God – Is there really one?

Spiritual Questions & Answers

Discovering inner health and transformation

Creator God
God as Creative Force

Many people sense that there is a deeper aspect of reality. A spiritual force behind the universe.

To my mind this divine level of what is real is pure love and the source of all that explains the meaning of life. It is wisely working away in our hearts and minds. This is the infinite and eternal God of religion, beyond gender, beyond the bounds of space and time, and beyond our full comprehension.

Christ as God

According to much western world religion, this mighty spiritual force is manifest as the Christ within the human soul who inspires our feelings and thoughts with his altruistic love and higher intelligence. A new way of expressing this is as follows. We are an image of Christ’s divine humanity who like us has heart, head and hands – although in his case it is a heart of compassion, a head of wisdom and hands of power.

This is the Christ with whom we can pray and relate to on a personal footing; the divine that flows into our conscience to guide us towards the ethical and moral life. Of ourselves we do not have the ability to inspire and illuminate our lives. But cooperating with the Christ within we can find the divine life as if it were our own.

Intervention of God

Many people can accept that there is no dark side to God and that human suffering and what is evil is caused by some human beings turning away from the values of mutual care and instead focusing exclusively on self-orientation. In my view the Divine is all-loving, all-knowing and whilst present everywhere is beyond time and place. It respects our freedom to decide for ourselves what kind of life we want to lead and so does not intrude to control human affairs.

This deity does not stop suffering, and like loving parents does allow us, the offspring, to learn the lessons of life the hard way whilst at the same time it counter-balances what is bad by providing what is good. Parents continue to provide for and support their children throughout their difficulties and misfortunes. When God does this for all of us, it is called the work of loving providence.

I would say that Divine life flows invisibly into the world to offset disease with healing, temper hate with love, and moderate despair with inspiration. This is done in relation to the smallest detail of life and so despite how things appear, nothing actually happens by chance. If the work of providence were obvious then we would not be free to believe or disbelieve in the divine as the spiritual origin of our lives.

According to this view, God is concerned with long-term goals not short-lived happiness. Only in retrospect can we hope to see the way traumas and suffering has functioned as growth points in our spiritual learning.

Evidence for God

One cannot prove the existence of God which is invisible. But there is evidence to support the Divine nature. Unless God were revealed, humanity would only have a dim awareness that the divine within comes from a higher power creating all that is good. And so I would say that God is manifest as the Christ of history. Also facets of the divine are shown both in the world of nature and in the sacred scriptures of the world’s religions.

Nature is said to be red in tooth and claw. But it also shows a positive side. There is beauty as well as ugliness in plant life, affection as well as cruelty in the animal kingdom, and safety as well as danger on land and sea. What is good in nature symbolically shows the qualities of the divine in our thoughts and feelings. What is bad mirrors the corrupting influence of humanity’s self-orientation.

The Divine is widely acknowledged as revealed in sacred writings of especially inspired individuals. Beneath the various authentic religious traditions and customs there is a common core of spiritual teaching. This is not surprising if they have a common source. What is revealed is what all religions teach i.e. :-

  • Human beings experience two realms of reality, the world of physical objects and the world of spirit, the latter being the realm of consciousness.
  • We have a centre of transcendent awareness and are able to relate intimately to the divine spark, which is the foundation of all reality.
  • Realising our spiritual nature is the highest goal and greatest good of human existence.

Copyright 2013 Stephen Russell-LacyAuthor of  Heart, Head & Hands  Swedenborg’s perspective on emotional problems

 

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th July 2010CategoriesMeaning of life, ReligionTags, ,, , , , ,, , , , , ,, , ,  Leave a comment

Multiply Yourself – Everywhere!

Be honest. Don’t you wish everyone would think and be like you? If you could turn everyone else into “you,” the world would be six billion times better. I am not kidding.

Furthermore, you actually have the power to do so.

Not only would it be a good thing to turn everyone else into copies of “you,” God wants you to do precisely just that! In fact, it is actually one of God’s great commandments. The commandment is to love thy neighbor as oneself.

Confused? Let me explain.

