In this series of posts, I’ve been trying to gather together my current thoughts about ‘God’. I say ‘current’, because I believe in keeping an open mind. My views, of course, are no more likely to be ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ than anyone else’s. As the apostle Paul pointed out, (though when in full dogmatic flow he seems to forget this), “Now we see a dim image in a mirror” – a ‘mirror’ because, being human, we picture God in our own image, and ‘dim’ because what is transcendental is beyond our ability to understand and describe.
The existence of God, summing up my previous posts, can neither be proved nor disproved, though Richard Dawkins makes a fair point that the onus is on the ‘prover’. ‘Sacred books’ cannot ‘prove’ God’s existence, being human productions limited by the worldviews and values of the archaic cultures in which they were compiled. Since it is a collection of all kinds of books, written over many centuries, the phrase “the Bible says” is as meaningless as “the Library says”. Libraries don’t say anything in particular since, in general, their contents will inevitably be inconsistent with, and contradict, each other. People find whatever they look for.
On the positive side, I’ve noted the presence of intelligence and design in the universe, which may perhaps give validity to the notion of some kind of ‘god’, but not the ‘traditional’ God who’s all knowing, all powerful and all good. The existence and sheer enormity of world suffering, surely rules out that kind of god. What remains, for me, is transcendental ‘Ground of Being-Itself’,which makes ‘God’ not so much a person as a process, but one that’s given rise to the laws of physics, the big bang and the evolutionary process that’s generated matter, life, consciousness, and personhood. The Ground of Being-Itself has become self-aware in us and, who knows, perhaps in other complex life-forms elsewhere in the universe.
But how can we “know” if this is so? We can use reason and logic, as above, but they have their limitations, as seen in the story about a barber in a certain town who only shaved men who didn’t shave themselves. The question is, who shaved the barber? If he didn’t shave himself, he did – and if he did shave himself he didn’t ! Last century, there were ‘Logical Positivists’ with a ‘verification principle’ which ruled out ‘religious’ thinking on the grounds that only assertions verifiable by observations or experience could convey factual information. Unfortunately for them, their ‘verification principle’ cannot itself be verified on these grounds. Oops!
In addition, but not in opposition, to reason and logic, there is intuition and imagination, which arguably give us the ability to ‘know’ things in a different way, inasmuch as they bridge the gap between the conscious and non-conscious aspects of our mind. Carl Jung’s ‘collective unconscious’, shared by all human beings, makes sense to me as the ‘reservoir’ that contains the archetypes, the ‘frameworks’ that we’ve clothed with our worldwide, ageless stories of creation, flood, father god, miraculous birth, madonna and child, the hero’s journey, the dying and rising god, angels and devils, dragon slayers, heaven and hell etc. etc.
From these come Michaelangelo’s “Creation of Adam”, Rio de Janeiro’s “Christ the Redeemer”, Milton’s “Paradise Lost”, Dostoevsky’s “The Brothers Karamazov”, T S Eliot’s “Murder in the Cathedral”, Bach’s “St. Matthew Passion”, Mahler’s “Resurrection Symphony”, and, of course, the four Gospels. Out of these transcendental, inter-personal depths, have come the archetypal images, symbols, pictures, situations, characters, themes, poems and stories which help us find meaning and value in our individual lives, our relationships with one another, and our with world and whatever transcends it.
Jung regarded the ‘God’ archetype, as well as all the others, as psychic ‘facts’, as meaningful in that respect as any other ‘facts’, and able to be ‘known’ by ‘intuition’ and explored in creative imagination. Whether or not such “knowledge” is valid is the question raised in the quote which concludes this post. We must all make up our own minds as to an answer. The bottom line is, however, that because there is a ‘God’ archetype, despite the efforts of today’s militant atheists, religion will continue to be with us, for better and worse, for as long as there are human beings on planet Earth.