The idea that some kind of good God exists? Totally reasonable. At least, it seems more reasonable than the idea that existence is this weird, meaningless series of quantum events, that all of our experiences are purposeless chemical reactions, and that the life we live has no more import in space/time than that of a tardigrade. (I mean, if you’re the kind of person who finds comfort in a cosmos devoid of meaning that churns along and spits out chemical eddies called “humans” who happen to interact with one another in a purely physical form and then vanish into background noise, that’s your bag, but it seems pretty depressing to me.)
The idea that this good God created the universe as we currently experience it? Totally unreasonable. My poor little kid is sick with a high fever, and he’s crying and miserable, and, at the moment, he’s got it good: he was born an insured white male in a relatively prosperous nation to a pair of loving parents with steady incomes. What kind of God would endorse his tears, and endorse the tears of millions of other kids who don’t have it as good as he does simply because they were born somewhere else, or born uninsured, or born and then abandoned? There is no argument you can make that a good God would knowingly allow countless children to suffer.
The idea that an Evil force opposes this good God, and is responsible for the suffering in the world? Totally unreasonable, if, indeed, this God created everything. Why would you go and do something like that? There isn’t a single good argument one can make for giving one’s self an opponent if one knows very well that one’s opponent will cause others to suffer. I suppose if one wanted to challenge one’s self, one might come up with an archenemy, a super-villain who could test one’s abilities and self-worth. But if this super-villain could spread misery around, and if you couldn’t do anything to prevent that misery, wouldn’t the act of creating this super-villain be wildly irresponsible?
The idea that the God who created the universe as we currently experience it is imperfect? Totally reasonable. Really, if you’re going down the path of theism, it’s the only explanation that makes any reasonable sense. God itself is unwise; it’s been abandoned by Wisdom, or refuses to accept it. Obviously, this God isn’t totally cruel; there’s a lot of beauty and happiness in the world, and it can be a fantastic place to live. It just doesn’t seem to have any kind of consistent moral head on its shoulders.
So what, then, of our relationship to God? What is a totally reasonable way to look at our place in a theistic cosmos if God itself is imperfect? Perhaps the most reasonable way to look at God in relation to us is to ask the question, what if God is, like us, imperfectly striving towards self-knowledge?
After all, if we were created in God’s image, and God is imperfect, then it makes perfect sense that our desire to know ourselves and to understand ourselves mirrors God’s own desire to do so? And, if this is the case, then doesn’t it also make sense that the best way for God to come to its own self-knowledge is through the creation of observers and experiencers within itself?
Perhaps, and I’m riffing on some old themes here, perhaps in the God’s own Gnostic Way, in its desire to know itself, it continually sends imperfect segments of its own greater Consciousness into the realm of experience. These segments, existing outside of space and time, are unrestricted by them. These segments, through interaction with the components of the material world such as DNA, are the way in which God comes to know itself.
This forced subjective experience accounts for the perception of the Universe as a region of insanity, a place from which we must escape. The question then becomes, how much of the ego survives us? Does it choose where to manifest next? Can it choose the path of no return, and an eternal peace in the Limitless Light? Or, is it something we have no control over? Or indeed, does it depend upon our actions here on Earth? If we’re ‘good,’ or find the ‘Way,’ does that mean we go to Heaven? Can some of us return as boddhisatvas to assist others on their journeys? Yes, yes and yes. All of these things are possible, and none, because there is only one consciousness, experiencing itself subjectively, unlimited by space and time.
Practically speaking, it means that after death, one’s consciousness can re-manifest in any portion of the Universe’s subjective experience. I could die tomorrow and be reborn again within my body. I could die tomorrow and be reborn as an amoeba, or as any other human now living or dead, past or present, or as a cepholopodic life form orbiting a distant star. I could die tomorrow and be reborn as you, the reader. Conversely you could die tomorrow and be reborn on September 2, 1975 to a young couple in Florida who would name you Jeremy Puma. The experience seems limited by space/time, but nothing suggests that reincarnation into the subjective occurs in a linear fashion.
If this is the case, memories of ‘past lives’ are merely memories of different subjective encounters with the Materia. I might remember a ‘past life’ as Napoleon, but so might you, and we’d both be correct; our objective consciousnesses both experienced the life of Napoleon, so why not?
There is no need for a Hell. Hitler died and became every single one of his victims, had to experience every evil ever committed by his followers from the other end. They didn’t realize they were Hitler when it happened; does that make it any better, or even worse? Each of them was reborn within the consciousness of Hitler and perpetrated these crimes against themselves, who were, in turn, Hitler. There is one experiencer, one recipient of all the good and ill produced by the subjective realm, one objective consciousness that seeks to learn about itself by experiencing each and every subjective manifestation of itself.
