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CHAPTER SIX. Bipolar nature of Existence - Spirit - Good and Evil.
Light and Darkness are two opposing realities. We cannot combine them as one in our minds. We can do so of course, successively. We experience the light of day and the dark of night, and together they form a day, but we cannot combine them, they are mutually exclusive of the other. The biblical assertion that "light and darkness are both alike to God" is an expression of contrapletal logic, and a clue to the nature of God as Spirit. Spirit IS- and is responsible for the phenomena of light and darkness, but is neither. Spirit is in Creation, but is not Creation. Spirit is in Fellowship with man, but is not merely such fellowship. There is a multiplicity of activities of Spirit, but Spirit is one.
The IDENTITY of the force, the energy, in all Creation, and in humanity, is Spirit. But there are countless differences and variations in all Creation. Spirit is ONE, but is multi-active and multi-dimensional, yet expressing both activity and passivity, for human freedom to be real.
If "light and darkness" are alike to God, what then about "Good and Evil"? Are they really mutually exclusive? If our interpretation of Spirit is correct, then the Spirit cannot be confined to the "Good", but must be present in the "Evil"! Jewish belief in the total unity of life under God, is reflected in the St.James version of Isaiah 45:7, where Yahweh says: "I create evil". Other versions reflect the same thought: "I make weal and create woe." (Catholic R.".V.); "I bring both blessing and disaster." (Good News Version); "I make good fortune and create calamity." (Jerusalem Bible).
So, if these apprehensions of the unity of all life in God are interpreted in terms of God as Spirit, then the meanings of free-will, determinism, predestination, fate, distortion, disobedience and sin, need to be re-interpreted, for all are contained in Spirit (in some sense or senses). Mascall writes that in creating the world and mankind, God "became stuck with it!'' But Creation was out of God's love, and mankind and Creation are, to put it bluntly, God/Spirit/Love's experience! So maybe, God/Spirit is "stuck with us", such as we are!
The startling truth to be grasped is that rather than human spirituality being totally regarded as humanity's experience of God or some ultimate, it is God/Spirit experiencing humanity! As Spirit, He is not impassive, but knows our pain. He is not separate from our feelings and emotions, for, as Spirit, He experiences them in us. In the deepest and ultimate sense of the Incarnational concept, it is not ME experiencing God, but God/Spirit experiencing me, with all my earthiness, sins, joys, sorrows, thoughts and feelings!
Teilhard de Chardin expresses this truth of God experiencing him. For instance, in Pensee 30, page 103, "Hymn of the Universe", he writes; "Now that I have learnt to see you as he who is more me than myself..." In Pensee 49, page 124; "To be pure in heart means to love God above all things and at the same time to see him everywhere in all things." Pensee 73, page l46; "You who are yourself the PLENITUDO ENTIS CREATI, the fullness of created being, Lord Jesus, are also the PLENITUDO ENTIS MEI the fullness of my own personal being, and of all living creatures who accept your dominion." Pensee 9, page 84; "He is, in a sense, at the point of my pen, my pick, my paint-brush, my needle - and my heart and my thought."(?)
These, and other quotations from Chardin, when "Christ" is interpreted as the revealing expression of Spirit's incarnation, or, if we simply substitute "Spirit" for Christ, in humankind and creation, support the truth of God/spirit experiencing us. Our sense of individuality tends to blind us to perceiving our innate, essential unity with God/Spirit and with one another.
From our human side, our freedom to ignore the Spirit within, who draws into Love, means that we remain in our egoistic individuality. God/Spirit, from His "Side", is in, and accepts, our rejection, because He is Spirit and thus present in and through us whether we reject or accept. He is "present" or rabsent"' at the same time without contradiction!
But does that not appear utterly impossible! Does not God have to deal with us according to our response to him, and according to our conduct, whether good or evil? Otherwise, what does Heaven and Hell mean? Isn't there final rejection by man, therefore final separation from God/Spirit?
However, this is a substantive viewpoint. This appears to be a judgement made by a Divine Person against an earthly person. This God/Person cannot be seen to be failing in the matter of good and evil, and must reward a heaven or hell where deserved. Otherwise this God/Person is seen to be a loser. Our sense of justice demands that if there be a God, he must reward the good, amd punish the evil! But that God is still the loser, for, with such a substantive concept, in the whole history of evil hitherto, he is losing greatly!
But God is Spirit and Personal and Love, and the mythical, biblical, and credal statement: "He, (CHRIST) descended into Hell" is perhaps the paradigmatic statement that God/Spirit is involved in the "hells" of mankind, even as the Cross of Jesus expresses God/Spirit's involvement in the forsaken-ness of mankind - seemingly forsaken in all manner of evil, sorrow and suffering! As God is Spirit there can be no place, no situation, no circumstance, no where and no thing, and no PERSON, in which, or whom, He is not present in some sense.
