Seeing Beyond Our Notions of Self and God

comments 32
Christ / Course Ideas

This is the third and final piece I’ve written in response to the quotation challenge that Ka presented to me back in June.  I have had some fun enjoying a day off today, searching through A Course of Love for some juicy ones.  That is an activity that could quickly get out of hand for me…  The quotes I’ve selected are somewhat in reaction to a series of mouse-clicks yesterday that landed me on a page devoted to exposing the ignorant tomfoolery of believing in “God”.

As so often happens when I read what is written on these pages, I mourn the short-sightedness of theists and atheists alike in their clinging to false notions of both self and God—notions that can lead only to suffering.  It is a great tragedy of this world that the fear arising from the singular misperception of separateness fosters such rigidity of thought, indifference to the feelings of the heart, and reluctance to seek out ever-deepening understanding of one another and the reality in which we abide.  I believe strongly that the healing of false notions of self is coincident with the healing of false notions of God, and that what emerges is a landscape requiring adherence to the historical vocabulary of neither one.

Let’s start simply…

An interesting idea that has emerged in modern physics is that of relational theories.  I am probably not going to say this in a way that strictly adheres to the physicists’ definition, but the idea is that the properties of all the particles and fields in our universe are in a sense derived from, or related to, one another.  This is not a new idea for those who keep the doctrines of inter-being and dependent co-arising close to their hearts, but it is somewhat new to science, which for a long time pictured particles as little kingdoms unto themselves, with properties that were theirs and theirs alone.  This is not unlike the “old” pictures of the self and God: each was independent, separated into their domains and spheres of influence, with perhaps the potential for interaction, but only the types of interaction that occur when one discreteness bumps into another.

I’ve pulled out a passage or two from A Course of Love to start us off that tie to the idea that relationship is primary– not only between selves and God, but as the very essence of what both are.

God is being in union and relationship. This is what God is. God is being. God is relationship. God is union.

All relationship is relationship with God Who Is Love.

Can you begin to visualize or perceive your true identity as relationship itself? And what of God? Can you unlearn all concepts and free your mind to accept all relationship instead? If all meaning and all truth lies in relationship, can you be other than relationship itself? Can God? Can you imagine relationship rather than singular objects and bodies, as all that exists, and thus who you are and who God is? Is it such a huge leap to go from saying you only exist in relationship to you only exist as relationship? You think it is, and feel yourself further diminished and lacking in identity just by contemplating such an idea.

An important element in these statements is the notion that Love is at the foundation of all relationship.  Love is not a human parameter, or one of those emergent phenomena that come from the complex interactions of many simple elements.  Love is not what you get when you mix everything in the pot and let their flavors mingle, encouraging their chemistries to sparkle and twitter.  Love is the root.  Love has no attributes or qualities.  Love is not a feeling that is ours to give or withhold.

The key to overcoming the experience of and the desire for discreteness and independence that together have caused so much suffering is the willingness to experience union.  In A Course of Love, as in many teachings, this comes from correcting our false notions of identity, and I would further say the correction of our false notions of that which we have called God.  I think the two must go hand-in-hand.  This next passage was, I thought, a beautiful discussion of what we are called to offer in our journey to healing this mythical divide within us and our world.

Joining rests on forgiveness. This you have heard before without understanding what it is you would forgive. You must forgive reality for being what it is. Reality, the truly real, is relationship. You must forgive God for creating a world in which you cannot be alone. You must forgive God for creating a shared reality before you can understand it is the only one you would want to have. You have to forgive this reality for being different than you have always imagined it to be. You have to forgive yourself for not being able to make it on your own, because you have realized the impossibility of doing so. You have to forgive yourself for being what you are, a being who exists only in relationship. You have to forgive all others for being as you are. They too cannot be separate, no matter how hard they try. Forgive them. Forgive yourself. Forgive God. Then you will be ready to begin learning just how different it really is to live in the reality of relationship.

Forgiveness in A Course in Miracles and A Course of Love is the act of seeing beyond falsehood.  It is not cleansing the palette from a long-held bitterness because someone approached you in the right way, or was truly repentant in your eye.  These inner acts of condemnation and release merely perpetuate suffering, and foster inappropriate ideas of who is worthy and who is not.  Nor is forgiveness the reluctant, but “higher-road” tolerance for things that are other than we might like them to be.  Forgiveness is the courage, or the willingness, to see things as they are—to see so differently that one discovers, unexpectedly perhaps, the impossibility that the truth of things could ever be improved upon or corrected.  It is profoundly difficult for theists and atheists alike to look upon themselves and the world in this way, which is called unity.  In this way of seeing, the word God simply refers to all relationship, the relationship of each to each and all to all—a relatedness that exists beyond and outside of time and space.

