Martin LeFevre: Does God Give a Damn?
Does God Give a Damn?
Being a philosopher of no faith, in the sense of a belief system, and of shaky faith, in the sense of trust without evidence, I have the perennial question about whether there are ultimately three or just two movements in human consciousness.
On the one hand I've had too much experience with what I'm loath to call 'dark forces' to deny their existence. On the other hand I have too little experience with a movement of intelligence in human consciousness to feel that there is anything beyond the possibility of negating darkness in the individual.
My spiritual practice reflects the imperative for negation and stillness. Taking a daily period of passive observation is a matter of internal hygiene, of simple inward cleansing, much like cleaning the body. The transcendent states that ensue with negation of useless or harmful emotional/intellectual accumulation are an unsought benefit--not the reason one washes off the dirt.
Water, as an actuality and symbol, is of the essence, both in terms of life itself, and in terms of religious practice. Most astrobiologists now believe that wherever there is liquid water in the universe, there we will find life. That hypothesis has yet to be tested on Europa, one of the moons of Jupiter, where liquid water is thought to lie below a thick crust of ice. But if Earth is any indication, water and life are synonymous.
Water is the central symbol of many religions. Hindus symbolically cleanse their bodies and souls in the sacred waters of the Ganges. Catholics baptize their babies and Protestants their born again believers in water, often with full immersion. Beyond the physical necessity of water as the most important element of life, there is the oft-neglected necessity of keeping oneself inwardly clean. Few people do that, or know how to, but to a person who does, it’s more important than physical cleanliness.
It’s unnecessary and unhelpful to think in terms of sin. Rather, it is in the nature of human consciousness to accumulate memories, hurts, hatreds, sorrows, and sufferings. They pile up in the mind and heart, eventually encrusting one’s perception and feeling, destroying sensitivity and innocence.
One can see how suffocating this material in consciousness has become, since sensitivity and innocence is being systemically destroyed in younger and younger children. They lose their innocence not only through physical and sexual abuse, but also through continuous exposure to rampant and rancid consumeristic garbage in the globalizing, American-style market.
Passive, intense observation cleans off the caked material that builds up on the windowpanes of the mind and heart. One thereby restores unobstructed perception to consciousness. Given what the world has become, there is no more important action that an adult can learn, and teach their children.
But even though I’m certain of the efficacy of undivided attention (call it meditation, mindfulness, or whatever), that still leaves the question of whether there is only crud, and individual cleaning, where consciousness is concerned. To put it another way, does God give a damn?
Of course I say that with tongue firmly planted in cheek, since I believe in God-the-Infinite-Father-Overseer about as much as I do the tooth fairy. But given that one regularly comes into contact with a completely impersonal sacredness, there is clearly also an immanent intelligence in the cosmos. Whether 'God' in this sense is like nature itself--utterly indifferent to humans--or in some impersonal sense ‘cares’ about humankind, is the question.
If there are only two movements in consciousness--the accumulation darkness, and its possible negation in the individual--then authentic religious experience is just for the very few. That would mean that humankind as a whole doesn't stand a chance in the long (and increasingly, the short) run.
So in a roundabout way, I’ve come to feel that there is a third movement (besides darkness and negation). I just don't see and feel it very often. And if a 'mystic' who regularly experiences transcendence doesn't, then no wonder so many people have given up on humanity, taking the view that there's only cosmic randomness, unmitigated materialism, and intractable self-centeredness.
The comforting notion of a personal God, and a personal relationship to God, is oxymoronic. To attain awareness of the sacred, the personal dimension has to be deeply negated.
However, that still leaves cosmic intelligence unaccounted for with respect to millions of children’s deaths in Auschwitz, Rwanda, and now Darfur. Or is it that Intelligence can only operate through us?
- Martin LeFevre is a contemplative, and non-academic religious and political philosopher. He has been publishing in North America, Latin America, Africa, and Europe (and now New Zealand) for 20 years. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. The author welcomes comments.