A State of Non-Existence
Are we certain that a supreme being exists in this universe? Or could it be possible that we created the concept of God because we can’t conceive the end of our existence? Can we actually picture a state of nothingness? Non-existence would be similar to falling into a deep sleep forever and the essence of our consciousness would be gone. We would cease to exist on any level. Why would we go through the pain of life only to feel nothing when it is over? All the lessons in life would be wasted (if we failed to share our wisdom with others). Why would a hero’s journey be a life lived in self-discovery (as stated by Joseph Campbell) if the end result of all that work is non-existence? It seems like such an illogical concept. Since we can see that every creation on this planet is miraculous and perfectly designed, why would the creation of humanity have a purposeless ending?
The idea of God makes us think that if He exists invisibly, then we could also exist without being physically seen. Without the concept of God or a higher power, being alone would really be lonely. The collective unconscious is also illogical. If human beings cease to exist, there could not be a collective unconscious to tap into.
If the only reality is our physical state of being, how do we explain unexplained phenomena that have been documented through time? There are many documented cases of paranormal activity that seem inconsistent with the non-existence of another dimension. Near-death experiences (NDE’s) and out-of-body experiences also cannot be explained. During NDE’s, these people are clinically dead so we would have to conclude that some element of our physical consciousness remains alive when our bodies die. Not only does this energy survive longer but it also has similar experiences to everyone else who has been pronounced clinically dead (even though the circumstances of death are extremely different and belief systems vary considerably). Instead of believing that this energy goes on, we would have to conclude that it remains “alive” for only a few minutes and then disappears into nothingness. Without a spiritual body, out-of-body experiences would have be similar to dreams and even though people can explain physical events that they did not witness while they were awake, we would have to assume that powerful “dreams” allow our minds to transcend the physical world’s rules about time and space.
Why would most religions or ancient traditions believe in a higher power if we just end up in a state of nothingness? The enduring myths of Heaven and God have existed in diverse cultures and societies since the beginning of time (a 1994 Gallup Poll showed that 90% of Americans believe in Heaven). According to Joseph Campbell, there is usually an element of truth in all great myths. Archeologist Edward Thompson believed that myths could be true. When he heard a Mayan myth of a well that was used for the drowning of virgins who were weighted down with gold jewelry to ensure that they would sink, he spent years looking for this well. Everyone told him he was crazy because the story was only a fairytale but he refused to be derailed. He learned about a great ruined Mayan city in the
Faith in God
I’m not clear about the definition of God. To some people, he is a human-like figure in a spiritual form. To others, he is just the energy of everyone who is alive or dead. Many people believe that a spark from God is in every soul (in the form of a hologram), which is often called the Holy Spirit. He has also been described as love. Some individuals describe God as the representation of beauty, goodness, purity, and perfection. Others believe that God is the unity of all living things. Do we all just believe what we want to believe? Could our faith be completely wrong?
Faith is stronger than reason. When you talk to people who are committed to their faith, they tell you that they have no doubt about their belief in God. Their belief in God is not an opinion -- it is a known fact. When Carl Jung was 83, he was asked if he believed in God and replied, “We use the word ‘believe’ when we think of something as true but for which we do not yet have a substantial body of evidence to support it. No, no I don’t believe in God. I know there is a God.” Even Einstein said that the more he studied the physical universe, the more he believed in a spiritual God and many scientists are now coming to the conclusion that there is a unifying energy force underlying the existence of all matter. Spirituality and science are finally converging, instead of being isolated at opposite ends of the spectrum (though science is linear and spirituality is non-linear).
Faith is different from belief. Belief means that one accepts the principles that are taught by others, whereas faith results from direct, personal experience, which leads to a state of “knowing.” Or as Wayne Dyer explains, “Beliefs stem from the experiences and testimony of others who in one way or another have attempted to persuade you of their truths…You have faith that you can ride a bicycle not because of the testimony or experiences of others, but because you have made conscious contact with bicycle riding. Your experience has provided you with faith in this endeavor. It is not because of any evidence that has been presented to you verifying the existence of balance laws, or because others have persuaded you that balancing is a possibility for you, or even because everyone else around you is dutifully riding their bicycles. It is your knowing because of your direct experience and nothing more that gives you faith.” Belief in God means that you trust that the teachings of your religion, family, or society are true. Faith in God means that you have personally experienced the “oneness” of the presence of a supreme being.
