I was raised in a Baptist church, but decided when I was 16 that organized religion was not for me. I still call myself a Christian, but I don’t ascribe to a lot of the rigid doctrines that most churches do. I know what my soul tells me is true, and whether that truth is relevant to anyone outside of myself is not up to me to decide. I have included some of my philosophical and spiritual musings here in the hope they might spark consideration in others. I certainly don’t presume to have everything figured out, and I encourage you to draw your own conclusions. As for me, I believe there are shadows in every heart, but if people can brave them, they will find the soul is much brighter than the darkness. I endeavor only to share what I believe to be true from my own glimpses of that light.
My “deep thoughts” are below. I recommend reading Thoughts on Life, the Universe, and Everything first if you plan on reading any of my ramblings in great detail, as that post describes much of my personal beliefs on the nature of God and the Soul.
Something I don’t understand is that people are so dead set on convincing everybody else they are right. It’s not just religious people; it’s the non-religious people too. Think about how much time is wasted on trying to prove or disprove the existence of God. The thing is, God is the epitome of something that doesn’t need human approval or confirmation. So why does that argument matter so much to us? If you don’t want to believe in God, that makes me sad, but hey, it’s your soul and your life. Conversely, you might say to me, “I’m sorry you feel the need to devote so much time and energy to some old superstition, but hey, it’s your life.”
Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for evangelism in its proper place. There have been several times in my life where people I know have approached me and said, “You’re a very spiritual person. Mind if I ask you some questions?” I love talking about my faith like that. Not only does it let me share my beliefs, but it helps me solidify what it is I actually believe by forcing me to articulate it and challenging me with questions I can’t always answer. That, to me, is what evangelism should be: the quiet, engaging discussion of faith and exchange of ideas among friends or people who are questioning. There’s really no sense in these TV preachers, or the people who stand on apple crates in the middle of a college campus shouting at the students and telling me I’m going to hell because I’m wearing pants while I’m a woman.
(Yes, that happened. I asked the man if it was safe to wear pants during the times I was not being a woman, but that just made him mad at me. I still don’t have an answer, so I’m just going to assume wearing pants while pretending to be a man is totally fine by him.)
The point I’m getting at is it’s really pretty irrelevant to debate this idea, if you think about it. Our confirmation or disproval is not going to change the being of God one bit. Indeed, a central part of most any religion is the need for faith. Even if we were to scientifically prove the existence of God, then we would be robbing ourselves of our ability to have faith in something we cannot see or fully understand.
Sometimes I imagine God sitting up in Heaven, watching all this, and saying, “I gave you such a great inquiring mind, and here you are putzing around trying to decide if I’m real, or even if you’re real. Don’t you realize you could’ve cured cancer by now?”
Seriously. Imagine if we could take all the fervor and time spent on these Science vs. Religion debates and channel that into something a little more productive, like medicine, clean energy, world hunger, what have you. We probably would have, and still could, advance a lot further as a race.
Personally, I don’t see why Science and Religion have to be enemies. I tend to think of them like rival siblings; they both come from the same family, but they’re so busy fighting with each other they can never take a minute to let go of their grudges and acknowledge that the other one is probably just as right as they are. Why does it have to be one or the other? Why can’t God exist and do His work through scientific means? (or at least what we perceive as scientific?) Why can’t the Big Bang have happened while God was starting and overseeing it? Why can’t there be some measure of evolution with God as the directing force behind it?
Similarly, I don’t think there is a particular “right” religion. Personally, I think there is one God, or higher being or power, or whatever you want to call it, and all the world’s religions are basically worshiping the same thing, just calling it by a different name, and following it in different ways. For me, I quite like the idea of Christianity because of the presence of Christ, but that’s a whole other discussion in itself.
I refuse to believe that everything happened by sheer chance. Our world, our universe, is simply too beautifully and efficiently designed to be an accident. I mean, my luck stinks. If I wash my car, it will rain within a few hours. If I buy a Big Gulp on a road trip, I will spill it in the car, no matter how many precautions I take and extra strong cupholder contraptions I buy. I’ve never even been able to win a free small fry from McDonald’s, even though the odds were like 1 in 3. If my existence were all based on odds and coincidence, with my luck, I’d have been born some horrible mutant and never survived past third grade. The simple fact that I am here, whole and happy, is proof enough for me that there is a God.
