It’s clear I’ve read too much on this world. There is a certain bliss in ignorance, isn’t there? I say this because in looking around, it’s easy for me to find more misery than blessing. It seems odd to me that mankind chooses to speak in the public square more of his misfortune than his fortune? Does he not know his blessings? This public square of ours – communications – has less civility than a boxing match. At least in boxing you shake hands before you proceed to pummel that next door neighbor in the ring of your existence.
Man finds passion in pointing to a myriad of causes for his misfortune. His intellect meticulously inspects and dissects; slicing at this part and that part of the organ of Man in some hope that he might animate his ailing creation – himself – into the perfection that God desires. Yet from this all, the cords that bind man together in this world are becoming more and more tangled; the tensions within society both increasing and at times overwhelming; human tsunamis that bring chaos to man’s culture.
Is there a cure; a fix, or perhaps a glue that might align us once again with one another? Fit us together once again like one of those 5000 piece puzzles of a meadow of grass and spring flowers. Are we searching for that illusive glue we have yet to find, or are we not? With glue, there is effect; but where is the cause of the glue, so we might procure the glue?
Looking about, I see little but an infinite number of causes that yield an infinite number of effects; all of them tensions. But there is, or perhaps a ‘was’ to man’s intellect, one cause that is still not quite like all the rest in these days of modernity. This cause is referred to as God. It promises transparency – a noble, modern virtue – and the cohesion of a glue – ah, good technology – if sought in earnest.
And if we commune with this God, we are promised the truth of the fallacy of all other causes. In fact, it is said that the lack of this one cause is the reason for those other causes that bring tension and chaos into our lives. There are a few billion people on earth who are considering this matter on a daily basis. Most of them exercise their considerations through what we call religion, yet within religion there are perhaps more tensions than in any other discipline of the human species.
I venture here that the tensions of religion, throughout the world, are but the testament to the errant path of man; in choosing his own causes for the renewal of a torn world, rather than choosing God as the one cause that can renew all things. We do have a passion for misfortune.
Most interesting is the erect ability of mankind to observe this phenomenon of passion, down through several millennium, and not simply recognize this condition for what it is; some form of Mobius strip that leaves man in a continuous loop, never permitting him to truly complete the journey he believes his faith has set his personal feet upon. Instead, he walks a journey that turns him upside-down, then right-side again and back to the beginning. Should competing faiths meet somewhere along this circuitous, endless journey, they routinely murder one other in the name of their god of love.
And what about love? Can all religions secure the inexhaustible precept of love as the hulls of their ships, and yet so naturally and instinctively employ hatred, bigotry and violence as their rudders? Can you blame modern society for recognizing the obvious confusion and hypocrisy in this puzzlement? The religions of the world assert their practiced dogmas, doctrines and sacraments to be god-quenched, fundamental principles of life for all to be in obedience to without question, and they sense no need to provide any linguistically clear, secular answer when a question is raised; claiming faith as their trump card. Can you really blame modern society for running from religion as if they have met the devil?
Where am I going? I’m a professed, new Catholic since 2013; a charismatic Christian before that, since 2009. Before that I was an atheist. Not with good reason or assertion, but with anger for the mess I was. I had little inclination to seek the meaning to anything. My conversion from atheist to Christian was dramatic and sudden; a flash on a quiet night. I remember, a couple of weeks afterwards, of having a brief conversation with my assistant, who is Christian. I had asked her the following:
“If I had been living in Iran at the time of this event in my life, would I be Christian or Muslim?”
Her response was natural – coming from a devout charismatic – but without any real assurance to me at the time. She knew that the dramatic event I experienced was an encounter with what she and I assumed was the Abrahamic god in the midst of a quiet night. Assumptions aside, what I did learn soon after is that God had taken my right to what we know as human free will, and replaced it with a knowledge of Himself that supposedly only angels possess. I know Him. I need not solely have faith in Him. How did He do this feat? He did it by doing one simple thing within me. He freed my spirit from its immured condition.
And to clarify a point…. To say that I have the same knowledge of God that angels possess, is not to proclaim an exalted status, a membership in an exclusive, heavenly club, nor assert my ego. It is to simply acknowledge that if there is a spirit within me – one placed there by God – then it is spirit, and as such, would have the same knowledge of God as any spirit would; including angels. So, the only thing I am asserting is that with an active spirit working within oneself, there comes an associative knowledge that has become refreshed and made usable.
