My previous post was about Materialism, which the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary defines as “the theory or belief that nothing exists except matter”. My point was that Materialism, arguably, ‘doesn’t have very much in it’, since matter is made up of atoms that are 99.99% ‘empty space’! The truth of the matter (!) is that nothing exists except Energy, which is invisible and intangible. What we call ‘matter’ is a manifestation of that energy. Einstein told us this with his e=mc2. When the lump of radio-active matter inside a nuclear bomb explodes, that particularly intense concentration of energy instantaneously and overwhelmingly expands with deadly consequences.
“In the beginning”, nothing exists except a ‘cosmic dance’ of Energy. Within that overall ‘Dance’, there are countless individual ‘dances’, such as the table in front of you; the chair you’re sitting in; that cup with the coffee in it; the tree you can see through your window, etc. etc. These are all manifestations of that primal energy, as it takes on different patterns and performs different functions. So behind the ‘reality’ which we experience with our five senses, there is a deeper reality which is profoundly different. Because it’s ‘out of sight’, however, it’s mostly ‘out of mind’.
Hinduism was onto this aeons ago, with the concept of Shiva, or Nataraja, the King of the Cosmic Dance, as in the image above. Underneath his foot is a figure representing ‘illusion’. As opposed to what is really ‘real’, this represents the ‘appearance’ that leads us astray. The boundless energy of Shiva’s dance has his hair flying in all directions, and what’s ultimately real is this endlessly whirling Dance of countlessly divergent, multi-limbed, yet totally integrated, patterns of energy. This, is the stupendously mind-blowing, phenomenally awesome, fundamental nature of the Cosmos, and whatever ideas or beliefs we choose to entertain, religious or otherwise, they need to acknowledge and come to terms with this.
This is why I can no longer take, at face value, any ‘picture book’ images in which we’re presented with a god “made in the image” of ourselves, though on a vastly inflated scale. Like Shakespeare’s ‘Julius Caesar’, “he doth bestride the narrow world like a Colossus, and we petty men walk under his huge legs and peep about.” But if we are 99.99% empty space, so is this god. The one biblical claim that, for me, is closest to ‘reality’ is that “God is spirit” : invisible and intangible. ‘God’ is that which is represented by Shiva – the universal Dance of cosmic Energy – which is to say something that has important implications.
This universal Dance of cosmic Energy is what the christian theologian Paul Tillich called, “the Source of All Being”. It’s the source of that form of energy we call ‘matter’. It’s the source of the design that informs the finely tuned, mathematical precision of the laws of nature, and of the galaxies, stars and planets. It’s the source of the incredibly complex information that guides the ongoing creation and replication of life and of each living being. It’s the source of the ‘miracle’ of consciousness and self-awareness, of personhood and relatedness.
It’s not, for me, an all-powerful, all-knowing and all-beneficent locally locatable ‘person’, but is itself evolving as this inconceivably immense universe unfolds. It is, for us, the source, not only of their opposites, but also of intelligence, understanding, compassion, love, joy and peace. It is the great ocean of awareness out of which we emerge for a while, and into which we forever return.