It was thought-provoking for sure, but for a fairly large portion of it, especially the latter half, I had an almost nauseous feeling in the pit of my stomach, a sort of ache, and I know what that feeling is— the feeling of something offending my soul. I was fully prepared to dismiss it as an atheist’s work, but one sentence near the end saved it for me: “Everything in this book may be wrong.”
Good. Sick feelings gone. I can now analyze it more objectively. Below are some of the major points that stuck out to me:
1) Christ acceptance problems. The author’s issue not mine— I have no qualms in accepting that there is/was a true Messiah and a Son of God; the Son is part of the Trinity, which is the various manifestations of God. There is, to me, nothing wrong with the idea that God took human form to better relate to us. I don’t know why Bach seems to have such a problem with that. Why wouldn’t the idea of God experiencing life as one of us appeal to people?
2) I agree with the “follow your bliss” theme. I do believe we are meant to be happy and that God doesn’t want us to suffer, and that much suffering is brought about by our own doing; however, I do think there are some things that are simply beyond our control, which leads me to…
3) I have a problem with Bach’s total dismissal of the importance of material laws. To completely write off the importance of the body, physical laws, etc. is to completely discredit human experience, which I think is very important. Part of the reason our beings are encased in flesh is because we are meant to experience the physical; it’s here to help us learn. If, at our kindling, our souls were simply turned loose in the universe and told “Find the truth” it would be an incredibly daunting task, one we would probably never accomplish. Instead, we are put into a context, an anchored place in a single world, and told, “Use these tools to help you find the truth.” Our physical experience, our world, our interactions, help us find our way to the transcendent truth. I think it would be very hard to learn about the universe if we didn’t first have a place to contextualize ourselves. Kind of like how one teaches an elementary school student statistics by using M&Ms— start with something concrete and use that to help them see the broader universal meaning of that concrete. If we able to physically do anything and have everything we wanted, we would lose all of our context and opportunities for discovery, which then leads into…
4) If we could simply do whatever we wanted, everything would be meaningless. I already don’t enjoy reading as much because I’d often rather be writing entertaining stories for myself. Part of appreciating something comes from a measure of respect in recognizing something beyond oneself. If everyone could do everything, there would be no way or reason to respect one another; we’d all be exactly the same, and there would be no need for others to matter or exist at all. It’s like Bach is preaching spiritual communism. Another part of life is learning to help each other, and bond together in symbiotic relationships— the Body of Christ metaphor. We are all an individual, specialized part of a much larger whole. We’re not meant to do everything, if we were, there wouldn’t need to be so many of us.
4.a.) I also think that a lot of our joy in our work comes from the act of learning and practicing it. If I could just pick up my pencil and draw whatever I wanted whenever I wanted, it wouldn’t be nearly as much fun. If I made a masterpiece every time I sat down to paint, there wouldn’t be anything special about that masterpiece, and indeed I probably wouldn’t be motivated to paint anymore. We love and need challenges. To simply be perfect all the time (in our human existence) would be very boring and pointless and we’d get nothing out of the experience.
5) Bach also discounts the existence of evil, which I also disagree with. There’s a point in the book where the character Don says, “Nobody suffers or dies without their consent.” (This was during the point I was starting to feel physically sick from the amount of disgust this book was riling in me. When I read that statement, I literally went, “UGH!” in my chair.) There are people abused, sexually assaulted, brutally murdered every single day and NO WAY is that their choice or their fault. There is evil in this world, and it is not something we always bring upon ourselves. The fact that someone could even say otherwise makes me very angry.
5.a.)That goes back to there being some things we simply cannot control. I do NOT accept the notion that we are all gods in our own right. Absolutely not. To say we can do whatever we feel like whenever we want discounts the idea that there is meaning or order in anything and that there is a Plan for us and for the world, which I very much believe there is. We don’t get to decide that Plan, we must only fulfill our part of it. To insinuate that we write the Plan strikes me as incredibly arrogant.