It was simple for my assistant to proclaim that I would surely be Christian, and not Muslim. I said little, but I sensed a disagreement within; a disagreement that I had to let lie at the time, as I had only a rudimentary understanding of what God had done to me then. You see, this Abrahamic god had shown me the irrelevance of faith, which is the foundation of any religion. That would be quite disconcerting, to even the aged atheist I once was, for Christianity is, or was, Europe’s, and thus America’s, cultural foundation, and foundations are assumptions rarely considered. Faith is an assumption of Christianity, and faith assumes a truth unfounded. So, why reflect upon an assumption; in this case that Christianity is the baseline of a relationship with God. It was easy for my assistant to tell me that I’d be Christian; even in Iran.
I realize that I have, painlessly in appearance, inserted two sentences that are very different from what we understand Christianity to, A., assert, and B., assume. I know there is a need to look at them; even if briefly so, here in this essay.
“Assumptions aside, what I did learn soon after is that God had taken my right to what we know as human free will, and replaced it with a knowledge of Himself that supposedly only angels possess.”
To this day, I confess confusion regarding this matter, as I routinely use what I believe to be free will, but I can clarify my first sentence somewhat. The word will has meaning only in the context or condition of the ability to discern one’s existence, and from that discernment, to be able to then elect intent of action. In other words, will asserts Being as both awareness and purpose within God’s creation. Without purpose, discernment is irrelevant, and Being is non-existent. I believe this is God’s mandate – purpose, communion – and I believe Christianity backs me on this assessment.
But where we diverge is in this matter of free will. Christianity asserts that free will is God’s gift, and without it, love has no platform for expression. I wish to amend that assessment. Free will, as expressed in the physical realm of God’s creation is a gift of God; given to the intellect, so that the formed person has the opportunity to fully understand the gravitas of Being; the discernment, desire, and demonstration of purpose and communion. God creating us was no small matter; certainly not for us, as well as for Him. He had purpose in mind when He fashioned humanity, and God made sure we would know the consequences of our actions.
However, in the spiritual realm, free will is quite a different matter. I’ll leave this to Pope John Paul II to explain:
“In the case of the pure spirits, the decisive choice regarded first of all God himself, the first and supreme Good, accepted or rejected in a more essential and direct way, than could happen within the scope of action of human’ free will.”
John Paul continues his thought…..
“The pure spirits have a knowledge of God incomparably more perfect than that of man, because by the power of their intellect, not conditioned nor limited by the mediation of sense knowledge, they see to the depths the greatness of infinite Being, of the first Truth, of the supreme Good.”
Simply put, our “small voice within”, or spirit, is of this form of free will as John Paul describes; not of the form gifted onto that portion of man who plies his or her way with flesh and sense. All spirits know God in a manner that is dramatically different than how the intellect and the body knows God. Therefore, the totality of man and woman will live more so by faith when their spirits are removed from that totality, and I contend that this is exactly what we have as the normative dynamic of a total person. This is what ‘fallen’ means. Spirit lives through a first-hand knowledge simply because it is spirit as God is spirit. The decision for a spirit to choose contrary to God has no return to it, no forgiveness, no sorrow, and no redemption. I look at it this way:
If you knew that the glass held in your hand contained poison – a poison that would certainly kill you – would you drink it? This is the difference between the free will of the intellect/body and that of the spirit. The intellect and the body will rationalize and regard their circumstances in making such a decision. The spirit has no regard for itself; it looks only to God. Yet, do not let this lead you to the conclusion that being a spirit of God must be like a prisoner or a slave; an eternal existence without choice. It is, for them, as John Paul noted: “….not conditioned nor limited by the mediation of sense knowledge, they see to the depths the greatness of infinite Being, of the first Truth, of the supreme Good.” This all sounds much preferable than what man must contend with. It is liberty perfected.
When I assert I am without free will, I speak of the human form of that will, not the spiritual. In the rise of my spirit, I am now in conscious possession and use of another Will that sweeps away not only the human debris of my free will choices, but puts aside that free will willingly for that of the Father’s. Yes, my intellect is part of me and so, therefore, is free will, but that will is strengthened and directed greatly by the other Will; that of God’s. I cannot claim independence of choice any longer, and I have found that by settling my intellect into the presence of my spirit, my free will is secondary to God’s will. And as my spirit increases, my human free will decreases; naturally and systemically. John the Baptist said something like that, and I believe he saw something in Jesus that we tend to overlook.
Now, my second sentence that surely needs some explanation is here:
“You see, this Abrahamic god had shown me the irrelevance of faith, which is the foundation of any religion.
To regard faith as irrelevant is not to demean the overwhelming majority of Christians who regard faith as the centerpiece of their relationship with God. I’m really not addressing that majority in this statement, but rather noting its particular significance to but one person; that being myself. God is communal, and also very personal. What He has done for me is significant and of purpose only for me as I quest in His service. I can say this, however. God wishes us all to know Him; not simply have faith in Him. He wishes that we all proclaim His Will; found absolute in that spirit within each one of us, and in so doing, to put aside our fallen nature at least for the moment.