Visions of Another World
Perfectly sober and mentally stable, I saw another world one night. Something switched in my perception of the physical reality. I was wide-awake in my bed with the lights out and I could see thousands of discrete, transparent lights with semi-human shapes traveling at an incredible rate of speed through the ceiling of my apartment. They didn’t notice me at all. It seemed like they were using the space in my apartment as some sort of highway. They were traveling faster than I had ever seen any entity travel and there were thousands of them in my apartment at one time. The array of colors surprised me. Why were all of these entities a different color and where were they going? It was clear that my apartment was merely space for them as some sort of transition from one place to another. At the end of my bed was another entity that looked like he was on guard. He sat there perfectly still and I thought that he didn’t notice that I could see him. He never even looked at me. It was a perfectly shaped human being but he was translucent and had a greenish color. He didn’t look like what I expected at all. He looked like someone you would see on a farm. He was larger and more perfectly formed than the shapes that were traveling near the ceiling. I wasn’t frightened by what I saw because it all seemed so natural. I was just given the opportunity to see something that we don’t normally see. I sat awake watching this unusual scene for about 30 minutes. I finally just got bored so I turned on the light. When I turned off the light again, the images had all disappeared and I never saw those images again.
For a long time, I thought this sight was unusual until I read Life on the Other Side. In the book, Sylvia Browne said, “What I could handle without panic was seeing spirits, which has been a constant part of my reality for sixty-three years now. They started with night visits in my early childhood. I’ll never forget lying in my bed in the dark, watching forms take shape, one after another, until they almost filled the room…they never threatened me or even paid much attention to me, they just mingled and went about their business until a light came on, at which time they promptly became invisible to my clairvoyant night vision.” I was only able to see on one night what she has always been able to see.
Even if the images are real, it doesn’t mean that there is a God. It may just mean that “reality” encompasses another dimension that we cannot normally see. Does that dimension include God? I suppose it depends how you define God. Is he a ruler like a King? Or is he just a part of ourselves? Does it matter if there is a God or does it only matter that there is a dimension that encompasses our immortality? I suppose people believe in a God because we don’t believe in anarchy. If there is another world separate from this one, we would like to believe that it has some structure. At the top of the sphere of multiple dimensions, there should be a ruler or king. Yet, there doesn’t have to be an authority figure in this structure. The more important issue is whether this reality is the only reality. Would we really be upset if we died and found out that our consciousness continued but that it was part of a consciousness without a king?
We naturally impose our own physical structure into the nonphysical world. Our country is ruled by a leader. Our family unit is led by a ruling authority that may be a mother or father. It is difficult to picture pure energy without “someone” making the rules. A God as a ruler is an easier concept to accept because ancient religious texts refer to the voice of God. This voice could be similar to the faint inner voice we hear in our heads but when you attach an authoritative figure to the voice, it has more credibility. We may need to believe that there is a superior being who has all the right answers and we may need to have faith that there is an absolute right or wrong in the universe. Therefore, the concept of God resolves all the conflicts that naturally arise among equals.
An anthropomorphic God also makes sense for humanity. What else would we picture in our minds? Bill Moyers said, “You cannot imagine what you cannot personify.” In A Brief History of Western Philosophy, Anthony Kenny explains the principles of Xenophanes (an ancient Greek philosopher). Kenny states, “The clear truth about the gods no man has ever seen nor any man will ever know. But [Xenophanes] did claim to know where these legends of the gods came from: human beings have a tendency to picture everybody and everything like themselves.” Xenophanes said, “If oxen, horses, or lions had hands with which to sketch and fashion works of arts as men do, then horses would draw the forms of gods like horses, oxen like oxen, and they would each make their gods’ bodies similar in frame to the bodies that they themselves possess. Ethiopians make their gods dark and snub-nosed, while Thracians make them red-haired and blue-eyed.” According to Kenny, the belief that gods have any kind of human form at all is childish anthropomorphism. In the Bible, it states that man was created in God’s image. Instead, we may have created a concept of God in man’s image.
