Advices, Queries, and Defining the Divine

I’ve made much in my blog about my spiritual path. I’ve wrestled with angels and wrestled with institutions. I’ve even fancied my de-conversion from Christianity, specifically the fundamentalist variety. All of these experiences has informed and defined my path in significant ways. On another blog, I’ve explored my Goddess-y self and I’ve tried to come to grips with what engaging with the Divine means to me.  All of these parts of me seemed like disparate bits trying to meld into a specific whole and not quite managing it. I felt that I had to keep my explorations secret, as if exploring the Divine was frowned upon, especially in today’s climate of religious and political extremism.

I did not like the God of fundamentalist Christianity much and have since turned my back on that chapter of my life. I found this male Father/God officious and meddling and reflective of the narrow mindset so inherent in such extremist faiths based on male power and control. I knew that I had to keep a distance from that God, just for my own mental health and spiritual integrity. Following that God brought out the worst elements in me and, I felt, in society. On the opposite pole, I explored the Goddess within and found much more peace and harmony with the Divine than I previously had before. I ascribe this mainly to my trading one gendered imagination for another, but it did help me mend the damaged views of the Divine that I had swirling in my soul due to my earlier experiences with the gendered Divine in religion. However, I found that in the Goddess realm there is also some extremism, but only in the political wing of this spiritual heritage. If one does not set all one’s store in political movements or invest oneself totally in one political figure, the spiritual call becomes clearer and the Divine can be heard through the clamorous politics. But attachment to such things in public life and culture left me feeling frustrated and angry most of the time. I knew this politicized path wasn’t the path for me either. I also found that one can so focus on the gender of the Divine that the essence of what the Divine means in real life gets completely subsumed. Pretty soon all we have is what particular groups and individual human beings want irrespective of what the total genderless Divine Spirit of the world may reflect.

Quaker Definition

Quaker Definition

Throughout this entire spiritual journey I’ve questioned my own participation in this world of faith and the Divine and what it is that I actually do believe. Not only that, where does it fit into my world? Some would say that that’s the wrong focus. I should find out where I fit into “it” whatever “it” is not the reverse. I don’t think that’s the answer for me. More and more I believe the Divine to be the best and highest of human love, potential, and will as expressed in the spirit of human beings committed to the good rather than those committed to narrow self interests and political movements. Now I’m sure some will disagree with me about the politics, but for me spirituality is about changing myself for the better and becoming a better person to live in this world whether that involves politics or not. Politics don’t change anything. Individuals do. I’ve come to realize that the old saw “people are the only hands God has” is really saying that there is no God/dess apart from human beings. It is really saying that the Divine is impotent without us. There would be no point to the Divine otherwise. The Divine is contingent on the human then. Would speculating that a Divine being exists otherwise be delving into an area that has no purpose and no relevance to human life? Where do humans end and the Divine begin?  If one wants to posit a god without reference to humans, my question would be; “to what purpose?”

Recently, in my own journey, the Quakers, or Friends as they are commonly called, have come to my attention. Far from being just another ecclesiastical movement, this group embodies all that the Divine and spirituality has come to mean for me precisely because it it undefined and open. I was skeptical at first, as I am always wont to be when it comes to being introduced to a religion. But the more I learned, the more intrigued I became, until finally, last Sunday, I had the opportunity to visit a Quaker Meeting House and experienced their worship for the first time. There were no hymns, no pastors, no sermon. There was a congenial time of visiting and friendly conversation before the time set for worship and then there was a quiet trek into the meeting house proper, where we all sat in a circle and quieted ourselves for an hour to listen to the Divine within us.

I thought I would have a tough time of it, considering that other attempts at meditation on my own never worked for me. My “monkey mind” as Buddhists call it could never quiet enough to reach a state of meditative silence. However, I found that immediately upon being seated and situated, I entered a quiet zone unlike I had before. I honestly felt my mind go blank (for anyone who knows me, this is quite a feat!) and a heavy, heavy peacefulness descended upon me. I almost fell asleep, but didn’t and found that no thoughts good or ill drifted through my brain. The meeting room had windows near the ceiling and one could see through glass doors to the outside. It was a windy and rainy day and I watched, mesmerized, as the branches of the leafless tree outside swayed and danced in the wind. Again, there were no thoughts. Someone stood to speak and quietly addressed the group for a couple minutes about the day being recognized in the Christian calendar as the Conversion of Saul on the road to Damascus. Some ten minutes or so later, another person did the same with another similar message about “conversion” and what that meant for the Friends. Then after a larger gap, one woman, who exuded a spirit of calm and gentleness spoke of a friend she had met at a Quaker meeting over 40 years ago and how that impacted her life. Another two or three spoke as the Spirit moved them. Then after an hour, someone signaled the end of the meeting and we all went out into the foyer for coffee and conversation. While inside I had not thought of anything that normally occupied my mind and it was the most refreshing time of worship I’ve had in a long, long time. I don’t claim to know if I communed with anything, but a communal spirit of Love and humanity was strong.

