Mystic Mondays May 16, 2016
I think I have always believed in God–or some such version of a presence that lies underneath, beyond and behind the reality that these two blurry eyes can still see. It is important to state that up front before I describe how religious mysticism crept into my vocabulary. It wasn’t that I had some grand conversion from a life of rationalistic, objective, scientific empiricism to suddenly “seeing the divine light.”
My route to mysticism happened the same way that I went from being young to old. It just crept up on me until one day I realized that “believing in God” didn’t even seem like the right question anymore. I don’t believe in God any more than I believe in the soothing sound of music or the flow of a river or the kiss of a lover. Music, rivers and kisses are to be enjoyed and felt and experienced. I suppose if I was pressed I would say that I believe in those things, but belief is not the point, right? It’s not that I don’t believe in them. I just would never talk of such sensual and intimate experiences as falling in the category of mere belief. Do I believe in cycling? No! I just cycle.
I remember preaching a sermon about eight years ago that was really the precursor to my movement toward mysticism. I called it, “The Day God Changed Her Address.” In the sermon I explained that much of our belief and the images we have of God were shaped by the Biblical world view that predated Galileo by two to three millennia. God was simply that unknown world and reality that existed just beyond the sky. In Genesis it is said that “God separated the waters from the waters” which is a reference to a dome that separated earth from heaven. Humans lived on the earth. God lived in heaven. And back then God wasn’t too far away.
Only one problem. As our scientific curiosity grew and our knowledge of the universe expanded heaven (or that place beyond what we could see and know) got further and further away. Heaven was no longer just above the rain clouds. No. Heaven was somewhere out beyond the moon. Then heaven had to be out beyond our solar system. As the Hubble telescope captured pictures millions of light years away heaven then got pushed even further away. And, if the universe continues to expand, as modern astronomy claims, and if heaven is still that reality beyond our known universe, then it appears that God is running from us as fast as his little supernatural feet will allow.
Modern science has exploded the idea that God is just beyond the physical world that we can see and know. The view of God that people of Biblical times no longer makes sense given our understanding of the universe.
Like I said I have always believed in God in one sense or another. But science didn’t explode my trust in this Divine Presence we call God. All it did was convince me that “God changed her address.”
Diana Butler Bass in interviews about her book Grounded says that what happened is that God has come home to earth. Of course, neither Diana Butler Bass nor I literally believe that God decided to move closer to home. God has probably been right by our side all along. But our images of God have shifted. If the Heavenly God is not being pushed further and further from us by the reality of an expanding universe then it is quite possible that God is right here in our human experience struggling, wrestling, loving, and dancing right along with us lovely and fragile human creatures.
I think my mysticism started with this. I used to pray to the God of the heavens feeling like my prayers were like leaving a voicemail for God. Now I pray to the God of the earth feeling like my prayers are like planting seeds in a garden.