I sent this out as my regular Sunday lap letter, but I’ll post it here for your convenience:
Good morning my dear friends. And I do call you friends because that’s what you are. You are providing me with a deep sense of connection and understanding, as well as happiness. You’ve made a huge difference in my life. I hope everyone on The Lasting Supper feels the same way. I know many of you do because I hear this from you in personal emails to me.
Which, by the way, is something I do with the members of TLS. I get lots of messages every day from people everywhere. But when I get an email or message from a member of TLS, I pay special attention and spend extra time with you. I’m investing far more time and energy into the members of TLS because I consider it my community. As I know you do as well. So feel free to talk with me. That’s what I’m here for. And if you want to talk in depth via phone or Skype, arrangements can be made for that too. I just had a good in-depth Skype one on one with a TLS member this morning. I give members a special rate on these sessions. I love these deeply engaging conversations and always get really positive feedback as I walk together with them on their individual journeys.
I want to continue talking about the z-theory in smaller parts. So, last week I gave a one page summary of the z-theory and discovered, to my delight, that it was very beneficial to many of you. I hope it provides the same peace of mind and spirit that it has provided me. Let’s talk about the first part in a little more detail.
Here’s what I wrote about the first part:
“There is a huge waterfall. Oceans of water pour over the rim of the cliff.”
We can’t see above the rim, but we can guess that it is an infinite source. There is no proof. Only evidence. We can’t even say it exists. We just know it must be. It is.
This is That-Which-We-Call-God, the Absolute, the Source, Wholly Other, Nirvana, Allah, Yahweh, the Unknowable, the Frontier, the closeted, the Undiscovered.
So from a Christian perspective, this is That-Which-We-Call-God. I emphasize that this is what is above the rim. We cannot see it. It is invisible to us. This doesn’t make it any less real or more real, but it certainly makes it unprovable. This is where many Christians stumble and fall.
I remember many years ago when I was trying to explain my Christian faith to a friend who had become an atheist. If you read posts from nakedpastor from years ago to the present, you can certainly see my development. My conversations with my atheist friend was years ago when I was still standing in theological certitude. But he kept pressing me because I felt so certain about the existence of God, yet couldn’t seem to provide enough substantial proof to settle his mind. No matter how much I talked about my personal journey, my deeply held beliefs, even my own intense spiritual experiences, nothing I could say provided the proof he needed to restore his belief and faith. These conversations were always frustrating to me because, deep down, I knew he was right. There is no proof.
I explain it this way: Let’s say a good friend of mine, someone I trust and believe completely, who has never in his life lied to me. He comes back from deer hunting one day all excited because he tells me he saw a cougar in the woods. There are strong rumors here in New Brunswick that there are cougars here. Some people claim to have seen them. It’s yet to be proven. But my trustworthy friend is excitedly telling me he really did see one. Not only was it a cougar, but it was an albino cougar! I’m looking at him in disbelief. Did he get a picture? No! But he did get a picture on his cell phone of what looks like a partial paw print. Hm. Interesting. Ya, maybe I can see a partial print. Not sure though. He tells me that as he was walking along a deer trail he saw some movement far ahead on the path. A flash of white. When you’re deer hunting this usually always mean you saw the warning flash of a white-tailed deer’s tail. He says he crouched down and clicked the safety off on his rifle, raised it and looked through his scope in the direction of the white flash looking for movement or the straight line of a deers back. Eventually he saw slight movement. And then… he couldn’t believe his eyes… there 100 yards up the path looking straight at him was a white cougar! He says they locked eyes for about 15 seconds and then, in a flash, he was gone. In fear and trepidation but with unrelenting curiosity he walked slowly up the path to where the cougar stood. He bent down and found a partial print and took a picture of it. At the same time, he says, he heard the blood-curdling scream of the cougar. His hunting day was over. He returned to tell me this unbelievable tale.
What do I do with it? I believe my friend believes he saw what he saw and heard what he heard. But do I believe there is an albino cougar in the woods a few miles up the road? I’m not sure what to do with this information. My friend’s not crazy or prone to exaggeration. But this is just too spectacular a story. I’m not sure what to do with it. He never provided me with any proof. Just an incredible but unsubstantiated story. His testimony. But it couldn’t be used in court as proof of the presence of cougars in New Brunswick. Especially albino ones!
This is how many people feel about people’s stories about God. There seems to be lots of evidence. So many scriptures, Christian and otherwise, provide testimonies about this God. Some people claim to have seen, heard or felt something. Many of these people are completely sane and not prone to lying. But it all comes down to testimony. Word of mouth. Feelings. Intuitions. Insights. The fact that these testimonies come to us from all around the world and down through thousands of years with uncanny similarities is impressive, but it all comes down to testimonies. No proof.
We are standing at the bottom of the falls looking up. We know that there must be something up there. Next week I’ll talk about how the water tumbling down gives us excellent clues as to what is actually above the rim. But for now all we can share are our strikingly similar testimonies of what is up there. Christians, Jews and Muslims like to call this God, Yahweh, or Allah and that it is heaven up there, or paradise, or infinity. Or Buddhists call this nirvana or bodhisattva or buddhahood or Compassion or Nothingness or The All. Or Hindus might call it God or gods or the Infinite or Eternal. Or scientists might call this the Unknown, the not-yet-disclosed, the frontiers of scientific discovery. Or perhaps a quantum physicist might call it the Source, the Really Real, or the Unified Oneness, or just Reality. Perhaps philosophers and mystics could call it the One or Oneness, or the Archetypal, or Uncaused Cause. I could go on and on with descriptors… words that attempt to describe what this unnamable infinite source is… testimonials and theories, sometimes from wise and intelligent men and women and sometimes from straight out wackos. But they are all pointing to the same Mystery with different methods and language, all of them insufficient to prove but sufficient enough to give evidence and even give us serious pause.
This is why I claim it isn’t necessary for me to reject my Christian heritage or education or language to simply adopt another. In fact, I incorporate all languages into mine because it fills mine out to make sense for me and to help me articulate to others what I mean. I no longer worry about how people label me because I do not label myself. I do believe there are better insights and languages I could use in my testimony than others. I have a friend who, when I asked her what the “unknown” is for her, told me that she loves to go out on her husband’s fishing boat and look for whales. For her, whales symbolize all that is Good, Mysterious, Powerful, Gracious, Eternal and Loving. Looking for, waiting for, longing for, and sighting a whale is full of mystical profundity that makes her feel One with All Things. Sighting a whale is all she needs to be at peace with herself and know that everything is right with the world. That’s her language. Although I have experienced her metaphor for Mystery and Oneness, it’s not sufficient for me. But it is for her and provides the same value for her as mine does for me. This is why I feel no anxiety to reject one paradigm for another one that simply functions in the same way in attempting to describe the indescribable.
As I always say, my home is in Christianity but I have cottages everywhere. I feel peace about this and am free of theological anxiety about it.
I hope this makes some sense to you and helps you.
See you at The Lasting Supper! Help yourself!
Peace, joy and love,