"In this I believe" — An Essay on the Unknown
By Peter Longley, MA (Cantab)
Peter Longley gained his Masters in theology from Cambridge University in England and was for many years a licensed lay-reader and preacher within the Episcopal Church of the Anglican Communion serving in Ireland and the United States of America.
He is the author of many spiritual articles and of the novels:
A Star's Legacy, Beyond the Olive Grove and The Mist Of God,
a three volume trilogy on the plausible life and times of Mary Magdalene.
His novel Two Thousand Years Later is a contemporary story that can be seen through a re-incarnation theme to be an introduction to The Magdala Trilogy.
He is also author of the contemporary novel Love is where your Rosemary Grows
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In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God,
according to the Gospel of St. John. And to any who have ever glanced at a page of the Bible, it has most likely been page one of the Old Testament, the first verse of the first chapter of the Book of Genesis: In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep; and the Spirit of God was moving over the face of the waters. There is a striking parallel between these two statements, both born out of Greek creational thought.
The Word is the Greek Logos, the infinite wisdom; and the Spirit of God is the creational force.
Philosophers have long tried to argue their way into atheism, a belief that there is no God, but so long as we believe in our being we go on having to believe in some cause for our being that ultimately takes us back to some unknown source. There are many who may claim to be agnostics, honest enough to acknowledge that they do not know the unknown source or the cause of the unknown source, but remain open to a notion that one day we may know, but that at the moment our resources for knowing are too limited. The interesting thing about the latter is that the more we think we know the more we realize how little we know, and we are forced to retreat to some doubtful myth—the first cause.
In our unknowingness, we have come to place a quasi-belief in both the Logos and that Spirit of God as the start of creation—infinite wisdom, infinite creation—in order to explain our dimension of time. Whether we believe in God's literal creation of our universe and our unique planet as it is described in Genesis, a creation that gives us a personal bond with that force that is our creator, or whether we believe in random creation started by that force but controlled by evolution and survival, we still have to philosophically accept that in the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God, and the Word was God and in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. But is there a time line at all?
In our knowingness, we have entered into an exciting mathematical calculation of our universe as beyond time, beyond space, as truly eternal, full of black holes and multi-dimensional activity with no beginning and no end—a mathematical conveyor belt of eternity and string theory that is both forever and yet just one moment, simultaneously. The possibilities for coming to grasp with this new knowingness of our unknowingness is changing our whole concept of the Divine. These theories of light, relativity and quantum atomic physics are only in their infancy, possibly allowing ourselves just a glimpse into what our traditional religions have considered to be the unknowable Divine. And what does this do—it makes knowledge of the Divine less known and less understood as it takes on a new vastness, rather like the ever onward march into ever smaller particles in atomic theory. Is there anything in fact that exists, or is everything that exists just a partial revelation of its existence—an illusion? Is all that exists only the vibration that creates the illusion that we interpret as existence? This is where we walk through the looking glass of science and enter in to the wonderland of the Divine.
When our science limited us to a simple belief in a creating first cause, it was easy to see that divinity as God, the founder of that time line that we call history. Most religions were founded on that premise. That in most cases that God became, in the creating process, a manifestation of many divinities, all with their own task in creating the order of things as we perceive them, makes us understand the diversity of religion. In the relatively recent history of mankind, however, three religions developed around monotheism, a concept of nationalism coming from worshippers in a tribe feeling the need for a personal relationship with the Creator enhanced by mankind's growing curiosity as to what is to become of life after death. Judaism led the way in creating this concept of a single tribal God ruling over a chosen people, whom this God would take care of both in life, and later, after death. Christianity and Islam follow the same concept, being born from the same origins. Through fate of historic circumstances, much of the civilized world of the past three thousand years—the period of written history—has been dominated by these three faiths. Serious inter-reaction with faiths of diverse divinities has only really been manifest over the past two hundred years, although early Judaism and early Christianity certainly rubbed shoulders with polytheistic faiths.
Given that western civilization, which certainly historically has shaped most of the world as we know it today, was primarily monotheistic, we were returned to a belief that in the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God andin the beginning God created the heavens and the earth—our tribal domain. This God then nurtures us, commands obedience from us, punishes us, rewards us, and ultimately, if we pass the test, offers us salvation in an ongoing after life continuing the dimension of time in which we have experienced this experience. In part, He has done this by sending us prophets and saviors that have become embodied in our systems of worship to aid us on our journey. The greatest of these have been Moses, Elijah, Jesus, Muhammad and Rumi along with our respectful admiration for prophets, holy men and saints that we have perceived to have been the best exponents of God's avatars in guiding us in His creation of both heaven and earth.
