Welcome to Life in 361˚. This blog is an 'open journal' - a space where I keep notes on bits & pieces I come across day-to-day - including books and articles I've read that I feel are worth sharing, interesting pictures and photos (I'm a visual learner, you see), random musings - and anything else that happens to catch my eye or ear. It also acts as a kind of 'open experiment' in terms of developing my views and writing skills - and networking with other people of a like-mind.

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02/01/2013

God - A Working Definition

I've been reading quite a few Quaker blogs recently via the QuakerQuaker website - whereas usually in the past my main source of online religious thought was UUpdates, which I still call upon from time to time.

Looking at the Quaker blog Through the Flaming Sword today brought me across this 'definition' for God, which I share pretty much wholeheartedly (and wholemindedly):
I use “God” as a placeholder for the Reality Mystery behind our spiritual or religious experience, whatever that experience is. I say “Reality” because our spiritual or religious experiences are real—they transform us; they bear fruit. They may be completely interior and subjective, but we know they are real because they bring changes that we, and often others, can recognize as real.
And yet our spiritual and religious experiences are a Mystery. They transcend our understanding. Often they transcend our senses. And they transcend usual consciousness. Behind the Reality of our experiences we can sense something deeper that we cannot fully articulate or comprehend. At best we can only glimpse in part where the experience comes from, or why it came, or what it will do to us, or what it means. Its fullness remains a mystery, even after it seems to have stopped unfolding. Some spiritual and religious experience never stops unfolding. I’ve said all this before.

So here it is: for me, “God” is whatever lies behind, or beneath, or inside this experience of unfolding transformation brought on by spiritual or religious experience.

I could elaborate, and many people do. For many people, the Mystery does unfold a bit. They know who their God is. They know where their experience comes from. For myself, I can see through the window of my own experiences some distance into a metaphysical landscape that I can describe and in which “God” does have names. Names, plural—different experiences that have taken place in different contexts, that have come a little bit clearer in different ways, and that engage me in relationships with some “who”s.

But even so, some Mystery remains. God works in mysterious ways. Which is to say that we never fully understand our spiritual or religious experience. This is one of the things about religion that drives secular scientists nuts.

But whatever our experience is, whatever our spiritual or religious tradition, these two dimensions remain in common: we know it is real and yet it remains mysterious. So I try to return always to these core definitions based on the commonalities of our experience.

I love elaborating on what my experience—and our shared experience—means. In fact, I love speculating about them, venturing into the territory known to early Friends as “notions”. But that’s because it’s fun, it’s intellectually exciting for me. But it’s not necessary, and it isn’t even very useful a lot of the time. And it can lead to trouble.

So, back I go to the reality and the mystery of real experience."

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