Many people use the image of a wise, old man as an anthropomorphized vision of God. This image is best conceptualized in the Sistine Chapel. It is also interesting that many of the older pictures and statues of Santa Claus have the same image. In fact, I have a hand-carved statue of Santa Claus that looks very similar to the image of God in the Sistine Chapel. Indirectly, we have related the image of a merry person who brings us presents with the image of God. It is also interesting that the myth of Santa is one of an all-knowing entity that judges you -- if you are bad you will get a lump of coal and if you are good you are rewarded with presents. Have we related the concept of a judgmental god that punishes and rewards with our image of Santa Claus?
Even though we have the natural tendency to personalize God, we must always remember that God is transcendent and He does not possess gender or human characteristics. In The History of God, Karen Armstrong states, “A personal God can become a grave liability. He can be a mere idol carved in our own image, a projection of our limited needs, fears and desires. We can assume that he loves what we love and hates what we hate, endorsing our prejudices instead of compelling us to transcend them. When he seems to fail to prevent a catastrophe or seems even to desire a tragedy, he can seem callous and cruel…The very fact that God is a gender is also limiting: it means that the sexuality of half the human race is sacralized at the expense of the female and can lead to a neurotic and inadequate imbalance in human sexual mores…Instead of pulling us beyond our limitations, ‘he’ can encourage us to remain complacently within them; ‘he’ can make us cruel, callous, self-satisfied and partial as ‘he’ seems to be. Instead of inspiring the compassion that should characterize all advanced religion, ‘he’ can encourage us to judge, condemn and marginalize.”
The Angry, Vengeful God
During my religious education, I never understood the Old Testament’s image of an angry, vengeful or punishing God. If God is loving, compassionate and merciful, how can He also be angry and vengeful? I think the problem results from the fact that we view God as a male figure. A mother’s love is unconditional and forgiving while a father’s love usually has to be “earned.” We translate the characteristics of the father onto our image of God. We feel that we must be “good” or deserving of love as a condition of acceptance. These fatherly images also explain fear and guilt. If our performance is less than satisfactory, then we fear punishment and feel guilty that we have disappointed the fatherly image. If we could picture God as a woman, would “His” love feel more unconditional?
Furthermore, how do we love God if we fear him? Love and fear are opposite emotions. Fear closes the heart while love opens the heart. If we are afraid of God, we can never get close enough to Him to love Him. If we picture God as a vengeful parent, we also may have the tendency to correlate events that are not correlated. For instance, there is archeological evidence that the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah was caused by a massive earthquake. Yet, biblically, the destruction is correlated to evil and promiscuous sexuality (which some say was homosexuality). During the plagues in
Representations of God
The evolution of God to Jesus makes perfect sense. For the people who cannot picture spiritual energy in their mind, the image of Jesus Christ is an easier concept to accept. Jesus was an actual human being, which makes the image of God more realistic and personal (vs. transcendent). Jesus was also the representation of love, rather than anger or vengeance. Jesus did not punish. Some people may find it easier to love Jesus than the punishing, parental God that is represented in parts of the Bible.
Though I don’t understand why some believe that they can’t speak to God directly. Why are intermediaries necessary? Isn’t God accessible to everyone? In ancient times, people worshipped the sun or moon because they thought a physical intermediary was necessary to speak to God. Later, the image of the transcendent God was represented in idols or mythological gods. If someone could not picture God, they would look at a statue. If an intermediary is necessary, Jesus is clearly superior to the ancient alternatives. The sun, moon or idols do not offer an expression of divinity. Yet, Jesus was a living example of virtue, kindness, love, and compassion (similar to the Dalai Lama today). By following the teachings of Jesus, it may be easier to evolve spiritually. He is a role model that helps us move closer to God.
I like to think that the essence of God is present in every person on the planet. We were created in his image, and I believe that He exists in all of humanity. Therefore, every person, whether good or evil, is a representation of God. Some may choose evil and some may choose good, but it is this free will that reflects God the most. The presence of evil only means that our free will gives us the right to say “no” to the concept of perfection.
I also see God in all the beautiful temples and churches because they were constructed as a monument to God and in my opinion the most precious image of God is reflected in nature. Nature is perfect and beautiful, created by God or some force in the universe. In nature, we are reminded of the purest form of God on this planet. I also don’t think it matters if someone believes in one God or multiple Gods. The idea of multiple Gods allows human beings to divide the image of perfection into its separate elements.
