What is the true nature of God?

English: Vitruvian man by Leonardo da Vinci

Image via Wikipedia

With all the pain and suffering we see in the world one of the primary weapons an atheist has against the concept of deity is why an all-loving and father-like deity would allow bad things to happen. As we have advanced in science and technology the concept of an anthropomorphic deity is a very difficult concept to defend. Many people casually dismiss the argument with statements like “The Lord works in mysterious ways” or “Trust in the Lord”, but I am pretty sure in the back of most people’s minds the question of “Why?” and the statement “it’s not fair” still lingers. Blind faith is not easy for the contemplative mind and it is almost impossible to measure with any sense of reason. I know what some of you are thinking, “We can’t understand the nature of the Divine”, but I think that’s because we try to humanize the Divine way to much. Rather than try to measure ourselves up to it, we diminish the greatness of that great unknown element of the first and perpetual cause of the cosmos by applying human attributes.

Whether you are Jewish, Christian, Mormon, or Muslim all of scripture originates in the Torah. Regardless of your stance on reliability of translations, divine inspiration, historical accuracy, or the infallibility of the text there is one undeniable truth that no one can dispute – It was written by men in an attempt to explain the unexplainable. What if we, the more technologically advanced version of the Patriarchs, are completely missing the point? What if understanding the concept of deity is really achieved by making a real earnest effort at understanding ourselves?

The human body is essentially a microcosm of the universe and the brain a mini version of the Divine. I realize this borders on heresy to some of you, but bear with me here. The Divine is in complete control of all creation, much like the mind is in complete control of the body right? Then why did you let yourself stub your toe the other day? Why did you say such a harsh thing that you later claim you really didn’t mean? Why did you cheat? Why do you allow yourself to get a paper cut? Why is your hair not cooperating with your comb? Why do you have to brush your teeth to prevent decay? These things happened and you didn’t want them to. I thought the brain controlled everything.

Getting the point? There is a difference between Divine Consciousness and Divine Control.

I am pretty sure you have gotten angry and snapped at someone and then regret it later. Is that your mind admonishing your instinctive reaction? You ever forget something and then remember it later? If you remembered it, you really didn’t forget it. (ie. “The Lord remembered Noah“) How can I be so bold as to say we are like the Divine? Need I remind you that we are “created in the image and likeness” of the Divine. Perhaps getting to know the nature of the Divine is only achievable when we try to understand ourselves. Meditation and prayer to many, have been ways to relax and to find solace. It is a bit ironic that this is an exercise you do on your own. But are you really alone? When you close your eyes and clear your mind, focusing on each breath as it enters your lungs and is then released, you aren’t alone. In fact this is probably the only time you are focusing on your breathing when your brain has been gauging the activity of your lungs since conception. When we were created we received the “breath of life” and that one breath started a reaction within us that continues with every single breath we take and just as our body evolves, so does the rest of creation.

Perhaps the answers to our questions have actually be in right in front of us the whole time – looking right back at us in the mirror.

© Nelson Rose, The Quest for Light

The Winding Path

The Quest has always been about searching for and understanding the nature and essence of Divine Truth. Rather than focusing on dogmatic concepts and restrictive rules there has to be more rational approach to something seemingly so enigmatic. For thousands of years man has been searching for answers and trying to discover our purpose in the grand design. The search for answers has resulted in the various different religions that have existed throughout history. I have spent the last several years contemplating and searching for answers and now find myself on a journey that has broadened my sense of purpose and brought me closer to understanding how the complex can be made simple and the seemingly simple becomes more complex. Several months ago I began an in-depth study of the Torah. The primary reason is that the majority of the people of the world are adherents to one of the Abrahamic faiths (Judaism, Christianity, Islam) and the foundational text of those religions is the Torah (even though most of the followers of those faiths have little to no knowledge of it). I realize that taking a non-literal approach to the Torah rocks the foundation of both Christianity and Islam but, truth be told, the Torah is more than a literal text. In fact, it is my belief (and anyone who has really studied it) that it was never intended to be just literal. As one begins to peel off the several layers you discover an ethical application which we see through the Mussar teachings, there is also a theocratic legal code which you see in the Halacha system, a modern commentary approach, and the mystic and esoteric approach found in Kabbalah.

The Zohar is a literary body of work that is the foundation of Kabbalah. Kabbalah has gained in popularity recently due to certain celebrities who claim to be adherents to it however, what they really follow is a store-front blend of mystical, astrological, and self-help precepts wrapped up in a Kabbalah bow. I’ve read a number of books about Kabbalah and some books based on its concepts and they all make it very clear that in order to absorb and retain any of the teachings and precepts of Kabbalah requires an understanding of the Torah. So I studied the Torah mixing the yearly plan of both the Orthodox and Reform Judaism. They both touch on Kabbalah and to my surprise the foundational text – the Zohar – is in fact largely another commentary on the Torah itself.

