Addicted To One God

It's mind blowing to me that for so, so long the notion of one single god has absolutely dominated our spiritual imagination and moral intelligence, especially in the west.

I find the notion of infinite gods and goddesses - rather than one immense all-encompassing God or Goddess - far more fascinating, compelling and even real these days, not merely from a multicultural perspective, but from a deeply philosophical and historical viewpoint.

Way, way back in the day - we're talking some old school shit from almost two-thousand years ago - the so called gnostics were flipping out over the fact that the Roman Empire had been systematically taken over by the passionate male followers of one single gigantic profoundly jealous god who'd come to life most dramatically and painfully through his incarnate son.

No wonder the gnostics and co. flipped out! No wonder they scattered away from all those stern and dignified preacher apostles representing the one-and-only godman. No wonder they took refuge in the life defying desserts and pitiless mountain tops, in the underground rave scenes of the day, and the sexual healing chambers hidden from public display. No wonder they turned to create their own sacred literature (lost to history for over a thousand years until recently rediscovered via Nag Hammadi), while diving into the profound wisdom texts of the ancient Greco-Egyptians and Hermetic mystics like Hermes Trismegistus.

Now there's such immense beauty, depth, passion, terror, power, agony and ecstasy in this wildly gorgeous, mad and abundant world/universe/multiverse that we live in. Even our cells have lives of their own, to say nothing of the trillions of stars out there in the night's unfathomable expanse. Yet why do so many of us continue to organize our deepest beliefs, moral outlook and spiritual life around some kind of vast big daddy being or a grand unified field of energy?

Well, we know what the great "Masters of Suspicion" would say as regards religion. We know what Sigmund Freud would say. He'd say that we have an irresolvable big daddy complex. We know what Karl Marx would say. He'd say that we have an inborn proclivity and even addiction to submit our own freedom to the masters in control, whose own ancestors stole the economic and property reigns from the majority long, long ago. Worse, these economic lords effectively established a "false consciousness," a view of reality and human nature that we (the majority) have come to accept blindly and weakly without barely flinching, despite the massive asymmetries of the rich and poor (well, until Berniethustra spoke up!).

We know what ole' Freddy Nietzsche would say. He'd say that we have a herd tendency, a relentless stupidity to believe in the deceptive trends, plastic fashions and glowing commodities of our surrounding culture, that we'd do anything to seek release from the burden of our own existence. So we turn to the alpha deceivers and their clever ancestors of the spineless religious pack, those who took away all our worries and uncertainties the moment they learned to connive and control, the moment they learned to strategically console our spiritual wounds and entertain us with every conceivable form of pleasure, labor, twisted guilt (to keep us in place) and 'edutainment.'

We know what many others - feminists, ecologists, anarchists, new atheists, etc - would say about God, his historical posse and the dogmatic uni-views of science, all of which still hold far too much sway despite countless insights, protests and revolutions of knowledge over the last century.

But still, the situation is so absurd that even our high school students continue to learn about the Greek gods and goddesses as if these were nothing ever more than mere art, beautiful fiction for our literary analysis. Sadder still is that even in liberal educational settings our youngsters learn next to nothing about the powerful sacred literature and extraordinary history of Sough Asia and India (among other neglected places).

Think about the fact that over the course of a thousand years in western civilization, both the leaders and masses entirely gave way to an omnipresent god being and his one-man incarnation! To this day, monotheism persists stubbornly all over the place in the modern world, even where its influence has been more restricted to the private sphere. Even where rational critical discourse and secular philosophies claim to hold the reigns of meaning, the presence of one god haunts us; post-structuralist scholars might identify this phenomenon in America as the hidden liberal Protestant ethos and institutional foundation that forms the backdrop of America's sociopolitical and educational landscape. But that's an analysis for another time.

Even those who have a more abstract and sophisticated view of god, the universe or the divine as some ultimate reality made of infinite energy, intelligence and potential, even this has the effect of flattening out the tremendous depths, plurality and possibilities of life and existence. It has the effect of making you and me lowercase-lettered beings while erasing the stunning fact - which always stares us in the face from every angle, in every instant and as every particle - that we live in an outrageously enchanted and astonishing multiverse.

But the situation is not only historically and anthropologically strange and deranged. It's also philosophically extremely complicated, particularly when questions of truth and morality are front and center. Just like a typical romantic relationship or even marriage these days, science and religion are bound to each other in more ways than any good therapist could understand without first listening to the couple rant and share their respective views over the course of several sessions :-) Unfortunately, we don't have the time here to do that with these two mad and furious lovers, science and religion (aka rational and spiritual consciousness).

Suffice it to say that the science-religion love affair is not about mere belief vs. fact, it's not about regression to fantasies and extreme religious conservatives on the one hand and mature rational citizens with an applicable view of justice and goodness on the other hand. If only relationships were so simple!

For example, even basic rational consciousness, in order to be effective in everyday life, must fundamentally presuppose a uni-view of humans and existence. Ironically, this uni-view structurally replicates an attitude of one god, one human, and one planet for each of us as "images of god" to enjoy. The uni-verse is essentially one man's oyster plate to relish! Here the fundamental fabric of reality, as we rationally sensible folks tacitly understand it, is completely overshadowed by the all-pervasive god presence, whether we like it or not. Despite one's politically correct and socially respectable rejection of any explicit god-talk, then, the relationship to an omnipresent daddy persists - an invisible owner of reality, if you will - hidden in the social shadows, structuring the background of our memories, ambivalence, and identity complex.

Even those who adamantly resist or theoretically deconstruct any sort of monotheistic view of reality, in their very fight and resistance invariably give tons of attention and so perpetuate a notion of the universe being governed by a god complex, however negatively conceived. Thus sophisticated theologians and postmodern philosophers of religion these days can only poetically muse in the abstract, with deconstructive tongue, about the astonishing nature and unfathomable possibilities of reality itself, to say nothing of spiritually evocative visions of who we are, why we're here and where we're going.

Why the solely apophatic public tongue for these philosophers and postmodern theologians? I suspect that they fear being taken too literally; they fear being charged with belief in fantasies and outdated fictions; they fear speaking irreverently against the contemporary gods, provoking the youth against the institutional watchdogs of a flat material universe, a meaningless mechanistic world. Such theologians and philosophers thus tend to remain confined to the poetic on the one hand, and the sphere of conceptual aesthetics on the other, where they may exhaustively investigate and theorize every immanent puzzle and remote possibility in a mere thinking bubble from afar, a condition of suspended animation.

In this way, pace what contemporary secular theorists and philosophers have said about the death of God, God is still very much alive, whereas it's as if gods and goddesses were never even born; that is, they barely exist in the eyes of contemporary folks except as pure artful fiction.

My point is that whatever is real and compelling about god-talk, it's approached far more adequately with plural language, plural deities, plural visions, even plural realities, all of which can expand our spiritual imagination to better understand and engage religion and spirituality in its wild, deep and powerful diversity today.

But the outrageous enchantment and many gods and goddesses dwelling among us should not be understood anthropocentrically - that is, in a human-centered way. Neither does the apophatic poetics and abstract ethical reflection on religion by postmodern theologians cut it either. This is the core challenge for anyone considering themselves deeply spiritual and morally alive - to smash the idols of smug human specialness but remain attuned and connected tangibly to the awesome transcendence, potency, and multiplex realities all contained in this boundless existential, energetic and material expanse we inadequately call the uni-verse.

For now, in terms of our default vision of spirituality, possibility and the good life, we remain largely hung up on the uni-verse and the uni-God views of the world and reality.