Regardless of the perception of God, I understand why religious leaders were upset by idolatry because idols have a materialistic physical form. Giving power to a physical statue is the same as giving power to possessions. It may not be the “right” vehicle for assigning power. Idol worship takes many forms, even today. When someone worships an actor, sports star, politician or hero, it is idol worship. When we become infatuated with someone by placing that person on a pedestal, it is idol worship. If we are seduced by power or money, it is also idol worship. Idol worship is dangerous because it attributes godlike characteristics to people or things that are not the true representation of the totality of God. In A Course in Miracles, they state, “A state of awe is worshipful and we should experience awe only in the presence of the Creator of perfection. Equals should not be in awe of one another because awe implies inequality. It is therefore an inappropriate reaction.” We may see “the face of God” when we find love, but we need to remember that it is the love or the divine spirit in others that represents God. We should never confuse the totality of God with His manifestations.
Personally, I think the Buddhist concept of Nirvana is beautiful. They do not call Nirvana God but by finding Nirvana, we can connect to the perfection of universal energy (free from desire and fear), which to me is not very different from my own concept of God. I also like the philosophy that Nirvana can be reached by anyone who is committed to achieving the goal. Buddhists do not believe that only certain people are selected or ordained and reaching Nirvana does not require an intermediary (though teachers help others learn how to find Nirvana on their own). Once you find Nirvana your life becomes harmonious and centered and you can rise above suffering. There are many similarities between Nirvana and God. Yet, God can be anthropomorphized, while Nirvana cannot.
I also like Joseph Campbell’s mythological description that “God is an intelligible sphere – a sphere known to the mind, not to the senses -- whose center is everywhere and whose circumference is nowhere. And the center is right where you are sitting. And the other center is right where I’m sitting. And each of us is a manifestation of that mystery.”
The Transcendent God
Kenneth Hansen has stated that, “According to Spinoza, the whole universe, the individual things it contains, and the powers they exert, are not just the offspring of God; they are ‘of God.’ The particulars in the universe represent a variety of patterns by which God is revealed… Everything is in God; everything moves in God… Consequently, things could not be other than they are, since they are manifestations – emanations – of God’s own character.” Similarly, Nishida Kitaro (a professor at the
An analogy of this concept of God is like picturing God as a lake. Assume that this lake is all there is in the universe. In this lake there are plants, fish and other living organisms. All of them depend on the lake for their existence and are intricately connected to the water. All the living organisms are in constant touch with the water of the lake – it is a part of them. One cannot separate the water from the creatures that coexist with it; without the water, these creatures would not even exist. Together, they create a perfect ecosystem. The water and the living organisms are a unified entity. The water is their life and a continual part of their existence. The water does not rule over the living creatures but may provide currents that help the flow. The creatures of the water probably don’t think about the water as a separate entity because it is their only environment. The lake is everywhere and it is not a separate entity from the living creatures that are a part of the water. In the same way, God can be everywhere and all living creatures can be united with this force. Correspondingly, the Essenes believed “they were but a drop in life’s vast ocean, unique and individually separated from the whole, yet intrinsically one with it, sharing the same substance, matter, and essence.”
A similar metaphor is to view God as the sun, where humanity represents the sun’s rays. The rays appear separate but they are all generated from and connected to the originating source. Through the source of the sun, all the rays are connected and without the sun, the rays could not exist. The sun’s rays directly represent the originating characteristics of the sun. If two rays of the sun become physically close, they automatically combine into one and when we look at the sun and its rays, we see a unified entity.
In both of these analogies, there is no separation from God. We are intimately connected during every moment of our existence. We only feel separate because we are fooled. If we were only exposed to cloudy days (and had no scientific knowledge), we might also believe that the sun did not exist.
Some people simply define God as consciousness. Although we may not be able to see God as a separate entity that is limited by time and space, we see infinite manifestations of that consciousness in nature, animals, others and ourselves. In the same way, we do not see electricity as a discrete entity but we see the manifestation of electricity through light and power. Electricity is the underlying and unifying energy that provides us with physical power in the same way that God is the underlying and unifying energy that provides us with the power of love. Electricity is a good metaphor because it is a power that is not personified. If someone is electrocuted, it is not because the electricity was punishing the person and if electricity provides warmth, it is not because the electricity is rewarding a specific individual who has performed good deeds.
