God and community
God is male? Goddess is female? What poppycock! The reality that has been constructed for us includes these pieces of gobbledegook. And these words poppycock and gobbledegook are themselves suspect. Where do they come from? How have they and their usage evolved? What do they conjure up and what do their nuances and vibrations set in motion when we speak them or hear them? This applies to whole languages, the vocabulary of words and all the patterns they have been formed into, which have filled us up, polarised and dominated our neuro-linguistic programmes and so our very beings.
To free ourselves from the conditioning that enslaves us, we must clean up our language and transform and reframe what has been prescriptive and has propagandized us into a willingness to accept that slavery. We have been divided so we can be ruled by the elites of the hierarchical world and the habit of making god male has been an important part of that project. Before patriarchy and patriarchal religion we had the religions of the great mother. The takeover by men and world domination through war-making happened and can’t be undone. The driving force of testosterone, without the equal presence of equally powerful female hormones, caused this and has allowed it to continue. Now we may have the consciousness and the communication technology to bring about a true marriage (now there’s an often misused word!) between feminine and masculine. If we imagine a world (think of The House of Commons!) in which the dual origins of our humanity, our femaleness and our maleness, are dancing in perfect equilibrium, we are aware that a profound alchemical change has taken place. Like a gyroscope in motion, such a dance of sexual equality is dependent on a constantly held dynamic balance for it to continue. Once it is established as the norm, its power and beauty become essential and a return to the present ugliness, danger, pain and disease of a world out of balance is unthinkable. There is no point in prophesying what the changes might be in detail. It is enough to recognize that everything is fundamentally different from how it has been in our comprehensively male defined world.
In the beginning is the word and in every moment too. Words are all we have to think with. Thinking in words while feeling all our feelings is a whole set of experiences that belong naturally and perfectly together. ‘New-agers’ might try to insist that feelings and what they call ‘spirituality’ are more important than words and intellectual activity, but that is another example of the habitual polarization that we have been trained in. Our mind and body with all its feelings are indivisible. They and we are one unified system. Humanity and the timeless universe are one unified system. This unity is what I call god and what I know must be honoured in ways that fulfill me and also heal in us the need to cook up organized religion that is bound to lead ultimately to yet another kind of slavery.
Religion, an insistence on the existence of a ‘higher’ power and a contingent morality, with a set of beliefs and a system of worship coming from that, derives from fear and insecurity. It is a childish fabrication, effectively working against the very thing it has tried to represent and facilitate, an experience of god in our lives, which surely is simply the ongoing, daily alchemical mystery of life? In talking about god we might include beauty, birth, death, love, freedom and honesty. These things and everything that matters to us that we hold in common, only exist in the context of our humanity. In our limited way, we can say that god includes and is also beyond everything and anything we can imagine. So god exists everywhere and in all time. God is in and of all possible dimensions of time, space and whatever else that could possibly exist anyhow, anyway, anywhere, any time. Do we need the word ‘god’ to express this concept? Is there a different word or metaphor or symbol we could use more freely and freshly now? My view is that there is real value in reclaiming and using the word god, redefining it and making it an ordinary everyday signifier to use for this purpose of expanding and focusing our experience of ecological and human wholeness. The compartmentalization, separation and dualism of our conditioning and education has ill-prepared us for the systems thinking that is required to take us forward.
My title here is ‘God and community’. It is clear from the above that I wouldn’t be part of a religious commune. God for me is the lived everyday mystery of the wholeness of reality, which is ultimately unknowable and which for the most part we can’t see, measure or understand. Thomas Aquinas is famous for his five truths of god, which he said prove god’s existence, but he went on to say that we didn’t know what we had proved, just that the mystery of god was a real mystery. Socrates said that the only thing he knew for certain was that he knew nothing. I feel I should also quote two women here to fulfill the gender balance and equilibrium I am asserting, but will leave these voices unaccompanied for now, as a little demonstration of how swamped my education has been by overweening maleness.
A simple authentic religious experience is likely to be the experience of transcending the ego, of getting out of our own way enough to have a direct experience of the mystery of life in the universe. The rituals and ceremonies of religious life have in the past perhaps been the primary way to take us into an emotional experience of our deep human connectedness, our artistic souls, our ability to love and surrender to the power of life and the power of all its mysterious dimensions. Through mass communication and the global economic disintegration that is now in process, we are emerging from our dependence on church, state and the great licensed market of failed democracy that has got close to wiping out our environment and our future. We can now, with the support of others, find our way into our deeper human selves and our experience of god through co-operation, co-creativity and eco-community.
