Tuesday, 16 July 2013 13:44
Question Two: Where Did I Come From?
Written by Rami Shapiro
This is the third in a series of six essays based upon Rami's forthcoming book,
Perennial Wisdom for the Spiritually Independent.
"Where did I come from? Your answer to this question is influenced by your answer to the previous question, Who Am I? If you imagine yourself to be somebody, which is what most people imagine, then your answer to the question Where did I come from? is “I came from somewhere other than here.”
"The problem with the notion that I came from somewhere else is that you are never really comfortable with where you are now. You don’t really belong. You are alien.
"... don’t imagine this other–worldly alienation is unique to Muslims.
“Look, the earth just isn’t my concern,” a Christian neighbor told me once. “I’m not going to be here all that long. God gave this planet to us to use as we see fit. We can do what we want to it, it’s heaven that really matters.”
Of course not all Christians and Muslims feel this way, but those that do make it clear what it means to be alien. People who believe this way treat the earth as renters often treat their apartments—poorly.
Things are quite different if your answer to the question Where did I come from? is “here.” If you come from here, you care about here. If you come from here you belong here. There is no alienation. The renter is now an owner.
"When we come from somewhere other than here, we don’t mind littering here at all. After all, we aren’t going to be here all that long.
Alan Watts often spoke about our origins. In one talk he asks us to imagine space aliens doing a fly–by of planet earth before the birth of life. “Just a bunch of rocks,” they’d say and keep on going. A few million years later they fly by again and the rocks are teeming with people. “We were wrong,” they say to one another, “these rocks were peopling.”
The Perennial Wisdom, a shared core of mystical teachings found in almost every religion, is about the earth peopling. But more than that, it is about the Absolute universe-ing, galaxy-ing, planet-ing, tree-ing, cloud-ing, you–ing, and me–ing, etc. The Absolute includes the relative the way an ocean includes its waves.
We are, as Watts puts it, as natural to the universe as apples are to apple trees. Or to put it another way, we and all existence are the way God is God.
In English “God” is a noun, and we speak about “God” the way we speak about any other object. In Hebrew, my spiritual mother–tongue, God is a verb. When you read an English Bible and come across the word “Lord” or “LORD” you are reading a terrible euphemism for the Hebrew verb YHVH, a future imperfect form of the verb “to be.” YHVH is the is–ing of reality, that birthless, deathless and ceaselessly waving ocean in which all waves (all existences) rise and return.
Our entire western worldview is influenced by our obsession with nouns. Yet there are no nouns in nature: nothing static, fixed, or unchanging. Everything is a verb, alive, fluid, creative in its own way. Everything is dancing, and that includes us as well. We are part of the dance of God or Nature; we are waves of the infinite sea of creativity.
Let’s look at how this is found in several different sacred texts.
The whole world is pervaded by Me,
yet my form is not seen.
All living things have their being in Me,
yet I am not limited by them.
Nevertheless, they do not consciously abide in Me.
Such is My Divine Sovereignty that
though I, the Supreme Self,
am the cause and upholder of all,
yet I remain outside.
As the mighty wind, though moving everywhere,
has no resting place but space,
so have all these beings no home but Me.
(Bhagavad Gita 9: 4-6, Bhagavad Gita: Annotated & Explained, p. 71)
This teaching from the Gita is a beautiful expression of panentheism, the notion that God is the all in which everything resides and of which everything partakes, but that is still greater than anything at all. The whole world is pervaded by Me, yet My form is not seen. The reason God’s form cannot be seen is that God has no form. God is the act of forming (and deforming and reforming).
".... God takes on all shapes, including yours, but is of itself no shape at all..
If the word “God” is a problem for you, substitute “Life.” The point is the same: you belong here the way everything belongs here because you and everything else are an organic expression of here. Or, as the Muslim teacher Al-Ghazali wrote, “There is nothing in existence other than God,” (Al–Ghazali, Book 1: The Eighth Foundation).
The Stoic sage Marcus Aurelius says the same thing in his Meditations: “You must now at last perceive you are a part of this universe.” And Jesus says the same when he says, “I am the vine, you are the branches,” (John 15:5).
Jesus offers a more nuanced understanding in the Gospel of Thomas, logia 50:
If they ask you, “Where are you from?” reply to them,
“We have come from the place where light is produced from itself.
It came and revealed itself in their image.”
If they ask you,“Are you it?” reply to them,
“We are its Children. We are chosen ones of the living Father.”
If they ask you, “What is the sign within you of your Father?” reply to them,
“It is movement. It is rest.”
Let’s take this one slowly. “We come from the place where light is produced from itself.” What kind of place is this? How can anything be a product of itself? Think of the sun—which is all light—producing the rays of the sun that are also all light. Think of the ocean—which is all water—producing waves that are also all water. We are an expression of the One the way sunlight is an expression of the sun and waves are expressions of the ocean. We are not other that the source just not all of the source. We are the source source-ing, just as sunlight is the sun shining and waves are the ocean waving. This is what Jesus means when he says we are the children of this infinite reality.
The last line of this text is my favorite: If they ask you “What is the sign within you of your Father?” reply to them, “It is movement. It is rest.” What is movement and rest but life itself? What is the sign that we come from this singular reality? Life. Or, as the 19th century Hindu saint Ramakrishna put it, “God Himself has become the universe and all its living beings… (Ramakrishna, Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna: Annotated & Explained, p. 161). Or as the Christian mystic Meister Eckhart taught,
The more God is in all things,
the more God is outside them.
The more God is within,
the more without.
(Aldous Huxley, Perennial Philosophy, p. 2)
The Perennial Wisdom is the wisdom of belonging. It is the wisdom that comes when we understand reality as a singular verb of endless creativity.Question Two: Where Did I Come From? ( Collapse )