Reading Qfp Ch. 26 some more…

Religion is living with God. There is no other kind of religion. Living with a Book, living with or by a Rule, being awfully high-principled are not in themselves religion, although many people think they are and that that is all there is to it. Religion has got a bad name through being identified with an outward orderliness. But an outward orderliness can be death, dullness and masochism. Doing your duty may be admirable stoicism; it isn’t religion.

To find religion itself you must look inside people and inside yourself. And there, if you find even the tiniest grain of true love, you may be on the right scent. Millions of people have it and don’t know what it is that they have. God is their guest, but they haven’t the faintest idea that he is in the house. So you mustn’t only look where God is confessed and acknowledged. You must look everywhere, to find the real religion. Nor must you look, in others or in yourself, for great spooky visions and revelations. Such visions and revelations come to many, a great deal oftener than we think; and to those to whom they come they are sun, moon and stars. But in most people who know God, and in all such people most of the time, living with God is not an apparition but a wordless and endless sureness. Like the silence of two friends together. Like the silence of lovers.

God is waiting to live like that in every single person in the world.

Bernard Canter, 1962 Qfp 26.37

It’s odd, but though I’ve had one or two experiences that might fall under the heading of “mystical” – direct experiences, if you like, of God, or what of God filters through the doors of perception when they crack a little ajar – I really wouldn’t describe them as remotely spooky. That sureness Canter describes is present always, and even before it came to underlie everything for me, the glimpses I had of what lies beneath and beyond the world of the senses still had that quality of almost ordinary reality. What I encountered was solid, real – solider and more real than my own flesh or the earth it rested on – and not remotely uncanny.

Without wishing to become lost in the semantic maze of the theist/non-theist discussion, this is why I don’t like the term “supernatural” when applied to God. To me it gives the impression of something standing over against, separate from, reality. That which I encounter in the depths of my own being, in the eyes of my sisters and brothers, in the wrapped life of a dreaming cat, in the gathered meeting or in mist across the sea just before dawn, is not separate from reality: it is the solid ground in which is rooted the great tree from which the leaves of the phenomena grow, and are nourished.

8 thoughts on “Reading Qfp Ch. 26 some more…

  1. treegestalt

    I think the reason not to flee the word “supernatural” — is that many people have a very limited view of what “nature” and “reality” includes. To accurately and adequately describe “reality”, you need to recognize the physical universe as a subset at best, and not even the part where causality is rooted.

    1. Mike Farley Post author

      I quite take your point about describing reality. What you say about “the physical universe as a subset at best” is spot on!

      I still worry about that word “supernatural”, though. It always reminds me of David Boulton’s rather immoderate words, “I can no more entertain the notion of gods and devils, angels and demons, disembodied ghoulies and ghosties, or holy and unholy spirits, than I can believe in the magic of Harry Potter or the mystic powers of Gandalf the Grey.”

      To me, the ground of being as reality itself, Meister Eckhart’s istigkeit, holds the natural as in the hands of God; to think of God as “a being” like us only more so, perhaps – a supernatural being – is profoundly to miss the point!

      1. Mike Farley Post author

        NB I’m not say you’re missing the point – far from it – but many who use the word “supernatural” are, like Boulton in the quote above, are…

  2. Forrest Curo

    So, then, what does the range of notions that [might] find David Boulton entertaining… have to do with what exists, let alone what’s possible? (Is [or was] he really sure what beings might not be laughing their pointy ears off at his pride in his limitations?)

    [RIght now I’m sitting a computer lab at my wife’s Episcopal church; the place is full of nursing students using the food pantry clientele for practice, & their talk is distracting; please bear with…]

    I take it that you’ve found God as ~’that which Bees in us’, which is certainly valid enough. But there’s a great deal more that can truly be said about Itall… Someone thinking in terms of some other mode, some other point of contact may be missing your point, but isn’t a bit much to say they’re missing the point?

    1. Mike Farley Post author

      Thanks, Forrest.

      I am reminded of Walt Whitman’s words, “This is what you shall do; Love the earth and sun and the animals, despise riches, give alms to every one that asks, stand up for the stupid and crazy, devote your income and labor to others, hate tyrants, argue not concerning God…”

      I wrote in my original post that I didn’t want to become lost in the theist/non-theist maze, and I don’t. All I meant was that those who dismiss God because they dismiss beings with pointy ears as supernatural are missing that particular point about God as ground of being. Whether they are missing some transcendent point known as the is not for me to judge.

      I don’t think you can take it that I’ve found God as “that which Bees in us” and nothing more. I hope that was clear from my final sentence. But as Whitman said, don’t let us fall into the trap of arguing about God… I hope the nurses find plenty of willing subjects for their practice!

      1. treegestalt

        Well, I’m home now, where that Whitman passage still looks good on my refrigerator, from whenever my brother-in-law put it on his Christmas cards a few years back. But I still don’t give alms to everyone who asks.

        Does God care who wins an argument about God? “In some ways, in some ways not,” I’d say. A whole zoo or ecosystem of notions just helps decorate the mental world like the physical one [Did you read/like _The Lathe of Heaven_? — a nice take on the nature of life & worlds…]
        I don’t think we need to win the Guessed-Right Award or get a good score on The Exam — nor, given how much humans care about strict factuality, do I think that God is particularly concerned to give that to us. (Some of us do want to know, of course, and are given what we can digest. True? Yeah, so far as a partial truth may go, until we’re ready for more.)

        I’ve been told that a good Jewish answer to “Why do we bless God?” is: “Because it’s good for us.” I don’t think it’s good for people to imagine ourselves as lost in a world of matter. Some people seem to be fine with it (my father among them) but I never liked it — and it leaves people with no valid reason for hope. That isn’t good for people; and while it may have been a necessary phase in human development, I do hope we’re finally past that need… [See ?]

  3. Brian Holley

    I’m reminded here of Heinrick Zimmer’s saying, “The best things cannot be told. The second best things are misunderstood and the third best things are what we talk about.” We can surely never get to that experience of God, which is the true ‘religion’, through words or the concepts we build with them. As for the supernatural, as Michel Dowd has suggested, for supernatural, read unnatural!


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