God really does want us to look at others and see ourselves. But this is not to be understood as a spreading out of one’s self-centeredness in all directions. It is an act of humility.

When one person loves another as him or herself, he or she will then see the other in oneself, and oneself in the other. This spiritual love and consciousness is called empathy.

It is not the multiplication or the forcing of one’s will upon everyone else, either. It is the harmonious unification of the wills of many.

This unites one person with another. And even better, unites one society with another.

This union does not superimpose our likeness upon another person. Rather, it allows us all to take on the likeness of the Lord God, who is Divine Love.

Heaven is a likeness of the Lord because it consists of those who live in spiritual love and unity. Heaven on earth is the adoption of neighborly love by all its terrestrial citizens.

This is the deeper meaning within God’s command to be “fruitful and multiply.” God wants us each to increase the good in the world.

That would indeed make the world six billion times better.

Posted on September 5, 2008by thegodguy

Posted in god, Inner growth, love, psychology, Reality, religion, spirituality, unity | Tagged , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Atheists and Quantum Theory

 

While I personally do not believe that quantum theory is yet a complete theory, as a philosopher/theologian, I derive some satisfaction in that its implications challenge the ideas of material realists who find no need for there to be a Creator-God.

Quantum theory holds that fundamental reality consists not of actual “stuff” but of possibilities or tendencies to exist. In other words, before something becomes an actual, non-reversible physical event, it first existed in strange mixed state of occupying multiple locations simultaneously (called the superposition principle).

Staunch materialists are obliged to live with the uneasy idea that fundamental reality is non-material and its activity is non-local, that is, the domain of quantum potentials is not in spacetime. So the ordered universe of classical measurement does not have its origins in a physical cause.

This has led some (brave) physicists to suspect that mind or consciousness is fundamental to the material universe, its laws, and forces.

Furthermore, there is a problem of figuring out how the world of classical (Newtonian) mechanics, that we directly experience, can be governed by fundamental randomness at the quantum microscopic scale. There is a real contradiction between the physics of the very small and the physics of the very large. However, since the universe is a unified whole, one must be the logical outcome of the other.

I believe this can only be resolved if there is a non-material organizing principle already operating on the quantum level. That is, potentials are not to be understood as random but as deterministic. Consciousness and mind are the only operations I know of that cannot be pinpointed in space, yet, as principles of agency, they always work with possibilities and seek to determine these possibilities into concrete forms.

Consciousness and mind are the only operations non-physically complex enough to explain nature’s incessant drive for self-organization and bio-complexity as emerging from a realm of mere potentials.

Here is where theology can now enter into the equation. What non-material principle of consciousness and mind has the aptitude and drive to create a unified and coherent universe? What non-material principle would tell us that it came from God?

The answer is LOVE. The essence of love is to unite. Nothing is more apparent in the observable universe than its profound capacity to create structure by forming relationships.

I predict the next upheaval in science will come from the recognition that love is more than a romantic notion. Love is the ultimate substance and non-material principle of agency in the universe.

Love is also the fabric of our spirit and life. What we love and intend governs how we choose to turn the inner realm of possibility into the concrete activities of our physical bodies.

Posted on July 24, 2008 by thegodguy

This entry was posted in god, Inner growth, love, metaphysics, Reality, religion, science, spirituality, unity and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Sacred things – Do they matter?

Ordinary life is filled with cares and concerns. We each get taken up with earning a living, the needs of our family, the problems of where we live or whatever. Don’t you sometimes yearn to re-discover a sense of balance and composure? Many people do this by re-connecting with a magical place where they have experienced a special moment. A place they have come to regard as sacred.

The word ‘sacred’

The word ‘sacred’ is a religious word. Whether you are a member of a faith tradition or none, any place can be seen as sacred if it is especially important to you. One person’s religion may be another’s superstition or folk belief, eg good-luck charms or religious relics may be imbued by some with mystical powers.

According to spiritual philosopher Emanuel Swedenborg, in the distant past, ancient people would be reminded of inward human qualities by physical things e.g. a heart – representing love; a snake – sensory pleasure; a sword – integrity in fighting for what is right. But in the course of time, he says, this symbolic knowledge was lost. Later generations mistakenly assumed there was supposed to be something inherently holy in such things and thus began to superstitiously revere them as idols.