I think the importance of this reconciliation is staggering.  Who among us does not wish the suffering of this world were no longer?  Yet it will be perpetuated so long as we fail to grasp and embrace our relatedness, not as merely the physical and virtual interactions we have, but as the very nature of our existence.  What emerges from the return to unity, from the unlearning of separate selves and a separate God, is the power to birth new life.

In A Course of Love, the freeing of our world from being the painful re-enactment of separation that it has been for so long, to the living expression of unity that we seek, is termed “the creation of the new”.  It is the movement of Creation that arises from the dialogue within us that unity alone can broker.

All relationship is but relationship between Creator and Created. The new means of thinking is referred to here as the “art” of thought in order to call your wholehearted attention to the continual act of creation that is the relationship between Creator and Created. Creation is but a dialogue to which you have not responded.

Creation of the new has begun. We are an interactive part of this creative act of a loving Creator. Creation is a dialogue. Creation—which is God and us in unity—will respond to our responses. Will respond to what we envision, imagine and desire. Creation of the new could not begin without you. Your willingness for the new, a willingness that included the leaving behind of the old, a willingness that included the leaving behind of fear and judgment and a separate will, was necessary to begin creation of the new. Your former willingness to accept the old but kept creation’s power harnessed to the old. Does this not make perfect sense when you realize that creation, like God, is not “other than” who you are? How could creation proceed on to the new without you?

False notions of self and false notions of God ensnare us in intellectual ballyhoo that merely spin our cosmic tires.  The way forward, the way of unity, begins with the willingness to recognize that our desire for separate selves and a separate God or gods merely foil our most urgent desires.  The way forward begins with the desire to experience another way.

Is it time, perhaps, to stop debating the existence of what never was, and never will be?  To accept that perhaps we were all wrong about who we are, and God is?

32 Comments

  1. This is so beautifully written and incredibly powerful Michael. I especially am fascinated by the second passage that describes forgiveness in a totally new way for me. These concepts will require some serious contemplation.

    thanks with love, Linda

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you Linda. Forgiveness is a really interesting concept when fully understood.

      My one thought is don’t contemplate the inevitable return to Love too seriously! Enjoy the ride as best you can!

      Much Love
      Michael

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Hi Michael,
    After thinking about the comment I left you over on my blog… I’m still… in the place of noheadspace. Meaning, this is really challenging for me to write comfortably as I do not have a whole lot of clarity around what you are writing here, and as I mentioned on my blog post: beyond tired. I’m not sure what you are asking in your last question… about wrongness. I think concepts (let alone words used to describe them) are limited, period. Your post, however, has me reflecting on a type of Hindu path called Bhakti: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bhakti. I have found something in Bhakti but I’m not sure what it means to me is what is means to the Hindus. I think there’s a lot of room for interpretation in this path, and on most any paths. I think using the words ‘God or Gods or Goddess/es’ is very tricky. Personally, I can agree with the part about forgiving reality. It’s kind of a prerequisite for something, for communing, for being present. I’m not sure I am 100% with you on ‘shared reality.’ However, I am not sure what you mean by that, so maybe I am with you- in agreement that is, and not realizing it 😉 It doesn’t really matter if I agree though, right? We are still sharing existence… and that is reality, no?
    Good evening Michael, I hope I have not burned any bridges tonight.
    Aloha, Ka

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Ka,

      I probably should have mentioned it previously, but the bridges we build here are constructed from non-flammable materials. So… not to worry… 🙂

      I greatly appreciate your time here, Ka, but also it seems it was very precious at the moment you wrote, so (in the future) please don’t feel the need to respond while you are so tired, or perhaps exploring an altogether different realm in your own life, or simply busy attending to matters likely far more relevant to the needs of your moment. I’m not a big fan of rightness and wrongness in general, so my last question is perhaps poorly worded, but the idea is actually that we have all misperceived our own nature, and thus that of what is called God as well. Further, in alignment with what I think I sense in your rightful pointing out of the “trickiness” of certain words, I am trying to suggest that debates over the existence or non-existence of a God or gods are largely meaningless exercises, because of this very reason. Because we misperceive ourselves, our world, and what is termed “God”, we end up debating strawmen… The idea is that as our misperceptions of ourselves and our world are healed, things come into their proper focus… and then the terms don’t matter anyway… 🙂

      I’ll make an attempt at an explanation of the idea of shared reality, which is limited by my own present understanding, and likely a far bigger concept than I can offer at present. But here goes. What we each experience as our “heart” is the same heart, a heart we share. This feeling of “heart” that we have is our interface with the continuum of relatedness from which all beings derive their beingness, their life, and their unique gifts of expression. We all “flow out” from this commonality, differentiating ourselves through our varying expressions, but always and only in actions of giving and receiving with one another– i.e. through relationship or relatedness. And though these expressions appear and disappear, what they are at the root, is a reality or a heart that we share.