The Grace of God
According to Webster’s, the theological definition of grace is 1) the unmerited love and favor of God toward mankind, and 2) a special virtue, gift, or help given to a person by God. I always find it interesting that when people notice acts of grace their first question is “how could God have time to help me with my small, insignificant problem?” This question is based on a view of God as a fixed quantity of energy limited by time and space. We say that God is infinite but we do not seem to understand the definition of infinity. If God is similar to the lake or sun analogies, then God is intimately involved with us during every moment of our existence. Simultaneously, God is with all of us (and a part of us) continuously. There is no limitation on time or narrowness of focus; God is not anywhere, but He is everywhere at all times. In other words, if we walk down a path looking for God, we will find that He is not at the end of the path; instead, he is the path and is a part of us at the same time. Acts of grace are miracles that happen all the time – they are infinitely available to every person who exists everywhere. Grace is omnipresent and ubiquitous, even if we fail to recognize the endless perpetuity of its existence.
I have never understood agnostics. They do not deny the existence of God but refuse to believe in Him unless there is proof. Why do people need proof? The most beautiful elements in life require faith in something that we cannot see, feel, hear or touch. These people believe in love but love has no concrete proof. Is it better to have faith in something that might not be true or should we avoid believing in anything without proof – only because we are afraid that we might be wrong? Scott Peck summarizes this conundrum, “It is if they were to say, ‘What we cannot measure, we cannot know; there is no point in worrying about what we cannot know; therefore, what cannot be measured is unimportant and unworthy of our observation.’”
The same people who question God believe in wind because they can personally feel the wind against their face. Yet wind does not really exist. It is only air that is moving quickly. It is still air. Wind is completely subjective since air is always moving. At what point is it defined as wind? Maybe God is the same. It is possible that we can see God in one seemingly unrelated form and the definition of God requires a subjective determination that is a transformation of this form. Perhaps God is just a transformation of love. In any case, God is not a physical concept so why do we need him to be expressed physically before we can believe in Him?
Has anyone proved that God does NOT exist? We could deduce that if we can’t prove that he doesn’t exist then maybe he exists. However, it is difficult or impossible to prove non-existence. How do you prove that something does not exist? We can only deduce non-existence by showing the existence of everything else. When people see evil, they assume it means that God could not exist because the image of God is good. However, aren’t good and evil the choices of humankind rather than a representation of God or Satan? Good and evil are simply expressions of duality. Doesn’t God transcend the duality that exists in this dimension? If God is everything, then He cannot only represent “good.” In an effort to understand God, we should not create a “good god” and an “evil god.” Since we cannot prove that God does not exist, then there is always the possibility that He does. He just may not be as anthropomorphic or familiar as we would like Him to be.
God is just a word and the word gets in the way of the concept. Joseph Campbell says, “God is an ambiguous word in our language because it appears to refer to something that is known -- but the transcendent in unknowable and unknown. God is transcendent…God is beyond names and forms… We want to think about God. God is a thought. God is a name. God is an idea. But its reference is to something that transcends all thinking. The ultimate mystery of being is beyond all categories of thought. As Kant said… The best things can’t be told because they transcend thought.”
Irrespective of our idea of God, we should all be open to the idea that we probably don’t know what we will find when we die. If our beliefs about God and the afterlife are rigid, we may be unprepared for what we find when we leave this existence or we may create an alternative reality that conforms to our belief systems. Consciousness is extremely powerful. If we believe that death results in nothingness, we may be able to create a state of nothingness even if one doesn’t really exist. Many people believe that thoughts create reality in the next dimension, which means that there could be a reality that we are unable to perceive because we are attached to a rigid belief system that does not include an afterlife. If we believe that God is a king and we fail to find a king at death, we could become extremely disappointed or confused. If we think we lived our lives righteously and have a ticket to heaven, we may be distraught if we find that there is no yellow brick road that leads us to the palace where God is sitting on a throne waiting for us with open arms. Without an open mind, we may not be able to accept the objective truth of the universe. In the Western world, we do not spend enough time preparing people for a transition from life to death. Does it really matter if the God we find in the next dimension is different from the principles that we were taught through our religious education?
Perhaps the concept of God is too difficult to describe with the English language (or any other language). People have a difficult time putting the concept of love in words and the same may be true with God. If God is energy, an emotion or a connection, how could words ever do it justice?
