“We keep thinking of deity as a kind of fact, somewhere; God as a fact. God is simply our own notion of something that is symbolic of transcendence and mystery. The mystery is what’s important.” ~ Joseph Campbell
“Fortunately, some are born with spiritual immune systems that sooner or later give rejection to the illusory wordview grafted upon them from birth through social conditioning. They begin sensing that something is amiss, and start looking for answers. Inner knowledge and anomalous outer experiences show them a side of reality others are oblivious to, and so begins their journey of awakening. Each step of the journey is made by following the heart instead of following the crowd and by choosing knowledge over the veils of ignorance.” — Henri Bergson
“The image of the cosmos must change with the development of the mind and knowledge; otherwise, the mythic statement is lost, and man becomes dissociated from the very basis of his own religious experience. Doubt comes in, and so forth. You must remember: all of the great traditions, and little traditions, in their own time were scientifically correct. That is to say, they were correct in terms of the scientific image of that age. So there must be a scientifically validated image. Now you know what has happened: our scientific field has separated itself from the religious field, or vice-versa. …This divorce is a fatal thing, and a very unfortunate thing, and a totally unnecessary thing.” ~ Joseph Campbell, Lecture 1A, 13:45, Mythology and the Individual (1997)
I was given definite answers to life when I was a child. I wanted to accept them and to settle those questions for all time, but I failed. Later, when I looked back at my impressionable childhood, I was embarrassed that I embraced such obvious charlatanry.
I don’t know if I had that spiritual immune system that Bergson speaks of, but I started my resistance in earnest as an adolescent. I didn’t decide to, it just welled up in me and was implacable. That has never changed.
I’m not trying to dispel the grand mystery of why we’re here and what it all means. The more I look and question, the more grand and beautiful the mystery is. I don’t want a Father God sitting on His throne in the clouds waving his scepter or any other children’s stories that reduce the mystery to a literal equation.
It’s interesting though how science keeps adding to the mystery in the last hundred years. Quantum physics keeps presenting us with the conundrum of material existence, its non solidity, its non reducibility. Our logic can’t compute how we exist and don’t exist at the same time.
What we do have is the beauty of the world, of which we are an inalienable part. What we do have is the reality of love. What we discover when we look closely is infinite connectivity.
The church in the top photograph is beautiful and it’s well integrated into its surroundings. But the vision that created that construct is not the vision we have today. We can’t have the same God that inhabited that time and place. We have to find our way to another vision because we have a different mind. As Campbell says, our science and religion have diverged to different tracks. I believe that’s temporary. Science is just now catching up to The Mystery. It’s discovering that contrary to our assumptions, existence is far more than a mechanism.
The irreducible, ineffable paradigm that we are and that we inhabit is all the mystery we need, I think, and I do believe we need mystery. If we pay attention, it’s everywhere, but we have to pay attention.
We feel like orphans, we moderns. We need to rediscover our connections to everything. Our view of things has isolated us. Our so-called knowledge has disconnected us from ourselves. The next step is to find out that we are in fact members of an extended and loving family.
- Anima Fire is my publication