Meditation on the nature of belief

Why should we visualize God rather than merely accept His “word(s)” as it is taught by others? This is the question about the nature of belief and what constitutes a belief for any person. Although belief can be anything subjective, in this discussion it is about the idea of God. If that idea is not clear, a belief is vague and easily dismissed. The belief in God is true only when it is meaningful. We find meaning in examples we can understand. Consider a young believer.

When a young individual decides to join a church with a vague belief in what they say “God” is, the individual does not have to be born an idealist to do that. He or she can simply be asleep. And be a monk for the rest of their life. Who knows, maybe they would find themselves? Or maybe something else is at play in their psyche. But what makes things interesting is change, so let’s explore change in life before we come back to this monk.

Believers could say that they accept the (universal) belief in (universal) God through the prism of their church, but what they can accept at their first moment of encountering this belief is a form of a potential concept “God”[1]. The rest is the question of actualizing this form of a belief. If something comes between you and this nascent concept, some accident in life or perhaps some difficult situation or an obstacle, you could find that you really didn’t believe in “God” in the first place. You would then rationalize that there is no God and any belief in Him is meaningless. But what is really going on in your psyche? Maybe you have just awoken to the realization that you were born a materialist after all, and so your life’s purpose is now clear (or meaningless) to you. On the other hand, you may ignore that you were originally unable to conceive of God personally but temporarily accepted a form, mere language really, describing God. But what differentiates an individual who “abandons” their belief in God from the one who becomes a strong believer? It has to do with the fact whether they conceived of God visually, clearly and on their own. It’s like falling in love, love that is not intrusive or irritating but a patient love. No one can force you to love or believe in God without the consequences of resistance and falling out, right? The same starts in familial relationships.

From anecdotal evidence, we know that the most successful theist families, in guiding their children toward God, rather than forcing them to go to a church or believe in a specific kind of God they think is true, allow their children freedom of exploring spirituality on their own terms. (This is also related to the nurturant parent model.) Open-minded parents can only teach their children different ways in which to view God (different examples, like my own in the previous post), and children would think through these examples, compare and contrast them, and form their own concepts of God.

Children, by grasping the personal meaning of the word “God” on their own and in their own unique ways, come to appreciate and even be passionate about this belief a lot more than those who are either forced to believe in a concept foreign to them, someone else’s concept, or come to their own conclusion that there is no God[2]. The latter children are confident in their belief in materialism because they realized it on their own, without help of parents, or against the pressures of their parents, or perhaps instead conformed to their peers’ points of view.

Still, what remains similar to both views is that whether you believe in an ideal beyond mind such as God or in matter, you believe because you were able to grasp it with your own mind in the clearest, surest way you can in this lifetime. If you were that young monk, you could tap into the energy of subjectivizing the concept of God and thus overcoming the repressive hierarchy of the church. Holding on to your subjective belief is what prevents you from letting it go because you think (correctly) that no one else can hold such belief for you, and since it is your belief, you can sufficiently justify its existence and thus allow its perpetuation. And that’s why some, like Objectivists, after much passionate development would call their belief a conviction. Each of Objectivists has a unique concept of existence, but they are all guided by Rand’s original formulation that allowed such conceptual freedom. They are each subjective, yet objectively defined through reality that they know from their unique perspectives.

Nonetheless, what I want to teach on this blog is not how to be an idealist or a materialist, but how to be an integrator, how to believe in God in a flexible but clear way, a supple way that can bend to science and cannot simply fall apart and vanish. It is not a way of flight but a way of living toward a fuller potential, actualizing you more and more but never enough for you to be complete. Even so, this way is clearly not for everyone, and many who were destined to actualize themselves through it may fail by falling asleep. Be as they will; maybe they weren’t ready. Or perhaps they didn’t have challenging enough situations involving conflicts with others’ philosophies to keep them moving in the right direction and clinging to personal truth. An important exhortation to anyone, though, is that integrating is best regardless of who you are, and you don’t have to be born an integrator to integrate. In fact, there are accidental integrations, which are done by non-integrators. I will review this kind of integration in a future post.

Drawing from this subjective theology, we can begin to discuss art. And building upon our previous meditation on emotions, watch the movie Spring (2014) to be prepared for an analysis that will follow. This movie also deals with, among other topics, the difficult relation of fear and love.

[1] The concept of God as a level 15 entity in the Model is very complex, but we can break it down into lower levels and see them onto-epistemologically connect and develop in our psyche. To help in this process, The Urantia Book’s hierarchy is an extensive source that helps define many entities that are God-like: e.g., one incarnate as Jesus was Archangel Christ Michael, Son of God, correlating with level 13, and the Ancient of Days who will come to our planet as the Most High from The Bible and The Book of Enoch correlates with level 14. Other entities from The Urantia Book that could be tentatively correlated with some levels of the Model are the following: Caligastia, former Planetary Prince, lev. 10; Satan, Lucifer’s first lieutenant, lev. 11; and Lucifer, former System Sovereign, lev. 12.

[2] Also consider that one of the more popular concepts of God was conceived by Jesus personally as the Father because God literally was his Father and Jesus was His Son. Additionally, conceiving God as “the Spirit” is problematic because then it makes “God” into a metaphysical, abstract “objective” entity, wherein objective “God” and contextual “Spirit” are indistinguishable. A way to avoid this problem is by conceiving God as a particular Spirit out of many.

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