And here, in our final chapter, I relate my past, and current, though evolving spiritual state of being. I’m no longer spiritually out of balance. My faith in a God of my understanding (a trick question I think) is quite sustaining. This chapter is not the end of my story, it is really the beginning. I explain how fear and faith are necessarily mutually exclusive states of mind. I explain why the notion of free will is an illusion. I explain how 18 years of continuous sobriety has not made me a a particularly better person, but has led me to understand that “Nothing, absolutely nothing happens in God’s universe by chance.” I am still in recovery, but I don’t call it recovery: I call it discovery. Every moment I am here, I may cower in disbelief, or I may discover, through resolute faith, one moment at a time, God’s Will.
1 – Hope Without Fear
An expression of hope conveys our attitude toward something which may have occurred, may now be occurring, or may eventually occur. Since hope may be expressed for any past, present or future occurrence, to hope implies four things:
- We have some conception of the possible outcomes;
- We may or may not have an expectation of, or know the likelihood of a particular outcome;
- We express with or without great specificity a preference for some outcome over all other possible outcomes; and
- We can’t be certain of the outcome.
A simple example of hope expressed in relation to a past event is, if today I am away from home, in a different city perhaps, and recall that I left a window open, I:
- Understand from prior experience that on any particular day it may or may not rain;
- Depending on where I live, am ambivalent or have a greater or lesser expectation that it rained;
- Prefer that it has not rained; and,
- Don’t know whether or not it rained.
A simple example of hope expressed in relation to an occurring event is, if I am driving and my gas gauge shows near empty, and I believe I have no opportunity to purchase gas on my way home, I:
- Understand that I might run out of gas or I might not;
- Expect that the fuel will be sufficient depending upon the driving conditions I encounter;
- Prefer to not run out of gas; and,
- Won’t know, until I run out of gas or pull into my driveway, if I have sufficient fuel to get home.
A simple example of hope expressed in relation to a future event is, if, after my son marries his fiancé, I:
- Understand that people who marry sometimes get divorced;
- Think that my son and his fiancé are well suited to marry and will be happily married all of their lives, or are poorly suited to marry and will be divorced in a relatively short time, or have no expectation about whether my son and his fiancé will stay married;
- Prefer my son and his fiancé stay happily married;
- Can’t know if they will stay married, especially if their marriage outlives me.
It is by these simple examples that a deeper understanding of the expression of hope might be explored.
We can’t hope for an outcome that conceptually can’t occur, nor would we hope for an outcome that is certain. We can prefer an outcome without any expectation of it actually occurring.
Within the biblical context however, hope’s premise is faith in God. “We glory in tribulation also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; and patience, experience; and experience, hope: as through prayer to relieve suffering, or through searching our hearts, we might know the mind of the Spirit as the will of God revealed. The literal meaning of hope is surprisingly quite the opposite of the spiritual meaning as used by Paul in his epistle to the Romans:
“For we are saved by hope: but hope that is seen is not hope: for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for?” [Romans 8:24]
Romans 8:24, asserts that we must abandon our senses, and seek our salvation through reliance on hope. More importantly, it questions the rationale for hope if we limit our reality to only what our senses might reveal.
I have read that “Nothing, absolutely nothing happens in God’s universe by chance.” This comes from a quite different book than the one quoted above, but both passages always come together in my mind.
This second quotation asserts a perfect order, which when deeply considered, strips us of our notions of free will: if nothing happens by chance, then either our actions are predestined or their relation to consequences, inconsequential; or, any consequence is inversely causal of its action, which is a philosophic echo of the phrase, “God works in mysterious ways.”
Either way, without free will, we appear relieved of any control or choice over what happens or the consequences that we create. Are we free then, on this material plane, to act without trepidation? If both our actions, and whatever consequences our actions may have are predetermined, are we free to engage our existence as an illusion or ascribe to any purposeful action a law of nature?
If that is the case, then hope truly is our only salvation. All moral or ethical consideration is deferred.
But the epistle to the Romans is markedly concerned with moral or ethical consideration. We must therefore seek to reconcile the purpose of hope in a universe without chance.
Perhaps responsibility for each choice we make is linked somehow to intention, not the consequence of action or inaction. We may test this hypothesis as follows:
We evolve and adapt and unlike all other species of life, we possess certain capacities to extract from our sensory experience, a symbolic representation of that experience. This capacity derives from the organic preservation of experience as self-referential patterns of perception. These perceptions are formed by the various patterns of neuronal activity, which is to say our biological processes which are not themselves addressable, provide a basis for seeking and causing to be retained any perceptual data which correspond to our organic features.
Our very existence appears to us as necessary and sufficient cause for self-preservation.
We assert that free will is an illusion born of vanity.
I believe we feel or express “faith” in a variety of ways i.e. compassion, acceptance, tolerance, brotherly love, etc. I believe we feel or express “fear” in a variety of ways i.e. pride, greed, lust, anger, gluttony, envy and sloth (the Seven Deadly Sins).