One night when I closed my eyes, I had a profound spiritual experience where I connected to an energy force that was indescribable. For four hours, I was bathed in a warm light that was filled with pure unconditional love. I knew my consciousness was altered and I no longer felt human anymore. The concept of self or ego merged into a feeling of unity or oneness with an extremely powerful spiritual energy and the recognition of a separate self seemed to disappear entirely. I knew that I wasn’t perfect but somehow I connected to perfection. It felt like enlightenment because it was similar to being in a dark room and turning on the light. It appeared that I had awakened from an illusionary dream of reality and suddenly I was experiencing another form of reality (which felt “more real” or closer to the truth). When I became one with this energy force, I reached a state of “knowing.” All the questions of the universe became clear, but information was coming at me too fast for effective comprehension. I knew I had found a universal paradise that did not exist on this planet and I couldn’t immediately make the transition back to my humanity. I knew I was connecting to the “oneness” of the universe but not on the abstract level of meditation or a dream, but in full waking consciousness. When I decided to make the transition to sleep, to my surprise, I consciously entered the hypnagogic state (and I felt my spirit trying to fly out like an out-of-body experience but a force kept pulling it back) and then consciously entered the dream state. In shock, I began to feel the paralysis of REM sleep, which was an extremely strong magnetic energy force that was tying my body to the bed – first my legs and then my arms. I became so frightened by the mysterious force of the paralysis (it felt like my body was going into “lock down”) that I immediately jumped out of bed before the paralysis became complete. I realized that I had dual consciousness: my “self” or ego was entering the sleep state while the consciousness that was connected to the oneness of the universe was still my predominant conception of reality. In other words, through the consciousness of unity, I was simultaneously feeling my separated “self” enter the sleep state of my humanity. How could I stay in the sleep state and in full waking consciousness at the same time? It was similar to being human and non-human at the same time.
I was affected by this state of “enlightenment” for four days. The following day was the most dramatic because I actually discovered a state of perpetual ecstasy. There was an inner peace in me that I had never known before. I could not stop smiling. I didn’t know that I was capable of experiencing that kind of happiness and it wasn’t based on anything external. I had only positive thoughts and I instinctually knew things that I didn’t know before. I could feel people’s thoughts and energy. If there was negativity, I had to remove myself from the environment to recover. I could not process any negative thoughts such as anger, hatred, bitterness, cruelty or impatience. I finally understood unconditional love and many times I felt like I was “overdosing” from happiness. My experience with humanity had no words for the ecstasy that I was experiencing. I knew I couldn’t “live” in this state of existence because it was too overwhelming. My state of mind remained at a peak of extreme happiness and it was more intense than any type of inner peace that I had experienced before. It was pure ecstasy and bliss. People continually approached me to comment on my state of happiness. Strangers were naturally drawn to me. I think I was radiating something that is similar to the look that people have when they fall in love. Yet, this time there was no other human being involved with my happiness. I just felt grateful for everything and realized how much there is to be grateful for. Everything seemed perfect to me. Just feeling the sun on my face felt like a gift from God.
I think I connected with my concept of God that night. I obviously don’t know for sure but that was the only explanation that I could come up with. If I am right, then God is not a king or ruler and He does not need to be separate from the energy of our souls. The strange part of the experience was my dual consciousness. I was a part of my body but I was also hovering outside of my body at the same time. I had a separate ego but I was one with the universe. All our concepts about space, time, or opposites disappeared and were replaced with feelings of acceptance, love, and gratitude. I was given a gift that night and if it was truly a glimpse into another dimension, then it is a dimension that is impossible to describe in words.
Many books and authors have described similar states of consciousness. Deepak Chopra defines this state as spiritual ecstasy. In The Path to Love, he says, “Spiritual ecstasy is not a feeling or an idea but a shift of perception in which direct contact with spirit is made…While you are caught in the ecstatic moment, all of reality seems like a miracle…after returning to the everyday world, the great gift seems to be not the intensity of remembered joy but the revelation of truth. One moment of genuine ecstasy removes a lifetime of doubts – you realize once and for all that spirit is real. You know from firsthand experience that you are the divine essence.” Gershom Scholem (Kabbalah expert) describes these experiences as a “mystical union with God…the essence of the ecstatic experience is the tremendous uprush and souring of the soul to its highest plane.” He further states, “He who is granted this supreme experience loses the reality of his intellect, but when he returns from such contemplation to the intellect, he finds it full of divine and inflowing splendor.”