6) Multiple lifetimes. I simply don’t believe it.*
7) There’s a point in the book where the character Don talks about how the “Is” isn’t concerned with us on Earth at all, is totally oblivious to our “games” here. I don’t believe that either— I believe God is very present in our lives and has a great interest and concern for what we do here. I have felt His hand and seen the effects of it far too many times to believe He is simply ignoring us.
8) Faith =/= imagination. Both are very important, but they are not the same. Christ Himself said that we can do anything with faith, and I believe that. I think we imagine what we want for ourselves, but it is faith that ultimately delivers it to us. Imagination is our creativity, which you already know I think is vitally important, but if I had to chose between having imagination or having faith, I would chose faith in a heartbeat. Faith is what sustains us and saves us. I can imagine a bright future for myself, of living on after death, but if I don’t have faith that it’s going to happen, it’s never going to.
So that’s my two cents feedback on the book. I think on the surface it sounds very nice, and there are plenty of things in it I agree with, but on the whole, I think a close examination of the ideas yields something I cannot accept into my beliefs about the world and the universe it hangs in. The line “everything in this book may be wrong” makes me wonder if perhaps that was the point of the book all along— to convey truth through a sort of reverse psychology.
*I’ve done a little thinking on the notion of reincarnation, and can’t accept it, at least not in the traditional sense of the word. I believe in something that’s sometimes called “genetic memory,” “racial memory,” or more simply “the collective unconscious,” with a little twist of my own, of course. Basically, while I don’t think I have lived before, I think contained in me (and in everyone) is a small part of all my ancestors. Whether that’s purely biological or not, I’m still not 100% sure, but one of the big “holes” in the strictly biological theory is that we wouldn’t be able to remember our ancestors’ experience past the point of them having children, and I disagree with that. Because, most of the time, we can still pick up on the later part of that person’s life from the passed down memories. That’s not to say there aren’t sometimes holes in the memory-chain, but I think generally it can be traced in fairly solid links. I also think we carry a certain spiritual connection to the spirits of our ancestors— not necessarily divine, as posited by some cultures (i.e. I don’t think we should be worshiping our ancestors)— a small measure of light from their soul contributes to the brightness ours.
So, that’s how I can accept the notion of past lives. I don’t think I, myself as the individual ME, have ever lived or existed before now, but all of the people it took to make me have lived in every age of this world from the Creation of Man, and I do carry, somewhere deep in the unconscious or the soul, all of their experiences and the things that they learned while they were here. And those things, I think, shape our lives in ways we’re not even aware of. I also think that’s a pretty comforting thought. I have a very wide range of people in my family— queens, horse thieves, doctors, pirates, railroad barons, poor farmers, clergymen, you name it— and it’s nice to think that ultimately, there’s probably very little in the world that I couldn’t handle deep down thanks to the lives they led. Life is cumulative, I suppose, in that respect.
It amazes me how averse so many people are to accept the simple nature of being. In this age, nothing can simply BE. Everything must be dissected, analyzed, explained. Yet some things simply cannot be explained, as their inexplicableness is essential to what they are.
When I was working on my final paper for one of my classes in college, I chose the topic of the nature of inspiration and the personification of inspiration in the form of Muses. I read many “scholarly” texts for this paper and I was amazed at how little those scholars seem to actually know about transcendental sorts of things. They understand God and the creative spirit in theoretical terms, but it is obvious from their cold, lackluster explanations that they have never experienced these things for themselves. That is not to say I am an expert in such things— I’m most certainly not— but I believe I am more willing accept that something simply IS than most people seem to be.
The good majority of people I’ve met seem to be haunted by the question of: Why? If they cannot explain something, then it must not be real. They deny some of the most real powers in the world simply because they cannot be seen in empirical terms. If you cannot see something with your eyes, hear it with your ears, measure it with instruments, and pick it apart with science, then it is written off as backwards mysticism and ignorant thinking. I personally believe the exact opposite. I think if one cannot accept anything on faith, then it is he who is ignorant to the fires of the soul. The soul knows what is real and true, far more than any of our sciences and explications ever could. Man walks with his eyes turned skyward not because he understands the heavens, but because he does not understand them and that unknowableness calls to the ancient wellspring of truths in his soul.
