The Divine Detour

It is ironic that one of the key processes enabling human evolution—normalization—also holds it back. Normalization is the tendency of the human mind to gradually turn new and fascinating phenomena into the normal and humdrum. While it serves a valuable purpose in that it frees the mind to deal with the daily onslaught of new phenomena, it also deadens us.

We humans are incredibly miraculous beings—made of stardust, endowed with a life force, sustained by incomprehensibly complex biochemical-electrical systems, living on a spinning planet in a swirling galaxy, self-aware. Life on Earth is as mind-boggling and cosmic as it gets. Yet we have normalized our miraculous existence and so fail to experience its inherent divinity.

But we do have enough awareness to recognize that something is missing, that life is incomplete, and so begins the spiritual journey. So begins the quest to find that missing piece (peace); a quest which, given enough time and intensity, usually turns to God. It may start with conversations, books, seminars, retreats, church—activities which stimulate and inspire our inner truths. Some provide a feeling of connectedness with the universe. When we engage in them we often feel our spirituality but when we stop, it invariably fades, for such activities themselves are temporary in nature.

Time and again we recreate the activity until eventually it loses its initial allure, even as we do it. We wear it out trying to feel good. Normalization is again at work, this time freeing us to take ever-deeper looks at the true nature of God.

And so we make our way along the spiritual smorgasbord, each at her own pace, each in his own way. We come to realize that God cannot be comprehended, only experienced, and that the best our minds can do is develop mental approximations or models of God. Yet our minds desire to know God and as we evolve we begin to question and, if we are truly open, to reformulate our models of God.

Yet no matter how much progress we seem to make, we keep tripping up on one thing—that, because God is omnipresent, everything is God. We repeatedly read and hear this, and in our hearts we know it, but our minds have difficulty reconciling what we perceive to be God’s (our) shadow. How can sickness and pain, death and war be divine? Hinduism has long understood this; it has a (aspect of) God of death, destruction and dissolution—Shiva. Yet we Westerners resist this, seeking every alternative which will forever promise us light. Many falter and flee, unable to handle the stark truth.

But for those who persist, deeper and deeper levels of investigation reveal no other alternative—yes, even problems and unpleasantness, trials and tribulations, death and destruction are divine. We slowly come to the realization that perfection isn’t some state of affairs; it’s a state of mind. And so is oneness with God—it’s all in our consciousness.

Those who come to this realization eventually ask themselves a very pertinent question: “So what?” In the final analysis, nothing is changed except our minds, except the recognition that all is God. Still the world goes on. Given our new understanding, how do we hold the dark, destructive, unpleasant aspects of life in our consciousness? We are sophisticated enough to know that God has no opposite and we can’t ascribe these things to a devil. Are we simply to accept things like sickness, pain; death and war as perfect because they are divine?

It is here that an important distinction arises—the distinction between spirituality and morality. Spirituality means “of the spirit” or “of God.” It implies the old, dualistic way of looking at life because it leaves room for “not of the spirit” or “not of God.” We know now that ultimately these are impossible, and so we begin to question our concept of spirituality.

As we look deeper still we see that man inherently and subjectively defines as spiritual the same things he defines as moral. Moral is defined as anything that furthers man’s perceived well-being. Helping is moral, causing harm is not. Being fair is moral, cheating is not. Loving is moral, hating is not. Telling the truth is moral, lying is not. We implicitly apply these same conditions to what we call spiritual and non-spiritual.

It is here that we continually falter, for because of our anthropocentric (human centered) thinking, we cannot conceive that something against our well-being (immoral) could be spiritual (of God). But history (all that has happened) contains countless examples that prove this is so.

The extreme example, so difficult to reconcile, is the Holocaust of World War II. How could the slaughter of six million innocent Jews be divine? How could a just God allow such a thing? The fact that no one can answer these questions suggests the problem lies not in finding the answer, but in the question itself. Like it or not, the Holocaust happened and it, like everything else, is of God. It certainly wasn’t just, moral, fair or loving but these descriptors are irrelevant from the divine perspective. The fact that such events don’t fit our anthropocentric notion of “just” will forever accost our projected models of God until we come to accept that God is All, every label we can think of.

Ultimately we come to see how we have confused spirituality with anthropocentric morality and that we must redefine spirituality for ourselves if we are to continue the evolution of consciousness.

As we come to accept the inherent divinity of all existence and occurrences, we begin to realize the futility of using God as a reference point from which to guide our search. For we see that we can only conceive of God through our own subjective projections and that our only hope of knowing God is by objectively observing existence, the Way of things. Pondering God apart from existence, from what Is, is a distraction, a divine detour which hides from us essential truths. When we realize that everything is divine and learn to accept it as such, we expose our idealized notions of God as well as the futility of doting on them.

Many would say that this is blasphemy; that because he created us, God deserves recognition or appreciation. This is nothing but a projection of our own needs for appreciation upon God—we create our concepts of God in our own image. After all, if we did what God has done (for us), wouldn’t we (our egos) want recognition? Such are the origins of worship.

This is not to say that appreciation is inappropriate, for we all feel it at times. It’s just that it doesn’t need to be directed—spontaneous appreciation for its own sake is the point in itself.

The Buddha, like all great spiritual teachers, was forever asked questions about God. But unlike most other teachers, he refused to answer God-related questions. He recognized that to do so would ultimately hinder the questioner by casting him further into his divine detour. Thus the Buddha always responded to questions in an existential way, relating the underlying intention to life here on Earth.

And so we are left ultimately with ourselves. Nothing outside us, particularly our projected notions of God, can bring us to know God. We come to see that God is in us as much as anywhere else and, since we are closer to ourselves than anything else, we ourselves are the ultimate path to God. To know God, know yourself.

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