Rabindranath Tagore (Hindu poet who received Nobel Prize for literature) also described a similar experience. He states, “The final freedom of spirit which India aspires after… is beyond all limits of personality, divested of all moral or aesthetic distinctions; it is the pure consciousness of Being, the ultimate reality, which has an infinite illumination of bliss…consciousness does reach that infinity where knowledge ceases to be knowledge, subject and object become one – a state of existence that cannot be defined…self-realization reaches its perfection in the abnegation of self. This fact has made us aware that the individual finds his meaning in a fundamental reality comprehending all individuals… liberation of our individual personality in the universal Person… For goodness represents the detachment of our spirit from the exclusiveness of our egoism; in goodness we identify ourselves with the universal humanity. Its value is not merely in some benefit for our fellow beings, but in truth itself through which we realize within us that man is not merely an animal, bound by his individual passions and appetites, but a spirit that has its unfettered perfection. Goodness is the freedom of our self in the world of man, as is love. We have to be true within, not for worldly duties, but for spiritual fulfillment, which is in harmony with the Perfect, in union with the Eternal.”
Melinda Ribner (author of New Age Judaism, Ancient Wisdom for the Modern World) explains why the experience couldn’t last. She says, “To experience oneness with another person is a great joy. To experience oneness with God is ecstasy. As physical and human beings, it is not our fate to remain in the spiritual world of unity…The experience of oneness…lasts a brief time, yet we are changed irrevocably through it. We move close, we merge and then we separate…Kabbalah calls it ‘running and returning.’ We ascend to the spiritual world, then we return to the physical world. This is our destiny as human beings.”
Some people may argue that my experience was simply a state of meditation without any spiritual connection. Obviously, this is a possible explanation, but how can I explain what happened the next day? After the “enlightenment” I was not meditating but I was in a state of pure ecstasy and bliss. Meditation experiences can create unusual physical sensations but they wear off immediately after the meditation stops. In my case, the effects of that experience lasted for days. A year later I had the experience again and that time the euphoria and bliss lasted for 15 days straight.
It seems that the route to God is internal; If we want to find God, we should look within. Ironically, we have a tendency to look upward when we speak to God, but where are we looking? Do we believe that heaven is a physical place that exists “up there?” Joseph Campbell accurately describes the metaphor of heaven. He says, “Jesus ascended to heaven. The denotation would seem to be that somebody ascended to the sky. That’s literally what is being said. But if that were really the meaning of the message, then we have to throw it away, because there would have been no such place for Jesus literally to go. We know that Jesus could not have ascended to heaven because there is no physical heaven anywhere in the universe. Even ascending at the speed of light, Jesus would still be in the galaxy. Astronomy and physics have simply eliminated that as a literal, physical possibility. But if you read Jesus ascended to heaven in terms of its metaphoric connotation, you see that he has gone inward – not into outer space but into inward space to the place from which all being comes, into the consciousness that is the source of all things, the kingdom of heaven within. The images are outward, but their reflection is inward. The point is that we should ascend with him by going inward. It is the metaphor of returning to the source.”
I don’t believe that anyone can definitively answer the question of whether God exists or not. Any opinion is right or wrong and I surely am not wise enough to know the answer. I simply believe that we should give every human being the freedom of answering this question without judgment. We should also not impose our own concept of God onto others. While we are alive, we may never know whether there is a God in this universe or the appropriate form of this potential energy force. The beauty of the concept is that a person has faith in something without needing concrete evidence to support its existence. Faith is sacrosanct and should not be condemned simply because there are alternative viewpoints.
Our religious organizations are limited by language and interpretation. Our concept of God may have the same limitations. Instead of believing that there is one right answer for who we think that God is or whether He exists or not, shouldn’t we just be open to the idea that anything is possible? God may not be a ruler or a king. He may not be separate from ourselves. The concept of God may manifest itself in good or evil, man or woman, friend or foe. God can be everywhere with everyone at the same time. He may be internal and external, timeless and infinite. He may represent love, compassion, mercy, and hope or pain, suffering, misery and death. He may be present in the homeless man, rich industrialist, writer, poet, garbage collector or philanthropist. Or maybe He is just the unifying consciousness that underlies all creation. While we are alive the proof of God may never exist, so in the meantime, maybe all we can do is trust our hearts, listen to our inner voices, and have some faith.