Tuesday, May 02, 2006

The last word on God. Maybe.

Despite my best intentions, posts on spiritual themes have been running a deficit on this site. It's hard to find spiritual topics that lend themselves to the quick-and-short format of a blog. Frankly, it's easier and consumes less of my time-impoverished life to post about politics, where there's always some news to bounce off.

Occasionally, though, I stumble across something on another blog to respond to — and having someone else lead with an argument saves much effort. Robert Speirs, who writes an entertaining blog called Conundrum — the Cosmic Pilgrim, recently offered his "Last word on God": "I don't think anyone who talks about Heaven really knows what it would be like to go there, in the words (approximately) of the old song. I don't think the concept 'God' and the concept 'exist' should be mentioned in the same breath."

In connection with a discussion on another site, he asks, " ... Isn't it true that the concept 'belief' is as undefined and conveniently flexible as the concept 'God'? Isn't it true that one cannot 'disbelieve' any more than one can 'believe' in some concept if that concept is irrational and self-contradictory? So there are not atheists and believers. There are merely wise men and fools."

He then concludes, "Then I realized I didn't want to talk about things that don't make any sense. Well, that simplifies life. Although I still may have to think about exactly why people say they believe or disbelieve in God."

There may be as many reasons why people believe (or disbelieve) in God as there are people; but I'll try to offer one individual's, perhaps a fool's, answer.

Do I know what "Heaven" is like? No. I have read quite a few reports said to be from people who have passed over ("died"), transmitted through mediums, and they are in general agreement that there are different levels of post-mortem existence. None of those levels have anything to do with being issued a pair of wings, a harp and a Cloud-a-Lounger. Depending on the state of one's soul development, the afterlife may include encounters with angel-like beings.

So where does God come in? It seems, from the evidence of psychical research, that you don't meet Him just by dying. (God is not a "Him" or "He"; I'm just using conventional Christian terminology to avoid a digression.) The evidence for God comes from those who have experienced God. When that happens, it's in a very different state of consciousness from the ordinary. It's an opening to a nonmaterial reality.

It isn't irrational to speak of God; it's nonrational. Reason is based on the objects of sense perception, and is rightly used as a tool to judge the truth or falsehood of statements about things that can be seen, heard, or measured. Reason is not a useful guide to what lies outside of sense perception — what can only be apprehended by a different faculty of the mind that remains undeveloped in most of us, most of the time.

In a very literal way, Robert Speirs is right that God doesn't make any sense. He is not an object of sense. He exists outside of Time and Space. You can know Him, if you persist in certain spiritual exercises of which there are many varieties, but not in the way you can know an object or a human or a logical proposition. The knowing is by what might be described as direct intuitive perception.

The last word on God? I doubt very much we have said it here, considering that people have been banging on about God (or the Gods) since at least the 5th century BC. But even if these were the last words anyone ever spoke about God, it wouldn't make any difference. People would still find their way to Him, with or without words. (Possibly, in some cases, more easily without them.) God is.

1 comment:

Robert said...


As I said, I'm not sure there is any way to talk about these things when people are just talking past each other. It's kind of like the Clintonian "what's the definition of 'is'?" The sticking point for me is, how can any concept of God have any existence outside of reality? Existence and reality are coexistent if they mean anything. Some people say the concept of God is useful even if it is nonsensical. I find that repugnant. All the tyrants of history have justified their actions by an appeal to things beyond rationality. No, rationality is all we have. And it's plenty to live a happy life.

I'm interested to see you like Melanie Phillips and Bill Whittle. They are also some of my favorites.