The Secret Doctrine
Responsible Theology must recognize a metaphor which is put forward in the Gnostic and mystical concepts of a "special" or "inner" relationship with God. These ideals tell us that God affects our lives most productively when our relationship and experience of Her is at the personal level. Responsible Theology must never undermine the concept that God's revelation can be to any human being; and, that each of us all have the potential to hear Him speak to us. Every human being is unique, and it can be speculated we each have our own purpose for being; thus, God's message from person to person may be different and the metaphors She might use may differ.
We must always keep in mind that it is the diversity of individual thought, combined with the exchanging of those thoughts, which lead to human progress. One cannot fathom why religious ideas should be any different; for even religion requires the exchange of thought between individuals if it is to remain a religion. Every great religious ideal, especially Christianity, required an individual to challenge the religious opinions of the socially accepted status quo of the period in which it grew.
A Responsible Theology needs to view this concept of a "secret doctrine" or "enlightenment" in a manner similar to that of Basil, Bishop of Caesarea in the fourth century; at least if it is to prevent its theology from becoming elitist or exclusionary. His view did not see "the God within" ideal as an elitist's doctrine, but more of a recognition of the personal experience one has with the Creative Force. Too often, mystical theological concepts make the idea of recognition of the God "within" an exclusionary kind of thing: one, which only a very few people could attain. This idea, that such personal knowledge is only for the chosen, would be as misleading as a literal approach to scriptures which condemns as heresy opinions which differ from the orthodox interpretation. This sometimes dogmatic mystical approach is flawed because it implies if we follow the right approach we will come to know God in a certain way that is reserved to only a chosen few.
What the responsible theologian needs to keep in mind, is, that some disciplines of the mystics may aid us in understanding God at a personal level and that these experiences often reveal an Image of God that is much more realistic than some of the presently held concepts.
The true relationship with God is as personal as any personal love relationship we may have experienced. The roads we need to travel to attain this personal relationship are diverse and varied. It is also not necessary for every human being to attain a relationship with God at the same level. A responsible theology might speculate that God's revelation to an individual is in accordance with the individual's potential to understand, utilize and relate to such revelation. Therefore, the mystical experience itself can vary from individual to individual.
While this metaphor of the "Secret" doctrine or knowledge is present in many religious ideals, the concept needs to be seen (at least if it is to make sense in our modern civilizations) as a PERSONAL DOCTRINE which is achieved by our personal religious experience. The problem for the responsible theologian in presenting this personal view; is, he or she must be careful that they do not lead one to a projectionist type of rationalization. That is, where the individual justifies all their actions based upon their personal knowledge of God - creating if you will, a sort of "God told me to tell you" type of mentality. Or, that they present concepts which allow the individual to seize a magical and delusional type belief, one which tends to lessen the importance of perceived reality. Dangerous cult leaders are examples of the extreme in the first category, while the insanity of some mystics may be cited as examples for the latter.
Responsible Theologians cannot take an attitude that all collective ideals are without merit and that the only "faith" which is real is at the personal level. Nor, can it write off as heresy individual inspiration because it might challenge the collective interpretation.
Responsible Theology must lead people to the personal aspect of the Divine, for this is the most useful and productive relationship with God. It does such responsibly by: emphasizing the ethics one can use to evaluate what is truly spiritual and inspired; from, what may be egotistical, self-serving, or projectionary in nature. In this sense, the ethic itself then becomes personalized, in that, it allows the individual an objective means of examining his, or her, affect of their personal relationship with God upon the reality in which they live.
Like all other aspects of our lives, the individual is at the center for all revolves around the self (at least from self's perception), but the individual also needs to be encouraged to accept responsibility for their participation in the all. As Has been already established, a healthy religious experience will make us better people, personally, as well as in our dealings with others. If we see God within the self, it follows we will see our responsibility and connection to the whole. When this happens we will recognize the Divine in others and the paradoxical truth that God is both personal and collective at the same time.
A second aspect of this ethic that the theologian needs consider is one of leading the individual to utilize; that is, ACTUALIZE the personal understanding over just believing in what he or she has come to understand. We wi11 touch upon this actualization more when we discuss faith.
If we consider the concept of God as implied by our religious faiths, this Force is ultimately concerned with beneficial results for the individual as well as the collective of society. If we take away the human egotism, which we have instilled in God, we are left with a Creator who cares about us achieving all we can achieve as creation.
Jesus conveyed such a creative concern when he asked: what father would give his child a stone when they asked for bread? If we accept the principle that all human beings are children of God, then, it follows that God is interested in all of our best interest. This can often be hard to see in light of the realities of our world with the suffering and injustice which exists - but, we must also face the fact that many of these problems are man's own doing. They are created by the social/economic structures we have chosen (not God created; but, humanly determined.
The mythology and sacred revelation are filled with symbolic representations of God's desire to help us. But we must realize they are also clear in conveying the idea that we must make the effort to listen and act upon the advice. They clearly point out, despite many magical manipulations: we must accept responsibility for ourselves. Another way of putting this is that God empowers us to do things on our own.
This whole concept of the "God Within will be expanded upon with much detail as we develop this text. It has been introduced here only as a guideline for the theologian or minister to always allow for that personal experience and relationship with God. We need the laxity in our religious ideals to allow room for a personal comprehension of God's reality for an individual. There is also an added benefit here: if we allow this laxity in our approach to the individual, we will also come to a greater tolerance of God's revelations which may differ from our own and are ever present in the diversity of the collective symbolisms of Revelation. In the acceptance of personal revelation, the theologian becomes very restricted in his using literalism as a tool in their approach to faith.
If theologians, clergy, and churches are to remain true to the Divine: they must act as guides that lead to the Image of God present in every human being. These Divine attributes are: love, tolerance, justice, and an equality that opens the human heart, filling it with, compassion, empathy, mercy and forgiveness. The beliefs and creeds of any faith become only empty words when they do not lead to improving the quality of life and the respect for creation that should come with believing in a Creative Force.
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