The greater the apprehension in human beings of this Presence the deeper the experience of Spirit can be! There then can be no measure or limit placed upon His activity, nor can predictions be made, or calculations guessed as to how Spirit will work. Humankind, with all its vicissitudes, is IN God/Spirit, whether we believe or like it!
The notion that the evil of our world is, in all its ramifications, within God/Spirit is difficult for us to accept. But if this universe is God's creation, how could there be any part of it beyond Him as Spirit? The limited grasp of our minds, and deeply substantive and ingrained modes of thought may be the problem, in much the same way as many things at the fringes of science seem bizarre to us, while quite acceptible to scientists. How can space be curved? How does a particle appear to be in two places at once? How can the universe have commenced at a point nowhere in particular, where nothing, not even space or time, existed before?
The scientific community does not shrink from embracing ideas totally foreign to instinct, when no other explanation will fit. Yet Christian belief, while prepared to attribute the intimate mysteries of the universe to the wonder of God's creation, single out the existence of evil as being irreconcilable to Him! Its presence is attributed to a biblical "Fall", and its mystery is covered by resort to the God of the Gaps! But it should be rememberd that science in wishing to call randomness a matter of incomplete knowledge also has recourse to the scientific gods of the gap!.
The limitations are in humanity; in its variety of genes, disposition, upbringing, ability of mind and intellect, and all these limitations are accepted in God\Spirit's experience of humanity, though God\Spirit is not contained in, or limited by, them.
"Well," it may be said, "that's fine, but doesn't it do away with our individual responsibility? We could perform the vilest deed, and say, 'It was the Spirit within me that did it!'". Yes - that could be the sad claim, and avoidance of responsibility, but in fact it is a distorted understanding of Spirit and responsibility. That loss, if permanent, would also be part of the Spirit's experience of us - the anguish of loss! We cannot say of God\Spirit that He is impervious to suffering. In trying to preserve the perfection of God's personal Being, distanced from us by such perfection, our theology cannot accept any imperfection such as God being capable of feeling and sharing our sense of imperfection!
But if God/Spirit is in all and every aspect of life in some sense, then, as Spirit, and not limited by being, He/It is in our emotions, feelings, and every phase of human experience! The problem for some with that assertion is in their interpreting GOD as BEING - the PERFECT BEING - and, as such, impassive. True, in a figurative sense, God\Spirit has a "body" - his Creation! We who are made in his image, are Spirit with a body, rather than a body with a spirit!
Dr. Wayne Dyer, in his book: "You'll see it when you believe it!" - on page l6, writes: "the principles in this book start with the premise that you are a soul with a body, rather than a body with a soul. That you are not a human being having a spiritual experience, but rather a spiritual being having a human experience."(?) This accords with the truth that God/Spirit, who is Personal Love, is living us - having a human experience! - And, in that incarnation, seeking to bring us to Total Love in and through His Presence and Prompting.
It is significant that the root meaning of "holy" is "to separate", or to be separated. generally, this is how the word is accepted. "HOLY" can mean a thing, place, or person, which, or who, is apart, separated from the normal. There is also the Christian use of "Holy Spirit" in referring to Spirit. This usage strengthens the belief in the "separateness" of God as a Being from humanity. He is holy, we are sinful!
But, in His multi-dimensional activity in different senses, God\Spirit has an inclusive-incarnational aspect as well as a separating aspect, namely, being in all things, yet also drawing humanity into separation from evil and distortion, into perfect Love.
"Holy" then, has not a "separating" or "holier-than-thou" sense, but is a dimension of God\Spirit's activity, and referred to as "Holy Spirit". Are not the religious aspirations of humankind, as exhibited in all the spiritual movements in the world, including the Christian, ALL drawings of Holy Spirit, distinct, and yet united to all other activities of God/Spirit in and through all things?
If we accept that God\Spirit IS, and is in, and through, and of, all things, then what else is all the ferment, striving, searching and seeking for, or awareness of, a transcendent "Something" or God, but God\Spirit acting?
But, with our eyes on the world's tragedies, one will want to protest: "Well, what a mess He/It is making of it all!" However high in the spiritual scale of faith, those who are also aware of the world's evil, will have their moments of sheer frustration, doubt, and questioning.
At times we marvel at creation's astonishing beauty, and humanity's splendid behaviour, and at other times we are alarmed at its fearful brutality! On one hand, we are intrigued with the puzzling complexity of human nature, with its diverse nationalities and groupings by language, culture, religion and politics. We applaud the heroic activities of so many; we thrill at the stirring of the mind and hand for the betterment of humanity; and rejoice at the results of human explorations and discoveries in so many diverse fields!
But, conversely, we are also greatly distressed by conflicts and wars, by both communal and personal hatreds and violence. We are saddened by all the sorrows of a world constantly besieged by tragedies. So, sometimes, we may draw back from seeking answers, and try to be objective about our world, and, sadly, arrive at the conclusion that it is sad, stupid, and totally irresponsible!
