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Friday, February 6, 2009

The Imago Dei: Atheists and Agnostics – CREDO XLII

Atheists seem to be quite popular these days. Several books on the topic are on the Best Seller lists. They believe there is no God, period. I suspect that really all they have done is reject the god of the level beneath them and that maybe they should keep up the search. If the answer for them is purely evolution and everything is the product of chance, I suggest the following dialogue tracing evolution, which certainly I agree is a historical fact, all the way up the chain to homus erectus and the individual standing in front of you. “So you would say that your brain is ultimately the product of chance?” “Certainly.” “Then of what value is your opinion?”

Unconsciously the atheist is demonstrating his superior Self. Monkeys, as some wit pointed out, realistically could not throw type into the air and have it come down The Collected Works of William Shakespeare! For the life of me, I cannot see what the hoop-de-do between the Fundamentalists and the scientists is all about. What seems obvious is that evolution is a scientific fact and just might be part of a spiritual unfolding we know not of.

Which makes all of us, with the exception of the few Fundamentalists to whom God speaks on a daily basis, agnostics. A-gnosis means not knowing, which is what the healthy ego should, in all humility, admit.

Jung felt that children deprived entirely of the concept of a God would invent one, a concept that William Golding developed powerfully in his novel Lord of the Flies. And Jung also pointed out that this notion could also account for the secular notion of projecting gods and goddesses onto celebrities, movie stars, or even political figures. Since then we have witnessed such tragic projections upon Marilyn Monroe and Princess Diana.

Jung described the individual image of God as unique and perforce only a partial approach to a mystery. The Tao that can be defined is not the Tao. If it could be expressed consciously, the ego would be in play and, as consciousness depends on duality, it seems to me, that settles the matter. As Jung wrote humorously in one of his letters, “God is most likely not interested in theology.” And yet when asked in the BBC interview if he believed in God, he answered “No,” and, after a pregnant moment, added “I know.”

In The Symbolic Life, Volume18 of the Collected Works, he wrote this perhaps hope-giving explanation:

The Self, or Christ [atman, Divine Guest], is present in everyone a priori, but as a rule in an unconscious condition to begin with. But it is a definite experience of later life when this experience becomes conscious. It is only real when it happens, and it can only happen when you withdraw your projections from an outward or metaphysical Christ and thus wake up the Christ within.

Jesus himself said that the Kingdom of Heaven is within, (which perhaps can also have an astrological connotation!). So most of us, if we are honest, should be agnostics at the ego level. As St. Paul wrote, “We see through a glass darkly ...” and “Faith is a belief in a substance unseen.” In my first Credo, I quoted my beloved grandfather Basil King, who wrote simply of “a vast certainty.” Every time I read those words, I have a jubilant reaction because this describes the way I feel and yet leaves my ego surrendered humbly in awe. This perhaps ranks emotion above intellect, placing love, appreciation, gratitude, and wonder above the words to express them, though “the Peace that passeth understanding” comes close. I conclude that we experience that vast certainty or we don’t. I write this to suggest that whoever reads this stop and think when and where and how you might have not valued such an experience of silent affirmation and a moment of bliss. It almost always comes in beauty and can be something quite simple, a testimony to finding the sacred revealed in the commonplace. I share such a memory:

It is raining.
     Pink hollyhocks press at our kitchen window
     doubled by Degas –
each filled and frilled flower
draws tints of dance
gathers intensity
to deeper knots of light.

I wait for you, stunned
     by a hummingbird landing
     on a stem of air
     as drops drip
     from bright leaf to green bud to leaf below

     by a purling silence
     and the flaunting flutter
     of rosy wet whimsy
     now within myself as well
truly it is too much for prayer!
enough to read the round matutinal rubrics
illumined on this page of glass

like the hovering winged emerald
I, too, sip the sweet and holy word of Presence.

you come in smiling. I give and get a kiss.
     I pour hot coffee
     you break toast
together we open the missal of morning
to a grace
     blurred by bliss.


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