Why God leaves us alone

And why, according to Deepak Chopra, that’s a very good thing

Paulo Coelho | Jan/Feb 2007 issue
I’m sure that in their heart of hearts, most people wish God would stop interfering in everyday life. This is a concern that reaches far beyond religion. The U.S. president and other born-again Christians refer to God’s helping hand in making war in the Middle East. Our Western society couldn’t be more different from traditional Muslim society, but we have one thing in common: People in both places believe God is on their side. This means they know what God thinks remarkable assumption given that God is infinitely present and infinitely transcendent; cosmic and personal at the same time; invisible and unable to be located in time and space.
People continue to be nagged by ancient documents called scriptures that claim to transmit what it is that God exactly wants. The great Indian poet Kabir wrote that he had read all the scriptures, bathed in all the sacred pools, visited all the holy shrines, and found God in none of them. Most people would consider that a sign of despair when in fact it’s the key to freedom. In Vedanta, the purest spiritual doctrine of Hindu India, God doesn’t want anything of us. He doesn’t want to be found; he has no laws that we should obey; he never judges, punishes or puts forth expectations.
The truth is that God left us alone a long time ago. This wasn’t an act of abuse or abandonment. It was an opportunity for us to find our own freedom, and in that freedom to realize something simple yet profound: God is existence itself. Existence isn’t an empty vessel. It contains life and death. It harbours the Self, a form of consciousness that can embrace its own existence and create its own stage for evolution. If we go deep enough into Being, leaving aside all the objects that surround us and mask Being from our eyes, we find that Being is eternal and contains the seed of every created thing. All that exists is only a reflection of the Self, and all worlds, including this precious one, fall into three categories:
1. Consciousness reflected in material objects and events
2. Consciousness reflected in more abstract objects and events
3. Consciousness reflecting upon itself
Trees, mountains and clouds belong in the first category. Dreams, ideals and aspirations belong in the second. The Self belongs in the third.
Every cause, ideal, spiritual movement or soul teaching is about answering the question: Who am I? Fundamentalists of every stripe want this question answered once and for all by an unquestioned authority. They may succeed in quelling doubt for a while, but God has nothing to say and everything to say. I am fond of Thomas Merton’s words: The search for God consists of arriving at a place and discovering that God has just left. Which is as it should be. The essence of human nature is to reach beyond what we already know about ourselves.
At this moment we are faced with ferment and potential chaos as outmoded religious beliefs struggle to prove that they are as strong as ever. Psychiatry professor Susan Smalley says, quite realistically, that no one can let go of any belief until the void it would leave behind is filled. Those who have already let go of God aren’t necessarily better off than fundamentalists. They too have a void to fill.
God won’t leave us alone as long as human beings feel afraid and lonely. God might evolve so one hopes into something other than a white-bearded authority figure with a taste for vengeance. In moderate denominations that transformation happened a long, long time ago. But somehow we couldn’t handle a nicer God. Millions of people feel too hollow and afraid, angry and attacked, lonely and disconnected to believe in a benign divinity. This phenomenon is called alienation. It was well diagnosed by Marx and Freud, who pointed out that the human psyche suffers terribly when people are yanked out of a connection with Nature, when traditions stop being a safety net, when dislocation and insecurity are the daily norm.
The reason 87 percent of North Americans tell pollsters they never had a doubt about the existence of God isn’t rock-ribbed faith. It’s fear of the alternative, a cosmos dominated by the void left by an absent God. Whatever our beliefs may be, we all have to fill that void. It would be an act of good faith if the Religious Right could concede that we’re all in this together. It would be an equal act of faith if the enemies of the Religious Right made the same concession. Spirituality would then move forward, and on a global basis we could continue the universal quest, which is to unite heaven and Earth, first in our minds, then in every place our minds inhabit.
It’s true that evangelical Christians are making gains, even in the most traditional places. (A country like Ecuador, once a bastion of orthodox Catholicism, is estimated to be up to 25 percent Protestant, due to inroads made by missionaries from the U.S.) The future of God, however, lies in spiritual evolution. The next step of growth is for people to start to awaken one by one, just as Jesus, Buddha and Muhammad did.
Judging by grassroots activity, the following trends will continue to shape spiritual life:
Meditation will become mainstream.
Elements of the miraculous and paranormal will be widely acknowledged.
Alternative forms of healing, both physical and psychological, will become commonplace.
Prayer will be seen as real and efficacious.
Manifestation of desires will be talked about as a real phenomenon.
People will regain a connection to their souls.
Individuals will find answers inwardly to their deepest spiritual questions. They will believe in their private answers and live accordingly.
New communities of belief will arise.
Gurus and other spiritual authorities will wane in influence.
Wisdom traditions will grow to embrace the great spiritual teachings at the heart of organized religion.
Faith will no longer be seen as an irrational departure from reason and science.
Wars will decline as peace becomes a social reality.
Nature will regain its sacred value.
Millions of people already embody these trends in their own lives. They abide by the values of the new spirituality. Events may mask this widespread revolution in spiritual values, but outward events have always been a poor guide to what is happening at the soul level.
Taken with kind permission from Resurgence magazine (Nov/Dec. 2006), a unique British magazine that explores the common ground where activism, spirituality, science and art cross paths.
Deepak Chopra is a physician and the author of many books, most recently Grow Younger, Live Longer. He was born in India, but has lived in the United States for many years, where he taught at the Tufts University and Boston University schools of medicine.
 