While disasters happen to the human race, it is never easy to reconcile a "Good" God with evil. And many find it difficult to understand the Love of God, when He is regarded as an impassive observer, who permits the hurts of humanity. However, many have deeply felt that the Cross in the experience of Jesus was God's Cross - a sign of His solidarity in and with His suffering creatures in their pain and desolation!
This sign of God\Spirit's solidarity with human experience is shown basically in the figure of Jesus, his joy and peace, his anguish of the Cross, his death and conquering of it. There is life and death. There is light and darkness. There is joy and sorrow. There is laughter and tears. Life IS bipolar!
Teilhard de Chardin speaks of the polarity of complexification and totalization. History and human nature seem to have both a drive to division and individuation, and a drive to unity and community. Ferre' speaks of "unimunity" (unity and community) as being the final drive in God/Spirit's purpose.
One could argue that we would not know compassion without the hurts of humanity occasioned through natural and man-made disasters. We need the one to know the other. Perhaps we need both to be fully human and to learn love. There is a whole philosophy of bipolar or contrapletal logic to be woven concerning the misfortunes and good fortunes of humanity. However, much of such philosophy, if formed from a substantive-materialistic basis of thought, or, "thing/personality" thinking, will not bring to the hurts of humanity the light that comes from a philosophy of SPIRIT.
In a recent book entitled "CHAOS." by James Glieck, there is presented an interesting theory entertained by some scientists that Chaos has meaning. The contradictory nature of life and existence; its intricate patterns of good and evil; its sudden breaks in stability; its continuity and discontinuity; these are all gathered together in the concept of "chaos" as having meaning and purpose.
This is significant, supporting the view of God as Spirit, containing all of the contradictory, chaotic facets of existence within such boundless nature.. The way Nels Ferre' uses the words "contrapletal logic" in relation to the activities of God\Spirit accords with the above use of "chaos" as having meaning. On page 22, "The living God of Nowhere and Nothing.", Ferre' defines contrapletal thus: "Contrapletal means a complementary relationship of seeming opposites, like night and day or summer and winter, in a larger unity that includes both."
In "The Universal Word." Ferre' describes how Principal John Marsh eloquently explained the derivation of the term "contrapletal" from "contraplex", and its history from the way communication, particularly in the case of the telegraph, depended upon contrapletal interpretation. (pp. 133-34) (?)
"Contrapletal logic" means accepting that where things appear to be contradictory on one level, they are not so on another level. Our level of day and night opposites, are alike on God/Spirit's level!
So there is a great need to reverse our way of thinking. There is a need to turn upside-down our "universe-man-God" formulae to that of "Spirit-universe-man". Can a complete change of perspective be made here? generally, humans tend to spend life seeking material things, plus life's emotional, intellectual and pleasurable aspects. And life is lived to some or no ultimate prospect, perhaps spiritual or material, or none! What is pleaded for here is a reversal of the above! To accept Spirit as both ultimate, and penetrating all things! To seek with all our powers what it means to know God as Spirit - not as Being! When we speak of "our experience of God", however real, are we not making God a Being to be experienced? If God is unlimited Spirit, then, surely, He/It experiences us, rather than the reverse?
Can it be that the Christian Faith has received a GREAT LIGHT, namely. GOD IS SPIRIT, but has put up its theological shutters and enclosed It, by giving It false forms which are believed to have FINAL Authority based upon Scripture and tradition?
Of course, there can be no doubt that God\Spirit has been in the life and history of the Christian Church, and other religions, with all their extraordinary diversity. Of course there is a continuity that cannot be discarded, for God\Spirit is in and through all! Is it still true, as Jesus is reported to have said: "I have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now.?" That was a very discerning acknowledgment that we cannot receive the WHOLE truth at once, but need to develop so as to "bear" the truth as it comes to us!
Some Christian writers are speaking of this present age as "The Age and Era of the Spirit". Perhaps that is so, but every age is of God\Spirit! Truer, perhaps, to call it "The age of Human Response to Spirit!" However, we do not ever govern God\Spirit's coming or going, absence or presence, activity or non-activity, by what we are doing or not doing. If the Church is geared to Revivalism or a new Pentecost, then we suffer from the whims of a petulant spirit, and we are transferring our own feelings and interpretations on to God\Spirit who is Holy, and Love and personal, but not a person\spirit who can be coaxed by certain spiritual exercises into reluctant activity!
God/Spirit certainly seeks human response. But are we giving Him/It the right response? His patient waiting is unmeasurable -ra thousand years to him is one day, and one day as a thousand years". It all has to do with God/Spirit, who is Eternal Love, creating and living in, and nurturing His self-image of Spirit/love within humanity! God/Spirit has all the time in (and out of!) the world, to speak foolishly, for He created time, and is not limited by it - we are! Who knows how many generations will have to pass ere we learn what Ferre' calls "unimunity", or, living in love? At present, one cannot help the thought, that in the process of learning love, we are barely out of the kindergarten stage!
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