We have discussed in this chapter the universal messages and God's possible method of collectively inspiring humankind. Anyone feeling close to God would not find it alien to think that God might communicate values that we tend to overlook in our egocentric pursuits. Universal brotherhood, compassion and generosity, love, humility, and looking beyond material possessions: are all things it seems easy for human beings to loose sight of. What the collective revelations are really saying is: there is a lot more to the cosmos than is perceived by our limited senses, and that these idealistic principles can serve us much better than the selfish ideals so easily adaptable to the ego driven world we live in and the magical beliefs we cling to.
But what of the personal aspect of the Divine Paradox? Is there any help to aid us in sifting through the personal dilemmas we face from day to day? Are there ways God might help us in our unique diversity that might pertain to our special needs? What of our individual responsibility before God, which is really our messiah ship; or more aptly put, our reason for being?
The answer to these questions is that in a paradoxical recognition of the Divine Image we can apply both the personal and impersonal aspect to the Creative Force, giving us the ability to recognize both collective and personal inspiration without any argument over which is-correct; for both are in fact correct.
The paradoxical reality to the Divine, allows us to accept the Creator as being the impersonal God that some of the Eastern religions see so clearly. This Impersonal aspect of the Divine does relate to the whole of the cosmos and the interconnectedness of all things, which in reality; is the connection to the Creative Force. Put another way, God is all things because nothing can be unless being itself is a part of it.
At the same time, the more Western view of God as being a personal God Who is concerned with the life of every aspect of Creation is also a valid perspective. Both views become correct without negating the validity of the other. If we were to open our minds, accepting God beyond the limits we have placed upon Her, we would have no problem seeing this.
To reflect upon this concept for a moment, such an idea does follow logical thought patterns. God can be both, for how could the Creator care about the whole of His creation, if She is not concerned with each individual part? Any true craftsman knows, one cannot have a truly great work of art if each aspect of the object is not treated as a most valuable part. When we study the natural order around us; and if we are contending it was created; we cannot reach any other conclusion than: this Creative Force sees every aspect of the creation as being vitally essential to something else in it; thus, She must care about every part. Even the gospels support this concept:
Are not sparrows two a penny? Yet without your Father's leave not one of them can fall to the Ground.
As for personal inspiration to the diversity of creation apart from humans, one might logically hypothesize that a personal revelation, of sorts, takes the form of a revelation that is coded into the atomic or genetic structure of the individual thing we are talking about. In other words, that which makes it unique from all other things and gives it the directive of its purpose. In the strictest sense we can define this as Divine revelation because such comes from the Creative design and manifests Her Will in the reality of the things existence.
Even we, as human beings, have this same type of revelation which makes us unique individuals. We see the example of this in our genetic code. And we can define this as a revelation because it is from God, it is truth (we are what we are and very unique), and it is self evident (in that we exist). This code is what makes us what we are and it was determined by the creative processes that have been in place since the beginning of time - thus, it becomes our personal imprint from the Creator. Of course, these are revelations that involve the Will of God. They are a direct result of His thought and design, making us who and what we are as individuals and as a species, and they are fixed.
Now, because we are self-determining in our purpose and have great laxity in how we inter-relate to the rest of creation, there are other forms of personal inspiration by which God can communicate with us.
We as human beings have the added dimensions of ego-consciousness, reasoning, self-determination, and the ability to share in the creative process unlike any other creature we know of. We face a lot of choices in how we interact with the creation around us. Our purpose in the cosmos is not really self evident, nor, is it as clear as that of a rock or a bee.
In light of those added problems, it seems logical that we should look for inspiration that might guide us in our attempt to live life to the fullest that God intended. While the collective inspirations which we have talked about provide us with the ethics, it is often hard to translate them into the living of our everyday lives. We all need not hang on crosses, see burning bushes, or experience great floods, but the metaphors in these symbols may serve as ideals to live life by. The problem with the collective inspirations is that they do not always help us find the personal purpose and direction which may be uniquely ours.
It is the responsibility of any religion to encourage a personal relationship between an individual and God so that the individual might be able to see the inspiration of God to them at this personal level. A responsible theology will recognize the importance and necessity of a Personal Inspiration that helps one understand the collective ideals according to the diversity of our individuality.