To continue…. God did not ask me or command me to seek biblical or apostolic authority, for why chose the enraptured glory of a painting when the artist stands before you with everything you need? Please keep in mind that there was a time when God did His work before the presence of His written and human Word came into the world. Are we to argue as Christians that there were no people in right relationship with God before the bible and before the Christ that walked this earth? I do not mean a right relationship to mean perfection; an Adam and an Eve before their sin. Rather I mean a right relationship in which a man or a woman who knows God as Adam and Eve did, and in so knowing seeks Him constantly by their spirit’s journey.
When God created the Garden of Eden, along with Adam and Eve, did He first craft a bible so as to show them the way? Was Jesus, as human, the friendly neighbor in Eden dispensing thoughtful words across the white-picket fence? We know the answer to these humorous questions, yet we seem disinterested in that immured glue, which has brought the fragile gift of unity between God and so many men and women since the beginning of creation.
As God was before me in spirit that night, there was only one part of my being – of my constructed soul – that received God as a Father of the same spiritual blood, and that can only be the spirit, which God had placed within me upon my conception as a physical being.
And in giving rise to my spirit, God set me upon a path that would teach me that His Spirit and my spirit, as one, are the true gate to being in the presence of God; not my intellect, nor bodily asceticism, nor man’s crafted dogmas, doctrines, and sacraments. I’m not here to say that one’s intellect cannot be an aid to the spirit’s task, but I will say that it is not necessary.
I’m not here to say that asceticism of the body is useless; it is quite healthy and of benefit to the spirit’s task. I’m not here to say that the written Word of God is false or useless as a means to an end. It is the Word of God, and it can lead one into God’s presence. But the efficacy of God’s written Word is subject to its ability to be received through the teaching of the Word by one’s spirit, and not simply by one’s intellect.
An important moment here… I noted one’s spirit as having a task to do. It does, and it is has a task that one’s intellect and body cannot do. It is to commune with God’s Spirit and guide the soul of man – that composite of spirit, intellect, and body – to a permanent peace in God’s kingdom. The intellect and body are made for this world; mortal for mortal. The spirit is immortal, and thus for eternity. The spirit within is tasked, as angels are tasks by God, to guide our intellect and body forward in this world; angelic scouts for the wagon trains of our lives.
Why do you think God created the angelic host? Why create spirit? To posit that God did this so He might be praised and glorified is little more than an anthropomorphism. To ascribe a human attribute – pride, in this case – to God, or other spirit, is certainly human, but hardly of God’s necessity. The spirits of God’s realm are tasks; whether they be an angel or a spirit within a human body. Perhaps spirits are simply angels. I find it most interesting that no name has been coined for such a spirit as I refer to, and as the Catholic Church describes rather mysteriously in their Catechism. Well, there it is. A spirit dressed up with no place to go; according to the predominant thinking of Christianity. Maybe there’s a draft lottery for angels in heaven, where the losers have to come to earth; only to be smushed about by flesh, bone, and ego. What self-respecting angel would want to do that?
For me, the practice of religion is as if we were to experience mathematics without ever actually applying it into the real world; simply leaving math as a form and not a function. If we had done that, we’d still be hunter-gatherers on some sweltering veldt in Africa; still picking at the ticks on our esteemed colleague’s scalp for a little extra nutrition. This is the essence of what’s gone wrong with religion; we see it as a form and not a function. We give it the time we think it’s due, and little more. We concern ourselves with the form, and ignore, for the greater part of our lives, the function. How many of us have literally and completely shaped our life choices around service to God and Man? Few indeed.
What am I asking for? Simply that one chooses a life that fits exactly into their faith’s doctrines; no ifs, ands, or buts; and not a life filled with just the weekly hour of Mass, the occasional volunteer effort, and the “look at me” sacrifice. We all love to whine at this moment of truth, and explain to the uninitiated zealot of faith, that things in this world just can’t happen that way. These truth explainers, though, never seem to get past the rhetorical “Why not?” that comes in response. It always seems that we want the worldly slice of the pie long before we’re willing to accept the meager-appearing slice of the work of our own real faith.
The bottom line to anyone’s success in being of their faith lies in whether or not they actually demonstrate their beliefs through the normal, continuous, day-to-day actions of their lives. A non-hypocrite makes even the smallest of decisions based upon their faith’s doctrines. All the rest – those who choose weakly – are hypocrites in the minds of the generations that follow them and observe them, and what generation to come would be foolish enough to follow hypocrites that stand up and shout, “That way!” while they fill their pockets and their mouths with the crass bounty that the WORLD offers? Personally, James the Just had it right in his epistle:
“What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them?”
