My favorite question, reprised

As we find ourselves in the last month of the year, I notice myself wanting to place before the house a discussion I have had here before. Indeed, as recently as August 30. I’m going to dive into it again now because, for me, it’s a perfect way to bring this year’s experience to an end, and prepare myself to embark on the New Year with reenergized spiritual vigor.

The topic has to do with our individual sense of Who We Are in the overall scheme of things. I apologize to those of you who have seen this material before, but there is always a chance that someone new may have found their way here since last summer. And for the rest of us, I hope you are like me in never tiring of revisiting the core, or central, issues of life. And this certainly is one. It is, perhaps, THE core issue of our entire life.

The subject is: How do you see yourself, how you conceive of yourself, how you construct your idea of who you are. And to me is seems as if you, and all of us, have two choices regarding this. Maybe I’m oversimplifying this, but to me these choices look like this:

Choice #1: You could conceive of yourself as nothing more than a chemical creature, a “logical biological incident.” That is, the logical outcome of a biological process engaged in by two older biological processes called your mother and your father.

If you see yourself as a nothing more than a chemical creature, you would see yourself as having no more connection to the larger processes of life than any other chemical or biological life form.

Like all the others, you would be impacted by life, but could have very little impact on life. You certainly couldn’t create events, except in the most remote, indirect sense. You could create more life (all chemical creatures carry the biological capacity to recreate more of themselves), but you could not create what life does, or how it “shows up” in any given moment.

Further, as nothing more than a chemical creature you would see yourself as having very limited ability to create an intentioned response to the events and conditions of life. You would see yourself as a creature of habit and instinct, with only those resources that your biology offers you.

You would see yourself as having more resources than a turtle, because your biology has gifted you with more. You would see yourself as having more resources than a butterfly, because your biology has gifted you with more. Yet what your biology offers you is all you would see yourself as having in terms of resources.

You would see yourself as having to deal with life day-by-day pretty much as it comes, with perhaps a tiny bit of what seems like “control” based on advance planning, etc., but you would know that at any minute anything could go wrong— and often does.

Choice #2: You could conceive of yourself as a spiritual being having what is called a “body.” (And, as well, a “mind.”)

If you saw yourself as a spiritual being, you would see yourself as having powers and abilities far beyond those of a simple chemical creature; powers that extend beyond basic physicality and its laws.

You would understand that these powers and abilities give you collaborative control over the exterior elements of your individual and collective life, and complete control over the interior elements—which means that you have the total ability to create your own reality, because your reality has nothing to do with producing the exterior elements of your life, and everything to do with how you respond to the elements that have been produced.

Also, as a spiritual being, you would know that you are here (on Earth, that is) for a spiritual reason. This is a highly focused purpose and has little to do directly with your occupation or career, your income or possessions, your achievements or place in society, or any of the exterior conditions or circumstances of your life.

You would know that your purpose has to do with your interior life—and that how well you do in achieving your purpose may very often have an effect on your exterior life.

(For the interior life of each individual cumulatively produces the exterior life of the collective. That is, those people around you, and those people who are around those people who are around you. It is in this way that you, as a spiritual being, participate in the evolution of your species.)

My own answer: I’ve decided that I am a spiritual being, a three-part entity made up of Body, Mind, and Soul. Each part of my tri-part being has a function and a purpose. As I come to understand each of those functions, Who I Am begins to more efficiently manifest in my experience, as the Totality of Who I Am serves its purpose in and through my life.

I have decided that I am an Individuation of Divinity, an expression of God, a singularization of the singularity. There is no separation between me and God, nor is there any difference, except as to proportion. Put simply, God and I are one.

The analogy I like to use to help me understand and embrace this is the relationship between an ocean wave and the Ocean Itself. I believe that I am, to God, as a wave is to the Ocean. The wave is in no way separate from the Ocean, nor is it other than the Ocean. Rather (and quite simply), it is a singular aspect of the Ocean…an individual expression arising and emerging as a product of its Source. And when the expression of the wave is complete, it recedes back into the Ocean, whence it came.

This analogy brings up an interesting question. Am I rightly accused of heresy? Are people who believe that they are Divine nothing but raving lunatics? Are they, worse yet, apostates?

I wondered. So I did a little research. I wanted to find out what religious and spiritual sources had to say on the subject. Here’s some of what I found . . . .

Isaiah 41:23—Shew the things that are to come hereaf­ter, that we may know that ye are gods: yea, do good, or do evil, that we may be dismayed, and behold together.

Psalm 82:6—I have said, ‘Gods ye are, And sons of the Most High—all of you.

John 10:34—Jesus answered them, Is it not written in your law, “I said, Ye are gods?”

The Indian philosopher Adi Shankara (788 CE – 820 CE), the one largely responsible for the initial expounding and consolidation of Advaita Vedanta, wrote in his famous work, Vivekachudamani: “Brahman is the only Truth, the spatio-temporal world is an illusion, and there is ultimately Brahman and individual self.”

Sri Swami Krishnananda Saraswati Maharaj (April 25, 1922 – November 23, 2001), a Hindu saint: “God exists; there is only one God; the essence of man is God.”

According to Buddhism there ultimately is no such thing as a Self that is independent from the rest of the universe (the doctrine of anatta) – any more than there is a wave that is independent of the Ocean.

Also, if I understand certain Buddhist schools of thought correctly, humans return to the earth in subsequent lifetimes in one of six forms, the last of which are called Devas . . . which is variously translated as Gods or Deities.

Meanwhile, the ancient Chinese discipline of Taoism speaks of embodiment and pragmatism, engaging practice to actualize the Natural Order within themselves. Taoists believe that man is a microcosm for the universe.

Hermeticism is a set of philosophical and religious beliefs or gnosis based primarily upon the Hellenistic Egyptian pseudepigraphical writings attributed to Hermes Trismegistus. Hermeticism teaches that there is a transcendent God, The All, or one “Cause,” of which we, and the entire universe, participate.

The concept was first laid out in The Emerald Tablet of Hermes Trismegistus, in the famous words: “That which is Below corresponds to that which is Above, and that which is Above, corresponds to that which is Below, to accomplish the miracles of the One Thing.”

And in Sufism, an esoteric form of Islam, the teaching, There is no God but God was long ago changed to, There is nothing but God. Which would make me . . . well . . . God.

Enough? Do you wish or need more? You might find it instructive and fascinating to go to Wikipedia, the source to which I owe my appreciation for much of the above information.

As well, read the remarkable books of Huston Smith, a globally honored professor of religion. Among titles of his that I most often recommend: The World’s Religions: Our Great Wisdom Traditions (1958, revised edition 1991, HarperOne), and Forgotten Truth: The Common Vision of the World’s Religions (1976, reprint edition 1992, HarperOne).

So . . . that is my response to the invitation that life is presenting me, and all of us, regarding the making of a choice about Who I Am. I am an out-picturing of The Divine. I am God in human form. As are we all.

Let’s look again, as this year ends, at your response. And if you’re new here, I’m looking forward to your thoughts on all of this.

(The above article is adapted from an excerpt of the book God’s Message to the World: You’ve got me all wrong, by Neale Donald WalschRainbow Ridge Books, 2014)

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