God simply means the ultimate unlimited wholeness of all and everything, nothing left out. God is the great ecology of all ecologies, across time and space and all possible dimensions. This universe is one unified system and God, maybe still with a capital G, is the universe and maybe a universe of universes ad infinitum and so God is fantastic, wonderful, mysterious and divinely, supremely precious. As the most conscious life on Earth, we are God’s hands, brains, heart and imagination. You and I as part of God change everything we touch and everything we touch changes. The wisest tribal elders have taught their children that what happens to the part happens to the whole, so that they know from the earliest age that whatever they do or don’t do is affecting God and that is everything and everyone including themselves.
If I imagine my perfect communitarian world where we can all choose to live a consciously godly and inclusive life, the world is a whole connected community network. There are places for everyone somewhere and humanity can travel freely amongst them. Each person finds or makes a home with the right people and is able to freely be lovingly and honestly themselves where they live. Some people have several homes and some people are full time travellers with special roles and connections with particular places. People who display highly dysfunctional behavior patterns or who are otherwise unable to live in fully shared responsibility for the health and happiness of themselves and others, are gently or firmly directed to specially devised places. There they find sanctuary in a particular niche that recognizes their challenges and can respond to them. These places have replaced prisons and psychiatric institutions and are supported by the local and global community. If and when individuals are fully ready to live elsewhere, then mediators and negotiators facilitate their reception somewhere agreed by everyone and moderate the process to protect everyone’s safety.
In the interstices between communities are places where some of the old nuclear life still continues in different ways. Industry has reconfigured to a human scale and is imaginatively and ingeniously integrated with local life. Macro-activities such as space exploration might continue for as long as there are resources and people who want to do these things. A few cities thrive as special centres of learning, culture and communication, but they are smaller, probably a few hundred thousand individuals or a million at most. Within the cities there are communities of interdependent individuals and individual homes in streets for those who for whatever reason do not need or want to choose the interdependent supportiveness and co-creativity of communitarian living. Some people opt for living alone or as a family group in the countryside or in towns and in small communities within towns. With viable economic participation possible for everyone and a home and sustainable eco-community somewhere for all who want to choose it, then economic justice becomes a reality. Crime is the price we pay for economic injustice and in an eco-communitarian world crime virtually disappears.
The ‘spiritual’ relationship between people throughout a comprehensively communitarian society is characterized by the recognition that there is a place of love and acceptance in existence for everyone without exception. In a world of co-creativity and co-operative mutual aid and the economic justice that comes from those things, there is no need for priests or authoritarian hierarchy to tell us how we should live. Throughout our history, humans have created religion and all its trappings to try to make sense of the huge and unfathomable complexities of the human experience as we interact with all of life. Hierarchical control has co-operated with hierarchical religious leaders and institutions to consolidate power and control in the hands of people who generally cannot help themselves but exploit the system to further their own interests, often cruelly. As eco-communitarianism grows and develops, so does the conscious recognition that we are our own systems. There is no-one to blame any more or complain to, only the freedom and responsibility to participate and be a co-creator.
These are the things I remember being taught in my childhood about God and before we throw all the old conditioning onto the great cosmic compost heap and to avoid throwing the baby out with the bathwater, it might be valuable to consider what we might safely and creatively take from the old into the new.
He, it was always a He, was omnipotent, which meant he was all-powerful, could do anything he chose to do and change anything he wanted to change. He was all seeing, which meant he could see anything and everything that was happening everywhere, all at the same time, including into the hearts and minds of everyone on the planet. He was omniscient, which meant he knew everything about everything, always. He was omnipresent, so present everywhere at the same time, continuously. There was nowhere to hide and nothing that could be hidden from him.
This God was a dualistic god and so was the religion that proclaimed him. He was a loving but also a punishing god. He would care for me and protect me and the ones I loved, if I believed in him and obeyed him through his church. He gave life and took absolute notice of every moment I lived and weighed it all up. At death I would return to him in heaven or be sent to suffer the hell of being kept out if I had failed some kind of overall test and displeased him enough that he couldn’t bear to have me in heaven with him. The story of Jesus gave credence to all this, telling us that God presides over this realm called heaven where our true humanity hangs out and from where people can be sent down to earth when he thinks that is a good idea. The ultimate controlling dualism was that in hell God had neither jurisdiction nor interest and unspeakable horrors happened there that I should avoid at all costs. What a choice to give to a soft, innocent, hungry little person longing to please my elders!
