People of the world seem to be slipping away from the belief that God is our Father, sitting on His Heavenly throne, somewhere up there in space, taking punitive measures against anyone who doesn't worship Him properly. It sounds narcissistic, tyrannical, divisive and illogical. After all, He is the Almighty, the epitome of Love, glory and fullness but this side of Him is only exposed to those who obey Him. However, this externalised notion of God is not the only perspective we have of Him. In this show, I shall explore the possibility that you are God. It's an apparently blasphemous statement to make but there is some evidence to support this idea regarding the whereabouts of God. I shall also show how this change in perspective brings Christianity and Eastern religions together. What we see today as very different sets of religious dogma, might actually have some common roots in the ancient underlying set of beliefs that arose out of the Indus Valley, many millennia before Jesus walked this earth. Surprisingly, the esoteric meaning of King Solomon's Temple in Jerusalem may also provide evidence to support this perspective shift.
Regular listeners to this show will know that I was raised in a Jehovah's Witnesses family. Ours was a very happy domestic space and I might have stayed within the Witness faith had nature not cunningly devised a tangential plan that would ultimately lead me to a very different destiny: I knew that I was gay from puberty. This programme is not about my coming out or how I had to cope with this enormous disparity as a youth — that's a topic for another day. The enormous benefit I gained from having spent the first 27 years of my life inside this organisation is most certainly my understanding of Old and New Testament Scriptures. I wrote in my book, "It Is What It Is — grace through acceptance," about the conflicts I had to deal with and the unwavering stance of an organisation that found no compassionate tolerance for something over which I had no say — my sexual orientation. After my excommunication in my late 20s, I rejected God at first and associated myself with atheistic views. There were too many unanswerable questions about God and His dealings with humankind, all with juxtaposed answers — ones that could never be resolved, like, "Why, if God is this almighty, powerful being, the epitome of love and compassion, could He not understand my sexual difference and hold me dear because I am the way He created me." It and many other questions plagued me and instinctively I moved away from this tyrannical, narcissistic idea of God and into the safer space of science and technology. But, as successful as I was in a material and physical sense, there was always something missing. An unfathomable part of me felt empty, unfulfilled and devoid of meaning. I now realise what that void was: it was a yearning within my being for a sense of purpose. Not material purpose, I had plenty of that, I lacked spiritual meaning and my soul drove me to find it. But how?
At first, I thought that I might find a different version of God by going down a different branch of Christianity but this same externalised, over-demanding, supernatural being — God — who lives somewhere out there didn't change. Some forms of Christian religious dogma are a bit softer and more compassionate than the kind I had experienced as a youth but the God behind them all was still the same. I turned my focus to Hinduism for a while and found a lot of peace, discovering a more tolerant and wise teaching — the many facets of God are symbolised by the various deities found in this Eastern-style of worship. To this day, I have a sacred space in my home and there, on display, are statuettes of Ganesh, Kali, Hanuman and a few others. They still inspire me in some way even though I was very cautious about performing the prescribed rituals and devotions to these deities. Rituals for the sake of rituals doesn't gel with me. Besides which, these effigies are still only representations of the real, externalised god. My connection with Hinduism peaked and waned. I still have a very strong affinity for the gentleness, compassion and colourfulness of this religion but somehow, it didn't fully grab me.
Next on my quest for this personal holy grail were Neale Donald Walsch's books, "Conversations with God." They gave me a glimpse that God can have a sense of humour and in the rather relaxed atmosphere of this private chat between Walsch and God, I learned to interpret the Bible in a subtly different way. Early on in Book 1, God says to Walsch, "There is only one purpose for all of life, and that is for you and all that lives to experience fullest glory. Everything you say, think or do is attendant to that function. There is nothing else for your soul to do, and nothing else your soul wants to do." It changed my thinking about God. I still saw Him as an external entity, quite separate from me but now the realisation dawned that whatever I do in this world, isn't meant as a gift of supplication and surrender to God somewhere up there, but it is rather a gift to my highest self so that it might experience its "fullest glory."
