losing god

Donovan in the 1960’s made famous a zen koan:  First there is a mountain, then there is no mountain, then there is.  This is a pithy note about object loss, one important step in the road to emotional and spiritual maturity.  The mountain first exists as a concept, then the mountain is lost, and then it is again.  The experience of “mountain” is transformed in this process—the concept becomes infused with emotion…one might even say with spirit.  Now this idea can be applied to any notion, including even one’s very identity or conception of self.  But, I want to apply it to “God.”  Therefore, to make a long story short, I am saying, “First there is a god, then there is no god, then there is.”  One first learns “god” as a concept but at some point in one’s life it is important that the conception becomes spiritual.  But this must entail a period of “loss”.  Now for some people, this “loss” is dramatic such as with the Apostle Paul on the Damascus Road.  For most of us this loss is much less dramatic, often appearing as an identity crisis, a period of doubt and confusion, even depression and despair.  But the experience can deepen our faith, taking it into the domain of the “spirit of the law” rather than the domain of the “letter of the law.”

 

If one never undergoes this loss of god, his/her religious expression will merely be whatever he/she happens to have been indoctrinated with.  And even though this indoctrination might be with a very noble ideal or spiritual leader, it will still merely be an idea and one will merit the description “ideologue” or, even better, “fundamentalist.”  Fundamentalists are in love with ideas, mistaking words and ideas for the “thing in itself.”  The “thing in itself” always lies just beyond our reach as words and ideas cannot be wrapped around it.  Or, to borrow a Buddhist line quoted last week, “The finger pointing to the moon must not be mistaken for the moon itself.”

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