Recently, I was writing at a cafe and couldn’t help overhearing two girls talking about a break-up one of them was going through.
“I just don’t know what to do anymore,” one girl said. “I’ve surrendered it to the universe, you know?”
“Totally,” her friend said.
You hear comments like this a lot these days, particularly in cities like San Francisco. People substitute an “intelligent universe” for the word God because the word God is associated with some dude in the sky sentencing people to hell or condemning gay marriage. This “dude in the sky” God, for many of us, feels like really lame and mean Santa Claus. Not only is he not believable. He’s not cool.
But I’m not sure we should toss God out so easily. Here’s why. Great religious mystics throughout the ages – take Rumi or Patanjali or Hafiz or Thomas Merton – all spoke of God in much the same way the Jedi use The Force – which is completely accessible to most modern people, secular or not. Unfortunately, political institutions have often changed the meaning of those mystics’ words about God into something fear-based, something for political control, making many of us who believe in an intelligent universe – or those of us who believe love unites us – wary of using the word God.
This is a shame because:
A.) The word God carries a lot of power and it’s sad to give that power up to people who, in my view, are just power hungry and looking to have some claim to truth.
B.) Those mystics are some of the greatest thinkers who have graced humanity. Their words and thoughts and deeds have made us who we are as much as Newton, Mendel or Einstein. Also, they discovered secrets about love and happiness that I personally haven’t found anywhere else.
I could use about 100,000 different quotes to show that many religious mystics – including those who are part of huge religious institutions – view God as an intelligent universe, or love, instead of that angry dude in the sky, but here’s one recent one by Anthony of Sourozh, the Russian Orthodox mystic who, for many, is the greatest Christian thinker of the past century.
“When we speak of God, and we say that God is love, we do not mean that He is infinite feeling. We mean something deeper than this: that God is a plenitude of life and of being. And this applies also to our human love. Someone who is possessed by love is a man who has a plenitude of life in himself, in whom the sense of life, the power of life is so full, so great, that life is sure of itself.”
“The plentitude of life” sure as heck sounds a lot like The Force or an Intelligent Universe to me – a force that underlies all creation and is ultimately good.
Einstein knew this well and had no qualms speaking about physics as researching “the thoughts of God.” As physics evolves, particularly on the quantum level, we are seeing more and more how intelligent our universe is. We have a long way to go, and clearly, there are huge differences in how scientists and spiritual folk go about their daily lives in finding “Truth.” But with the exception of the zealots out there who are using religion or science to divide us farther apart, everyone else seems to be trying to hear the secrets of an intelligent universe with an open mind and heart. Everyone is trying to decipher the thoughts of God.
This is a topic too vast for a mere blog post and I plan on writing about it in a lot more detail in my next book (also covering Buddhism and God, which is a topic for another day). But for now, I just have to say this: let’s not shy away from the word God just because some folks view God as something other other than the “Plentitude of Life” – of love – that Anthony of Sourozh spoke of, or the intelligent universe Einstein spoke of.
In reclaiming the word God, I think we take a step toward uniting humanity under the banner of truth seeking we’ve been on for millennia. We get closer to uniting our past with our present.