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Why God leaves us alone

And why, according to Deepak Chopra, that’s a very good thing

Paulo Coelho | Jan/Feb 2007 issue
I’m sure that in their heart of hearts, most people wish God would stop interfering in everyday life. This is a concern that reaches far beyond religion. The U.S. president and other born-again Christians refer to God’s helping hand in making war in the Middle East. Our Western society couldn’t be more different from traditional Muslim society, but we have one thing in common: People in both places believe God is on their side. This means they know what God thinks remarkable assumption given that God is infinitely present and infinitely transcendent; cosmic and personal at the same time; invisible and unable to be located in time and space.
People continue to be nagged by ancient documents called scriptures that claim to transmit what it is that God exactly wants. The great Indian poet Kabir wrote that he had read all the scriptures, bathed in all the sacred pools, visited all the holy shrines, and found God in none of them. Most people would consider that a sign of despair when in fact it’s the key to freedom. In Vedanta, the purest spiritual doctrine of Hindu India, God doesn’t want anything of us. He doesn’t want to be found; he has no laws that we should obey; he never judges, punishes or puts forth expectations.
The truth is that God left us alone a long time ago. This wasn’t an act of abuse or abandonment. It was an opportunity for us to find our own freedom, and in that freedom to realize something simple yet profound: God is existence itself. Existence isn’t an empty vessel. It contains life and death. It harbours the Self, a form of consciousness that can embrace its own existence and create its own stage for evolution. If we go deep enough into Being, leaving aside all the objects that surround us and mask Being from our eyes, we find that Being is eternal and contains the seed of every created thing. All that exists is only a reflection of the Self, and all worlds, including this precious one, fall into three categories:
1. Consciousness reflected in material objects and events
2. Consciousness reflected in more abstract objects and events
3. Consciousness reflecting upon itself
Trees, mountains and clouds belong in the first category. Dreams, ideals and aspirations belong in the second. The Self belongs in the third.
Every cause, ideal, spiritual movement or soul teaching is about answering the question: Who am I? Fundamentalists of every stripe want this question answered once and for all by an unquestioned authority. They may succeed in quelling doubt for a while, but God has nothing to say and everything to say. I am fond of Thomas Merton’s words: The search for God consists of arriving at a place and discovering that God has just left. Which is as it should be. The essence of human nature is to reach beyond what we already know about ourselves.
At this moment we are faced with ferment and potential chaos as outmoded religious beliefs struggle to prove that they are as strong as ever. Psychiatry professor Susan Smalley says, quite realistically, that no one can let go of any belief until the void it would leave behind is filled. Those who have already let go of God aren’t necessarily better off than fundamentalists. They too have a void to fill.
God won’t leave us alone as long as human beings feel afraid and lonely. God might evolve so one hopes into something other than a white-bearded authority figure with a taste for vengeance. In moderate denominations that transformation happened a long, long time ago. But somehow we couldn’t handle a nicer God. Millions of people feel too hollow and afraid, angry and attacked, lonely and disconnected to believe in a benign divinity. This phenomenon is called alienation. It was well diagnosed by Marx and Freud, who pointed out that the human psyche suffers terribly when people are yanked out of a connection with Nature, when traditions stop being a safety net, when dislocation and insecurity are the daily norm.
The reason 87 percent of North Americans tell pollsters they never had a doubt about the existence of God isn’t rock-ribbed faith. It’s fear of the alternative, a cosmos dominated by the void left by an absent God. Whatever our beliefs may be, we all have to fill that void. It would be an act of good faith if the Religious Right could concede that we’re all in this together. It would be an equal act of faith if the enemies of the Religious Right made the same concession. Spirituality would then move forward, and on a global basis we could continue the universal quest, which is to unite heaven and Earth, first in our minds, then in every place our minds inhabit.
It’s true that evangelical Christians are making gains, even in the most traditional places. (A country like Ecuador, once a bastion of orthodox Catholicism, is estimated to be up to 25 percent Protestant, due to inroads made by missionaries from the U.S.) The future of God, however, lies in spiritual evolution. The next step of growth is for people to start to awaken one by one, just as Jesus, Buddha and Muhammad did.
Judging by grassroots activity, the following trends will continue to shape spiritual life:
Meditation will become mainstream.
Elements of the miraculous and paranormal will be widely acknowledged.
Alternative forms of healing, both physical and psychological, will become commonplace.
Prayer will be seen as real and efficacious.
Manifestation of desires will be talked about as a real phenomenon.
People will regain a connection to their souls.
Individuals will find answers inwardly to their deepest spiritual questions. They will believe in their private answers and live accordingly.
New communities of belief will arise.
Gurus and other spiritual authorities will wane in influence.
Wisdom traditions will grow to embrace the great spiritual teachings at the heart of organized religion.
Faith will no longer be seen as an irrational departure from reason and science.
Wars will decline as peace becomes a social reality.
Nature will regain its sacred value.
Millions of people already embody these trends in their own lives. They abide by the values of the new spirituality. Events may mask this widespread revolution in spiritual values, but outward events have always been a poor guide to what is happening at the soul level.
Taken with kind permission from Resurgence magazine (Nov/Dec. 2006), a unique British magazine that explores the common ground where activism, spirituality, science and art cross paths.
Deepak Chopra is a physician and the author of many books, most recently Grow Younger, Live Longer. He was born in India, but has lived in the United States for many years, where he taught at the Tufts University and Boston University schools of medicine.
 

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