Souls are shifting, numinous things. Their very nature is to be mysterious, and they alight at the core of each of us. If our very being is something unable to be defined in the limited language of our tongues and the concrete demands of our scientific minds, then what hope do we have for ever understanding anything? If we cannot accept our own mysteries, how can we hope to explain the mystery of everything else? Mystery is the cloth from which eternity is woven. I can think of nothing concrete and truly explainable that can last forever. Everything that endures contains an unexplainable greatness.
I think it takes a certain arrogance to assume there is nothing we cannot know. The universe is infinitely greater than we are; we are but a speck in the fleeting dust mote of human existence, a single heartbeat in the eternal lifespan of being. Where are we in the sweeping fields of our own history, in the cosmos, in the gaze of God? We are so small, so evanescent, and to me that is the greatest miracle of life: that we are so small, yet not one of us escapes the attention of God. We don’t have to explain all that in order for it to be true. The Truth does not care one iota about whether or not we believe it’s true. It simply IS true.
We are all part of an infinite universe. We are thoughts of God. Within each of us lives the spark that was kindled by God and connects us to God and is God. We are the words of God, the story that He writes. Genesis 1:26 reads, “And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.” As we are created in the image of God, so too do we possess immense creative abilities. Like our Holy Father, we have the ability to create entire worlds. Perhaps we cannot give it physical form, but our creative power comes from God. God thought of a world and of us, and it was made. And here we are, the thoughts of God, thinking of our own worlds, and so they are made. And perhaps in our worlds there are those who think of other worlds and so on. The cycle is infinite. Everything is eternal and connected.
God is Infinity. He is the Eternal. In each of us dwells His spark, and through Him we are all— past, present, future, real and fictional— connected in a vast web of interdependency. David Bohm once said, “In some sense, man is a microcosm of the universe; therefore what man is, is a clue to the universe. We are enfolded in the universe.” The universe is a beautiful fractal; a single pattern that repeats itself smaller and smaller into eternity. God created the universe and Man. Man creates his own universe. That universe creates its own universe and so on. The cycle is unending.
I believe that because we are made in God’s image and have that great creative capacity, that each person is an entire world unto himself. Within each of us is a vast new world. Some people will choose to explore the wonder that exists within them, others will choose to ignore it. This, I believe is where problems begin. To quote Margaret Cavendish, “And since it is in your power to create such a world, what need have you to venture life, reputation and tranquility to conquer a gross material world?” Everything we could ever desire we can create and claim within ourselves. By ignoring our creative potential, we become preoccupied with dominating the external world. However, if we cannot even achieve dominion over ourselves, how could we ever hope to rule the vast world outside of us?
Through God, we are all connected to each other and to the universe. However, one might ask: if we are connected to God and if God is as all-powerful and benevolent as He would have us believe, why are there so many problems on Earth? Why is there war, hunger, hatred? I would like to posit an answer. The problem is not with God, it is with Man. God is in everything and He is everywhere. He connects us all to Himself and to the universe. The problems spring from when Man chooses to ignore that connection. When he denies that he is connected to other men, then it is far easier for him to go over and kill them, destroy their homes, and take their land. If one feels no connection to something, then one will have few feelings one way or the other toward it. God is Love and His connection is Love, but if we push that away and ignore it, then there can be no other love between men. And so, there are wars. People go hungry because our society as a whole does not care enough to help them. When we forget the connection we have to God and to the rest of His Creation, then we are doomed to become selfish and self-righteous. That is where worldly problems spring from. God does not want it to happen, but how can He stop it when we have freewill and we constantly push His help away?
Everyone is always seeking the meaning in life, when in all actuality such seeking makes no sense. If the universe is infinite, if it contains infinite worlds and infinite beings, then why would there ever be one single meaning of life? Instead, the meaning of life is infinite. There is meaning, to be sure, but it will manifest itself differently in each individual piece of the whole. Just as a body is comprised of different parts; the purpose of the lungs is to breathe air, the purpose of the heart is to pump blood, and so on. Their individual existences have different meanings. So too are we all part of a larger entity and so have a different purpose to fulfill. We are all here for a reason, yet what that reason is, is entirely dependent on the individual person. The meaning of life is unique to the individual and yet the many meanings of life are infinite.
