This article will be a five-part piece of the various types of presence within us and outside of us.
Elsewhere I have written to some depth on God’s transcendence. Here I am focusing the discussion on God’s presence, both within and without, as well as Spirit’s influence within and without, to a greater extent than we have seen elsewhere. It can truly be said that the whole of the spiritual life can be found in this one subject, this one aspect of life and reality. It is in the degrees of presence that everything, every other topic, holds together. However that may be, try as I might I cannot myself assume to be able to include all that within this one small article.
Awareness leads to experience and experience leads to greater awareness. Perhaps it is a question one has already answered for oneself, but why would one want to experience God or Spirit? First of all, as we have seen, is that God and Spirit give us love and knowledge in a way that is scarcely found in any other way. They provide fulfillment in many ways that allow one to then act in the world, for oneself and for the purpose of helping others. The American philosopher of education John Dewey quotes a writer who “determined to set apart a quiet time every day in which I could relate my life to its ultimate source, regain the consciousness that in God I live, move and have my being. That was thirty years ago. Since then I have had literally not one hour of darkness or despair” (A Common Faith, 12).
The experience of Being in Acts 17:28 could be considered as the super-context of all religious and mystical thought and experience. Here, as the man in the Dewey quotation himself quotes, we are told that we live in God. This is the experience of outer presence. But does presence equal experience, or is presence just a type of experience? That is to say, are all experiences types of presence? To put it simply, yes, all experience is a form of presence. But as just hinted, there is more than one type of presence. To again put it simply, there is outer and inner presence, and there is also difference between experience of God, Spirit, or of any various spirits, including the Christ within. These can be further defined, God being the experience of either being-ness, as in Acts, or love by and for his person; Spirit is knowledge and its various derivatives; and Christ and the spirits help out in any way we need them to, and this is why we need to discern between them, though in truth it is a matter of knowing what we need them for, knowing oneself, for that determines the spirits that one gets. However, only the experience of God and Spirit generally inspire the experience of awe, wonder, and love, and these are what are supremely important, in our duty and privilege to love God and Spirit with “all our heart, all our soul, all our strength, and all our mind,” as well as in our relations with other people, that is, in ethics. It is primarily through one’s life with other people that the greatest and most fulfilling of all experiences of presence are to be felt, that is to say, as we perceive and feel God and Spirit through others and through ourselves toward others.
The all important experience of Mystery is key to presence. It is the transcendent that is revealed in the immanent, and is one of the modes of Spirit in her revelations in creation. By that I mean the things in the world that reveal God and his love to us. Mircea Eliade spoke of these as theophanies and hierophanies, the breaking through of the sacred into the profane realm. Indeed, all true symbols point back to God in one way or another.
But there are both spiritual and manmade symbols, that is, those that preexist any human influence and those that are created by man for some purpose. We create these symbols, metaphors, and the like for the very reasons we perceive them in creation, that is, in order to perceive the invisible God in one of his faces. And we do so by virtue of the active imagination, the power that Spirit lends us of herself, that is, the knowledge of her being and that she points past herself to God, in his love or being. And sometimes it is just to remind us to stay on the path and stop looking for symbols in everything.
The threshold moment or the moment of discovery is called the liminal. Don’t spend all of your life at the threshold; you’ve got to get through the threshold any way you can. That is to say, don’t continuously cycle. Eventually you’ve got to get to the postliminal, stop cycling for yourself so that you can go back into the world for the benefit of others, as well as yourself. If you are continuously cycling it is very difficult to have a life of any kind in the world. Sure, it is true that we can cycle for the benefit of others, but if one doesn’t first get through their own then they won’t be able to help others.
In large part once one has the experience of transcendence or Mystery they can come back into the world of here and now. However, when one now looks nearly everything they see has some symbolic import. This is where our own love comes into play, that is, you’ve got to remember what it is that is important for you. This is where we must once again realize presence, but presence that matters to oneself and one’s life in the sacred. We shouldn’t forget that all is sacred and even all is God, but we cannot live while we are in love with the symbols of creation. We can love and appreciate everything for what it truly is, but we should only love that which is important to oneself, more particularly that which important to oneself because of those other people whom we love and the life that we intend to have with them.
We are looking for that which we worship, that is, what it is we are turned towards or focused on in our spiritual life, where and how we perceive God, love, what we truly desire to help with, whether a career or other people, and an understanding of how what it is we desire to do is related to God, the universe, and man. What we have learned is this, that we are always in God’s presence; what we need to do is become aware of such, we need to feel it, and then live it in truth, in whatever way we feel we are called to. Presence is contra the false notion or false reality of separation and absence, and how this is real for one both within and without. What we are looking is how we are going to personally fulfill Christ’s Law of loving God and loving man. This is, therefore, not only the life of love, but also of wisdom. It can be said that this is both the means and the end to experience and action. But here I am already at the end. There is much more we must look at first pertaining to both having experience and in understanding it. Let’s break things down a little bit, that is, let’s look at the facts a little closer.
This has been my opinion, what’s yours? Agree with me, disagree with me: let me hear it. Things need to change; this is your chance to tell the universe how. And don’t forget to “subscribe” to be reminded every time I post a new article.