One of the biggest stumbling blocks for people who want to believe in God is the existence of bad things in our lives. The evening news carries enough stories about war, crime, famine, oppression, and much else that a loving God wouldn’t permit. But as we saw in the first post, such a God is formed in our own image. He, or she, is envisioned as a human being on a supernatural scale. This is just one of the assumptions that needed to be cleared away before seriously asking the question of why God permits bad things to happen.
Once you accept God as formless and not a copy of human qualities, his relationship to events on earth changes radically (the most immediate change being that God no longer has a gender). The alternative to a deity created in our image is a deity who is still a creator but not a judge. God can be envisioned as pure consciousness, the source of the creativity, intelligence, love, truth, and every other possibility that becomes embodied in the universe – and in ourselves.
Such a deity would solve many mysteries while also holding many. The chief mystery is that God-as-consciousness is inconceivable. Being the source of the universe, this God is beyond space and time. Our minds work in space and time, so linear thinking is limited. But the world’s wisdom traditions have all held that there is a transcendent domain that the human mind can access. We experience it as silent mind, the background of experience, or awareness itself. When a person shifts his attention away from mental activity and focuses on the silent background, it turns out that this apparent “nothing,” is the womb of creation.
The second mystery about God is that pure consciousness reconciles opposites. The system of dualities that structure our lives – life and death, light and dark, positive and negative – merge into a single unified system that organizes itself, not by juggling these opposites but by transcending them. Once again, if a person pays focused attention to silent awareness, the reality of such a unified consciousness becomes evident.
This synopsis has been too truncated to explain the convincing nature of God as pure consciousness, a concept with thousands of years of actual experience behind it, both East and West. But let’s jump ahead. Good and evil are among the most important dualities we all struggle with. One reason for our confusion is that we look at only the manifest side of God/consciousness/creation. With one-eyed sight, there is no end to evil, no rationale to justify it, and no escape from it.
Which is why the great spiritual teachers, including Buddha and Jesus, pointed to the other side of consciousness, which transcends duality. At this second level, good and evil are part of the setup, the karmic drama that we each inherited at birth. Like every duality, this one follows an internal logic we can’t fathom, but we don’t need to. The solution is to go beyond duality, at which point we have walked away from the drama. When this happens, we become detached, in two senses. We are no longer engaged in the play of karma, and it cannot reach out to grab us back.
God, then, is present in both states, the manifest and unmanifest. In the created world the deity is the basis for morality and its promise that being good leads to good results. For millions of people, this side of consciousness suffices. They may suffer when bad things happen, but they remain convinced that God is good and just. Another large swath of people jettison religion and accept a secular morality based on manmade rules and laws. How many people accept the way of transcendence?
There’s no answer to this question, since someone can be deeply involved in such a path with no outward sign. Yet two thoughts seem irrefutable. The problem of a God who permits evil in the world has never been solved through reason or religion, while on the other hand, a transcendent God has been open to personal experience since the dawn of spirituality. The way of transcendence alone can bring a person beyond duality – in fact, that has been its chief attraction in every age, including ours.