The next port of call on this quest of mine was, "A Course in Miracles." This is a verbatim transcription given to Helen Schucman, an American clinical and research psychologist from New York City, dictated apparently by none other than Jesus himself. I was on a train between London and Birmingham when I started reading the Course. It puzzled me at first and it is written in a style of English that is not our natural style of conversing, thus making it hard to grasp. The Introduction to the Course reads, "This is a course in miracles. It is a required course. Only the time you take it is voluntary. Free will does not mean that you can establish the curriculum. It means only that you can elect what you want to take at a given time. The course does not aim at teaching the meaning of love, for that is beyond what can be taught. It does aim, however, at removing the blocks to the awareness of love's presence, which is your natural inheritance. The opposite of love is fear, but what is all-encompassing can have no opposite. This course can therefore be summed up very simply in this way: Nothing real can be threatened. Nothing unreal exists. Herein lies the peace of God." Essentially, this introduction says that because of the way our brains are hardwired, what we think we see is merely an illusion. The labels, patterns and separateness of what we think we see is nothing more than our cognitive perception of the constant stream of data entering into our brains through our sense organs. Nothing we think we see is real. The only reality we have of the world around us is the one we have constructed inside our own heads. Your reality is very different from my reality because we have different experiences and views of life. Change your perceptions of the world and you change the world itself. When all internal fear is erased, all that remains is love and through it, the peace of God.
Mmmm! A new pattern of thinking was brewing in my brain: What if God is not external, what if He lives inside me as the fullest glory of my highest self? An idea from Deepak Chopra's book, "How to Know God" helped coalesce these new patterns of thinking. He wrote, "A fully awakened brain is the secret to knowing God." Paraphrasing Chopra's work, when us humans are in (Level 1) an unconscious reflex state of flight & fight, God becomes the externalised Father, the Protector of all; when we step into (2), our reactive response, we start to defend our ego and its needs and we automatically look out for me. God then becomes the Almighty One in a world of power struggles and ambition, where fierce competition rules. At (3), restful awareness, we take a step away from outside forces which brings about an inner calm in the face of chaos and threat. God now becomes a God of Peace, fitting into a world of inner solitude where reflection and contemplation are possible. At (4), our intuitive response, we turn inwards to seek answers and solutions and we find these through flashes of insight, and spiritual awakening. God now takes on the role of God the Redeemer, befitting a world of personal growth, encouragement and insights. At (5), our creative response, we break free from old patterns and become ready to explore the unknown and from us flows inspiration. You are right if you intuitively pre-empted that in this space, God becomes God the Creator in a world that is constantly renewing itself, where innovation and discovery are valued. At our penultimate level, (6), the visionary response, we embrace a universal me in place of the isolated and separate ego. We dissolve and move beyond all boundaries. This response guides prophets, seers and healers. God now assumes the role of the God of Miracles, nurturing spiritual vision. The final level is (7), the sacred response, where we are finally free of all limitations, experienced as pure bliss, pure intelligence, and pure being. This stage represents full enlightenment and God becomes the God of Pure Being, the I AM. God and self are now inseparably one.
Sri Ramana Maharshi was a true son of the Indian earth and is described as the "whitest spot in white space." He had this to say about the existence of God within, "When other thoughts arise, one should not pursue them, but should inquire: 'To whom did they arise?' It does not matter how many thoughts arise, one should inquire with diligence, 'To whom has this thought arisen?' The answer that would emerge would be 'To me.' Thereupon, if one inquires 'Who am I?' the mind will go back to its source, and the thought that arose will become quiescent. With repeated practice in this manner, the mind will develop the skill to stay in its source. When the mind that is subtle goes out through the brain and the sense organs, the gross names and forms appear; when it stays in the heart, the names and forms disappear. Not letting the mind go out but retaining it in the Heart is what is called 'inwardness.' Letting the mind go out of the Heart is known as 'externalisation.' Thus, when the mind stays in the Heart, the 'I' which is the source of all thoughts will go and the Self which ever exists will shine. Whatever one does, one should do without the egoity 'I.' If one acts in that way, all will appear as the nature of Shiva [the Hindu avatar of God]."
These were transformative insight for me as I slowly stepped from one response level to the next and I came to realise that if I were to point towards God, I would have to point inwardly and upwards at my highest self in its state of fullest glory. But this is so contradictory to the God the Witnesses taught me about. Is Sri Ramana Maharshi correct or are Christian teachings correct?
There is some strong evidence that Jesus and Sri Ramana Maharshi taught from the same common root of beliefs. It takes just a slight recalibration of one's thinking to realise the profundity of New Testament teachings: the shift requires that you abandon your idea of God being an external supernatural being and view Him as the highest, inward expression of self. If you had empirical evidence that God is only a symbol of highest possibility of self, would you not wish to devote everything in your life to be in service of Him?
