Some Comments on God
The Radical Mystery
Although virtually all of the religious and spiritual traditions of the world embrace some understanding of a transcendent reality or God, perspectives about the nature of this reality do, of course, vary. I’ve added this appendix for those readers who are interested in hearing something more about how Karen and I understand and experience God.
Without getting too involved in the complexities of philosophical distinctions about all this, let me begin by simply saying that, in essence, Karen and I embrace a view that is very similar to what is often called ‘nondualism’, and in Western thought would be considered a form of panentheism. The form of this view that is most resonant with our experience is a perspective that is mostly represented, in one form or another, in various Asian traditions such as Taoism, Mahayana Buddhism, and various schools of Hinduism (such as Advaita Vedanta). Although we have our own understanding of this perspective, it is generally similar to these schools, though in some ways probably not exactly identical. Indeed, even within any one of these traditions, such as Mahayana Buddhism, there are a variety of perspectives on the essential ‘nature of Reality’, or what some might call ‘God’, though in Buddhism is more commonly called sunyata (emptiness) and other terms.
So a key dimension of our experience of the ‘ultimate’ nature of reality can be called nondual, though within this general orientation many other names are used as well. Other terms that have been used to designate this view of reality include Nirguna Brahman, Sunyata or Emptiness, Tathata or Suchness, the Tao, Anami and Dharmadatu. Individuals and traditions debate the nature of what all these terms indicate, but for us, they are roughly in the same camp in pertaining to a view of reality wherein the ground or absolute truth is realized as deeply transcendental, so much so that ultimately no names, concepts or characteristics can be used to adequately capture the nature of this reality.
This aspect of God or Reality can be considered radically transcendental, because it so completely transcends names, characteristics, qualities or any other limited or relative idea or expression of Its nature. It is not transcendental in the sense of being ‘beyond the world’, but rather in the sense of be beyond human intellect, senses or naming. As a radically transcendent Reality, this understanding and experience of ‘God’ transcends distinctions such as eternal vs. temporal, infinite vs. finite, universal vs. particular, unmanifest vs. manifest, personal vs. impersonal, formless vs. form, oneness vs. many, and other similar polarities or contrasts.
Being transcendent in this way does not mean that this Fundamental Reality, or God, cannot be experienced by human beings. Mystics, sages and saints have, throughout all cultures and times, experienced God through intuitive attunement and realization. But the deepest Reality cannot be reduced to philosophical ideas, qualities, principles, names, etc. And since this experience of God transcends the distinction of a God and the World, it can be experienced as the true nature of everything we are familiar as this world, including ourselves.
Divine Presence or Adi-Buddha
So one dimension of the Absolute or God is the realization of this radically nondual, transcendent reality. This, for Karen and I, is the deepest, most essential Reality. But we also experience a Presence that is closer to what others mean by ‘God’. This is a Universal Presence or Cosmic Intelligence that, while being very transcendent and omnipresent, at the same time takes a form that can be related to in a more focused, even personal, way. Some call this Presence a ‘Personal God’, since it has personal characteristics such as Love, Wisdom, Grace and Power. For us this Being is not so much a Creator Deity that brought the universe into being, but the personification of the living, active expression of universal enlightened compassion and service that works eternally within the universes to serve the spiritual enlightenment of all beings. This is similar or identical to the Buddhist concept of the Adi- or Primordial-Buddha. This being is the personification of the sum-total of all enlightenment throughout the universe, beyond time.
Similar concepts of a universal enlightened Presence (that is not considered a Creator Deity, but nonetheless has vast capacity to empower spiritual evolution) is also found in other teachings and traditions as well. For instance, in the teachings of the Samkhya school of Indian philosophy, and the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, Ishvara is considered the ‘Primordial Guru’, the eternal presence of the Universal Guru, a Cosmic source of enlightenment for all beings.
In our view, the Primordial Buddha or God, also has infinite facets made up the enlightened souls of countless beings at various stages of evolution throughout the universe, from liberated masters such as are known to humanity, to great Christs and Buddhas, to Cosmic Deities and Logoi, Archangels and other types of beings. Indeed, the most enlightened aspect of our own individual nature, our soul or higher Self, is also part of this Universal Presence. So when a person, for instance, achieves Self-Realization or God-consciousness, they become a conscious part of, and agent for, this universal reality, giving individual focus and expression to the Adi-Buddha.
So in one sense all enlightened beings are expressions of the Primordial Buddha or Christ, while at the same time there is a Universal God that is the essence of all these manifestations.
Some of the experiences that we have shared in this autobiography involve the presence of masters, archangels and other Great Ones. But some are experiences of a reality that sometimes feels simply like ‘God’, or a more profound, universal expression of enlightenment. Whether these are experiences of the most universal expression of enlightenment, the Primordial Buddha/Christ/God, or they are simply contact with much larger facets of the universal presence of enlightenment, so large that we cannot sense their more individualized nature the way one can with a master or even a Buddha, we do not know. We can only suspect that, in those experiences we are simply ‘in over our heads’ and cannot intuit the specific individuality of the Presence, so that it feels like ‘the One God’, rather than a facet.
Some of the largest manifestations of enlightenment or ‘God’ that we have experienced are generally planetary and solar Beings, that are, relative to us, very large facets of God. It may be that at times when we have such experiences there is a corresponding intuition of recognizing them as such, while at other times we simply feel their boundless reality and experience them as simply ‘God’ or the Adi-Buddha. At this point it is hard to say, though I suspect that these mystical experiences of the Transcendent Being, however lofty, are always of particular facets. It is simply that when these facets or individualized expressions of God become very large one loses the ability to sense their ‘boundary’ or individualized nature. They become simply ‘God’, or the Adi-Buddha. And, in a very real sense, they are.
Three Meanings of God
So for us ‘God’ has several interrelated meanings. First, It is the nondual, transcendent mystery beyond any concepts and limits. This is the reality that all beings share that transcends even enlightened vs. ignorant, good vs. evil. This is the radically nondual, transcendent Reality, the Tao.
Another aspect of God is that Presence within manifestation that realizes the true nature of Reality, and actively works to foster that realization, manifesting this spirit as love, peace, creativity and wisdom, throughout the universes.
The third aspect of God is the way in which this second aspect, the Divine Presence, is manifest in each of us as an active power and light that empowers our own spiritual evolution, and, through each of us, the world. This aspect is one of the meanings of Buddha-nature in Mahayana Buddhism, the potential in each of us to become a Buddha, and the spirit inexorably driving us to that realization.
There are further aspects and dimensions to our experience of God in its active Adi-Buddha form. But hopefully this is enough to help clarify how Karen and I understand and experience this dimension of our spiritual life.