      And you are right. It doesn’t matter… At least not intellectually. I do think it matters somehow in the way our experience of the world arises, and in our ability to eliminate suffering for ourselves and one another. But the way it matters is hardly an agreement of words, it is something that can only be felt and lived perhaps… And here is where I think we have a very strong bridge, Ka.

      Peace
      Michael

      Liked by 1 person

      • YAY! I am glad I wrote even when tired and staggering 😀 I am still tired, btw,… thank you so much for your clarifications. I think we do have a very strong bridge and i appreciate that our bridges aren’t flammable! Huge *sigh* of relief. Feeling and Living, yes… ❤

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Thanks Michael for this opportunity to revisit ‘forgiveness’ as a-rollin’ and a-tumblin’ great waterfall of forgiveness, sweeping along everything with it. The absolute generosity of letting go of everything. There is no separate ‘self’, God is ‘the relationship of each to each and all to all—a relatedness that exists beyond and outside of time and space.’
    ‘We are an interactive part of this creative act of a loving Creator.’ So much of this resonates… then the Buddhist in me sees one little blip: having a creator means there’s an object contained in subjectivity… how does that work?

    Liked by 3 people

    • Hi Tiramit,

      Thanks for your lovely response and for riding this roller coaster with me! I’ve been thinking of your question a lot, and I thought of your question a lot before you asked it, and I’m not sure I have a good answer. At all… But I have a couple ways of approaching an answer that have come up in my reflections that may or may not be helpful.

      First, A Course of Love is a work with a trajectory. There is profound movement that is described, encouraged, fostered, inspired, mapped, etc. within its pages, and I’ve taken quotes in this post from vastly different portions of the work. There is some danger in this… Because the Course tends to begin by meeting us where we are– beings who perceive experiences and language them in terms of separation– and then works towards aiding in the release of mental concepts that interfere with experiencing unity. So, part of this is simply words shared through a particular level of understanding.

      But one could ask why a “God” at all in such a movement, even one such as the all and all of relationship, and for me personally there is a paradox that is helpful to explore. In A Course in Miracles it is called “the authority problem”, and it is the notion that the ego, as a falsely constructed identity, recognizes deep down that it has usurped the role of extending life, of giving rise to being, of furthering creation, and of ultimately determining who one is. The paradox here, if it is a paradox and not simply a mystery of sorts, is that losing the ego requires losing what was once thought to be the source of existence. There is a remarkable feeling that arises when I remember the nature of my being could not have been other than it is, and that it is not something “I” created… I did not “make it up”, and so it has a validity to it that surpasses my own understanding in a way, that surpasses “me” in a way… This whatever-it-is what I am, and we are, and all that is share in, is this fundamental ground of being, which is called in A Course of Love… simply Love. Love has no attributes, no movement, no expression, and no verb to it whatsoever we might say. Creation is the movement of Love into being, and this requires relationship. Without relationship, there is simply nothing at all. Or everything. Same same… We might call “God” Love… in the extension, or movement of being. Without this movement, and the ability to differentiate into so many “beings”, there is no Creation, and no experience. God is the other side of the coin of everything in this image. The movement that stirs the pot of nothing and creates some whorls and vortices… Here are a couple quotes sure to confuse (from the perspective of “God” if you will):

      “Who I Am to you, and who you are to me, is all that matters. Our relationship can only be thus in union and relationship with each other because we are in union and relationship with each other. We are not two beings who are separate but relating in union. We are each other’s own being. We are one and we are many. We are the same and we are different. In “own”-ership we are full of one another’s own being. We are each other’s own.”

      “Although this is a difficult concept to get across with the words that are available, I would like you to understand that when I am love being, I am being without attributes— love being in union and relationship. I am the anchor that holds all that has taken on attributes within the embrace of the attributelessness of love… I am love, being.”