Let's turn our attention to Solomon's Temple in search of some clues to back up this proposition. I draw from Joshua Tilghman's amazing blog about the Esoteric Meaning of Solomon's Temple. The scriptures show us Solomon's temple is clearly not literal but that it describes you. One of the greatest aspects of the Bible is that it was written by mystics to jumpstart our spiritual awakening when interpreted properly, which is always beyond the literal meaning. It took over 150,000 men 7 years to build this temple with a floorspace a little bigger than a tennis court. Even when we consider all of the elaborate decorations of the temple with its outer chambers and courts, something seems very wrong. Solomon's temple is less than half the size of Herod's Temple (a literal temple), and many, many times smaller than the Great Pyramid of Giza that took much more mental planning, and didn't take nearly as many men to complete. Is Solomon's temple meant to be taken literally? But what about the scriptures themselves? Do they hint that the temple is not real? They do too… In the book of Corinthians, the Bible says, "For we are the temple of the living God." And again, in a different place in Corinthians, it says, "Don't you know that you yourself are God's temple and that God's spirit lives within you?" In the book of Kings, the Bible says, "And the house, when it was in building, was built of stone made ready before it was brought thither: so that there was neither hammer nor axe nor any tool of iron heard in the house, while it was in building." The esoteric meaning of this description may well be interpreted as, "Preparing the stones before being brought to the actual building site — represents our bodies before enlightenment. We have been given this body as a means and a vehicle through which enlightenment is possible. The completion of this task relates to the second part of this verse because, to complete the temple, we must have a spiritual resurrection, which uses neither hammer nor axe nor any tool of iron (our own limited thoughts, knowledge, and ego)." Mmm! These are some tenuous inferences at best which don't really prove that Solomon's Temple was truly meant as a symbolic representation of our highest, fullest, spiritual self.
We have to look a little deeper into the architecture of the temple and at some of the things it contained to unpack more of its symbolism and the parallels it has for each of us. There is a bit of recent archaeology that hints that a site, some walking distance from the City of Jerusalem, contains the ruins of this temple. Ironically, most of the artefacts retrieved from the site suggest that the worshipers practiced idolatry as there are effigies of people and various animals found on the site. This however might not be too surprising because God's chosen temple builder, King Solomon, the son of David, allowed his heart to stray from the purity he once had. Solomon fell prey to a few of the deadliest of deadly sins: lust, greed and pride. At a tally of 700 wives and 300 concubines, Solomon leaves Jacob Zuma eating his dust. These foreign women came from the neighbouring territories and soon led King Solomon into idolatry, hence it is no surprise to hear that the archaeologists unearthed the kind of artefacts they did. Whether the temple actually existed in a material sense or not, isn't that important and its physical presence or absence doesn't detract from its symbolic nature.
The temple had an outer wall which separated it from the hustle and bustle of city life and provided a peaceful sanctuary within. There was a courtyard for women and a space in which the priests worked. They, the priests, would intercede as agents for those who brought offerings. The priests slaughtered the sacrificial sheep and goats that worshippers had brought and the priests then burned the bodies of these animals as a sacrifice to God. Within the temple courtyard was another building, divided into two spaces: a place housing an alter where the priests worked and an interior chamber, 20 cubits square (just over 9 meters square), known as the Holy of Holies. Only the High Priest entered the Most Holy only on the annual Day of Atonement. At no time could anyone go beyond the curtain that separated this room from the outer holy place. The Holy of Holies housed only one object, the Ark of the Covenant. This ornate box contained the ten commandments that God had given the Israelites on Mount Sinai. The lid of the box was decorated with two golden cherubs of hammered workmanship, each at one end of the lid and facing each other, with heads bowed and wings extending upwards, overspreading the Ark. Above the Ark was a mysterious, permanent flame, the Shekinah Light. Shekinah is the English transliteration of a Hebrew word meaning 'dwelling' or 'settling' and denotes the dwelling or settling of the divine presence of God.
