, I don’t know what he/she/it wants for or expects of me, and there is no theology in the world that I’m willing to accept as unerring in its entirety. I would not dare speculate as to how the universe originated or what happens to us after we die. So I’m not sure where to go with my recent ecclesiastical leanings.
In his book How to Know God, Deepak Chopra says, “We personify god as a convenient way of making him more like ourselves.” In other words, our idea of who and how God is correlates directly with how we see ourselves and our place in the world. Chopra lists the seven ways humans perceive God and how those ways correspond to what he calls “seven definite events taking place inside the brain.” These events or responses, which represent an ascending sequence of spiritual growth, are as follows:
Response: Fight or flight, the basic need to survive, fearful of the world
Vision of God: Protector or parent who looks out for us
Response: Reactive, recognizing that we have an identity and needs beyond mere survival and that we can accomplish things through our own will
Vision of God: Almighty, a god who makes laws and rules for the world and has the power to enforce them
Response: Restful awareness, seeking inner peace in a tumultuous world, centered and calm
Vision of God: God of Peace, a place of rest amidst chaos
Response: Intuitive, trusting our own knowledge of ourselves, growing and evolving
Vision of God: Redeemer, an understanding and forgiving god who validates us a fundamentally good and encourages us to reach our full potential
Response: Creative, inspired to invent, discover and build new things, able to manifest our dreams
Vision of God: Creator, the source of everything
Response: Visionary, aware of the existence of magic and able to contact “the light” of pure awareness
Vision of God: God of Miracles, an exalted being that delivers healing and miracles
Response: Sacred, aware of our divine source and origin, desiring oneness with God
Vision of God: Pure Being–I am, the foundation of all existence that brings us back to unity with him
As Voltaire observed, “If God did not exist, it would be necessary to invent him.”
I don’t see myself fitting neatly into Chopra’s matrix, though. If I were going to invent a god to suit myself, it would be an all-powerful goddess of infinite love who unerringly and unflinchingly delivers perfect justice to everyone in the world. That is a deity before whom I would most readily and reverentially bow.
Ultimately, of course, there are no definitive answers on the spiritual quest. One takes what one needs and leaves the rest, I suppose, and we each must make our own reckoning with the All That Is.
All instruction is but a finger pointing to the moon; and those whose gaze is fixed upon the pointer will never see beyond. Even let him catch sight of the moon, and still he cannot see its beauty. ~ Buddha