Thursday, August 16, 2007

Sum, Ergo Deus Est

How'd you like my attempt at Latin?  I'll explain it later.  I promise.  Last Thursday I was at the "She Who Is" meeting on feminist theology (yes, me at a meeting on feminist theology).  We were talking about feminine versus masculine images of  G-d.  It was a very good conversation. It's the first time I've really been able to talk about this with anyone since reading "Is It Okay To Call God Mother?" and being laughed at by Mark and Scott. (you can continue reading after scrolling past the picture)
She Who Is Meeting

But, this post really doesn't have much to do with that.  In fact, it's not at all about the femininity or masculinity of G-d.    It's about doubting the very existence of G-d.  It came up during the meeting and prompted a meditation session, which led to this post. I think we all wrestle with the existence of God from time to time.  I've had doubts on and off all my life.  But, usually they're pretty minor and pass fairly quickly.  Doubting God's nature.   Now, that's another story.  I do know some people who are serious doubters though and it's often difficult for me to relate to them.  I'm reading a book called "Doubt" right now.  It's a history of doubt down through the ages, from the earliest recorded time up until the present.  I got it to explore my own doubts and to help me better understand some people I'm pretty close to right now who have serious doubts about the existence of G-d.   The author points out that we divide ages into periods of belief, but we often overlook the in between times of doubt.  Her focus is on those troughs, those periods in human history where doubt seems to prevail.    The book is not my usual read as it deals a lot with philosophy and history; two of my least favorite subjects.  I find philosophy confusing (and often pretty silly) and history just plain boring. However, I have made it a spiritual discipline to complete this book (I must confess I have skipped one chapter so far).  The book is over 500 pages of small type.  But, I'm learning a lot about doubt and doubters.  I just finished a section about Descartes who said "Dubito, ergo cogito, ergo sum".  In English, "I doubt, therefore I think, therefore I am."  Now here's what I'm talking about when I say philosophy can screw you up.  This dude sat in a room and thought so long and hard he began to doubt his very existence.  I mean, if there's one thing that is self-evident, it's that I exist.  He began by doubting all his senses, wondering if he might be in dream state and (I guess) wondering if he might be a character in a dream.  Finally, the one thing he could cling to was that since he had thought, he could at least trust that he existed (even if his perception of himself was an illusion).  The fascinating part though is that after he finally established something he could firmly believe in (his existence), he set about to prove the existence of G-d.  Amazingly, that was simple for him.  Basically he said that we have an inner knowing of G-d that G-d has placed in us.  We just know G-d exists.  People until that time had been trying to prove the existence of G-d through looking outside of themselves, through looking at nature and through logic or philosophy.  Descartes flipped the whole thing upside down basically said "Sum, ergo Deus est" (my phrase).  "I am, therefore G-d exists."  When I first read this I thought "Whoa!  This guy couldn't figure out that he existed?  Yet, once he finally established he did, he so easily 'proved' the existence of G-d from 'inner knowing'?".  This is the idea I want to explore.

There's an old song called "He Lives".  Mike Williams brought it up in one of his sermons at the Grace Gathering last week.  At least, I assume this is the song he was talking about.  Part of the lyrics are:

He lives (He lives), He lives (He lives), Christ Jesus lives today!
He walks with me and talks with me along life's narrow way.
He lives (He lives), He lives (He lives), salvation to impart!
You ask me how I know He lives?  He lives within my heart.
Don't tell anybody.  But, when I was growing up, I thought that song was a bunch of hooey.  I know He lives because He lives within my heart?   No, I could know He lives if I could see Him.  I could know He lives if I could touch Him.  And, later, I might say I know He lives because I can see His handiwork in the world.  But, the last way I would know He lives is because He lives within my heart.  But, I've slowly come around to this concept that G-d lives within my heart and that is where I can find Her.  Once I stopped looking (and listening for G-d) so much outside of myself and started looking and listening inside, my doubts about G-d's existence and (amazingly) Her goodness began to melt away.  That and giving up my false, preconceived notions about what I expected G-d to be like (not that I've completely given them up.  It's just now I know they're false preconceived notions).  J.B. Phillips "Your God Is Too Small" is a great little book I recommend to doubting Thomases.  It's now available in PDF format for free.  Click on the link above or do a Google search to find it.  When I begin to doubt G-d now, I really don't doubt the existence of G-d as much as I doubt my conception of G-d.

It's abundantly clear to me that because I am, G-d exists.  Because I am a personal, spiritual, human being, there is something greater than I, a First Cause, at a minimum.   There is something inside of me that whispers and sometimes shouts the existence of G-d.  Buddhists call this something Buddha Nature (although they don't talk about G-d).  Christians might refer to it as the Holy Spirit.  New-Agey type Christians (which I might be accused of being) refer to it as Christ Consciousness.  But, I believe this spirit is in each and every human being (although it's sometimes so deeply buried by junk it's hard to find even for the person possessing it).  Someone asked me yesterday if I believe I have a spirit inside of me or if the very Spirit of G-d is in me.  Tough question.  I can't honestly say.  But, there is something and this something lets me know that G-d does exist. Now, does the big old White man on the throne with the beard and the furrowed brow exist?  No.  But. Sum, ergo Deus est is a proof of the existence of G-d that works for me.

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