Posted by: JDM..... | November 25, 2009

…and, Man created god in His own image

TWO DIMENSIONS
When I was an infant, I suppose my perception of life might have been somewhat two dimensional, but, perhaps it is two dimensional of me to assume so. After all, how the hell should I know, since I don’t remember my infanthood? Nevertheless, I’m briefly going to assume the literary license to assume so, simply to present a point.

Just as my infant-world may at one time have consisted merely of comfort and discomfort, or perhaps up or down, I find that people tend to think within the limits of “either or” throughout their lives regarding things they do not understand or about which they have particularly strong feelings. Impartial examination however, usually reveals that there are infinite possibilities between everything and nothing, always and never, or countless other such extremes of potential.

I don’t know when this revelation began to dawn on me intellectually, but I probably began to experience this truth once I achieved a horizontal position and discovered that not only could I stand up and fall down, but that I could fall backward, forward, and sideways as well. This was reconfirmed in college, but that’s another story.

The point is, a polarized “all or nothing” view of our vast arena of existence is pretty, well…two dimensional…locking knowledge and truth out rather than inviting them in.

THE SUM OF ALL TRUTHS
At some point I came to the conclusion that the sum of all known truths does not necessarily equal the sum of all truths. That stance put me at odds with an awful lot of people, especially those who believed it was their great fortune to have been blessed with the sum of all truths and that my lot in life was to accept that circumstance as the final truth. I was fortunate enough to have had a handful of college professors and other mentors who agreed with me, or at least tolerated my point of view. Those who dared to entertain my skepticism facilitated my learning far more than the endless parade of data pumps otherwise encountered during the course of an education.

But secular learning is only a portion of what one acquires over a lifetime. Of greater importance perhaps, is what one learns about the spiritual aspects of one’s existence. Without an understanding of the non-physical universe and one’s relationship with it, intellectual brilliance is somewhat empty and pointless. As with my intellectual pursuits, my greatest frustration in that respect has been with those who would demand that I memorize rather than invite me to learn. And those who have enabled me to acquire the most meaningful relationship with the spiritual nature of the universe have been those who have had the self confidence to allow me to discover spiritual truths within myself. Certainly, an understanding of such truths as learned by others down through the ages is important and helpful, but unless I can sift through it and perhaps add to it, that knowledge provides me with little of value beyond the approval of those who are pleased by rote.

That said, I would like to address the issue of “god”.

FROM COMMON GROUND to KING OF THE MOUNTAIN
Wise men down through the ages have observed their surroundings and their peers and put together rational guidelines for people living together. Regardless of where or when one might explore the foundations of any human community, one will find rules concerning such things as property and killing within the group.

Building upon the collective knowledge of predecessors, humanity progressively transformed itself from a universally nomadic species into a combination of agriculturally based communities and those which maintained much of their hunter gatherer tradition. Tribes with common aspects joined to form nations, and the gods of Man changed to meet the needs of each culture. The resultant large city-states held together and controlled by all-powerful central leaders assuming an authoritarian and parental role formed the foundation for the Judeo-Christian age and the concept of a single all-powerful god

Hunter-gatherers and primitive peoples had little use for such singularity, and were associated with multiple deities that were more reflective of their diverse environments.

Early peoples had sky gods, earth gods, water gods, fire gods, gods that ruled over their sources of food and shelter and so forth. They had animal-gods, which were associated with their hunting lifestyles. These gave way to agriculturally oriented gods more attuned to the reproduction cycle. Interestingly, many of these were feminine. The pagan deities of Greece and Rome reflected the social, political, and military characteristics of those more complex cultures. Only when humanity began to organize itself into larger groups of people with diverse interests and beliefs did the concept of “chain of command” emerge as an aspect of the world of the gods, neatly reflecting the secular world.

Man dislikes chaos, and is driven to organize his environment. Thus, the Mediterranean world had multiple deities with a “CEO”. The Judeo-Christian age introduced the lone dictatorship of a singular omnipotent god. Subordinates were no longer gods themselves, but non-god appointees such as angels, etc. serving at the pleasure of the One-god.