Thus, within this short time period in our planet's history, it was pretty hard for us not to believe, or even to be agnostic. Those who did take such a path by placing their belief in an alternative, like druidism or witchcraft, were ostracized or eliminated, and denied access to the heavenly goal. In order to achieve this, it became necessary to create a set of Scriptures, dogmas and rituals for us to follow. The institutions of Judaism, Christianity and Islam considered these to be divinely sent and at the very least divinely inspired, so much so, that within all three monotheistic faiths serious opposition or difference of interpretation to these Scriptures, dogmas and rituals led to religious wars, reformations and diverse divisions, causing further ostracization, elimination and humanly perceived denial of access to the heavenly goal.
In the Age of Reason and growing enlightenment two hundred years ago, there was a sizeable minority, who seeing these divisions, and attributing them for the most part to human conceits, turned to secularism, denying religion. But it was these very people who philosophically then wrestled with the first cause, still at that time only to be seen in a perception of a human type creator God. In their secularism, however, they became the forefront of new growing sciences, especially geology, biology and anthropology. These fields presented a major challenge to the three traditional monotheistic faiths. For a brief spell in the Nineteenth Century, therefore, it was relatively easy to consider oneself an agnostic—even an atheist. It became obvious that our planet was very much older than the calculated five thousand years of the Scriptures, that mankind was only a relative newcomer to the diversity of life found here, and that many great forms of life had preceded us and become extinct. Genesis certainly allows God to create other life forms than mankind, but the God of Genesis makes mankind the lord over those life forms—the life form that He creates in His own image. So, why would this God create life forms like the dinosaurs that were extinct before the era of man?
As the scientific discoveries of the Nineteenth Century turned Western religion upside down, so too, did Western Civilization become very much more aware, through a politically and scientifically shrinking planet, of the diversity of non-Monotheistic religions that were practiced by millions of hitherto relatively unknown peoples. The diversity of Hinduism; the tenets of Buddhism; the practice of animism in Shintoism, the way of the Tao, the philosophies of Confuscius and the land spirit faiths of Aborigines, Polynesians and native Americans, at first considered primitive by the curious, gradually won respect, and in the latter Twentieth Century became even a serious challenge to the Western three.
The goal of most of these diverse religions is not so much to have a personal relationship with our distant creator that through this life can continue in an after life, as to create a harmony in this life that is itself Divine. In various ways this is Nirvana, and in most these belief systems it is reached through a series of re-incarnated life times, each perfecting on the past until this perfect harmony is achieved—oneness with the Divine. The biggest difference between these belief systems and the Judaic, Christian and Islamic faiths is in the laws of good and evil. The monotheistic religions give us our laws of good and evil in black and white, and allegorically if not in outright belief, tell us that God gave us these laws as our creator, either direct, or through an avatar of His choice—a Moses, Jesus or Muhammed. Further laws, created by Holy men, saints, kings and civil leaders have then been added, reflecting the divine code. In the Eastern and animistic faiths, good and evil is not black and white, but a creation that arises out of imbalance in the eternal harmony. They almost all universally accept that everything in the universe is composed of two magnetic forces, Yin and Yang. These forces can best be described as the negative and positive forces of a battery and not to be equated as good and evil. The magnetic field only produces its current when both forces are in equal harmony. If one force becomes greater than the other, there is imbalance and imbalance creates evil. Evil is not seen as something contrary to a law laid down by God or the gods, but as the result of that imbalance between the universal forces of Yin and Yang, and is more likely to be called suffering than evil. Therefore, the purpose of life is to keep that balance universally in man's relationship not just with his fellow humans, but with all life—with the universe. Ultimately, through the lessons of many lives and much suffering, eternal harmony will be achieved in a man's soul, creating for him the eternal state of Nirvana—complete union with the Divine, the source of all being. So, in the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God andin the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. This is the alpha and the omega, it is the beginning and it is the end—eternal harmony.
