Every age is an age of wonder, but some are more wondrous than others, and the one that spans my current incarnation is beyond what I could have imagined in my youth. For 75 years I have witnessed astonishing scientific, technological and social innovations, which accelerate now at an exponential rate.
And yet, we are the same, still seeking answers to fundamental questions, which the latest innovations cannot provide. We want to know God, but our human limitations, and especially our worldly desires, put us at odds with even the possibility. God is formless. How can we see and relate to such a Being? To borrow a line from Gertrude Stein, “There is no there there!”
We can begin to “see” God, thank goodness, by feeling for His presence in all that is alive, in all that appears inanimate, and even in the challenges we face. But the key is to go even deeper, where we touch that same formless, mystical essence that also abides in us. Endowed with an immortal soul, we possess the innate power to connect with God’s consciousness, not as a tangible experience, but as an intuitive knowing.
Getting to that inner state of divine communion, in which knowing God is an ongoing reality, is surely the purpose of human life itself. It’s as simple as freeing the soul of its constricted body-mind association, and as terribly difficult as any earthly assignment will ever be! No wonder, after countless lifetimes, we remain on the uphill slope in search of that summit.
There’s a lot working against us, and it’s not just social pressure. The question of who and what we are is a hard one to puzzle through. We have thoughts, perceptions, freedom of choice, and constant sensory input, which we lump into an overarching category called “our experience.” The mind then segments this experience into a linear timeline, which we perceive as “one thing after another.” As long as we confine ourselves to this worldly perspective, there is no escape from its time-driven process that we regard as real.
To make matters worse, we tend to agree that reality’s trillions of features look, feel, taste, sound and smell much alike to us all. So, we give them names and definitions to identify one from the next: hand, harmonium, happy, sad, etc. But every label we apply adds to our delusional sense of apparent separation. You and I and all the people and things we see as distinct, prevent us from seeing the oneness of all that is, and thereby make it impossible to know God from such a point of view.
Now, that is not to say that we should neglect our senses. Without them we could not function in this world. But if the purpose of this life is for us to transcend it, what’s that all about?
Frankly, that question raises more issues than can be addressed in an 800-word essay. But I think we have to understand, first and foremost, that the goal of this life is not in this life. The goal is for us to remember that we are infinitely more than what we perceive ourselves to be, and to act in accordance with that higher potential as we seek to attain it.
As I ponder this truth, I’m reminded of a quote by Gloria Steinem. “The truth shall set you free,” she said, repeating an old axiom, “but first it will piss you off!” Therein lies the rub. We want our truths to be easy-come for fast assimilation. But we are learned in the ways of outward living, and these tend trigger resistance to accepting and doing what will set us free.
Jesus declared that to see God, we must be pure in heart. “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” He didn’t mean 80% pure, nor even 99%. Purity is 100%. That means there’s no room for distracting desires, earthly attachments, poor habits or bad moods.
Undoubtedly, this is the kind of message that Steinem had in mind.
But the good news is, purity is also a direction. If you’re only at 80%, strive for 81, and 81 will get you to 82. Look for God everywhere, especially with your heart. As you do this, the journey through the ages of your life becomes increasingly joyful, and God becomes increasingly visible to your native soul.
What comes of itself, let it come. If it challenges you, so much the better, for it’s meant to be a stepping stone to your freedom. Know that in meeting it wisely and well, it will lead you nearer to your destiny: to seeing, knowing, and being with God; to where wonders never cease.