December 31st, 2008

Generic Meditation Issues: Is God Love?

"A fifth class lays stress on the beneficence of God, and ignores his justice, saying to themselves: "Well, whatever we do, God is merciful."  They do not consider that though God is merciful, thousands of human beings perish miserably in hunger and disease.  They know that whoever wishes for a livelihood must not merely say: "God is merciful," but must exert himself.  Although the Koran says: Every living creature's support comes from God,"  it is also written: "Man obtains nothing except by striving."  The fact is, such teaching is from the devil, and such people speak with their lips and not with their hearts.
            --Abu Hamid al-Ghazali, Kimaiya'e Saadat (The Alchemy of Happiness)

Of the six ways that Ignorance of God can endanger the human soul, al-Ghazali seems to hold in most contempt the idea that God is merciful without considering that God is also just.  Typical of non-mystics in the Abrahamic faiths he finds it necessary to believe in a God whose love can be "tough" when necessary.  But al-Ghazali is a mystic, albeit a "practical" one, and such "toughness" seems discordant coming from a mystic.  Al Ghazali seems to attribute hunger and disease to our "failure to strive," making him among his other distinctions a precursor to Adam Smith.

I will say that alchemy of happiness is a worthwhile read, and taken in the context of the whole, the above paragraph does not seem so bad, but I choose for purposes of this entry to take it out of context.

The powers that early humans wondered at were awesome, sometimes indifferent, not always benign, but rarely cruel.
When personalized these powers were grandparents, cultural heroes, and talking animals, they were not feared except to the extent that their activities might actually create physical danger in the form of fires or floods or other material phenomena.
Only with the coming of agriculture did gods take on the lordly and dangerous qualities which reflected the power of the earthly leaders who believed in them and used them for social control.  As chiefs became kings and kings increased in their power and wealth the gods became correspondingly powerful and as the kings got crueler and more indifferent to their subjects, the gods followed suit.  Finally in the axial age (Amos, Zoroaster, Mahavira, Buddha, Lao Tse, Confucious) the religious needs of individuals became separated from the rulers' political needs.  And finally there was Jesus, who called God "daddy."

But by that time we had had 9000 years or more of "religious development" in which the gods backed up the demands of state and ethnic leaders, and the leaders who followed the axial period were not about to give up a good social control device.
The "Christianization" of the Roman empire sent thousands of "followers of Jesus" into the desert where they tried to practice solitude, prayer, poverty, kindness, and the works of mercy.  They had their temporary impact on their little corner of the world, but it has been an uphill and mostly losing battle ever since between the humble and gentle Jesus and the Mighty and Awesome Christ.

Somewhere in the Masnavi, Rumi writes about the "c;ult of lovers", the religion of lovers that others cannot understand.  He was clearly not referring only to Sufis, but to mystics of all religions and cultures who will not accept that God is anything less than love.  And this is not tough love. but Unconditional Love.

My extremely limited understanding of "Q," (Quelle) the supposed sayings of Jesus that were collected by the first generation of Christians^ before letters of St. Paul and the Gospel According to Mark, is that the most likely authentic sayings of Jesus reveal a person who was compassionate, concerned for the poor, indifferent toward power.  Was he also a lover of God who is the lover of creation,  Well, men don't use the "L" word a lot, and evidently didn't much back then either; but one of the parables which is most likely authentic is the parable of the prodigal son.  This shows the love of the "dad" as unconditional.

What else would one contemplate in contemplation?  What else would one meditate on in meditation?  If I can conceive of God at all, why not conceive of Her/Him as a god of love.  Boy, that rambled.  I'll have to do this again when I am more serene and ordered.

^ (edit) I erred in calling the Galilean people of Q Christians.  If the hypothesis is correct, the people of Q did not know of the resurrection or did not consider it relevant to their understanding of Jesus.  Jesus. to them, was the charismatic psychic healer and cynic teacher who taught the teachings recorded in the Sermon on the Mount.