When it's still difficult to have "faith."
I hadn’t intended to write a third part to this article, but there are times when, like everyone else, I find that putting my beliefs into practice is life is difficult. Particularly in moods of depression (I have one at the moment) I’m still tempted to ask whether God “exists” and whether what I claim to believe represents any kind of reality.
For surely belief comes down to only one question, is there “everlasting life” or not? (John Dominic Crossan makes the same point in A Long Way from Tipperary): Am I going to continue to live in some way after my physical death? If not, it is unimportant what I believe about God now. The idea that belief in God is simply a way of teaching morality: well surely how we behave can be taught without postulating an external force which may or may not exist—even by promoting the same moral tenets found, for example, in the bible.
So will I continue to exist in some form after I die? Note that even “in some form” needs definition. I have heard the proposition that we continue to live in the memories of others. This, to my mind, is a specious argument. Fine that others remember us (although even this hardly applies after a couple of generations), but this has nothing to do with the survival of our own consciousness.
I recall the first time I had an operation under an anaesthetic, for appendicitis. What impressed me was that it was a completely blank period in my life. I thought afterwards: My god, I could have died and I wouldn’t even have known I’d died. (A later operation, for a ruptured Achilles tendon impressed me less, perhaps because I’d had the experience before.) Isn’t death perhaps like this: a total blank? Certainly many think so, and in a way it’s logical enough. Why bring God into it at all? Even if “there is” a God and, in the biblical image, he is the plant and we are the branches, well a branch may die easily enough without the bush ceasing to be.
My thinking then tends to go something like this. All this is logical enough, but short-sighted, because then I’m left with the whole problem of the existence of not just of life but of the universe. All that enormous power that we never doubt exists. A blind force of creation that has nothing to do with me? Perhaps, but I can’t see that it makes sense.
Now I’m not making an argument for God as being the prime cause, because we’re then faced inevitably with the question of who created God. Reading Neale Donald Walsh I come to the realization that it’s a great deal more complicated and that eternity is precisely that: endlessness, with creation (or whatever you want to call it) going on and on in a way that is impossible for our limited view to fathom. As I’ve said earlier, this is omnipotence: doing, being, everything, the both-and rather than the either-or.
So I return to the only thing that I experience, my own consciousness. I remember an unhappy time in my life when suddenly I felt the complete absence of God. Of an external God, that is. For a short time I felt despair. But what remained was myself, my own consciousness. And here, in a strange way, was the answer. If there was no external God, then God was there, in myself. I was God. (I found too that this idea was of great help to a friend of mine, now deceased, who was also lamenting the sudden absence of God.) This isn’t being arrogant, as I tried to explain in the extract from Veronica’s Papers quoted in the first part of this article. We are all God, of that I’m convinced: although often enough I have to remind myself of this!
So what if I’m depressed? It may be temporarily unpleasant, but it’s not important. The universe doesn’t depend on that. But my consciousness somehow is important. It’s there that I “live” (as, of course, do all of us). For me, this is life itself.
When I think this way, it may often seem that I’m talking to myself. Am I not just making it all up? But then talking to God and talking to myself are the same thing. And however much in moods of depression I may say God doesn’t exist, it’s still him I talk to in my mind.
I haven’t explained this adequately. But then, I’m not really trying to convince anyone. If it helps, great. If not, well it helps—and makes sense to—me.
A.Colin Wright's novel Sardinian Silver can be ordered from any bookstore, from www.amazon.com and other amazon sites, from www.barnesandnoble.com, and from www.iUniverse.com.