Religiously, we have made the mistake of trying to dogmatize the collective; and thus, replaced the idea that God can personally communicate with each of us. We can see the problematic result of this in the different interpretations of the Bible that have lead to division and sometimes even conflict. It is clear that the collective ideals mean different things to different people. Judaism, Hinduism, Islam, and Buddhism all have the same problem with a variety of interpretations of their sacred works. This happens because collective inspiration is general; expressing ideals in symbols that are meant to be used with the personal inspiration, which then allows it to be personalized into one's own life.
Divine absolutes or dogmatic truths are not possible from sacred stories because they are not designed that way. As stated, Divine Revelation that is the absolute Will of God is actualized and self-evident, needing no interpretation or assertion by human beings. The ideals of the collective inspiration as expressed in the myths, sacred writings, and the like are not absolutes, but a self help guide to be used in conjunction with our personal purpose. They are not God's Will, for God's Will is always actualized. These things are God's road maps to help us live life to the fullest potential according to the way God designed us. They are that which can help us rise above animal instincts to manifest the Image of God in which we are made.
The collective inspirations should lead us in such a manner that we can hear the inspiration of God in our own life. They are the road maps that can lead us to a self-discovery process that will help us find the individual purpose for which we exist. God's Will for any individual is not in any scripture and cannot be found in any creed; because, our purpose in the creation, and our contribution to it, are uniquely ours. Purpose is within us, and we must do the work, striving to develop the relationship where we can see what God desires of us. God has given us life with choice, and in that choice it becomes our responsibility to discover our own purpose. By giving us that choice, God has allowed us to express our love for Him of our own free will. She is allowing us to share in the Essence of His Nature; that is, to experience the joy of loving. When we reject love, we reduce our lives to mere existence which is not much different than animals. We respond to our primordial needs of survival, comfort, which because of our choice can be selfishly oriented. Love allows us to transcend existence and share in the Divine quality that can raise us to a higher state of being.
Before going on, we need to briefly explain just why we need a personal inspiration; why the collective inspirations cannot be dogmatized; and why God's message is not a one size fits all! The collective inspirations tell us to love one another. They give shining examples of the way such love can be expressed as demonstrated in the Gospels of Christianity or the various tales of the Buddhist's and Hindus in the East. But none of us are exactly alike, and what might have been needed in Jesus' or Buddha's life may not be right for our lives. The gospels are truly wonderful guides for human behavior, but to personalize them we must be able to see what God desires of us at a very personal level in the reality of our world today. For some, the love preached in the gospel may be in their relationships with a very few people. For others, God may want them to reach out to masses. The only way we can know this is by becoming attuned to the personal inspirations that are given to us as individuals and apply to our personal reason for being.
Because of an ever changing world and the diversity of human thinking and participation in that world, it is the responsibility of any religion and the theology on which it is based to encourage a relationship of an individual to the Divine where that individual can accept and recognize that God has personal inspirations for them.
In the world of psychology, Carl Jung stumbled upon what theology could construed as this type of inspiration. In fact, no matter how Jung tried to disassociate himself with the religious implications of his observations, the responsible clergyman cannot ignore those religious implications.
To quote Jung:
I have to admit the fact that the UNCONSCIOUS MIND IS CAPABLE AT TIMES OF ASSUMING AN INTELLIGENCE AND PURPOSIVENESS WHICH ARE SUPERIOR TO ACTUAL CONSCIOUS INSIGHT, There is hardly a doubt that this fact is a basically religious phenomenon, which is observed here in a case whose conscious mental make-up was certainly most unlikely to produce religious phenomena. I have not infrequently made similar observations in other cases and I must confess that I am unable to formulate the data in any other way.
(C.G. Jung, PSYCHOLOGY AND RELIGION, Yale University Press, c1938, p45)
My psychological experience has shown time and time again that
certain contents issue from the psyche more completely than consciousness. They
often contain a
Such observations cannot and should not be ignored in any attempt to examine man's relationship to a Creative Power.
At the risk of getting long winded, before we continue to develop this idea of a personal inspiration and revelation, we need to interject notes of caution as this ideal could stand the potential to be every bit as psychologically misleading, projectionary, and self serving as many of the theological concepts we have already addressed.
We see some of the greatest danger in these personal inspiration concepts in many of the 'New Age' postulations that are present in our society. The idea that we can tap the cosmic powers, or the power of God, for wealth and personal gain in some magical way is a concept that is at odds with the collective inspirations, for such ideals leads us toward selfishness and away from community, which is the fundamental ethic of the collective inspiration.
