Sunday, 30 May 2010

In Search of Spiritual Knowing

This article was posted in Reform - a United Reformed Church Publication - in the June 2010 edition

We are part of a universe which expanded from ‘nothing’ some 13.7 billion years ago. The 4.6 billion year evolutionary story of life on earth climaxed with our varied societies and their belief systems. Science sees all this as the by-product of an endless series of challenges and chances. Yet, humans appear to be the only species on earth that has evolved enough to sense our separation from ‘all that is’, with the language to express the fear, love, curiosity and joy this engenders. Religion evolved as a by- product of our need to make sense of this alienation.

We are increasingly discovering that there could be a way to get back to the “knowing” that our ancestors perhaps innately experienced – that they and ‘All that is’ are One. At the personal level my recent faith journey has caused me to move beyond the old religious paradigm (requiring hierarchy and control, orthodoxy and orthopraxis) to discover the space where insight and feeling can awaken heart and mind. Many are again seeking a more mystical path to a spiritual ‘knowing’.

More and more I see God in all things – not as a static, distant, theist Being, accessed through religious structures, but as the ever present and engaged Reality that is ‘becoming’ in the Universe’s unfolding. This God has been constantly walking with us on the evolutionary path to human life and being as it is on earth today. The story, as observed by science, does not preclude the possibility of a deep timeless connectedness (‘God’) in which all life and being subsists, which has long been the truth experience of mystics. The Universe is a glorious evolutionary ‘difference engine’ – always creating the wonderful, the bizarre and the awesome. No human, leaf, sunset or snowflake is the same! Evolution is the unifying ‘great story’, if complemented by the theology of a God present in its unfolding.

God’s creative process of evolution exposes all creatures to a painful food chain. Societies develop by warfare and evil empires. On the other hand, evolution moves forward through the ‘still small voice’ of God’s prophets of justice and the wisdom of God’s messengers – Jesus included. ‘Prayer’ can be influential when it brings people together in significant numbers to challenge injustice and the systems that drive it. Whatever our understanding of God, each human life matters in the unfolding story. Increasingly I want to own a sixth sense of intuition as part of what prayer is. The ‘Universe’ or ‘God’ or ‘collective human concern’ speaks and challenges in this spiritual dimension. This is the place of prayer where our ‘thought’ and the ‘Universal thought’ align.

The experience of saints and mystics, of every faith and culture, is that God’s call to play our part in the story is usually subtle and ambiguous. My own experience is that that the ‘Divine’ is found in both the ‘still small voice’ heard from our ‘heart space’, and in the depth of feeling and awareness that can come to us in meditation. It is from the stillness that ‘intuition for change’ can emerge of great power and depth. I believe that God’s creativity creates by offering us true freedom; we are called but never coerced. Where we do engage freely, the possibilities are immense.

For us to truly pray, we need to become aware that conversation with God is possible within the ‘holiness’ of a deeply purposeful life. This insight has inspired great human beings to plunge the depths of life – implying real communication with God. Such conversation also means experiencing challenges of loving – and allows the possibility of change in God. ‘God’s Will’ is not a given, but a part of the conversation. So, prayer is that two-way mutual cry of tenderness that characterises our way of being human in relationship and in our being: loving the ‘All’.

Prayer is also about mutuality – a coming together just for the joy of it; when we are enraptured by creation, when we pause long enough to still our minds and desires. The long-term future of this earth calls us to know that we all are one – while remaining unique and different. My prayer is that all will come to know more and more of the ‘Life, Love and Being’ that launched evolution. That Life still longs for all to awaken and know this Reality in the depth of every human life. When God’s ‘Love is all around’ in creation, people are constantly able to surprise us with joy and hope! So, let us pray!

Copyright - John Hetherington

June 2010

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