Thursday, February 14, 2008

god is love

deus caritas est
“god is love, and he who abides in love abides in god, and god abides in him.” (1 john 4:16)

on my facebook profile, i say that my religion is love; more specifically that 'god is love'. this is something i've always believed; and that is why i have rejected a lot of what doesn't fit into that conception of god. recently, someone expressed some confusion about that; which made me wonder...

what is love? most of us think about romance and drama when we hear the word love, and of all of the human emotions that go along with it: passion, jealousy, obsession, desire, and joy; to name a few. that conception of love is limited. it often is based in fear: fear of losing face, losing the other person, even losing our minds. we place conditions on love. we withhold our affection out of expectation. we tie it in with sexual attraction and how others make us feel. we make it whimsical and transient and foolish when we look at it through our narrow human perspective. is it any wonder that so many relationships and marriages fall apart?

well, what other choice do we have? if we are to take the traditional teachings of judaism, christianity, and islam into account; then god is vengeful and jealous and ready to throw us into eternal fire of damnation for not knowing his name. yowch. it sure don't feel like love to me.

these depictions of god are as murky to me as any mythology. they have given me great discomfort since i can remember. i have, in fact, felt very wounded by these terrible tales of fire and brimstone served up with condemnation and fear.

i have had to decide whether i want to be a victim or an overcomer of my fundamentalist upbringing. this has involved a lot of searching of my soul and of various traditions of spiritual and intellectual inquiry. i still cannot shake the sense of love in the universe; and while no one tradition seems to encapsulate everything, they all contribute to a larger picture.

i don't believe in a 'watered-down' version of god. i seek a conception of god devoid of human projections. but how can i squeeze the infinite expansion of deity into my finite perspective? how can we help but anthropomorphize something so much larger than us?

of course, the certainty with which folks from various traditions cling to the written word of their particular religious text is a bit misplaced. certainly, they are the words of imperfect men that are open to interpretation (and misinterpretation) and cannot possibly encompass the totality of god. while they all possess valuable wisdom and insight into the nature of god, they are depictions through a glass darkly.

the danger is when we substitute someone else's judgement for our own. if we downplay our own powers of observation, discernment, and understanding; we lose ourselves. is proof even possible? each of us experience our own truth from our individual experience and perspective. who can deny another's truth? we all have to find out for ourselves.

i experience god as love. there is a conviction of spirit that can come from love. when we are not lined up with the will of god (love), then we feel out of sorts. whatever is not love is a cry for love. "god's love is golden light within. it is not countable. the countable world is illusion."

i do see a bit of truth in the archtypal story of the fall of man. the original sin came about when we saw fit to look beyond the love of god. was the knowledge of good and evil a trap? it was a choice, the result of free will. we saw fit to be judges for ourselves and took on the illusion of separation. separation from god and from each other. we believe we can tell what is good and what is evil, as if they were mutually exclusive.

the shame of it all came with the realization of animal lust. eros is the perversion of love. it is dissipation and distraction. it is the reason we are so confused about the nature of love. too often our sexuality gets in the way of our spirituality. it can poison the well of any relationship and can scar people for their entire lives. at best, sex is a physical expression of the sense of separation we feel from each other, and it can be an expression of love; but it is not the same as love. it is based on limited perspective. romance is superficial. love is deeper. sometimes all we need is a hug.

sin literally means "missing the mark" and that is what we do when we lose touch with the love of god. the buddah determined the cause of suffering to be desire. i think this is more than attachment to things or experiences; it has to do with a sense of lack. when we think that there is something missing, then we fall into the trap.

the knowledge that we always have exactly what we need (love) is hard to convey or even realize in our clunky material world. the idea that the universe brings us exactly what we ask for seems ridiculous at first. how could it be so? why are there so many people that are suffering for want of food or shelter or even love?

the individual reasons are beyond our comprehension. i believe a universal law of attraction draws to us the things on which we focus our time and energy and attention. i think that the "wrath of god" is another way of describing karma. our collective unconscious is the sewer of our sense of lovelessness. we have met the enemy and he is us; and yet, the call (love) is coming from inside the house. the cause and effect of our thoughts, words, and actions leads us into a shame spiral when we disregard the truth about the power of love inside all of us. it is a hell that we create for ourselves and out of which love can lift us. we need to take the first step of belief and that opens the door for god to come into our lives and work miracles.

i believe that god speaks to all of us in any manner of ways and through whatever means suit his purpose. we can see god everywhere, if we are open to it. the parallels among the divergent faiths suggests that they stem from the same source deep in our psyche. even so, each of us has a personal theosophy, which stems from our own relationship and understanding of the divine (love).

it's true that we need a well developed ego in order to make our own choices. it takes a degree of strength and self-confidence to stand on our own apart from the influence of others. ironically, it is when we reach this peak of self actualization that we are ready to break down the ego and reconnect with the higher truths and work toward an absence of separate self. we need to determine for ourselves what serves us and what makes us suffer.

self centeredness and pride provide the need for redemption or resolution. love is selfless and humble and giving and understanding and open. as we become more mindful of the interconnectedness of everything we recognize the universal value of the golden rule: do unto others as you would have done to you. whatever we do, we do it to ourselves.

within this wider scope of understanding, every act becomes a sacrifice. as spiritual beings incarnated into this clunky material world, we are born into a fallen state; and yet, each of us is a priest with our own divine spark connecting us with the totality of existance. each of us can turn our thinking around to make the profane sacred. each of us is able to have a personal relationship with god (love).