In reaching the Divine nature within us, we embark upon a paradoxical journey. Very often the results are confused, and some mystics proclaim God can only be found within. But because God is both one and all at the same time, just as now is beginning and end at the same time, to fully discover God means that we can see Her in both phases at the same time. To discover God within is to recognize Her without. To see God in the magnificence of His creation is to recognize Her within the self.
When God is too externalized, as he is in some religions, where she is in a church or heaven or on some distant throne, we are out of balance in our concept of God. If God is too internalized to the point where we see ourselves as gods, able to will our lives as we choose, we are also out of balance. The discovery of God and Her message within should lead us to see the reality of God in everything around us, from the creatures we share this planet with, to the cosmos, and most importantly to our fellow man. Finding God within will help us overcome ego driven pursuits and concentrate on giving glory to God in the external things we see; that is, giving our glory to God in our treatment of Her Creation!
Another problem in developing this concept of personal inspiration is in the potential to manipulate and misuse the ideal. We have to be careful that such a concept isn't used as a tool for one individual to try to gain control over another individual. Personal inspiration is just that, it is not God telling us what other people should do! It applies to our decisions and our living of life, not some revelation by which we judge another or tell others how to live.
We must also avoid encouraging individuals to be dependent upon, or worse yet, controlled by inspirations which are personal in nature. As with all revelation, such is always subject to misinterpretation by the individual receiving it, and it is meant to be a guidepost to the living of one's life in a practical manner; never a dictation of such, for God gives us control over our actions.
Like most things given by God, we can only speculate that God gives such inspiration out of a sense of love and connectedness, therefore, we can never come to expect or demand it. And, like the collective inspirations, this personal inspiration may not always be to Our liking, therefore, it takes objectivity and a willingness to look for what the message is truly trying to say.
As with developing all responsible religious or theological positions, the idea of personal inspiration must avoid the pitfalls of becoming selfishly oriented; becoming delusional magical formulas; becoming that which leads to indifference, self-righteousness; or, promotes a concept that God is going to solve our problems for us. Personal inspiration, if it is to be seen responsibly and in balance, will lead individuals to improve in areas they might be lax in. It will help them to better know themselves, and ultimately help them to make some kind of difference to the whole according to their ability and means to do so. Realization of such a personal connection to the Creative Force should ultimately lead an individual to realize their connectedness to the whole of creation, just as God is part of all the creation.
Theologically speaking and responsibly used, concepts like personal inspiration could be a powerful tool to help those who wish to guide in God's Kingdom (clergymen). This personal inspiration could aid a minister in his relationship and understanding of individual members of the congregation. Clergymen need to remove their religious biases and reach out to help individuals discover God's message from a healthy spiritual standpoint, just as the analyst does in promoting good psychological health. Those in the service of God must realize that God could express ideals and inspirations that may differ from our preconceived ideas of what She might say. In helping a person discover their personal inspirations, we need to be careful to understand the way the other person thinks, and be objective enough to be able to walk in their shoes, so the unique symbols to them are not made to fit our personal agenda.
In this ideal of personal inspiration the Clergyman must also realize that he or she cannot serve the soul exclusive of the realities of the needs of the body, the needs of ego, and the natural human biological functions; for these too are as much a part of the whole individual as is the spirit or soul. Only by being objective can one in fact serve this role. The minister must never act as an agent which declares God's will, or seeks to interpret according to their personal beliefs what God speaks to another. Fear and guilt must be avoided as agents of persuasion at all costs. Instead, we need to encourage individuals to find the reality of God's inspiration in the self, for in the end it is the self which must discover what God seeks of it.
Religions' greatest role is to lead men to God. But, if religion cannot put trust in God's ability to talk to any individual, it really proclaims God's inability to have a personal relationship with human beings. If we can only approach God through the directives of religion, then, the unconditional love of God which is preached becomes a falsehood. We assign that unconditional love a condition (church rules), which then makes it conditional.
While admittedly, there is a great danger of misrepresentation in such religious speculation as personal inspiration; without the acknowledgment of personal inspiration religion cannot cite the inspiration of any human being for any reason. If God is capable of communicating with any man, then, He is capable of communicating with all of us. And without the concept of personal inspiration religion cannot adequately serve the needs of individuals in their religious community. It is not God who lacks in giving inspiration, its the human inability to listen that is plaguing the world around us. While responsible theology must take great caution in approaching this concept, it cannot avoid it out of a sense of fear or to serve its own needs.