It's not hard to see the analogies between the temple design and the presence of God within us all. Deepak Chopra's proposed seven reflexive states of being finds a parallel here too. With your body, you interact with the affairs of the external world — just like the City of Jerusalem lay outside the temple courtyard. We can liken this to our unconscious reflex state of flight & fight. The city denotes the hustle and bustle of life, families, relationships, trade and survival. Some of Jerusalem's inhabitants might have never entered the temple precinct, like many today who never contemplate anything spiritual, preferring to find meaning in monetary wealth and tangible things. Entering through one of the temple gates is allegorical of the way we start our spiritual journeys, occasionally popping into the holy courtyard as demanded by religious doctrine and the priests. Having surrendered our offerings to the priest in attendance, we soon re-enter the city where most of our life occurs. As we step from level to level, in our soul's quest to find the fullest glory of our highest self, we are no longer merely one of the worshippers occasionally entering the temple from the city, we become one of the attendant priests. We move out of our reflex state of flight & fight and into our reactive, intuitive responses, a world of power struggles and ambition. As we take on this priestly role, we turn inwards to seek answers and solutions through flashes of insight, and spiritual awakening. The temple building within the precinct may symbolise our moving into our creative response where we break free from old patterns and ready ourselves to explore the unknown. Then there is the High Priest. He is as close to God as one can get. Only he has vision of God as the light within the Holy of Holies. Yet, the High Priest is nothing more than another human being, separated by rank from the other priests and separated from God. As the symbolic High Priest, we move into our visionary response phase where we embrace a universal me in place of the isolated and separate ego. God, even at this close proximity, is still over there — an external entity, quite separate from us. Remember too that the ten commandments, housed in the box of the Ark of the Covenant are equally binding on the High Priest. One would have to transcend the law to be free of the law. One still needs to step into the final level, that of sacred response, where we finally break free of all limitations, experiencing our existence as pure bliss, pure intelligence, and pure being. At this stage, we rise through and above the ten commandments in the Ark, and flanked and protected by the cherubs with outstretched wings, representing the love of God, the stage is set for us to take our rightful place as the everlasting Shekinah light. We finally reach full enlightenment, the I AM. God and self are now inseparably one. Like the everlasting light, our souls were never born nor will they ever die. We do have ultimate control over our minds and bodies but we have no control over our souls. It is as if they don't belong to us. We in this universal sea of energy are part of it and cannot be separated from it. Some say that the soul and spirit are the same thing, I don't agree. Soul is an individual and yet ubiquitous superset of incorporeal non-quantifiable essence, which bestows life to its distinctly separate subset of corporeal energy, substance or form. Spirit is the soul's driving power.
If you were to ask me to point towards God, I would have to point my finger at you and I'd say to you, "I am pointing at the innermost, highest potential of who you can be as a human being. In that state of your highest self in its fullest glory, lies God. As I look at you, I see nothing but God."
With this new shift in perspective regarding the whereabouts of God, this quotation from, "A Course in Miracles — Lesson 200" becomes profoundly meaningful, it reads, "Seek you no further. You will not find peace except the peace of God. Accept this fact, and save yourself the agony of yet more bitter disappointments, bleak despair, and sense of icy hopelessness and doubt. Seek you no further. There is nothing else for you to find except the peace of God, unless you seek for misery and pain. This is the final point to which each one must come at last, to lay aside all hope of finding happiness where there is none; of being saved by what can only hurt; of making peace of chaos, joy of pain and Heaven out of hell. Attempt no more to win through losing, nor to die to live. You cannot but be asking for defeat. Yet you can ask as easily for love, for happiness, and for eternal life in peace that has no ending. Ask for this, and you can only win. To ask for what you have already must succeed. To ask that what is false be true can only fail. Forgive yourself for vain imaginings, and seek no longer what you cannot find. For what could be more foolish than to seek and seek and seek again for hell, when you have but to look with open eyes to find that Heaven lies before you, through a door that opens easily to welcome you? Come home. You have not found your happiness in foreign places, and in alien forms which have no meaning to you, though you sought to make them meaningful. This world is not where you belong. You are a stranger here. But it is given you to find the means whereby the world no longer seems to be a prison house for you or anyone. Freedom is given you where you beheld but chains and iron doors. For you must change your mind about the purpose of the world, if you would find escape. You will be bound till all the world is seen by you as blessed, and everyone made free of your mistakes and honored as he is. You made him not; no more yourself. And as you free the one, the other is accepted as he is. Peace is the bridge that everyone will cross to leave this world behind. But it begins within the world perceived as different, and leading from this fresh perception to the gate of Heaven and the way beyond. Peace is the answer to conflicting goals, to senseless journeys, frantic, vain pursuits and meaningless endeavors. Now the way is easy, sloping gently toward the bridge where freedom lies within the peace of God."