|Silent Unity building, from a previous trip. I am hoping to get a photo of the new fountains tomorrow.|
Friday, April 15, 2011
Finding a home.
I have had a very interesting week here at Unity Village. I’m attending Lyceum, the 4th Annual convocation of religious scholars, where I’ve had the exquisite pleasure of hearing from speakers like the Venerable Bhante Y. Wimala; Dr. Paul Alan Laughlin, a member of the Jesus Project; Dr. Donald Rothberg; and a host of other exciting, brilliant presenters. Its an exquisite pleasure, for instance, to hear a debate between Rev. E.J. Niles and Rev. Tom Shepherd, both towering intellects, on the nature of evolution. We were spellbound.
I have lots of ideas to process, lots of different avenues of inquiry, and enough books that I should read to take up all available time for the next several years. What I also found was a home, why my thoughts are the way they are, or rather, what company I keep spiritually. This discovery happened in the middle of a discussion about the differences and similarities between Christianity, Unity, and Buddhism.
Lets keep it simple for this post and simply talk about how we see God. And don’t worry, if I’m wrong about any of this, my professors will certainly let me know.
Western religions see God as transcendent: being above the Universe; separate, superior, not a part of it. We see a God in whose image we are created, that is, we see God in OUR image, endowed with human characteristics, but we mere creatures certainly are not part of God as the wave is part of the ocean. We are inferior. God the Father is superior, untouchable.
Eastern religions see God, where they talk of The One, as immanent, i.e., as within the world. Everything is an expression of Oneness. God isn’t separate from nature, God IS nature. God is intrinsically wound into the Universe, permeating, saturating, infusing the cosmos. God is the soul of the whole…and therefore profoundly within us. We don’t have to look “up” to see God…we look within, we experience God.
There is much more, of course.
I find myself somewhere between the East and West. I believe that God is everywhere, immanent, within myself as well as everywhere else. I’ve felt this long before I came to Unity; this belief was fostered by what I learned in the woods, the ocean, and under the stars. You cannot look up at the night sky, particularly in the crisp desert air, without knowing God is everywhere, without feeling a part of the One.
And so my thoughts about God are described under “Eastern.” There are other clues, too: I pray through meditation. I believe in pursuing love, joy, compassion, and equanimity, key Buddhist concepts. But my love for the Christ Spirit within is profound, and my respect for the man Jesus immense. I enjoy Bible history and scholasticism. I am of the Christian world, not the eastern one. I could no more become a Buddhist than become a leopard.
In my mind, Unity itself straddles this fence. It is both Christian in context and Eastern in values. We study the lessons of Jesus, and many of us don’t care whether the man really existed or not. We follow the teachings with our eyes wide open, enjoying the discoveries of scholars and scientific inquiry, while retaining the intrinsic value of the lessons themselves. Yet we also meditate, or go into “the silence” of prayer. We believe that God is omnipotent, omnipresent, and good. And if God is everywhere, God is certainly within us, is us, again, as the wave is of the ocean. This expression is more Eastern.
Part of why we got this way is the fascination of our early New Thought founders with Eastern philosophy, but some of us, including myself, came to the same position independently, long before we heard of the Fillmores or Emma Curtis Hopkins, or remember much from our high school days about Ralph Waldo Emerson.
For us there really isn’t a dichotomy between the two worlds; there is only the development of our own individual thought, which seems to be a part of both but may, in the end, really be neither.
If you want to find out more about Unity, go to http://unity.org. It will be interesting!