With some of the cautions already addressed, let us now discuss what we mean when we talk of personal inspiration and some of the variety of forms it can take. Admittedly, western faiths are so out of attune with this concept that it will take years to incorporate its value into the religions of our world. We could learn greatly about these forms of inspiration through the study of Eastern faiths as well as the Native American cultures we have so often ignored.
Like the collective inspiration, this personal inspiration can take many forms. It manifests itself in intuition, serendipity, hunches, feelings, coincidence, the inner voice, our God given natural talents, and very often in our everyday world of dreams.
We are going to start with the last item first. Many psychologist have seen for years that dreams are a powerful tool to gain insight into the core of the human mind. If we look to the collective revelations we will see the significance of dreams over and over. Even in the Christian Scriptures, dreams are cited on numerous occasions as the deliverer of messages. We have Joseph's interpretations of the Pharaoh's dreams, and Jacob's dreams from the Old Testament. In the New Testament we have the angel coming to Joseph in dreams to deliver God's messages. The Native American cultures recognized the importance of dreams, understanding them to be almost another state of being. Myths and inspiration for eons reflect the images of dreams and their importance in our lives.
With the mind of Freud dreams took on a new dimension, with the emphasis placed upon their psychological significance rather than any spiritual implications. And as psychology entered the world of dreams, religion and theology seemed to step back from it with some religions actually teaching that it was sinful to seek dreams for guidance of any sort. But along came Carl Jung and expanded, not only the psychological significance of dreams, but also offered the theologian and clergyman a spiritual tool whereby they could help to guide individuals. In his contribution to a work entitled "MAN AND HIS SYMBOLS", Jung states:
The general undervaluation of the human soul is so great that neither the great religions nor the philosophies nor scientific rationalism have been willing to look at it twice.
In spite of the fact that the Catholic Church admits the occurrence of somnia a Deo missa (dreams sent by God), most of its thinkers make no serious attempt to understand dreams. I doubt whether there is a Protestant treatise or doctrine that would stoop so low as to admit the possibility that the vox Dei (Voice of God) might be perceived in a dream. BUT IF A THEOLOGIAN REALLY BELIEVES IN GOD, BY WHAT AUTHORITY DOES HE SUGGEST THAT GOD IS UNABLE TO SPEAK THROUGH DREAMS?
I have spent more than a half a century in investigating natural symbols, and I have come to the conclusion that dreams and their symbols are not stupid and meaningless. On the contrary, dreams provide the most interesting information for those who take the trouble to understand their symbols. The results, it is true, have little to do with such worldly concerns as buying and selling, but the meaning of life is not exhaustively explained by one's business life, nor is the deep desire of the human heart answered by a bank account.
In a period of human history when all available energy is spent in the investigation of nature, very little attention is paid to the essence of man, which is his psyche, although many researches are made into its conscious functions. But the really complex and unfamiliar part of the mind, from which symbols are produced, is still virtually unexplored. It seem incredible that though we receive signals from it every night, deciphering these communications seems too tedious for any but a very few people to be bothered with it. Man's greatest instrument, his psyche, is little thought of, and is often directly mistrusted and despised. "It is only psychological" too often means: it is nothing.
(MAN AND HIS SYMBOLS, C.G.Jung, Laurel Books of Dell Publishing, c1964 by Aldus Books,p93)
Of all the schools of human thought, it is religion by far that is most neglect in the recognition of the possibility of Divine guidance at a personal level. In a Western theology that recognizes that man is made in the Image of a God that is in fact part of every human being, the possibility of God's Voice within that individual is vastly overlooked. Churches often emphasize the collective messages, which are often distorted; overlooking the personal which is often what is necessary for the individual to live in the collective design. It is not only important that an individual understand that we all need to contribute as the collective messages imply, but we also need to find out how to contribute - in other words, our individual purpose for being.
In the tradition of paradox, a society cannot change if individuals do not change; and individuals are not apt to change unless the thinking of society changes. It starts with each and every one of us and it begins with a search into the depths of the self to understand why we have been gifted with life. Our relationship with God can never be complete unless we have some understanding of why we are here. This has little to do with our career choice, or our accumulation of resources, or even how many checks we write out to the church.
Watching our dreams and looking to their symbols can be a powerful tool in telling us when we are out of sorts with the depths of our soul. They can help us find and understand our purpose. They can gently guide us in making some of our choices. But we have to acknowledge their help, as well as learning to understand their language of symbol.
