The philosopher of religion, Paul Tillich, imagined God, not as “a being” but as “being-itself or the ground of all being”, the ultimate Source of all that is, which is beyond the reach of human minds and words to comprehend or describe. Modern Science imagines a universal, multilayered Energy Field, intangible and invisible, out of which has arisen not only ‘matter’, but life and mind. One might even imagine that that Energy Field achieves self-awareness in the sentient beings which arise from it.
For myself, I’m happy to give that Energy Field the name ‘God’. I cannot imagine it to be a ‘person’, and yet ‘out of it’ has emerged consciousness, self-awareness and ‘personhood’. I can imagine it, therefore, to be the source of intelligence and design, though not ‘an intelligent designer’ as such, in our human understanding of such words.
I’m also happy to imagine that universal Energy Field as being Mind – although again not as ‘a’ mind – and of all individual minds as being somehow linked together in universal Mind. That suggests to me that, unlike material bodies, ‘awareness’ does not die, but whether it might continue as ‘personal’ awareness is another matter.
Science ‘works’. The language of science is mathematics, and the mathematics of quantum physics has given us all of our modern scientific and technological marvels. What that mathematics actually means, however, in terms of everyday language, continues to be the source of vigorous dispute and widely differing theories. It’s a bit premature, then, for science to suggest it’s on the point of coming up with a TOF – a theory of everything.
Religion ‘works’, and has done so for homo sapiens since our earliest appearance on the world scene. The language of religion is that of allegory, metaphor and symbol; folktale, legend and myth. Just as there are widely differing scientific theories, there are widely differing religions and countless versions of ‘God’. Like Science, then, Religion cannot credibly claim to possess ‘ultimate truth’, its own version of a ‘theory of everything’.
What then is left for us? There is, perhaps, the ‘experience’ which arises from ‘mindfulness’, which might rather be described as ‘mindlessness”, as an ‘awareness’ which remains after conscious thought ‘tails off’. All through human history there are people, of various religious persuasions and none, who have experienced such ‘awareness’, and who tend to describe it, if at all, by using such metaphors as “the cloud of unknowing”. I’m reminded of our scientists telling us that 95% of the universe is made up of ‘dark matter’ and ‘dark energy’, neither of which they know anything at all about.
Such ‘experience’, of course, ‘proves’ nothing, but it seems to me that, having a history in all likelihood as long as humanity itself, it is as valid a foundation as any other for ‘belief’ in the kind of “ground of all being” described above, to which we can give whatever name, or none, that suits our personal history, background or culture. What can such ‘awareness’ tell us? Perhaps the most that can be said is that it may ‘tell’ us simply to trust ourselves to it, and that, despite whatever might happen to us as individual persons, in the great and ultimate scheme of things, “All is well, and will be well”. Perhaps that’s all that we can ‘know’, and all that we need to ‘know’ ??