As the universe is infinite, so too are the possibilities of individual souls. I believe that all souls are different, and yet none is more beautiful than another, at least at the start. My thoughts about the soul most liken themselves to a metaphor of a flame. A soul is kindled by God, and therefore is naturally pure and good. I don’t believe in “Original Sin;” I think we are all born pure and that we get preoccupied with the world and the wrong things and stain ourselves. The soul has the capacity to burn more brightly and into eternity, blazing and blazing forever— the state of Heaven. However, like fire, souls must be fed. To keep the fire of the soul going through our life, one must seek out wisdom, take pleasure in the natural beauties of life, strive to walk in the ways of God, listen to what the soul knows to be true. If one ignores the soul, gets so caught up in worldly constructs and possessions, then one starves the soul of life. That’s not to say worldly things are bad; I believe this world exists as a place for us to explore ourselves and our connections to each other and the rest of the universe. The world is here for our enjoyment and our toil, and we should work in it as best we can, but we should also appreciate what it has to offer us. If one starves the soul of goodness, it will wither, perhaps twist and darken, and eventually be snuffed out altogether— the state of Hell. I think death is that threshold, the moment at which our soul is set free, and if we have nurtured it properly, it will blaze and soar into eternity with God, and if we have starved it, it will fall and perish in darkness.
Souls, I believe, are worlds unto themselves. I do not believe they are necessarily people, but rather, they are many things; so many things, in fact, I do not think we can understand or visualize a single form for them. Souls avoid labels and bindings, they are the essence of freedom— no one is more free than when he is at peace with his own soul. I also do not believe souls have a gender, rather, I think that each soul contains all polarities inside them, including masculine and feminine, and light and darkness. I believe it is through the union and acceptance of all these different parts that we can nurture our souls and help them to grow as we strive for wisdom and connection with God.
As a writer, perhaps I have an unfair advantage when it comes to exploring and understanding my own soul. I see myself in the world I create, the people that come out of it. Each of them is a part of me, a small part that helps comprise the greater whole; there are terrible monsters in me, but there are also great heroes. By getting to know them, I know myself. By exploring the beauty of their world, I learn of the beauty that exists within me.
While I don’t agree with everything he wrote, I believe Carl Jung was on to something when he spoke of the various parts of the human mind. There is the persona, which we present to other the people, the ego, which is our true conscious personality, and then there are all the pieces of the unconscious, and it is there I believe the soul resides. The persona does not always have to connect to the soul at all; it can be a complete mask that we construct for others to see. The ego, I think, is the outer surface of the soul, the froth on the waves. In the unconscious, there are other figures. The Shadow is all that is dark in us, the place that monsters come from. We cannot ignore it and pretend we don’t have one, for that will only make it grow all the stronger and more vicious. We must learn to accept the Shadow. We don’t have to like it, but we must acknowledge it is there and respect it.
The Animus (or Anima, the feminine) is the inner complement. I’ll likely talk about the Animus a lot, so I won’t rehash everything that I might have already said. I do believe that the Animus is one of the most important facets of our soul, our inner partner, and that it is he (or she) who can lead us into the depths of ourselves and help us understand what we find there. The Animus, in my opinion, is the psychological term for a very ancient spirit called the Daimon. According to both Plato and Iamblichus, the Daimon is the spirit the universe (or God) assigns to us at our birth in order to help us fulfill our fate in the world and lead us to the next. The Daimon is bound to our soul, perhaps forever, and is our deepest companion in our existence.
Jung also spoke of the “collective unconscious,” which I believe is– in not so psychological terms– the thread that connects us with the rest of the world. It’s the part of us that can sense other people and the rhythms of the world and the cosmos. It is the memory of all mankind, the vast well of being, and if we can find that thread, that well, and call into it, we can hear the whispers of the universe in reply.
And then, at the very center, is the Self, which I believe is the bare spark of the soul. It is the place where God breathed into us and kindled the flame of our being. It is the part of us that simply knows what is true, and if we can travel the world of our mind and being, we might find it. And if we can quiet ourselves, be still for a while, I think we can hear it whispering to us, and I think it is that core of ourselves that hears, feels, and knows God, so if we listen to it, we can hear God as well.