The message in all this was clear. In order to please my parents and ultimately God, I must try to do the right thing all the time. Once this foundation had been laid, it was a simple matter to extend it into every part of life. At school, in Brownies or Cubs, everywhere we were regulated by adults, it was made clear that the best and safest way was to listen and obey. If I failed, messed up, fell over, broke something, I was likely to be told it was because I hadn’t listened properly and done as I was told. Like a musician learning to follow a score in an enforced orchestra, I was conducted with carrots and sticks. To varying degrees and with often confusing contradictory conditions and messages, I suffered humiliation, rejection and shame, all mixed up with cuddles, gold stars, ice cream and pocket money. Winning approval was rewarded and losing it was punished, if only by a subtly felt change of temperature.
Our personal relationship with the mysterious, poignant and penetrating meaning of life, with its unknown dimensions, its cosmic significances, its magical intuitive synchronistic, transcendent wholeness has been, like many other crucial elements in our human development, hijacked in the service of hierarchical control. We know in our heart of hearts that we are all here in a kind of karmic equality, to freely, lovingly and honestly play our own unique and essential part in the humanity project. That consciousness has been systematically distorted and for many virtually obliterated.
The divine idea, that within an experience and continuity of wholeness we might call our godliness, we are individually and collectively responsible for our whole experience of reality, has been treated with indifference and often contempt, by people embedded in the hierarchies of so-called ‘real life’. In what is actually a co-creative journey towards human realization, we have been taught to believe that our job is to pay our taxes, make our children do their homework, get in line for promotion, get a mortgage on a house and recycle our waste into the right bins. These questions have been most important to prove we are paid up members of the social hierarchy and therefore entitled to respect and acceptance.
I don’t have to be religious to be culturally affected by the church of a male dualistic god, as I don’t have to be royalist to be affected by the monarchy. These and all the newer institutions of power developed since the so-called enlightenment, are the foundational frames that create the shape of our lives. In the law, education, medicine, science, politics and throughout the economic and social world, the ruling elite is empowered in multiple ways in its continuous process of propping up the edifice of ‘normal’ life. I have been taught that this desirable normality is ‘naturally’ motivated by greed and desire for power and status. Licensed market democracy protects the elite’s right to rule, through the confidence trick of the ballot box. The myth that I live in a free country may be wearing a bit thin, but continuous military activity around the world is just one way that it is kept alive, with the notion that we need a hierarchy that can provide permanent protection from the forces of evil and chaos. The members of and aspirants to the ruling class maintain the illusion that they are the most fit and able to protect the economy and maintain the law and order without which we are told we would sink into terrifying chaos and slavery.
In a communitarian context, I recognize that I am responsible for myself as an adult and equally responsible for designing, implementing and sustaining a social structure that supports that overall reality. Within the overall reality of an eco-communitarian life, I am individually and collectively responsible for protecting my freedom to honestly love myself, to love others and to honour the whole of life on earth and ultimately beyond. I read and appreciate philosophers and politicians for the effort they have made to communicate with me, but I know that ultimately we are our own politicians and philosophers. Eco-communitarians are not dependent on the system. We are our own system. We do talk to people occupying positions within the old fading hierarchies as people like ourselves who are doing their best, while also carefully demarcating that which we see as being in the interests of the whole and that which merely serves the interests of the few. We work with all people as creatively, lovingly, honestly and freely as possible to transform, build and sustain a world that truly works for everyone in that way. I may study religious thinking and sometimes play with its forms, but I don’t become identified with it. My relationship with god is a mystery and is always changing just as I am always changing. The word god is etymologically identical to the word good. It comes from the same route as gather and together. So god is the supreme uniting principle and the great ecology of all ecologies. In the word god we are all connected. As eco-communitarians we daily live the reality that we change everything we touch and everything we touch changes.
This means we are individually and collectively responsible for everything all the time. With this awareness comes a willingness and an ability to learn to see the whole all the time, just like a scientific ecologist must learn how to do. We never can of course, but we always do our best. Much of what has been taught in religion has a ring of truth about it. God gets sad when people suffer unnecessarily for example and we feel sad when we fail to protect or heal or rescue each other from harm or loss. As eco-communitarians we are taking our power back from all controlling hierarchies by fulfilling those functions for ourselves. We are learning how to integrate task and process, to give the ends and means, the thinking and the feeling equal importance, to free ourselves up to be god in our own lives and in our own world. The word normally used in English to express what is not material is ‘spirit’ and the marriage of spirit and matter is what makes a work of art. A beautiful human creation that takes our breath away comes from the tangible paint or stone or pen of a composer and also from the great unfathomable mystery that we call god.