What is sacred

What you regard as sacred doesn’t have to be what you have you been told by others but what you experience within. It is a very personal matter. It might not be a place at all but rather an activity, an object or even an idea.

“What is sacred can refer to something that one cherishes, that is precious” (Rick Hanson, neuropsychologist)

sacredPerhaps it is something you respect that is so different from what is ordinary & mundane that it is beyond language to describe. This might be because it makes you feel safe. Or perhaps it reminds you of your deeper values. Or perhaps it inspires a sense of wonder and awe that touched your soul. And so you want to keep whatever it is unspoilt and pure.

Sacred activity

What is a blessing to you might be a walk in the woods that you love. It could be meditating – there is a sacred space in the mindful moment. Maybe its when listening to that special piece of music or reading that favourite book that deeply affects you.

Some say you know what it is when you feel connected with a sense of what is profoundly good and wise.

“Whether we’re religious or not, a prayer is the acknowledgment of something greater than ourselves. It is a ritual that allows us to create space for hope even in the tiniest prison, including the prison of our mind.” (Tim Leberecht, spiritual writer)

Sacred ideas

What is revered by you might simply be an idea that you value and regard as precious; for example a specific thing that reminds you of the principle of honesty with your life partner, the innocence of childhood, your sense of vocation, or the value of social justice. When you recall the idea, it stands apart in its significance for you giving a renewed sense of purpose and hope.

Why we need something sacred

Don’t we all need to get in touch with something, in our heart of hearts, that is really dear to us and worth dedicating ourselves to? Something that goes beyond the self and that is very real and powerful, pure and good. Imagine a life in which nothing was consecrated for you – or to anyone else. To me, such a life would be empty and sterile.

Responding to the sacred

Whatever it is that you feel is worthy of veneration why not return to it? You can then get to know what it is like to be touched by it. I happen to believe that by setting aside a little time to do this, on a regular basis, you can be taken away from your ordinary concerns so that your mood and mind is lifted to a higher plane.
I really believe there is something divine in everything if you want to find it. Whether it’s in the smile of a child, the handshake of a stranger, the sound of birdsong, or the newly opening buds of a snowdrop.

Copyright 2016 Stephen Russell-Lacy
Author Heart, Head & Hands

 

Communication of higher awareness.

Has a new kind of uplifting perception or intuition ever come to you? Perhaps a sense of wholeness or timelessness, or an encounter with a side to reality that goes beyond the world as we usually know it. A short moment when you sensed that something new has been revealed – something usually hidden? Communication of such illumination can be problematic.

Trying to remember this sort of deep experience can be difficult because ordinary language seems unable to capture the essence of the thing. Perhaps you would love to convey something of the positive nature of what you have gone through to your partner or close friend. But how do you do this? How does one communicate something which seems to be different from common life?

communicationVerbal and non-verbal communication

You may talk about and show your feelings using tone of voice and facial expression. But this is only a communication about how you have reacted to the experience rather than saying anything about the experience itself. You may try to use the language of religion or mysticism to describe it but often the words used by these are off-putting, ambiguous or carry connotations that are not what you are trying to get at.

In communicating your experience one approach you might try is to write a poem. This isn’t quite as daft as it seems. A lot of the world’s mystical writing is couched in verse using poetic licence to convey impressions and ideas. You don’t even have to use poetry. Prose can also employ imagery to communicate something of a deeper side to existence.

In choosing imagery you might try using simile or metaphor as follows:

Using image of mountains for communication

For example perhaps your extraordinary consciousness showed you a higher and wider perspective on things, in which case you might refer to it as a ‘mountain-top’ experience e.g. glimpsing a higher aspiration in life for yourself which might become the summit of your achievement and worth all your effort to climb to the peak. We speak of ‘faith being able to move mountains’; and so if you believe in what you are doing, you can overcome any obstacle.

