The Sense of the Presence
I know that the authority for the truthfulness of what I am saying here is shaky. It may seem to you completely insubstantial. You do not sense this Presence, and I am saying that I do, and you cannot know whether I am telling the truth, am mistaken, or am just nuts. Yes, it is what it is. I am testifying to my own experience as faithfully as I can. I do not know whether you can connect with it. I hope you will think about it, because it is a very good thing, perhaps, you may feel, too good to be true, just so much wishful thinking.
I respect that, but I can tell you that it doesn’t seem like wishful thinking. When I engage in wishful thinking, there is a kind of emptiness to it, a sense of fantasy, like thoughts that have no foundation, mere hypotheses not yet tested by experience. It might be fun, but I know that it is a game, a game I am generating. The Presence, though, comes to me, initiates Itself, confronts me, “plays” me.
This very moment, at 5:33 AM, a message popped up on my screen, without my asking for it, that a friend had just “signed in” on the network I am using. That’s how the Presence is. It just “signs in,” comes to you, uninvited. It is the Reality in which I am included; I am not the reality in which It is included.
I am not appealing to the authority of any scriptures for this. I am not asking you to believe it because the Bible, or the Koran, or the Bhagavad Gita says so. They do say so, but those writings cannot have any authority for you, unless you already know the Presence through one of these traditions. (And there are other traditions, traditions that may not even have scriptures, that witness to the same Presence, such as the Native American way.)
For now I am relying on something the Quaker mystic George Fox said: “There is that of God in everyone.” The Presence is universal and is available to every person. The Light of that Presence burns, perhaps dimly, within us and is also outside of us. That is, to use more technical theological language, it is both immanent and transcendent. We can all know the Presence, if we will. The apostle Paul said,
(Acts 17:27-28) "he is not far from each one of us. 28 For in him we live and move about and exist" (New English Translation).
The Presence and “Religion”
I am not talking about being “religious.” A person may or may not be “religious,” as people use that word and experience the Presence. In fact, I think that “religion” often gets in the way of experiencing, coming to know and live in accord with, the Presence. At its best it facilitates the Presence. The practices of various religions, at their root, are intended to help us know God, though it is quite true that fundamentalists in every religion mistake the means for the end. For them, the Bible or the Koran itself becomes an object of worship. Sacraments and rituals become a law and a source of argument and division. This has the effect of driving people away from God and making the Presence less credible. One would not buy a car from such people, let alone “buy” their god.