we choose in every moment heaven or hell, love or fear, connection or separation, truth or illusion, somnambulism or awakening, light or darkness, helping or hurting, grace or condemnation.
a miracle is that change of mind that makes it possible for the love of god to be somehow expressed in the world.

we cannot hope to control or change other people. we can choose only for ourselves. darkened minds and hardened hearts may resist out of sheer willfullness or there may be walls that block the light. these are the fortifications we construct to protect ourselves from each other. i have been in the place where i refused anything that had to do with religion, throwing out the baby with the bathwater.

the sensory reality of our material existance is difficult to get beyond. the lightness has a call that's hard to hear. we need to actively pursue it. it must be our choice. the alternative is bondage; albeit a cosy prison of our own construction. we often get too comfortable in our delirium. "in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make."

redemption is the release of the things to which we cling: our habits, our culture, our expectations, our need to be right. too often we are too busy trying to convince (or convert) the other person that we don't really listen to them. there is something valuable in every experience and every perspective. together they form a greater, more complete picture that is as diverse and mysterious as the world itself.

that said, there are conflicting viewpoints out there about everything. how do we reconcile the atheist with the deist or reconcile evil with an omnipowerful god of love:"did he who made the lamb make thee?" there are beliefs and perspectives that are hurtful, sometimes deliberately so. they come from a place of fear and pain. while we cannot invalidate someone else's experience, we don't have to take it upon ourselves. we don't have to engage in the warfare of separation. we can rise above it. we can give it to god. "maybe love is letting people be just who they want to be; the door always must be left unlocked."

sacrifice is said to be the utmost expression of human love, and indeed, we tend to lose ourselves in love; but, rather than wandering in the wilderness of confusion that is our limited and conditional conception of love, we might recognise that we find ourselves in the love of god. there is no sacrifice when divine love gives everything. "greater love hath no man than this: to lay down his life for his friends."

the life and death of jesus is considered the ultimate expression of sacrifice. i believe that his willingness to submit to the physical torture of the crucifixion illustrates the ridiculousness of the blood sacrifices. it was the first action in a non-violent revolution of love that turned the old order on its head. in the old testament the same god that commands "thou shalt not kill" asks abraham to sacrifice his son. then, at the last second, the sacrifice is halted. i've often thought that it seemed cruel; and yet, it was a forshadowing of what was to come.

"for god so loved the world that he gave his one and only son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. for god did not send his son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him." (john 3:16)

this is where the old testament depiction of god becomes clearer. all of the commandments and punishments were really warnings of the principle of universal justice. we get what we give. and yet, god loves the world warts and all. we may not seem or feel worthy; but god loves us nonetheless. he doesn't want us to be lost.

the divine love of god is unconditional.

it is humble and hopeful and patient and kind. it is beyond reason or feeling. it is there for us regardless of how we act or think. at any time we can tap into it and get in line with the power of god (love). the more we concentrate on that source, the more we find ourselves renewed.

i think there is too much focus on the crucifixion. i do believe his sacrifice balances the scales of divine justice in way that no mere mortal could. for me, the power lies not in the blood or the cruelty, but in the attitude of forgiveness that jesus demonstrated. forgiveness is what frees us from the suffering of guilt. it is the way that christ came to show us.

even if you don't accept the divinity of christ, you can appreciate the power of his (still) revolutionary message of love. he said to love god ("with all your heart and all your soul and all your mind") and your neighbor ("as yourself"). what does it mean to love a god that is love itself? i believe it means to connect with that source of love and find in it a sense of peace and belonging and understanding. love holds no grievences.

we cannot make it alone and we are not alone. we fall short of the greatness of god (love); still, we are embraced and encouraged by the grace of god. we are covetous and lascivious and limited in our understanding; and yet, we can detect something more than our senses can explain. we are walking contradictions that can glimpse the divine and still look for something else.

wherever we turn, we can find god. even in the abominable places that we bring ourselves. sometimes it takes the most terrible calamity to reach the most cynical heart. the times that try men's souls and shake us to our very core are the moments when the walls of illusion are breached by the light. if we refuse god (love), then we are lost. and yet, we can be found. we need to actively pursue the way of love; or else face the alternative. "i don't know about you; but i won't stay in a world without love."

love is not the easy road; however. love is a battlefield where the boundries are drawn in our hearts as much as between us. often we need to take the road less travelled or cut a path of our own. it can cause us to be ostracized and brutalized and victimized; and yet, god (love) can transform abomination into something beautiful. ours is not to judge; but to accept the grace of god. we don't always understand how or why things happen; but we can see the results in our own lives when we walk in faith with god.

the divine spark inside us all drives us to create and share and love. we want to be just like god; but we are only children of god. and we are all hurting. we cannot save each other. only god (love) can do that. if we will let him. we can be of service to the miracle. we need only look to the light of love and believe and follow the prompting of god in our hearts.

love is what is lacking

love lifts us up where we belong

love is stronger than death

love is connection

love is transcendence

love is the answer

love is all you need

1 corinthians 13
" though i speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, i have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. and though i have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though i have all faith, so that i could remove mountains, but have not love, i am nothing. and though i bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though i give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing. love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. love never fails. but whether there are prophecies, they will fail; whether there are tongues, they will cease; whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away. for we know in part and we prophesy in part. but when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away. when i was a child, i spoke as a child, i understood as a child, i thought as a child; but when i became a man, i put away childish things. for now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. now i know in part, but then i shall know just as i also am known. and now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love."