I suggest that beneath our apparent choices in life, we are really making much more subtle choices: we choose only to be hopeful or we choose to be afraid.
Another way to look at it is to say that whatever action I choose proceeds directly from my intent. This intent unfolds from how I chose to perceive the experience of the prior moment.
If I chose to experience the prior moment as exactly as it should have been, then my next potential action is not chosen at all, but is as revealed. This revelation might surprise me. It might move me, or stop me in my tracks. Either way, for pause or action, that which occurs is something over which I never had or attempted to have any influence or control.
On the other hand, if I choose to experience the prior moment with fear, then my next potential action appears like a typical choice, arising from a field of however many options my mind might create to minimize whatever risk seems lurking. Again, for pause or action something occurs and either my fears are validated or my foolish worries are exposed.
As these oscillations occur – for each and every perception, for each and every moment I choose to be hopeful or afraid, which is the full extent of my free will – that choice transforms my intention into an action for which no particular outcome is foreseen, or into an action for which a particular outcome thought more likely based on my action or inaction.
I believe that to act or fail to act because of fear or forms thereof often lead to bad things happening to good people or even good things happening to bad people. I feel certain that the mystery of God prevents us from making sense of such things, other than to say that in such a dynamic, everyone learns from everyone else.
At any point I may pray for guidance, which is to say I may seek God’s will in deference to my own.
And should I pray thus, to seek guidance from some power I may never hope to see, to ask only, with abiding faith, that God’s will for my being be revealed (as opposed to some bartering of faith for favor), then some portion of my life’s purpose will be revealed in whatever action I next take, and such work will suffer no regret.
2 – We are Collectively the Soul
I believe that reason is a binary abstraction of our experience – an abstraction that mirrors reality, but is not the same as reality. When detached from the ordinary, we might see the patterns revealed by the esoteric in those same patterns we see revealed in science and mathematics and of course art and music.
We are hindered by clinging to our identities, which in truth are the mechanisms, the automatons if you will, of fears abstracted from our basic survival needs. As such, our identities may be likened to nation-states, our identities at the world order – and we are just as bound to protect our personal space as we are our national borders. And the fears we cling to that drive reliance on expectation cause us to identify ourselves in relation to others and extends even unto those who would see the heathen burn eternally.
At some point, even an objective perspective will be forced to concede that “doing unto others as we would have others do unto us” is more about our obligation to personally insure the freedoms and rights of others in order to afford ourselves the same protection, than it has to do with the eternal life of the soul: we are collectively the soul – whatsoever harm do I to thee, so do I harm unto myself.
It is not a popular interpretation of faith – and while a perpetual state of discovery may be thought of a relieving us of our own personal power, it is a state of being that frees us completely from regret.
3 – Much that once was magic is science today.
We are odd creatures, yes?
Here we are, never more alive then when our senses are fully engaged, typing away on squeaky plastic keys – nary a rata-tat-tat, perhaps reveling in some symphonic masterpiece digitally mastered, itself, nearly silent, whirring away in the 5 cent plastic tray conveying such magnificent rhapsodies by virtue of the brilliant laser piercing its shiny layer.
All our thoughts are meaningless without the binary perdition of opposites.
A thought experiment shot like a brief flicker across the dark dome of my consciousness this evening on a long drive home:
Imagine a being whose only sense of comfort derived from absolute randomness.
Unlike our species, whose security requires orderliness – perhaps not like one’s mother might have required orderliness, but in the sense of re-cognition (strange word that, so pardon me if I undress it with a hyphen). Our sense of orderliness is an awareness of constancy – a pattern that repeats that we understand and so know whether to laugh or cry, run or embrace
Indeed, even science is not science if the experiential result can not be duplicated!
But in the world of our imaginary being, any such orderliness is the constancy of a train whence one’s foot is hung by a track!
I wondered if in a meditative state, rather than still its mind, it would try to accelerate awareness of every possible pattern it could muster.
Our highest achievement perhaps, and if you take Dick Feynman at his word in 6 Easy Pieces, “All of science resolves to chemistry – even of course biology, but even the chemist who knows how, will ask the physicist why.”
The freedom and wonder that you behold is indeed in the eye. If we could stop there, with only engaging our senses, or better still, disengaging from our consciousness by disengaging from our senses, why, it would be magical.
But then, my mind tells me that this message will be transmitted to you almost instantly, and that too, is still a bit of magic is it not?
4 – Acceptance Is the Answer
All work relies on the transformation of energy. What power and capability might exist if our sole power and capability was derived from the absence of resistance? I’m thinking about absolute zero, and the power of magnetic levitation to move tons of train down a track without the friction of steel on steel. Gravity offset by like poles repelling. Not trying to get deeply into an area of science I know too little about, just a footnote really, to emphasize how power and capability might be harnessed without brute, but rather balanced forces eliminating much of the resistance. How do we psychologically eliminate all resistance? Acceptance is the answer.