Strangely enough, the interaction between Western Civilization and the Eastern and animistic world that grew so fast in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries, has spurned a whole new interest in spirituality that was fast fading in the scientific challenges to Judaism, Christianity and Islam. As science led us into this challenge to our concepts of dimensional time, so eternal harmony could be seen by some to make more sense than our traditional time line faith. What if there is no present, past or future outside our restrictive human thinking and the mathematicians of quantum atomic physics are correct in seeing a timeless universe, then, doesn't eternal harmony speak the same language spiritually as our new scientific discoveries?
It would be wrong to say, however, that the three monotheistic faiths that created Western Civilization have not made a tremendous contribution to our understanding of the Divine. Judaism gave us the Decalogue, a rehash of ancient Mesopotamian laws that were synthesized into the Ten Commandments given to Moses at Mount Sinai by the God of Abraham and his descendents—the racial and nationalistic God watching over the Jews. Whether of Divine origin or not, this basic decalogue has become the benchmark for the civil law of our world. It is a basic code that whether for selfish or spiritual reasons, does assist us as mankind to live in harmony with each other. That harmony can only assist us in reaching our perceived Divine heavenly goal. Christianity added a whole new dimension to these laws in its interpretation of the Jewish spiritual leader, Yeshua, whom we know by his Latin name as Jesus. Jesus, seemingly taught the people of his time that each of these laws could only be measured against the greater Divine law of love. This reduced the harshness of the Decalogue, allowing for the great Christian contribution to Divine law of forgiveness. Jewish forgiveness existed in the form of appeasement, similarly found in the ritual of Eastern religions, albeit for slightly different reasons, whereby certain sacrifices offered to God would put us back on track when we had wandered from His Divine laws. Jesus, as a Jew, made such sacrifices himself, and somehow, because he was seemingly unjustly put to death, his followers saw him as an ultimate sacrifice to save them from their sins. The love and forgiveness that Jesus taught and applied to the Decalogue, his followers applied to his martyrdom. He became the sacrificial lamb and mankind's gateway to salvation. With the destruction of the Jewish state only four decades after Jesus' death, it is no great surprise that the power of this concept of ultimate forgiveness in love created by his sacrifice spread out into the gentile Graeco-Roman world. Forms of Christianity were born, and it is not surprising that among those forms developed the idea that this particular avatar was not just a prophet and a teacher, but God's son, an intervention by the creator God into His creation to set it back on a right course for His goal, perceived by us as Heaven.
Now, there are many at this point, who will say, 'but Jesus himself claimed to be the Son of God and himself taught us that he was the way to reconciliation with God and our heavenly goal.' However, to our knowledge at the present time, Jesus wrote down not one word himself and every statement attributed to him in the Christian Scriptures of the New Testament is second hand at best, and in most cases probably much further removed. We do not really know what Jesus said or taught or even possibly wrote, but only what later followers from thirty to four hundred years later considered him to have said, thought and taught. In fact, seemingly so variant were the interpretations of Jesus' message in those first three hundred years that ultimately through a series of great 'Christian' councils, Christianity was standardized and only certain Scriptures, the ones that best fitted this standardization, were considered to be valid. Thus, we arrive at the gospels of St. Matthew, St. Mark, St. Luke and St. John along with the Acts of the Apostles, a series of letters attributed to St. Paul and a few others, and the mysterious Apocalyptic writings that give us hope of that heavenly goal. Tagged on to the Hebrew Scriptures, the Bible was born, and relatively soon afterward to be translated into Latin—The Vulgate.
Literacy within the Roman Empire was considerably higher than in the 'Dark Ages' that followed. During those three hundred years when Christianity grew up in the Empire, the person and mystery of Jesus was explored in just about every imaginable way. Sadly, however, with the fall of the Jewish state, and three centuries later the fall of Rome itself, and centuries later again, the destruction of the Graeco-Roman culture by the Arabs in the Eastern Roman Empire, particularly in its greatest center of learning, Alexandria in Egypt, the evidence of the period of early 'Christian' exploration disappeared in the dust.
The Christianity that survived was only to be found in the Council created Greek and Latin Scriptures, and for the Christendom of the 'Dark Ages' only in the Latin Vulgate.
The 'Dark ages' and 'Middle ages' of European history taking us from the early Fifth Century to the Fifteenth Century were not periods of widespread literacy. The Latin Bible was not read by the majority, who took priestly interpretation on faith and trust. It was a faith that could ultimately raise great cathedrals, inspire the need for the crusades and showed the man Jesus as our Lord, the Son of God, whose sacrificial death and resurrection promises us salvation. This was the Christianity of Christendom, and with it the power and responsibility of the priesthood became enormous.
