Saturday, May 06, 2006

The Presence - Part II

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.


Amy said...

So what is the advantage of consciousness of this Presence if it doesn't require consciousness?

Sarah Hankerson said...

I find this entry more intriguing, probably because it is closer to my own views. I see a difficult journey between the idea of The Presence and formalized religion, which you have been a part for most of your life. How do you reconcile the two? Or do you choose not to do so? This goes back to my previous comment on the formalization of religion. It is hard to convey an idea such as The Presence without formalizing it. The very act of naming it can change it. I find it such a shame that for many religions (and I would say most) this has caused a perversion of faith into something unrecognizable and certainly not the pure sense with which you started.

Oh, and I figured out how to see the orginal post while typing my entry (big bright link).

Amy said...

I think I came with an answer to my own question soon after I asked it. To borrow Sarah's word, I wondered if "formalizing" something through consciousness has two advantages. One is just the power and joy of finding words to express your own experience. The other is the hope that you might be able to express something in a way that might be meaningful to other people and so experience the joy of connection. That was my thought.