      This last statement about being the anchor is what I was trying to convey above… The idea being that creation is simply the movement of love, into being, and that without the differentiation, through the acquiring of attributes, into “beings”, there would still be nothing at all or everything at once, however you wish to view that. But no relatedness. No expression. No experience… We might say that “God” is the backstop of experience, as the necessary zero from which all relatedness springs. A few more confounding quotes, and I’ll stop…

      “The difference between you and me is that I am being God and also love, being. This is why I am all and nothing, the attribute-laden God and the attributeless love. This is why it can be rightly said that God is Love and Love is God. But I am also an extension of love, just as you are. This is all I Am means. There is no I Am except through love’s extension. How does love extend? Through relationship.

      “Only in my relationship to you am I God. Only in your relationship to me are you who you are in truth.”

      I’ll stop there… I have tried, Tiramit! I hope at the very minimum, that you can at least perceive that the God spoken of here is not the God of judgment, not a separate God, not a God outside of our very life, and not a God who desires or requires to be worshipped or any of that… God is perhaps the flowing singularity in relationship with everything, the heart of our hearts. We are God and God is us, and yet we are distinct, differentiated by the movement we call Creation… We each hold the other…

      Peace
      Michael

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      • Michael, grateful for this roller-coaster-of-velocity reply – really swept me away – it works like this 🙂 Also grateful for insights into ACOL, ACIM and gratitude too for the extensive and complete description of ‘unity’: ‘In “own”-ership we are full of one another’s own being.’ This next one had me pondering for a bit: ‘“God” is the backstop of experience, the necessary zero from which all relatedness springs.’ I see what you mean – part of me says no ‘zero’ is necessary on a scale as vast as this, it’s overwhelming… yeh, but ‘I am’ swept away, what’s left, what remains, what’s revealed? From where I am at this time, there’s only the basic tendency to want to call it something, and that seems to be a wholesome, healthy way to go about things. I followed up with a few forays into google, copy/pasting chunks from your quotes and found myself in the realm of Love and Miracles. The investigation was (is) who is this ‘I’ in the following: “The difference between you and me is that I am being God and also love, being.” The conclusion is to stay with the question, remembering what you said about ACOL: ‘…the Course tends to begin by meeting us where we are– beings who perceive experiences and language them in terms of separation– and then works towards aiding in the release of mental concepts that interfere with experiencing unity.’ So, you answered my question and more and also some questions I didn’t ask. Wonderful. Thanks for your generosity.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Thanks for the generosity of your own thoughts here, Tiramit. I’m right there with you in regards to staying with the question. It’s not really the concepts that matter anyway. They are just the map anyway, right? Send a bunch of us out into the unknown, without any idea of what to expect, and we’ll all draw up something a little different I think. But a few pointers are helpful… to avoid the known pitfalls… I’ve much enjoyed this exchange, my friend.

          Peace
          Michael

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  4. Ah! Thank you, Michael. There is a lot in this post that deserves much introspection. Many things rang a bell of truth with me…You know how I have described before…that it feels like I knew all of this at one time but had forgotten. You touch on forgiveness in a way that deepens the meaning, yet fosters the same gifts that go along with it. The more I walk, the more I know that forgiveness is a huge part of eventually arriving/remembering/being (…?) exactly where/how (…?) we are meant to “be.”

    “What emerges from the return to unity, from the unlearning of separate selves and a separate God, is the power to birth new life.” Your quote gave me shivers…and it gives me hope! Many blessings to you, friend. Thank you for making my heart blossom with love! ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    • My pleasure, Lorrie! Thank you for wading through another long one here, and swimming in this sea with me… 🙂

      Forgiveness as described in these Courses is definitely profound. Without it we can’t see past our “little selves” and our limited ideas of what is occurring within and all around us…

      Blessings to you too, my friend,
      Michael

      Like

  5. Thank you, Michael, for this gem packed exposition. Forgiveness and Love– what more is there? I translate it to my belief in Mooji’s brand of Buddhism– there is one Consciousness taking the form of gazillions of bodies to experience life. If we can tune into that Consciousness, higher Self, the Self, God, whatever you want to call it then we act out of Love naturally and compassion and forgiveness and all those goodies. There is so much to digest in your piece– as usual. But a great synopsis of a giant subject! Much love, Ellen

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Ellen,

      I’m glad I’m not the only one who uses the word ‘gazillions’ in my thoughts! Thank you for your kind words, and I enjoyed the parallels found in your brief description of Mooji’s approach. As you say, little else, if anything at all, is required… 🙂 The idea of the One and the Many is also a common theme running through many similar teachings. The key is in the movement into the experience of it I think– getting deeper somehow than the concepts of it all. I hope that in some small way the writing and the comments of others here all work together to help us have a glimpse or two of this…

      Many blessings, Ellen
      And Love!
      Michael

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Thank you for putting these ideas our there. They resonate with me deeply at a time where I am, in many ways, just beginning my spiritual journey. I especially love and appreciate the quote you used in response to a comment above:

    “The difference between you and me is that I am being God and also love, being. This is why I am all and nothing, the attribute-laden God and the attributeless love. This is why it can be rightly said that God is Love and Love is God. But I am also an extension of love, just as you are. This is all I Am means. There is no I Am except through love’s extension. How does love extend? Through relationship.
    “Only in my relationship to you am I God. Only in your relationship to me are you who you are in truth.”