The church of a dead language, Latin, became challenged in the early enlightenment of the Renaissance. Literacy, at least among the wealthy, increased. A revival of interest in the classical languages caused a review of the thousand year old Latin scriptures. But, most important of all, it spawned a movement for the Scriptures to be translated from the Latin into the peoples' own languages. For the first time, individuals could form their own opinion of the perceived message of Jesus, rather than that handed down by The Church and its body of priests. The Roman Catholic Church of Christendom became challenged by its own generation of literate Renaissance scholars. Then, with the scriptures more readily in a language that the people could understand, the challenges led to breaches with Rome and Rome's authority—the Reformation was born. Bloody religious wars then ensued as the majority, the Church of Rome, attempted to hold on to their traditional interpretation against a growing enlightened minority, who saw their relationship with the Divine as more personal and direct—the protesters or Protestants. But, as in those first three hundred years of growing 'Christian' thought, there was much disagreement as each individual group, free of Roman indoctrination, formed its own opinion about the interpretation of the person of Jesus and our salvation. Ultimately, wars broke out between different Protestant interpretations and Christendom became further splintered.
As we look at history, these religious wars of the Sixteenth and Seventeenth centuries, even running on into the Eighteenth and early Nineteenth centuries, seem a sad recollection on the hopes of those Renaissance scholars. But, we must see them in the same light as those first three centuries, as a time of exploration within a somewhat rigid framework. What was that framework? No surprise: In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God andin the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. There was still no reason to challenge the literal interpretation of this Biblical concept. God was still controlling our destiny and the world had been created by God for us. Within that concept, however, some had, through the partial breakdown of Roman Catholic Christendom and the rise of Renaissance and Reformation freewill, examined again 'Who and what was Jesus Christ?'
I became a theologian, my chosen course of study at Cambridge University. But, before I became a theologian, I had little knowledge of how our Scriptures were written or of any of the great philosophical and ecclesiastical arguments about the person of Jesus and his sacrificial purpose. I was a 'man in the pew'. A twenty-minute sermon, and in most listeners' hopes, a twelve-minute sermon, does not give a clergyman time to begin to explore these things. We are still expected to simply take these things on trust. The Councils of the Fourth Century gave us two creeds—belief summaries based on the discussions and synthesis of four centuries of diverse opinion—The Apostles' Creed, the simple version, probably composed at least three hundred years after the life of any one of the twelve, and The Nicene Creed, the official statement of belief following the Council of Nicea in 325 A.D. that became, with later additions, the creed of Chalcedon in 451 A.D. Credo—I believe.
I believe in one God, the Father, the Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all that is, seen and unseen.
I believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father, God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, of one Being with the Father. Through Him all things were made. For us men and for our salvation He came down from heaven; by the power of the Holy Spirit He became incarnate of the Virgin Mary, and was made man. For our sake He was crucified under Pontius Pilate; He suffered death and was buried. On the third day He rose again in accordance with the Scriptures; He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and His kingdom will have no end.
I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son. With the Father and the Son He is worshipped and glorified. He has spoken through the Prophets.
I believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church. I acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins. I look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come.
If a Christian, then this creed is our belief and we have faith in that belief. But most of us learn these creeds by rote and never truly examine them in depth. Ironically, within parish life, it is usually only the true or 'want-to-be true' believers who attend the various attempts that clergy make to encourage theological discussion on such important matters, and when you are preaching to the converted, the converted rarely change. A summary of 'Parish Christianity', and with dwindling congregations today in 'Nominal Christianity', might well not be found in the words of the Creed, but rather in the concept of us living a good life following the example of our perceived good life of Jesus—the perfect man—who lived his life by the law of love. It was largely like that for me. I had no real concept of my salvation, and Easter was a lot more about the crucifixion of an innocent and extremely good man than about the Resurrection. The Resurrection was a happy by-product of the Crucifixion, proving Jesus' innocence and goodness rather than the road to my salvation. It was the same for Christmas. Christmas celebrates the miraculous birth of Jesus, the Son of God, but the celebration to me was more about the humility of the Holy family and the love of the 'angels' and stable animals, mixed with that Dickensian Christmas spirit depicted on Christmas cards bringing 'Glad tidings of peace and goodwill to all mankind.' We did not delve into the theology and we read little about it.