Using image of olive oil for communication

Alternatively, your moment of higher awareness may have been a sense of kindness and harmony. This perception might be conveyed in terms of olive oil. Don’t we speak of ‘pouring oil on troubled waters’. This image reflects a concern for resolving discord and conflict so that calm and agreement is restored. A small act of kindness can ‘oil the wheels’ of social interaction and make things run more smoothly.

Using image of lions for communication

Your special illumination may have been catching sight of that intangible thing we call courage – perhaps having a foretaste of the kind of confidence needed to turn round and face one’s personal difficulties. Using an image of the lion may express this positive feeling, for we speak of being ‘brave as a lion’ – a creature which has every reason to be a confident being, as it is, the top predator in its natural habitat. To ‘beard the lion’ would indeed be to confront danger using divine power within.

Using image of pearls for communication

Or perhaps you have had a deep experience of inner safety and stillness. The pearl comes to mind. The pearl is valued for its lustre. We speak of an important piece of advice as a pearl of wisdom. Protected by its oyster shell, it had laid quiet and still on the sea bed. You may come to value the perception about divine protection you gained in the quietness and stillness of your meditating mind.

Using image of the sun for communication

One of the most inspiring of all inner experiences is to feel in the presence of the source of all life – the love and light without which nothing that is good could exist. This is a consciousness of cosmic energy originating and sustaining not only our physical life but also our spiritual one. The light and warmth can go out of our life when we lose a loved one. We also feel in the dark and cold when we lose a sense of the spiritual light and heat which is the source of our soul. The sun with its heat and light is a wonderful emblem of this power house for all our creativity and growth.

Swedenborg on correspondence

The well known maxim ‘As above, so below‘ means that the elements of our higher consciousness correspond to the things of nature. In his exploration of this esoteric idea, the spiritual philosopher Emanuel Swedenborg shows in a lot of detail how our higher thoughts can be communicated in terms of the natural things of the world.

Furthermore he maintains that because natural things – such as in the mineral, plant and animal kingdoms – are created by God, they can reflect what is good that comes from God.

“The whole natural order is a theatre representative of the Lord’s kingdom.” (Emanuel Swedenborg)

Corruption

However, one needs to bear in mind what he also says about some parts of nature which can represent a corruption of what comes from the Divine Source – hence the existence of what is noxious, poisonous, or otherwise harmful as well as that which is nourishing, delightful, and protective.

Communication of images from animal kingdom

Alive and moving, animals in a good sense such as the lion he says can represent human desires including higher feelings.

Communication of images from vegetable kingdom

Swedenborg maintains that plants, which have growth but not movement, like the olive tree, can represent what needs inwardly nourishing and enlivening in human beings and thus potential stages of their spiritual growth.

Communication of images from mineral kingdom

There are non-living natural things such as mountains and the sun which neither move nor grow. He says these can represent spiritual resources for human nurturing and growth and thus both the ends and beginning of human endeavour.

In other words images of natural things can convey to others our higher awareness of spiritual reality.

Copyright 2015 Stephen Russell-Lacy

Author Heart, Head & Hands

Posted on9th November 2015CategoriesConsciousness, Latest post, Meaning of life,Mystical experience, SymbolismTags, , , ,

Disappointment: a blessing in disguise?

disappointment
Blessing in disguise?

The disappointing terrorist attack of 9/11 was clearly not a blessing in disguise. Evil got its way and many people were very badly physically and emotionally hurt. Nor in any conceivable way can many a disappointing setback be described as a piece of good fortune even if tiny morsels of something positive might be salvaged from such events. On the other hand sometimes a personal trouble can have a unexpected opportunity for a helpful outcome. For example occasionally a bout of illness can help a patient re-appraise an unhealthy lifestyle. The difficulty is in recognising what might possibly be a blessing when your expectations are so severely dashed against the painful rocks of reality. Here are 5 questions that will help you look for any blessing in disguise after you suffer a disappointment.

Was the disappointment due to your unrealistic expectations?

Sometimes when you think life is predictable, the universe has other plans. You may be taken by surprise, if for some reason you complacently suppose calamity will always affect somebody else and not yourself. Yet people do get injured on the roads in large numbers. Nobody can tell what is around the corner. Who can say one won’t get run over by a bus tomorrow?

