Midweek Mysticism: A personal introduction to God
Richard Holloway’s superb radio series on religious doubt* illustrates mainstream Christian agonising over whether their faith is true in any historical or even meaningful sense.
Simply to assert that it is would be philosophically limp. That is why doubt is considered to be more honest and worthy of admiration, at least in western intellectual circles, which include the churches.
Whole theologies have been built around doubt. Atheism has become a powerful force in society in recent years. Ironic then that the best Gospel to arise from the confusing family of movements, now known as Christianity, is attributed to Doubting Thomas.
Christian mystics have long settled this thorny topic and all the misery that accompanies it. When I say “Christian mystics”, I mean those few who have reached heights of experience that render all human religions redundant … at least for the perceiver.
Example is always more efficacious than precept, as Dr Samuel Johnson pointed out, so let us demonstrate the fact.
“Where is God?” you have probably asked at some points in your life and how can God preside over all the pain and suffering in the world? I’m now going to introduce you.
Not that I have special access, nor even special knowledge, but, as I keep writing here: it is staring you in the face.
This, by the way, is open to anyone, of any religion or none. No tickets or journey are required.
Find a quiet place and just relax into yourself. Sink your awareness into your body and feel its aliveness. Allow your consciousness to become wider. Let it spread out from the physical you.
Your mind by now should be fairly still, thoughts mere objects passing by. Hold that moment, for what you are experiencing is the “feel” of God, a gossamer touch that confers tranquility of mind.
Now, the limit of that experience is that “God” may not yet have noticed you. It is only by persistently “knocking on Heaven’s door” that the Divine will reciprocate your attention. But that wide sense of being more than you thought you were is the Presence of God.
It is always there, of course, but you are usually unaware of it, so slight and unobtrusive is it. God’s Presence hides in your presence, waiting for you to reach the stage when you are capable of knowing this.
Everything you do, you do on behalf of God. Thus the idea arises that God does nothing to alleviate the world’s pain.
Only you, and the rest of us, can bring divine bounty and goodness into this life. The tools are there. Most of us ignore them out of ignorance.
All the suffering in the world is not divine retribution, nor a lack of sympathy. Earthly woes arise solely from the human ego and its psychological misunderstanding of what this world is in its essence.
That spaciousness is the Presence of the Divine, the beginnings of an exhilarating journey into the Unknown that paradoxically has always been known.
* Richard Holloway’s Honest Doubt: The History of an Epic Struggle is on BBC Radio 4 at 1.45 pm on weekdays.
… who is the author of The Eternal Quest for Immortality: Is it staring you in the face? Available from Amazon and all good booksellers.
Mystics in the Modern World is coming soon.