For me, my first foray into questioning my creed, came, therefore, when I was about fourteen. Nearly half of the Sundays of the Christian year are named after Trinity Sunday. On Trinity Sunday, year after year that twelve to twenty-minute sermon spot is used to attempt to explain an inexplicable mystery—the Divine unity of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. The classic explanation attributed to St. Patrick has been for many clergy the easiest way out of a deep and massive theological discussion. St. Patrick holds up what later was to become the symbol of Ireland, a three-leaved clover—one leaf in three identical segments, but all part of the one leaf—the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. At fourteen, I challenged this. It seemed far more logical to me to see the Godhead in human terms. God the Father, I saw as the head, the repository of the brain, the cause for all human action. God the Son, I saw as a limb, responsible to the brain, but not of the brain and God the Holy Spirit I saw as the invisible thoughts that the brain allows a human to have, the thoughts that make the human an individual. My chaplain at the time referred to my diagnosis of the Trinity as a Scalene Trinity, each level of the Trinity being one scale below the other. Little did I know at the time that I was venturing into one of the greatest heretical discussions of the Fourth Century—a version of Arianism. The Arian heresy denied the true Divinity of Jesus Christ, so called after its author, Arius. It did not deny the power of the Father operating through the person of Jesus and the Holy Spirit, but it definitely made them subordinate to the Father, the one who in the beginning created the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God andin the beginning God created the heaven and earth. The author of the most theological of the four canonical gospels of the New Testament, St. John, opens his gospel with the reference to the Word or Greek Logos as being one with God to ensure his readers that the person of Jesus was no less than the full person of God in equal Divinity: And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth; we have beheld his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father — St. JohnI:14. The words are placed into the mouth of John the Baptist, but they are there to make a typically Johannine theological point.
A 'Christian' theologian is one of a small group of persons within the Christian family who is trained to look in great detail at our source materials for our beliefs, often to a point where traditional faith in the creeds of Christianity can come under scrutiny. Thus, when I attended Cambridge University, I found myself delving into all the subjects that 'the man in the pew' rarely encounters. I discovered that the 'word of God' was not the word of God, but the 'word' of many different men under very different historic circumstances at very different times. In detail, this comes from close scrutiny of the Greek and Hebrew, its style, and its repetitious nature as one part of the Scriptures is used to support another. The authors used common sources and widely different sources to tell of the same events, and in time the story of The Bible unfolds. Along with this textual knowledge, the theologian immerses himself in the historical circumstances of the times of the writing. Archeology and a knowledge of the mass movement of culture and Empires in the Ancient world and the Hellenistic Graeco-Roman world are essential to understanding the origins and development of both Judaism and early Christianity. One of my favorite courses of study at Cambridge was on coins of the ancient world, showing the significance of trade routes and Empires in the interpretation of Israel's destiny. Did God raise one up from the East whom victory meets at every step, or did the Persian kings see the weakness of the Babylonians in their favor, and grasp the opportunism of the moment that happened to favor the exiled Jews? So the theologian wades his way through the bias of the written word in his attempt to find the spiritual, historic and human motives for all circumstances of the source—the Scriptures.
Knowing how people lived their everyday lives in that movement of trade and Empire is vital to understanding what lies behind the stories that have founded our faith. Early Christianity rubbed shoulders with other 'religions' of which the most successful was Mithraism. The cult of Mithras, an old Persian and Indian sun-god, which spread over the Empire of Alexander the Great three hundred years before Christ, reached Rome in 67 B.C. By the Second Century A.D. Emperor Commodus actually made it an official Imperial cult. Its monuments are very common in the frontier districts of the Roman Empire where much of early Christianity developed, for Mithras had a great appeal to soldiers. All creatures were supposed to be sprung from the bull, which Mithras had overcome and sacrificed before he ascended into heaven, where he guaranteed a blessed immortality to those who had been initiated into his mysteries. Followers were initiated by baptism, purification by honey, and the use of bread, water and wine consecrated by priests, called 'fathers', who enjoined a high moral code. The similarities with Christianity were so striking to Tertullian that he tried to explain them by supposing that the devil had inspired a deliberate parody of the Christian sacraments. However, as seen, Mithraism came first, before early forms of Christianity. The resemblances are far more likely to be due to mutual influence, and to common affinities with primitive religion and the meeting of a common need. Mithraism, in the Second Century a serious threat to a fledgling Christianity, was almost completely superceeded by Christianity in the Fourth Century, in no small part because of the Fourth Century Roman Imperial embrace of Christianity.