You may assume you always get your just deserts. Don’t we reap what we deserve? But actually this is may not be the case. A drunken driver or a badly maintained aircraft can be the sole cause of mayhem to innocent passengers.

Was the disappointment something of your own making?

Not everyone learns from their own mistakes. The painful inflamed tendon in my arm was frustrating as it forced me to rest and ration my work of splitting logs instead of overdoing it everyday. It was my wife, who rightly pointed out, that I needed to learn to pace myself in re-using muscles and tendons which have grown tight and weak due to under-use. Apparently it is a common problem for gardeners to rush out in the spring and strain their backs after a winter of inactivity.

Did the disappointment show greater effort was needed?

I got excessively cross with my young grandson who was refusing to abide by the rules of the board game we were playing. Sometimes adults forget just how noisy, untidy and demanding they themselves were when children. My emotionality spoiled what should have been a leisurely family occasion. I have now resolved to try harder to be more patient with the boy whilst still remaining firm about the rules.

“What keeps me going is a constant sense of disappointment with what I’ve already done.” (Robert Wyatt, rock musician)

If we see a setback as a challenge then it can be a stimulant for bigger effort.

Did the disappointment broaden your horizons?

Say you were to suffer a major misfortune such as losing your job through redundancy, or your spouse through marital breakdown or death. Then you would be faced with a huge challenge. Perhaps having to find a livelihood doing a different kind of work. Or having to cope as a single person with no partner to intimately support you face life. In either case you will probably be obliged to get out of your comfort zone: deal with new kinds of situation: learn new skills: meet new people.

“Disenchantment, whether it is a minor disappointment or a major shock, is the signal that things are moving into transition in our lives.” (William Throsby Bridges, senior military officer)

If you happened to have a tendency towards self-pity here is an opportunity to stop adopting the victim role. This role seeks to focus on blaming something or someone else for one’s troubles. If you are such a person you will have a chance to learn instead the role of the survivor and adopt the courage that is required to tackle the unknown and experience the new confidence that comes from success.

Did the disappointment mean you need to put your hope in something beyond yourself?

When you feel like you don’t have the physical, mental, or emotional strength to pull through, you are challenged to possibly put trust in something more than yourself – whatever that may be.

” As someone who has faced as much disappointment as most people, I’ve come to trust not that events will always unfold exactly as I want, but that I will be fine either way.” (Marianne Williamson, spiritual teacher)

This reminds me of the biblical story of Jonah. His conscience told him to go to do a job of work but he didn’t want to do it and so he journeyed in the opposite direction only to end up in the sea and swallowed by a whale. In his distress he called to his God for help, vowing to make amends for his disobedience. The whale vomited him safely on to dry land.

Conclusion on disappointment

I would suggest there is no such thing as bad luck. Facing and dealing with setbacks is a part of life for all of us.

If you will, you can choose to find only the negative in your disappointment.

“When disappointment festers in our soul, it leads to discouragement.” (Joyce Meyer, Christian speaker)

Or you can look for possible blessings in disguise.

“If we will be quiet and ready enough, we shall find compensation in every disappointment.” (Henry David Thoreau, transcendentalist poet)

Emanuel Swedenborg, spiritual philosopher, claimed there is a loving Divine Providence, under whose rule, bad things are allowed to happen, if some lessons of life can result. According to this view, your time here on earth can teach you how to be more spiritually mature and thus experience a deeper long-lasting happiness.

“We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.” (Martin Luther King, Jr., Christian activist)

Copyright 2015 Stephen Russell-Lacy
Author of  Heart, Head & Hands  Swedenborg’s perspective on emotional problems

Posted on26th February 2015CategoriesConsciousness, Latest post, Meaning and inspiration, Meaning of life, SufferingTags, ,, , ,

Does the brain fully explain consciousness?

brain fully explain consciousness
The increase in green fluorescence represents the imaging of local translation at synapses during long-term synaptic plasticity

According to neuroscience, the brain fully explain consciousness. Sensory impressions of what we see and hear cause electrical activity in the brain. There is evidence that when a new memory is formed, new proteins are made locally at the synapse — the connection between nerve cells — increasing the strength of the synaptic connection and reinforcing the memory. The journal Science reveals that neuroscientists have captured an image for the first time of this mechanism.