In the concept presented here, one might analogize the symbolism of dreams for an individual, to that of the world of mathematics for the physicist. Just as the material world and its processes can be represented in numbers, so too, the world of emotion and feeling can be related to personal symbols. By learning to read these symbols and by paying attention to them, we can gain a valuable insight that benefits the totality of self; which is: body, ego mind, spiritual mind and our connectedness to the All.
Jung addresses the religious significance of this ideal of dreams as insight into the soul:
Even the believing Christian does not know God's hidden ways and must leave Him to decide whether he will work on man from the outside or from within; through the soul. So the believer should not boggle at the fact that there are somnia Deo missa (dreams sent by God) and illuminations of the soul which cannot be traced back to any external causes. It would be blasphemy to assert that God can manifest Himself everywhere save only in the human soul.
(C.G. Jung, PSYCHOLOGY AND ALCHEMY, Col. Works Vol 12, Bollingen Series, translated R.F.C,Hull, 1952, p10)
This section is not intended to tell us how to interpret dreams, either as counselors or as individuals. There has been much work done in this area that can serve anyone in the basics by authors like C.G. Jung and many of his contemporaries. From a religious standpoint, these sources can be good places to begin, but theology needs to credit and approach this concept with renewed devotion and dedication. Much work still needs to be done.
There should be a word of caution inserted here. In the tradition of Jung, we must realize that we can not put out dream books, or declare dogmatic interpretations to the symbols of dreams, for the symbolism that God chooses is always subject to the impressions and personal interpretations of the individual who is receiving them. Like the psychologist, the clergyman must come to know and understand the individual, if he or she is going to help them better relate to God - especially, when helping them interpret dreams. And, just as a psychologist would be considered neglect if they ignored one's spiritual beliefs, a minister becomes neglect when they ignore the realities of one's physical psychological ideals.
Other areas of personal inspiration are also ignored in our mainstream religious ideals; although people sometimes recognize God's hand in things. Orthodox religions are often so preoccupied with God's power and supernatural wonder that the faithful become blinded to the more subtle interaction of God in their lives - such as, the serendipity of being in the right place at the right time. Or, the hunch, or intuition, which helped us to avoid a big mistake or proved to be beneficial in some way. Even our God given natural talents can be an inspiration from God, as they may be given to us by God as an aid to our personal spiritual development, or they may be used to benefit others through us. We are not proclaiming that such things are always God's subtle influence in our lives, but too often we overlook the fact that they can be.
The point is, responsible theology must help us to see that God is a Creator who plays an active, yet subtle, role in the creation. Sadly, and too often, the Image of God projected by theology emphasizes God's power. We look for God to control nature by suspending the laws of nature or displaying feats of amazement and wonder. In such vision, we loose sight of the most amazing of God's feats; which is, the existence of reality itself. Once we begin to see Creation as the miracle of all miracles - the power of God manifested in our everyday lives - only then can we see that God is an active participant who works in subtle ways within the framework of the reality She created.
If only we would quit looking for magical signs to see the reality of God, and objectively examine our own life - in such objectivity, it would become very clear to us that God does walk with us in our everyday lives - even when we do not acknowledge it. In such an objective examination, we could see that God helps us and works subtle miracles that help us bring good from the bad and miracles that empower us to learn from our mistakes. Such is all part of God's gift of revelation which comes to us in hopes that we will utilize it in a manner which makes us better people. Contrary to many theological arguments, man is not evil, he simply makes wrong choices based on a limited ego driven perspective. To overcome the obstacle of ego we need to see the bigger picture. This is much more possible if we look for the advice of God in the many forms She offers it.
There is a Biblical metaphor that gives keen insight into how we should approach the Voice of God within our own being:
And he said, go forth, and stand upon the mount before the Lord, And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and break in pieces the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake but the Lord was not in the earthquake. And after the earthquake a fire; but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire, a STILL SMALL VOICE. And it was then, when Elijah heard it, that he wrapped his face in his mantle.
(King James Bible, I Kings 19: 11-13)
It was in the STILL SMALL VOICE that Elijah recognized the Divine. To often we look for God's messages in the grand - in the raging winds - in the earthquakes and the powerful fire. But God has never forced anyone to listen to Him. She doesn't command us, for if He did we would have no choice but to obey! God's grand performance is the creation itself, and it takes concentration and devotion to recognize the subtlety of the STILL VOICE which moves through it; a Voice that speaks to the depths of the human soul.
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