The theologian also studies the theologians of the past, for there is little new under the sun. In Christianity that assuredly means a close look at 'Patristics'—the study of the writings of the Early Church Fathers, who grappled with the unfolding beliefs of early Christianity. Central in their discussions is that continuing question as to what was the true divinity of Jesus and what was his perceived interpretation of himself—Christology.
As these things surfaced again in the Reformation, and the theologian should and does study the arguments of both the Protestant divines and their counter-Reformation opponents, as well as the differing theological viewpoints within post-Reformation protestantism, it is seen that the differences of opinion on Christology and the sacraments became even greater than during the formative first three hundred years.
If the theologian is to continue to be a scholar after his training, he must out of necessity have become well versed in the languages that formed Christianity—Aramaic, Hebrew, Greek and Latin and for many in the archeological field, a host of other languages and dialects of the ancient middle east. If not, like me, although I had my basic knowledge of Latin, Hebrew and Greek, he will be dependent on the synthesis and breaking ground of others, as heightened interest and archeological finds unearth more and more documents from those first three hundred years of struggle. In the latter Twentieth Century, the two greatest new finds have undoubtedly been the Dead Sea Scrolls and the Nag Hammadi texts. The Dead Sea Scrolls have not only given us our oldest written versions of Old Testament Scriptures but also a host of written information of a quasi-theological and philosophical nature exactly contemporaneous with the time of Jesus. The Nag Hammadi texts have revealed many written sources of the Second Century A.D. buried in Egypt that were among the many scriptural writings denied canonical acceptance by the Fourth Century councils. Much of the popular work on interpreting this wealth of new material has been done by members of the Historical Jesus movement and particularly the scholars of the Jesus Seminar.
These new discoveries and the exciting research they have beckoned has all helped to revive the diversity of opinion as to the nature and life of Jesus as it must have been in the early church, but they run parallel with those other exciting new discoveries and theories in the scientific world. Is our theological interpretation any longer bound within the concept that in the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God, andin the beginning God created the heavens and the earth? The beginning is now beyond our understanding—the unknowable. It is only known, in any form, by our limited but knowable perception of time. If this is an illusion, then there is no knowable beginning.
Christianity struggles with this, mostly by going into denial. Fundamentalism has become traditional Christianity's best defense against what even science has to agree is unknowable. This manifests itself also in practiced orthodox Judaism and extremist Islam. Vocal, in some cases patriotic, and in almost all cases, governed by an inner fear of loss, fundamentalism clings to the old framework. But, remember the growing discovery of the past two hundred years that a large part of the humanity of our planet was never governed by that framework, but by various interpretations of the concept of eternal harmony. The framework upon which most Eastern religious philosophy is built is in many ways more compatible with the current direction of scientific thought. If finite time is an illusion, eternal harmony does not necessarily collapse. Our relationship with an ongoing but historic Creator God does collapse, or require some serious reinterpretation. Now, even if we are living in an illusion of time and space, we are still perceptively having the experience, but if that experience is not dependent on the rewards, punishment or even grace, of the Creator God, but on our own endeavor to be in that state of eternal harmony, we can live eternally in the now—in the one and only moment. Many eastern practices and disciplines do help us to do just that, from Yoga to Xi-gong. They are based on us allowing the life force that is within us to be a perfect balance of the eternal harmony of Yin and Yang. This life force, or Xi (sometimes Chi) is seen to be the common vibration of all matter anywhere within the experience of the whole universe. Here is the link with our current interpretation of modern physics. Everything is vibration. Vibration is the life force. The life force creates. We are therefore the creators of our own universe. The form of that eternal vibration remains unknown, but its force, being universal, is present identically at whatever is the beginning, the present, the future, or the end. Living in eternal harmony with that life force, even if only for a moment in perceived time, breaks the boundary of time, and takes us into other dimensions—the Divine experience. Can we call that our glimpse into the Divine? Is that the point where the heavens and the earth are one? The peasant in Bali, who takes his vegetables to the village temple's altar as appeasement, probably does not think so, but he does believe that his ultimate goal will be Nirvana. It may take many life times, even many forms, but once achieved, his Xi will be in eternal harmony—one with all things at all times, forever. If, however, those many lifetimes and many forms are in fact only a part of the illusion of time, heaven and earth are already one. So, through our disciplines, we can feed on our own inner vibration at any time to achieve that union. It is our creation because we have become the creator, the creation is our freewill and the illusion of time is also our creation.