This accounts for the perception of selflessness as ‘good’ and selfishness as ‘evil,’ though again, these are limited terms. Simply put, what you do unto even the least of humanity you do unto the Christ within because what you do unto even the least of humanity you do to yourself. Lie, cheat, steal, kill? You’re lying to, cheating, stealing from and murdering yourself. Murder is suicide, and vice-versa. Don’t just consider how another person feels or reacts to your actions– consider how you would feel if you were reborn as that person, and had to share her experiences, her highs and lows, her happinesses and tragedies.
Eschatological concerns are of course implied. One would assume that once every manifestation of itself has been experienced by the Universe, it becomes whole, healed, and no longer needs to break itself into pieces. That may indeed be the case, but that’s only how it looks to us from the realm of limitation. Beyond space/time, the entire process is already complete, and the process is just beginning. The End of Time happened yesterday; the Universe will be created tomorrow. Time is not linear *or* cyclical; these are human concepts. Time is an illusory, subjective experience of an amorphous process of discovery, the gnosis of the universe itself.
What better Heaven than to exist as the Universal consciousness, dancing through its manifestations in total Freedom, be they imperfect or limited? It’s a grand adventure with infinite possibilities and infinite choices, a game of perpetual exploration and discovery and self-knowledge with very little in the way of correct or incorrect. The ‘goal’ is simple: know, know, know! Only in knowing one’s self, for one’s self, does the individual achieve enlightenment, and only in knowing itself for itself does the God become complete. To me, this is the ultimate message of all gnostic streams of thought and the underlying basis for everything from ontology to morality.
It would be easy to sentimentalize this concept, as so many have done, into a “we are all one everything happens for a reason universal peace and love” philosophy, but to do so would be to ignore the realistic limitations of subjective experience. We are all one, but that “One” is limited by the subjective realm. We do create our own reality, but from beyond the ego and as a collective of individual experiencers, not as individuals within the realm of limitations. “Creating one’s reality” is well and good, but it’s a concept limited to those untouched by tragedy and is utterly useless to, say, someone who has lost h/er entire village to a tsunami. “We are all one” is well and good, but it’s a concept limited to those who choose to ignore the value of individual experience and self-knowledge. “Peace and love” are well and good, but they are concepts limited to those who have never had close relatives murdered at the hands of a death squad.
We are not God; or, if we are, we are a tiny and powerless segment of an imperfect and unknowable God. Claiming that one is “one with God” means accepting that one is imperfect, unknowing, and slight.
There are three virtues implied by this outlook: compassion and humility and radical inquiry. Our fragmentary nature requires compassion for others as extensions of our selves, segments of the universe. This same fragmentary nature requires humility as an admission that our experience is limited and subjective, and the subjective experiences of others may not be more true or more false than those of our own. These limitations require constant questioning in order to allow the universe to experience itself more fully. None of these three necessitate “peace” or “love” or anything we usually associate with goodness, but peace and love et al are natural extensions of these virtues, not vice-versa as some assume.
Conversely, we can understand “evil” as viewing the limitation as the whole, viewing other individual fragments as objects without value. Acts which restrict the individual and subjective universal experience serve only to limit the universe’s ability to know itself, and to delay the redemptive process.
“Good” and “evil” are symptoms, not causes, and are better understood in terms of “sanity” and “insanity.”
Of course, these things only exist in space and time, in subjective experience. One will argue that since the process isn’t linear, that the universe is already redeemed at some point, why should it matter whether we choose “good” or “evil” within this manifestation? Such a question makes little sense; we exist as we exist, limited, and are subject to the actions of one another. Practically, this timeless redemption *requires* sanity, and even though it is already healed in some timeless form, this is due to the acts of compassion, humility and perpetual questioning of its fragmented parts. Sure, you could go out and do something horrifying to someone and it would have little effect on the final state of the universe, but it would have negative effect on *you* as an eventual/possible manifestation of your victim. On many levels, it’s a practical matter, one of the few.
What about combating those who commit evil acts? Protesting governments? Confronting bullies? Jailing criminals? The only possible way to combat an act of evil is to lead by example, displaying compassion, humility, and a willingness to question, and to remember that no one can change anyone else’s mind.
The most valuable interactions one has are with those in one’s circle of direct experience. If every single person decided to be more compassionate to, to be a little more humble around, to be more willing to ask questions of and for one’s family, one’s friends, one’s neighbors, one’s coworkers, then nobody would need to petition governments or jail criminals. Idealistic, yes, but no more idealistic than the absurd theory that enough people’s signatures will cause a politician to change h/er mind for any reason. Idealism is a necessity not because the best-case scenario will occur, but in order that idealist visions remain within discourse.
Let’s face it; we’ll never really know anything, but maybe this is by design. Maybe our ignorance, as a reflection of the ignorance of God, is a step towards the redemption of God itself. Maybe we’re here to help it along. And that seems totally reasonable to me.
Even in the most meaningless particle of earth and sky I hear God crying out: “Help me!” – Nikos Kazantzakis, The Saviors of God