    Thank you, again.

    Like

    • Hi RJ,

      Thanks for your thoughts and your response here. You never know which quote, in which moment or circumstance, is going to shake loose that latent experience of connection and joy. As to the journey, may yours be blessed… I am also in the beginning… I think we’re all close to the beginning, and that the richness inside of us all is in no real danger of running dry… 🙂

      Peace
      Michael

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Genie says

    Hmm… I read the Course In Miracles quite a few years ago and to be honest (if that’s allowed?!), I found it had too much verbiage and conclusions that were too outrageous — kind of like organized religion does: tells a person what to think and believe.

    Now, as for your discourse and quotes, within the framework of my thoughts on the above statement: it was well thought out and presented congruently and fluently.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Genie,

      Yes, honesty is not only allowed, but encouraged. Maybe we should say expressing authentically, provided it is done so in a manner that is not attacking, blaming, etc., is the goal… true and open dialogue…

      I can understand your perspective on ACIM, and cannot think of a single compelling reason to attempt to dissuade you of it. There are many triggers and catalysts to peace, awakening, becoming comfortable in your own skin– whatever you wish to call it– and they take quite varied tones and approaches. Yet I think all that matters is this: do we move into our hearts? Do we find some path out of the traps of perception that lead to suffering?

      The rest is whatever it is, and quite widely so in the hands of different persons. I think a work such as ACIM is itself something almost entirely different to two different people, depending on what they bring to it at the time. The context of one’s life and one’s proclivities of thought and feeling, as well as one’s previous history, have a great deal to do with what we resonate with at any given time, with why we are attracted to a particular pattern, etc.

      So, thank you for your kind words on my fluency and congruency.
      What’s left is the joy of your presence here once again!
      Peace
      Michael

      Liked by 1 person

      • Genie says

        I think timing may have to do with certain teachings too, for instance, I read all of Jiddu Khrishnanurti’s books at least three times! Why? because I was into intellectual dissection of the nature of reality, I can at times, find excesses verbiage about the cosmos interesting, at other times, I am bored to death and wish that what is being said could be said without the excess of too many words.
        It has its place and I’m actually very intellectual, but I think I read myself to death!
        Thousands of books on the nature of reality, including all the stuff on psychology, sacred geometry, physics, etc. …so I’m burned out on long winded explanations, which is why I love poetry so much, it takes entire philosophies and condenses them into a poem. But of course this is not an easy feat, thus, the need for reading dozens of libraries worth of books before venturing into poetry!

        Liked by 1 person

        • I think we have much in common, Genie… I haven’t read Krishnamurti’s books, but I have been interested by many books and works on all sorts of topics– biology, physics, chemical engineering, sacred geometry, architecture, genius thinkers, mad scientists, etc. I can appreciate being burned out on long-winded explanations, and your point about the need for an extensive background before venturing into poetry is insightful and well-taken I think. We move through these phases of information-gathering I think, but we can also saturate. At some point I think we come to realize, information can be interesting, but it’s not alone sufficient. Then we enter the madness of understanding who we really are. I think poetry needs a bit of that in it, too! 🙂

          Your poetry is beautiful and concise… and speaks of both the learning and the best sort of madness!

          Michael

          Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Valerie,

      I think this is probably a tough one to get started with here… but I appreciate your note. There’ll be some lighter fare in the offing soon as well… 🙂

      Peace
      Michael

      Like

      • Michael… I didn’t mean this wonderful post was heavy ! I simply meant that I wanted to digest it and sit with it, and ruminate about it before I could even begin to do it justice with a comment, V

        Liked by 1 person

        • Hi Valerie,

          First interactions are always a bit of a dance. Cutting through the potential standing wave of apologies and politenesses I found myself preparing to establish, as no one who has navigated bandit-infested tropical forests has time for such oscillatory fog, let me just say that I can’t wait to hear from you again on this one, if after having consumed the meal, you are so inclined…

          Michael

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