You may wonder that if memories are chemically and electrically stored in this way, does this mean that your brain is the be-all and end-all of your memory and that without your brain you would remember nothing after death? Is it true that the brain fully explains consciousness?

It would seem so. After all, many brain diseases such as Alzheimer’s, and Parkinson’s can cause memory loss, as can brain injury.

Brain a necessary but insufficient cause?

And so the human mind is often explained away as nothing more than the workings of the brain. Neuroscientist, Raymond Tallis, believes that the brain is clearly necessary for our having memories. But he also wonders if it is a sufficient explanation of the experience of remembering. He points out that the brain is a mechanism but the content of memory is not entirely contained in the mechanism of electrical impulses going along nerve fibres. He feels we need a bit more and suggests what that bit more is, no scientist knows.

The spiritual thinker might point out that the redness of something remembered or its beauty cannot just be due to what happens in the activity of matter of the brain but has something to do with a consciousness of mind that transcends matter. The brain fully explain consciousness?  Well perhaps not after all.

Brain as detector or activator of mind?

Wilder Penfield was a brain surgeon. His patients frequently reported hearing hazy voices coming from some strange and unknown place when he stimulated the right temporal lobes of their exposed brains with a mild electric current. Elaborate recollections and other conscious experiences did occur at such times. However he went on to say these were either automatic, as in epileptic seizures, or felt to be caused by the surgeon’s probes.  He thus concluded that direct electrical stimulation of the brain never activated the person’s mind.

A. R. Lauria, neuropsychologist, has pointed out that, for many centuries, philosophers and other scholars supposed that the brain was a detector (rather than an activator) of mind, which itself was seen as an inner, subjective state of consciousness. Like many spiritual ideas such a theory is these days seen as not amenable to scientific proof.

Personal choice

In a noisy room full of people having separate conversations, we may likely want to attend only, or mainly, to one specific conversation — not always the one we are participating in — without being too distracted by others. We can do this by focusing on the distinctive quality and volume of one particular person’s voice, and where the sound is coming from.

Divided attention is possible but the principle is the same – i.e. unattended input is said to receive only minimal brain processing. In other words, our noticing something and reflecting on it, is necessary to fix some experience or fact into the patterns of memory. Without interest we remember less.

And so it can be argued that personal choice is relevant to what we attend and thus remember. Yet for the scientist, everything must be determined by some measurable entity: like what is seen or heard, the chemical state of one’s brain or one’s genetic makeup. No room here for the notions of intention and free will. No need to ask the question ‘Does the brain fully explain consciousness?’ It’s a no brainer!

Spiritual memory

What Emanuel Swedenborg calls interior memory, is said to differ from natural memory in that it has to do not with naturally seen objects or symbols, but with abstract ideas like honesty, goodness, integrity. When you are reminded of such spiritual concepts your thought can be raised out of the world of sense perception.

An important part of his philosophy is that what merely enters into the understanding does not affect one’s character but only that which one makes a part of the love of one’s life. We need, however, a memory of spiritual knowledge to draw on if our personal growth is to be confirmed, sustained and built up.

In the end your destiny is all about what was true in the way you inwardly responded to life rather than by the false external memories you erect for yourself to rationalise such intentions. Swedenborg claims that how we each actually lived is a fixed internal memory found in our individual book of life. Writing in the 18th century he said:

“Man has an external or natural memory, and an internal or spiritual memory. Upon this internal memory is inscribed everything in general and in particular that he has thought, spoken and done in the world from his will, and that so completely and particularly that no detail is lacking. This memory is man’s book of life, which is opened after death and according to which he is judged.” (Swedenborg E, Divine Providence 227)

Copyright 2013 Stephen Russell-Lacy
Author of  Heart, Head & Hands  Swedenborg’s perspective on emotional problems