Yes, I know, this is where my readers become indignant with my arrogant assertion that the supposedly good and faithful Christians around the world have not the function of their faith. It can be thrown back at me that they, indeed, live out their lives seeking always to hold firm to God’s mandate in their lives; to love God and to love one another, to abstain from sin, to observe faithfully the dogmas, doctrines, and sacraments of their particular Christian denomination. I have no argument with intent, and I’ll not debate the point that many Christians are in right relationship with God today. Many are. I’m simply working on the argument that Christianity, functioning as a form of the unity between God and Man, does not address the primacy of the spirit – found within each one of us – as central to man’s unity with God since the beginning of creation. I am debating man’s pursuit; that being the manner in which man has chosen to pursue God. He has chosen the intellect, and to that I disagree.
Religion, in itself, is a form, and forms are ideological on this plane of existence and spiritual in God’s kingdom, yet not physical by any means. Religion is a reference point, not an accomplishment. Religion points to the Father, but as manifested by the intellect and the body, it is without the inertia of the spirit, and any conveyance of religion by the intellect and the body is impotent. It is of this manner because religion, as a living body governed by the intellect and body, requires law to supersede love, and Paul demonstrates the futility of law quite nicely in his letter to the Romans.
As long as man chooses to use intellect and body in which to communicate with one another, there can never be full communion with God. Communion is of the spirit, not the intellect, nor the body. Communion is the perfect union of God and Man and Man; so on and so on. It is the pneuma that flows from God; permeating the soul of every human creature with a course of travel that is meant to continue on through us all; binding us as one with God. But the purpose of the intellect and the body is inclined to the self. Together, they desire, and thus conspire, to own what they have acquired by the Holy Spirit and not give it up; as they fear a loss can never be a gain. And in that fear, they suppress the spirit that is a part of their whole; giving rise to the futility of their pursuit.
I referred to the acquisition of something from the Holy Spirit, which is meant to be passed along, yet frequently hoarded by those whose intent in life lacks the quality of love for God and man that is necessary for a right relationship with God. Understand that evil operates just as good does. Both struggle for the high ground in the same manner and with the same tools. The manner is of the common communications that bind and not separate one from another. The tools are the virtues. Being polite to assert respect is the former, while being polite for gain is the latter. Philanthropy can be selfless or selfish. Courage comes from both the heart and the ego.
It is well known that a man or woman who, through God’s grace and one’s love for God and man, can hold against the natural hardships of life and the unjust things that come against them. Such trials actually strengthen one’s resolve and fixes their focus so they might steer the course as God wills them. In so doing, they extols God’s love by the good fruit they bear, which sustains them and those they love both physically and spiritually. To the casual observer, they show goodness and mercy.
But it also true that a man or a woman who, through the world’s offerings and the desires one might have for them, can also hold against the natural hardships of life and the unjust things that come against them. Such trials also strengthen their resolve and fixes their focus so they might steer the course their will so chooses. In so doing, they extol themselves by the good fruit they offer, which sustains themselves and those they love only physically. To the casual observer, they show goodness and mercy. And there’s the break.
Both can achieve what appears to be identical results, but in truth, only one can bring man to the nobility that God had ordained through love when He first created man. That can only be done spiritually. The other bears sour fruit, and such fruit might be scurried away so none may seek to inquire of the truth, but it lies not dormant, but active; destroying people with its mortal poisons.
Man has immured the one essence from God that knows only one way to God; through perfect communion with the Holy Spirit; spirit with spirit. The intellect can think of an infinite number of ways to God, and we see them expressed in the thousands of theologies and philosophies that riddle man’s global society. But can the intellect claim that it knows God better than the spirit? The body slavishly follows the intellect with an infinite number of physical actions that animate religion into a living, fire-breathing force. But can the body rest in peace and love with God as one’s spirit can?
God is the Cause. Rest in His presence, and you can truly rest in peace. No cliché here. And it can only be by one’s spirit that one can find that peace. Many, since the beginning and on into Christianity, have found just such a peace. They found it through the communion of their spirit with God’s Spirit. They found it by living a life led by the spirit, and not by their intellect, nor body. The latter two regard sacrifice as a deprivation; a loss. The spirit knows sacrifice to be simply the way home.
And anyways, since when is doing God’s will considered a sacrifice? If you want sacrifice; seek service to man’s will.
God Calls Us All Into His Service – Reese