The Religion the Almighty and Me Works Out Betwixt Us
What I really want to believe is contained up in the mysthead, in the immortal words of the Reverend Harry Powell. There is a scene in which a slightly skeptical listener asks, hey, wait a minute, just what religion do you profess, preacher?
Harry's face hardens and he responds with a menacing, The religion the Almighty and me worked out betwixt us.
Which doesn't usually work out well. The best you can usually hope for is some ego-flattering new age mush, or an idiosyncratic jumble of truth and fantasy.
Here's Reverend Harry conversing with the Lord about his next move. Yeah, you could say he has a purpose-driven life, but so does any psychopath.
Hey, wait a minute Mr. President. Just what kind of constitution did you swear to uphold?
The one I works out betwixt what it says and what I wants it to say.
This problem still comes up all the time, and I am far from resolved about it. For example, I know for a fact that I have provoked many readers to turn or return to orthodoxy or Catholicism -- wife included -- and yet, I cannot do so myself. Why is that? And is it just a lame excuse? And if you are excluded from the general mandate, what makes you so special? What makes you different from a Harry Powell, or worse, a Deepak Chopra?
I notice that the Happy Acres Guy has confronted the same issue, which essentially comes down to the source of authority and the means of salvation. He tried, he really tried, to turn himself into the authorities and go straight, but he just couldn't do it:
"I put aside my protestant prejudices, drawn by the Catholic writers that speak to me and to the truth behind it all. And not incidentally intending to poke my finger in the eye of progressives by joining the most traditional organization."
That last one is indeed a major draw -- to join the one institution that is at antipodes to the depraved values of the demonic left. If the left hates it so much, it must be true! Although as soon as you say that, the Pope comes out with some vague, innumerate economic blather that gives aid and comfort to the demon class (and will of course further immiserate the poor).
And I certainly revere those many illustrious Catholic writers who "speak to me and to the truth behind it all." Not just the most beautiful art but most of our deepest thinkers came out of the church. Then again, one of my favorites, Meister Eckhart, ran afoul of the church. Speaking of HA, I found a helpful comment there from the Meister, which very much comports with my sentiments:
"We ought simply to follow where God leads, that is, to do what we are most inclined to do, to go where we are repeatedly admonished to go -- to where we feel most drawn. If we do that, God gives us his greatest in our least and never fails."
Yes, no doubt. Cosmic Slack, and all that. But consider the mischief that can result from a misinterpretation of simply doing "what we are most inclined to do." Here we need to specify that he means vertically, not horizontally.
As we have discussed in the past, the soul is in constant trialogue with its ground and destiny; or situated in the space between the two, to be precise. We know the soul by paying attention to its spontaneous and yet specific inclinations and aversions. We are always oriented to the divine attractor -- O -- but in our own unique way, thus combining the universal and the particular, the one and the many, God and Incarnation, Father and Son, etc.
In fact, even more than an incarnation, we are an incarnotion, i.e., an idea or notion of God. While one could theoretically understand how natural selection could account for a universal type, it can never account for the unique form of our soul, which again navigates in the hyperspace of the vertical in order to discover and potentiate itself by assimilating truth.
"Even if God is in all ways and all things evenly," asks Eckhart, "do I not still need a special way to get to him?" Well, yes and no. I would say that it cannot only be special, or else you are living in your own private Idaho. Rather, the special must embody the universal. With that caveat in mind,
"Whatever the way that leads you most frequently to awareness of God, follow that way; and if another way appears, different from the first, and you quit the first and take the second, and the second works, it is all right. It would be nobler and better, however, to achieve rest and security through evenness, by which one might take God and enjoy him in any manner, in any thing, and not have to delay and hunt around for your special way: this has been my joy! To this end all kinds of activities may contribute and any work may be a help; but if it does not, let it go!"
Note the evolution he implicitly describes: we begin in the unique, the particular, the individual, but end -- if we are lucky -- in the universal. This makes sense to me. By way of analogy, think of language. Let's stipulate that you can more or less convey truth in any language. Nevertheless, in order to do so, you must speak a particular language. You cannot do so with Language as such, which is pure abstraction.
Thus, suppose there is a Religion As Such which embodies the truth of reality. Well, as with language, you need to "speak" -- i.e., practice -- a particular one. But even then there are loopwholes. Alert readers will recall that in the Cosmogenesis and Cosmobliteration sections of the book, I endeavored to playgiarize with a kind of universal language beyond language in order to convey truth as such.
Recently I read an intriguing essay by Rebecca Bynum called God Descending. The reason I find it intriguing is that it is so Coonlike that it appears to me that we are in the orbit of the same attractor, although naturally coming at it from different angles, being that we are not the same individual. In it she expresses the wholly orthoparadoxical view that
"Just as we, in our limited ability, ascend toward God [↑], so does God descend toward us [↓], invading and encompassing his entire creation. Though God exists as an absolute, eternal being outside the confines of time and space, there must be some part of God, or level of God, that exists within those self-imposed and self-created confines -- a God of time and space. Thus creation remains a part of God, not separate from him."
This is an Exact Truth, a truth beyond which there can be no truthier. She continues:
"Ultimately of course, God the Father is eternal, absolute and unevolving, but within spacetime, he exists as actualizing potential -- he is both actual and potential.
"Therefore, as we participate in our own self-realization by growing in the spirit, that is to say, as our God-given potential becomes actual in time, we are adding our own small mite to the great actualization of the evolving God. We have been created as unique beings -- there is no one else who can contribute exactly the same bit of actualization to God and thus in a very real sense, God is dependent upon our growth, and our increasing ability to bear the fruits of the spirit, for his actualization."
My only quibble would be that she contradicts herself, in that she first refers to God as being "absolute and unevolving," and then suggests that human beings add "to the great actualization of the evolving God" (emphasis mine).
The only way to reconcile the contradiction, in my opinion, is with recourse to some version of Hartshorne's process theology, whereby God is essentially an "evolving Absolute." I don't want to get sidetracked into a defense of that proposition, but I will say that there is no other kind of God in whom I can believe. So it may well be my own limitation, but it is my own, dammit, and not somebody else's.
In fact, this forms the basis of the very multiundisciplinary religion the Almighty and me works out betwixt us, so back off! I'm lookin' at you, Bob.