All I can say is that after reading and studying and after the Friends worship experience, I’ve come to a refining point in my thoughts of the Divine. Rather than the Divine being the collective unconscious of humanity in all its best aspect, which indeed it very well could be, the Divine has come to mean something far less individually anthropomorphic and far more cosmically expansive and inclusive and all encompassing than the previous definitions of the Divine. This Divine Spirit exists in its own right and feeds on the spirits of all and processes and reflects back the best and most loving of all to us to use with and for each other. The Divine lives so in tune with humanity that, like water it can be stepped into and out of at any given moment, until finally, one begins to realize that we are already in the water of Spirit; it is we who unconsciously step in and out, not realizing that we just need to quiet down enough to realize where we are. We come back to ourselves in the silence. We come back to the Divine within the silence.

The experience has left me wondering more and more how to relate to this, how to incorporate this new type of experience into the many and varied ones that I’ve already had, or how this all fits into my beliefs about the Divine, but I’m sure I’ll be writing more about discovering this later. I’m still very much a work in progress. For now, I will leave you with a small tidbit of truth in the Advices and Queries of the Yearly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends in Britain:

Each of us has a particular experience of God and each must find the way to be true to it…listen patiently and seek the truth which other people’s opinions may contain for you… (point 17)

Blessings!

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7 thoughts on “Advices, Queries, and Defining the Divine

  1. Whether I achieve it or not, I have always valued open-mindedness very highly. Recently, I have begun to value open-heartedness even more, in myself and others. In this context, I think of open-heartedness as being emotionally/spiritually receptive to positive input.
    Your post strikes me as a typically well crafted one, since it truly reflects the progression you describe, as you attempt to work out a definition of the Divine that functions for you in your life. Honest positivity, and a sense of getting somewhere, are both enormously encouraging to those of us heading in a similar direction, and I feel blessed to be able to draw such encouragement from this account of your “story so far”.

    Finally, I can never resist dabbling in areas which Quakers might describe as “Notions”, so:
    “If one wants to posit a god without reference to humans,
    my question would be; “to what purpose?””

    Just because Humanity did not exist, it would in no way mean that there was no other agency in the universe capable of purpose. It is simply that we would not be aware of it.

    If there are other sentient beings, capable of self-consciousness, in the universe, their Divine may well be the same as ours (or maybe not).

    Reg

  2. Reg,

    you wrote: “Just because Humanity did not exist, it would in no way mean that there was no other agency in the universe capable of purpose. It is simply that we would not be aware of it.”

    Exactly. There would be no one to care about such a being unless you posit “other sentient beings” to be aware of such a Divinity. In that case, the problem is no longer ours. However, my question remains. Notion that it is. 😀

    Thanks Reg.

  3. I have found more truth in Quaker silence than anything anyone has spoken from the pulpit. It’s an amazing experience.

  4. Hi Jodi!

    I certainly know now why that would be so. It was an amazing experience and I hope to do it again, although I’m not sure there are Quakers in my area. But I am certainly going to find out. Good to see you again! 🙂

  5. Hey Mystery. I am always wondering about the path. I remember something I read in a John Edwards book, heavily paraphrased as follows: the different religions represent different sides of the same pyramid.

    In other words, many paths, same end location.

    I have always had trouble being involved in any religion that declares the others are wrong. I have no issue with individual positions within some religions that speak ill or act ill toward others, I can easily say, nope, I don’t like that, but I am fairly convinced it is more of an individual basis, or perhaps a loose collection of the few, within religions that believe that way.

    I’m rambling. My point is simply, I think there are many many paths to God, I’m not convinced anyone of the paths is the only or true path. I think our ending quote above sums up how I feel.

    Blessings.

  6. Hey SurfaceEarth! I’ve missed you! 🙂

    I agree with you totally about the different paths. I could never tolerate a position either that thought a single path to be the only path. That seems to come from a place of deep fear of the other’s journey. Why should they fear it or believe it wrong? I think pride is our downfall when it comes to religion or even a-religion. As soon as we believe we are on the only true path, we have most certainly gone astray.

    It’s good to see you again!

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