“The word God has become empty of meaning through thousands of years of misuse. I use it sometimes, but I do so sparingly. By misuse, I mean that people who have never glimpsed the realm of the sacred, the invite vastness behind that word, use it with great conviction, as if they knew what they are talking about. Or they argue against it, as if they knew what it is that they are denying. This misuse gives rise to absurd beliefs, assertions and egoic delusions such as ‘My or our God is the only true God, and your God is false,” or Nietzsche’s famous statement ‘God is dead.’
The word God has become a closed concept. The moment the word is uttered, a mental image is created, no longer, perhaps, of an old man with a white beard, but still a mental representation of someone or something outside you, and, yes, almost inevitably a male someone or something.
Neither God nor Being nor any other word can define or explain the ineffable reality behind the word, so the only important question is whether the word is a help or a hindrance in enabling you to experience That toward which it points. Does it point beyond itself to that transcendental reality, or does it lend itself too easily to becoming no more than an idea in your head that you believe n, a mental idol?
The word Being explains nothing, but nor does God. Being, however, has the advantage that it is an open concept. It does not reduce the infinite invisible to a finite entity. It is impossible to form a mental image of it. Nobody can claim exclusive possession of Being. It is your very essence, and it is immediately accessible to you as the feeling of your own presence, the realization I am is prior to that this or I am that. So it is only a small step from the word Being to the experience of Being.”
Eckhart Tolle, The Power of Now
I was in my twenties when I started to look for a divine connection. Connection being the operative word here. It was more of a trade for me “Hey God, I will believe that you exist if you come down from on high and save my brother from the grips of heroin.” Now, I am a creature of habit and very ritualistic at base so I did very well with what the Orthodox Church put forth as “the recipe”: attending the liturgy every Sunday, paying for prayers to be read by priests on my behalf, confession, communion, reading of prayers from books you could purchase only in the church. Such a simple and useless endeavor – the compliant student I always was, it came easy to me. Useless, but easy. I was relentless though, to the point of obsession and for the 13 years it took until my brother finally gave up his fight I kept on marching and marching by the bit of the church’s drum.
My brother’s struggle was but a provocation I needed to admit to myself that it was important for me to look for something deeper. “Out there” was the first phrase that came to my mind but this was the very first and biggest mistake that placed me on a path parallel to truth for so many years of my life and kept me in constant internal struggle. I insisted in looking for the “father figure” – “our father thou art in Heaven” – and was surprised when I feared it, was convinced it would punish me if I was myself and always had an eyebrow up looking at me. Who was I going to portray as my heavenly father but someone very similar to my earthly one? The representation of a square in someone’s mind can never ever be a circle, can it?
It took desperation, endless and constant bouts of desperation, getting to a point of no return in some aspects for me to realize that I need to start from scratch. Orthodox and gay do not blend so coming out pretty much sorted things for me church-wise. I had in fact given up trying to find connection in church after years and years of actively looking for it and never finding it for real. So I decided to take a break. And for the past 7 years I was in limbo – no idea. If I am to tell the truth than the truth was that I had no idea who / what God or a god was. I felt nothing special except for a little sliver of hope somewhere in my heart and was just going to hold on to that for as long as I could and figure things out as I go.
I said it many times, our breakdowns are earthquakes, and I think my last one shook me into the realization that while I was looking for the divine connection outside of me for the past 30some years, I was not looking for it in the only place I could find it: inside. Reading Tolle’s book and especially this passage felt like a puzzle piece falling into place.
The power of habit is with me still however and I find that I have to remind myself of this new intention before every outreach for connection. I need to consciously remind me that this is not an outreach, that it is an inreach. I have had to completely overhaul my vocabulary in relation to the divine, the way I focus, where I “look” for guidance, my practice.
I know this is a loaded subject and there for sure are no universal recipes. This is my way. I sit here tonight pondering that it is actually more honest and kind to ourselves to admit when and what we don’t actually believe than to pretend that all of the rituals and ticked boxes can ever stand in the place of connection. When in fact connection is there, in there all o the time and we look away from it. Look inwards.