Unfortunately, not even the bravest scientist of quantum physics, string theories and eternity, knows where these discoveries will lead. Such science is only theory and in its infancy, proven only mathematically and by those who may feel that they have achieved the multi-dimensional experience but are unable to explain it to us beyond the senses. It is, therefore, still in the realm of the unknown. But at one time, it was an obvious proven fact from scientific observation that the sun moved across the sky from east to west each day. As our understanding of other heavenly bodies grew, we discovered that the whole night sky was moving just like the sun. In turn, it then became obvious to us that the sun was not moving, but that our planet was spinning round every twenty four hours and what is more on a tilted axis that on an annual progression around our stationary sun gave us our four seasons. Later, that illusion was shattered in finding that our sun was one among many suns within a galaxy of stars, and they were all moving, too! Each new scientific discovery redefines its predecessor, and who knows what may lie beyond eternity! The unknown, simply becomes vaster and vaster as our attempts to know it grow more and more complex. If in the Nineteenth Century there was a case for being an atheist as our old paradigm became questioned, there is now little case, as science is forcing us into a new paradigm of thinking about the Divine. Few of today's greatest scientists dare to call themselves atheists or even agnostics. The spiritual and the Divine are coming together in our current and limited understanding of the vibration of life and the infinite expansion and contraction of our universe. Is God the great creator recognized in history by His Divine avatars, or is God the great gas, ever evolving in a cosmic sea, of which we are a part that through the complexity of an evolved atomical brain we interpret as an historical appearance in time. Or, is I am the creator of all that is—my hologram?
It is totally beyond our ken to know this unknown. So, maybe, it is a fruitless exercise. Within the limitations that we may or may not have imposed upon ourselves by creating a time line of history, what source brings us closest to eternal harmony? I would like to call it Divine love. Why throw the baby out with the bath water? I was born into a nominally Christian family. I was baptized a Christian. I grew up believing that there was something special about a mythical man who lived two thousand years ago named Jesus. I studied the writings on him in great detail as a theologian. He was a Jew, but his followers, in their writings, presented him as Divine—a man who had experienced eternal harmony, like the Buddha...maybe. Did this Jewish teacher have glimpses of the Divine, even glimpses that others recognized as the Divine—the Transfiguration on Mount Tabor, the Resurrection or the Ascension? Were these moments of multi-dimensional experience? Who knows? Today, some scientists, and even fundamentalists, might think so, but does that matter? For us, still nominal Christians, his great message has often been summed up in three words: 'God is Love'. The revolutionary song of change in the turbulent 1960's said: "What the world needs now is Love sweet Love," and it surely does. But what is love?
Love is not a mushy sentimental state of being. It is a powerful force that we can turn on or off. I would like to describe it as the visible sign of the invisible Xi. If we allow the life force of the Divine to show in the light that shines from us before others, we are expressing love. Through our human brain we have interpreted this love in various ways from concern to passion, from sympathy to 'tough' love, from calm serenity to excitement. We have also witnessed how this same Xi can flow from us to other life forms in the bond between animals and man, even plants and man. I am a gardener and I firmly believe that plants respond to tender love. Talking to plants and animals is not a sign of weakness or madness, but a sign of love. The atomic structure and genetic make up of most plants and animals is not radically different from that of humans, all of us having evolved over a relatively short period of time in the same environment—planet earth. But if that period of time is actually only our creation—our illusion—then of course we are possessed of the same Xi all in the same single moment—that Divine breach of dimensions. If we turn off our Xi, we will not manifest love, for love is the outward expression of that Divine force within us. It has healing power within our bodies—creating our wholeness—and it has healing power in creating our oneness—our unity with the Divine—eternal harmony. It removes separation. Collectively, it has the power to move mountains. It can be the consequence of individual and collective prayer. It is focus—the focus of the life force that is our Divinity. Is this, what Jesus really tried to teach us? Is this what the Buddha teaches us? Is this what a simple butterfly teaches us? Is this what the magnificent beauty of gaseous nebulae seen through our astronomical technology teaches us? It is all one, at one time, the life force of Divinity. It is only in our experience that we can know the unknowable.