AND MAN CREATED GOD IN HIS OWN IMAGE
Mankind has almost always tended to humanize his deities, physically, intellectually, emotionally, or all of the above. Those deities have universally held some significant relationship to the worshipers, whether that was as oppressor or benefactor. Essentially, Man created god in His own image, and for His own purposes.

On the one hand, those purposes have been generally good, providing unity and cohesiveness to the community, promoting attitudes and behaviors which served to enhance the chances for survival.

Unfortunately, not only have the diverse communities of humanity never been able to agree on the identity of The One True god, but even where groups have found common roots to their faiths, they have devoted the bulk of their energies to competing for power and influence. Resorting to a two dimensional concept of Truth, each “religion” has been able to justify the rejection or extermination of all competing belief systems. It has only been through isolation and non-intercourse that selected groups have been able to survive. What purportedly have represented spiritual journeys within more often than not have functioned largely as organized syndicates of commercial, economic, and even military participants of the secular world.

I don’t believe we have even begun to truly understand our origins or the nature of the universe as a whole. Only when those who look within and those who favor empirical science discover common ground will humanity achieve the potential to discover Truth.

For these reasons, I reject the gods of Man. Cultures have been born and destroyed according to Man’s interpretation of the rising and setting of the sun, or opinions of what the pattern a handful of tossed bones “proved” about God’s mood, intentions, politics, and favored minions. These have not been the purposes of any Entity that deserves my acknowledgement or honor, no matter how forcefully or cleverly the robed and bejeweled armies of self-anointed spokesmen may present their cases. I see no more and no less of any alleged “god” whether I kneel before an altar or look in the bathroom mirror or walk alone in the woods.

The allegation by some that I may have been made in “God’s” image is simply the Word of Man, passed around the proverbial campfire for a hundred generations or so. I’ve wondered in whose image the ten thousand generations predating Judeo-Christian campfires might have been made. I am more inclined to believe gods have always been made in Man’s image rather than the other way around.

The anthropomorphic model favored by Western societies for the last couple of millennia or so has been described with equal sincerity and authority as loving, punishing, caring, jealous, angry, forgiving, patient, unyielding, vengeful, and so on. When we ascribe such violent mood swings to the Unknown, we call it good and develop ceremonies to celebrate it. When one of our own displays such erratic behavior, we assign a diagnosis and prescribe medications.

I think man’s relationship with his gods is not unlike his relationships with his peers. The neighbor who lets you use his lawnmower or the employer who gives you a raise is known as benevolent and kind. The demanding taskmaster and the neighbor who tells you to get your own damned lawnmower are known as angry, mean, and authoritarian.

The fact that the universe and this world exist, to me, appears to be independent of any particular personality traits or behaviors. If I am kind and supportive of my children, they will be happy and feel safe. If I am a raging, abusive lunatic, they will be unhappy and probably rather maladjusted as well. In either event, they will exist. As for peace and spiritual balance, that comes from within. When I practice the tenets of my guiding philosophy and obey the code of values to which I have made a commitment, I am at peace.

I was taught, as most of us were, to cry out “Oh, God!” in times of fear or anguish. But I have observed during the past half century or so that it has been my own decisions and actions, or those of another human being, and perhaps the laws of physics, which determined the outcomes of my predicaments. Crying out “Oh, shit!” seems to have worked just as well in most cases.

ACCORDING TO WHOM?
Do I deny the existence of some Unknown power or explanation for the physical laws we generally accept as part of what makes the universe we live in tick? I do not.

Neither do I accept on faith alone that the Word of Man is the Word of God, simply because Men have said it is so. I see evidence of something amazing and Unknown all around me every day, and none of it has ever gratuitously harmed me or granted me favors. If a man walks foolishly into a raging ocean, he may die, but throughout recorded history, it has been Man himself who has punished those who refused to join the Religion of the Month Club.

I am not interested in the Word of Man or in self-righteous, condescending people who come to my door and have the audacity to insult me and my spiritual center on the grounds that my philosophy differs from theirs. I have granted no person permission to manage the wellbeing of my soul. The fact that there are those who would grant themselves that permission despite my wishes, rationalizing their assumption by claiming authority from “god”, merely demands repetition of the question “According to whom”?

And the answer remains, “according to the Word of Man”.

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