We now start a new leg of the quest. While this too may be an old path, it is different as it does not use a rigid dogmatic system. It is mystical and open to giving the Divine the liberty of multiple emanations and dimensions. As I now begin a deeper study of the Zohar it is evident that it will take me quite a while to walk this path because it is a winding path to the summit. Most religions force you into a straight and narrow path with no liberty to go to the right or to the left. Kabbalah is different – the path is winding and at times it even requires you to circle back before you can ascend further.

Questions are immensely important as they are half of an answer. Without questions there can be no answers. So here are some questions for you to ponder.

  • What is the purpose of creation?
  • Is there an active Divine presence, is it in exile, or is it merely an illusion?
  • Does human action have an effect on the cosmos?
  • Are our thoughts and prayers mere electromagnetic impulses or do they gain substance?
  • Is there an essence of evil or is it merely an absence of light?

I hope that those of you reading this will open your mind to the concept that this quest can be yours as well. You do not have to force yourself into beliefs because of family traditions or fear of damnation. We were given a mind to reason and to think. The more we begin to unravel the mysteries of nature through science, the more it is evident that simplistic and dogmatic views of the Divine will eventually be obsolete and unfulfilling. Science may prove a lot of things but, it requires an element of faith and pre-existence. Science can begin to explain the unknown with theories but, even theories themselves have an element of unknowns and preexistent origins and fundamentals. If life and science have layers then wouldn’t the Divine as well?

To close I would like to offer a thought: Our Creator created us to be happy. From our very beginning the intent is happiness and bliss. The proof of this is evident when you observe a child..

© Nelson Rose, The Quest for Light

What is the world coming to?

One of the biggest problems facing the human race is intolerance and ignorance. Both are equally dangerous and counterproductive to any form of progress we can make. One only has to turn on the evening news to see gridlock in government and violence in the name of God to see that humanity as a species is just insane. Yes, insane. Why do I say this? Well, ask Mr. Albert Einstein..

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. – Albert Einstein.
Think about it. How may times has corruption caused economic collapse? How many wars have been fought over religion? Look at what is on TV. An over abundance of “Reality TV” that is hardly reality but, distorts the viewers into actually believing that it is. How pathetic are we that people publicly lower their own moral standards on national television to “win the heart” of the bachelor or bachelorette who has been sleazing around with the other hopeless romantics the whole time as well?
 
To add to this continual dumbing down of society it seems the capturing of a bully beating up on a young kid or a homeless person on a cellphone so it can be uploaded to YouTube is now dubbed as “cool”. We see morally disturbing shows like “Toddler in Tiaras” and other forms of sleaze TV and then wonder why our children get in to far more trouble than we ever did. I may be crazy but, does any one see a similarity between UFC fighting and the Gladiators of Rome?
Humankind has advanced from living in straw huts and hunting with spears into a technologically advanced and literate race, capable of flight and erecting massive buildings and even going into space. Yet we have begun to digress as we progress. I watched a video in which people were interviewed about historical figures and events and I was completely blown away by the fact that dozens of people didn’t know who Adolf Hitler was. These same people couldn’t tell you who the Governor of their own state is or name the current Vice President. Of course, when you asked them who Simon Cowell is, you got a quick answer. OK. I get it, history may be boring and educating yourself on things like economics and government may not be high on the priority list for many people but, those who don’t learn from their history are doomed to repeat it.
 
I recently had the pleasure of yet again hearing someone refer to me as an ignorant heretic. I considered the source and it didn’t bother me but, I decided to engage in a debate (surprising, huh?). The debate started over his belief that all Muslims are evil and that the Islamic faith is all about violence. He is a Christian and I reminded him that the man he worships was very clear about not judging, loving your neighbor as yourself, and even loving your enemy (turn the other cheek). He then proceeded to tell me about all the violence that the Quran advocates and when I asked him if he ever read it… you guessed it, he answered No. This is an example of both intolerance and ignorance – how can you be so sure about something you have absolutely no knowledge of? I could have told him how the church really grew (by the sword not the spirit) but, instead I asked him if he would ever consider reading the Quran. He told me “Absolutely not” and I told him that unless he did he was really ignorant on the topic and would be better off shutting his mouth. He then did the usual and pointed to Osama Bin Laden, al Qaeda and other terror networks. I then reminded him that there are over 1 BILLION Muslims in the world and that if the religion was really about violence, we would have a lot bigger problem then we do now. I then pointed to various passages in the Bible where violence exists and is condoned (yes, it’s there in both testaments). He then told me it was different because it was in the Bible. At this point I realized the level of intolerant ignorance I was dealing with and told him to either read the Quran or stop trashing it. He said “Never!” and I said “What would Jesus do?” Wow, what a look he gave me.
 
We all go through life trying to find some kind of purpose. Something to give us hope and meaning. As our society becomes more and more secular we are also becoming less ethical and morally corrupt. Look at divorce rates. Look at the number of single parents and teenage pregnancies. As we continue to advance in science and medicine people have begun to lessen their dependency on believing in something greater than themselves. The danger in that is very clear.. When there is no God, then to whom in humankind held to account? All of us are born with just enough light to seek the truth. There is more than one way to find the truth and more than one path to the Divine. The allegory of the Tower of Babel teaches that multiple paths are actually part of the divine plan. From what I have read, the closer one gets to the truth the more the paths begin to weave into each other. The more one studies the foundations of all religions, the more they find common tenets and principles. With the advancement of science the scope of the Divine appears to diminish but, only when one dismisses the concept that everything has a source. There are many things that man has yet to discover and prove. Our emotions and our ability to reason will likely never be explained by science as those are the most divine of all gifts given to man. When we use one of those gifts more than the other, we lose our balance and get off course. When we believe that our personal beliefs have a higher moral authority then the beliefs of someone else, we cower in our own hypocrisy. We must all learn that within everyone is the ability to help others and the maliciousness to destroy them. Rather than focus on the faults of others or your own personal perception of the infidelity of the path that they may follow – focus on your path and what it is you are doing that may make the world a better place. We are finite as beings but, infinite with our actions and our ability to pass on what we know to the next generation.

© Nelson Rose, The Quest for Light

Life, Free Will, and Reason

Some of you may or may not know this but, I have read and studied the Bible, the Quran, the Book of Mormon, and various other ancient (aka sacred texts). Religion is something that absolutely fascinates me and it is also something that scares the heck out of me. The fascinating part is the various views on the nature of God and the scary part is the mindless dogma and violence that can result from an uneducated approach to those views. I have always believed that while it may not be necessary to go to the extent that I did with reading, everyone should at least know their own scriptures and the basic tenets of their religion. It is so common to see misquotes and uniformed ignorance with people on this topic. This is mainly because few people actual take the time to read for themselves and to me that makes them pretty bad followers of whatever religion they follow. How can someone be a good Jew if they have not read every single word of Torah at least once? How can someone be a good Christian if they have not read every word of the Bible at least once? How can someone be a good Muslim if they have not read every word of the Quran at least once? Especially since even reading them once is no where near enough.

Although I was raised a Christian (The Lutheran flavor) when I got older I became skeptical, almost slipping into the ignorance of atheism. I couldn’t make up my mind what to believe so I read any holy book I could find (some of them more than once) and after the last 5 years of studying, I find the peace and comfort that I’ve been looking for in Judaism. This awakening occured to me when I started studying Mystical Judaism (Kabbalah). Kabbalah (which is fascinating by the way) requires extensive knowledge of the Torah. So as I said in my last post, Torah is now what I spend most of my time studying.

The origin of humanity is a topic of much debate and multiple cosmogonies have been discovered and the Torah contains a blend of a few of them that have been masterfully woven into one. These cosmogonies are allegorical and have been interpreted throughout the centuries through various commentaries. It is my belief that the Christian view of them as being literally true is wrong but, I also realize that the core of that faith requires it. So my views may not sit well with them. Nevertheless, I base them on some very intense study of the texts themselves, various Rabbinic commentaries, the Talmud, and translational reference material.

It is my belief we were all created with 3 very special divine gifts:

  • The Breath of Life
  • Free Will
  • Reason

The Breath of Life, as its name implies, gives us life, a soul and it is the very sustaining essence of God within each and every one of us.

Free Will is the freedom that God gave each of us to choose for ourselves what our actions are and what kind of person we are. All of us have both light and dark, good and evil, within us and it is the choices we make that define what path we take and who we are.

Reason enables us to understand the differences between good and bad. It encourages the mind to seek and understand the nature of God and to discern the order and operation of nature. When employed correctly it gives us a moral compass that governs our free will and when properly followed will always lead to God.

How did we get these gifts?

One of the ways to study Torah is allegorically and another is personal application. In studying the allegory of Creation (yes, I believe the beginning of Genesis to be all allegory) I used my personal allegorical interpretation to develop some thoughts as to how these gifts were given to us as relates to the tale of Eve and the serpent in the garden.

The garden is symbolic of the paradise that one has in a spiritual sense when they are close to God. The serpent is symbolic of free will, except free will without the gift of Reason caused poor judgement and the selfish desire to be “like God”. The act of biting into the fruit was the introduction of the gift of Reason. It was only after Reason was introduced did Eve’s eyes “open” and she realized that she was “naked”. Naked meaning now fully accountable for her own actions and not capable of hiding who she was.

How does God respond?

With disappointment and then very quickly with love and compassion. It was never God’s intent to have a bunch of puppets that were under divine control. Free will comes with the risk of making both good and bad decisions even with the use of Reason. God curses the serpent because the serpent symbolized the use of free will to serve oneself which we know as selfishness. Mankind is then imbued with the pains and burdens of life but, then God quickly provides them with clothes to cover their nakedness. This is emblematic of how mankind, now having free will, reason and the breath of life – all gifts that come from God and when used in the “image” of God will provide man all that is needed to come close to Him. How do we act in God’s image? Those 10 little rules we have spoken of before.

And God created man in His own image, in the image of God created He him; male and female created He them. JPS

© Nelson Rose, The Quest for Light