Friday, February 25, 2011

Defining My Non-Theism

You can put me in the category of those who have a mystical/experiential relationship with divinity but who doubt intellectually. I may be deluded by either my emotional or my intellectual perspectives. When they are directly contrary to each other, I tend to settle into the hope that my emotional connection is more real than my intellectual doubts since my intellectual doubts leave me hopeless. Also, because my emotional experiences are very direct and immediate and my intellectual process is so dependent upon second-hand intellectual traditions of systematic theorizing, (most of which I've also been trained to doubt as a feminist) I tend to remain fairly "faithful" even in the midst of the most agonizing doubts. I don't like this situation. It actually causes me physical pain at times, but it is what it is. I think we must first define theism before we define non-theism. It is not, as I understand the term, merely a word indicating belief in "god" but a particular kind of belief about a particular set of understandings about "god."  Wikipedia begins with: "Theism, in the broadest sense, is the belief that at least one deity exists.[1][2] In a more specific sense, theism refers to a doctrine concerning the nature of a monotheistic God and God's relationship to the universe.[3] Theism, in this specific sense, conceives of God as personal, present and active in the governance and organization of the world and the universe. The use of the word theism as indicating a particular doctrine of monotheism arose in the wake of the scientific revolution of the seventeenth century to contrast with the then emerging deism that contended that God, though transcendent and supreme, did not intervene in the natural world and could be known rationally but not via revelation.[4]" I do not believe or disbelieve that an entity or group of entities created the universe or is/was playing any kind of directing role. That kind of knowledge is above my pay grade. It also seems fairly irrelevant to my needs and calling as a human being. I am here. The world is here. My curiosity about how we got here is greatly overshadowed by my desire to know what I'm supposed to do now that I'm here. So I put aside the question of a Creator God. My only argument would be that apart from process theo/alogy, the conceptualization of a Creator God has been very anthropocentric and arrogant regardless of theological tradition. Perhaps we can't help it. Of course human beings will be most concerned with our place in the cosmos and most passionate about our relationship with that which we experience as divine. Of course, we are limited by human experience and understanding and can therefore only conceive of "that which is" within the confines of our own human constructs.
February 25, 2011 9:51 AM
Continuing with these thoughts, I have to admit right away that what follows comes primarily from my sense and sensations as an emotional/mystical person and not so much as an intellect. I apologize therefore to those who will find the following thoughts pretty sloppy. I have come to feel that my direct experience of the Divine is best not defined as a direct experience of All that Is, but a direct experience of that part of All that Is that is most concerned with the human psyche/soul/demon/spirit. This is what I (sometimes) call Christ and experience as the Inward Light. It is the Source that is guiding me to become most fully realized *as a human being* and more specifically, *as a human being who is distinctly myself* Very simply, human beings are not superior to other creatures.  We do not need to feel that we are some pinnacle of Creation, but we do have our own human-ness to achieve. What does this human-ness look like?  It looks like a lot of things.  There's a great deal of wiggle room in what it means to be human, but in the end, I think all forms of human-ness will involve a great deal of compassion and thoughtfulness.  Very simply, and without speaking more on the great diversity of strategies we might employ to this end, I believe that humans are called to be humane. All of my struggles as a person have been to integrate my animal instincts and experiences (physical and mystical) in such a way that I continue to evolve toward that goal. My evolving toward that goal depends upon my openness to my relationship with that divine Presence that I understand as Christ Within. Others don't call it that. That's none of my business. We are all called to be Ourselves in our own way. I feel we help each other best in this process by being authentic and compassionate...and by refraining from arrogantly assuming that our experiences are normative. So....isn't that Presence, that Christ, that Light just another name for "God".  No.  Not for me.  It is a portion of that Ineffable Everything that many have called "God."  It is the part that is more personally human.  It is the part with which our species intersects and its values and demands are specific to our species.  It would make no sense for this Christ-like Presence to speak to wolves or mollusks or viruses.  They have their own calling.  They must evolve as they are called to evolve.  The Presence that I conceive as Christ/ Light is therefore a part of, but not the total of that which I might call "God/ddess" if I were inclined to use that language.  I believe that I am most responsible to that Greater Ineffable Process by sticking close to the Guide/Christ/Light that speaks most readily to me as a human soul.  I conclude this description with a note that I do not believe that Jesus of Nazareth was the manifestation of "Christ" but I do believe that his ministry shows him to be one who was certainly leaning very close to the Light.
February 25, 2011 10:37 AM
Blogger I would also add that I tend to be very Spiritualist. This goes along with my sense that since I am a human being, I must lean most heavily on human ways of knowing. My connection to other human spirits (both alive and dead) has usually the most vibrant and real connection I have to the knowledge that I am, in fact, part of a greater Process than I can conceive from my own limited perspective. The love and guidance I receive from these human spirits is very important to me. Like the Spiritualist/Progressive Friends of the mid-19th century, I tend to see human spiritual understanding as a series of concentric circles. We have a more profound and intimate knowledge of that which is closest to us. Our family and friends, our communities, and our culture. As we move farther away toward the outermost circle which explains the very nature of "God", we really know nothing much at all. 
As a spiritual non-theist, I am not denying the existence of "God" but holding myself apart from that seeks to define, explain, or address the nature of "God".  I don't think we can do that.  I do think we can describe our spiritual experiences, but without any real hope of "knowing" that what we touch in those encounters is "the Almighty" or just a portion of the Almighty, or another Great Spirit, Concept, or Process that feels pretty Almighty relative to our limitation.  Even a grown-up human being seems pretty god-like to an infant.  I try to keep that in mind when I am reaching out into the spiritual realm.  
Most of our spiritual experience, I believe, come from more immediate and human sources. This does not mean that I reject the idea that there is nothing beyond our human senses and affiliations (or the Divine Processes and Beings that are most intimately associated with us), but that I feel that we have enough to do to learn the lessons we have to learn right here in our human bodies. We are spiritual crawlers at this point. Some day we will learn to walk and run and maybe some day to fly. When I watch my children dance and climb, I know that I loved them just as well when they could only creep. I have faith that despite my limited abilities, I am still loved. I don't know the Name of those who love me, but like an infant, I have learned to sense when they are close.


Jeremy Mott said...

Friends, Why, hystery, all this
endless talk? I recommend a cure for it. Listen, on your computer, to the song "Let the Mystery Be," by Iris Dement. The singer and author
of this song was brought up in a
gospel-singing household in Arkansas, but now says she is an
agnostic. At least her head is clear.
Humans simply cannot understand the
universe. What is man (sic) that
Thou art mindful of him (sic)?
Right now, important and exciting revolutions are going on on---for the fist time since 1989.
P.S. Your previous three posts
were really wonderful. Thank you.
Jeremy Mott

Hystery said...


I agree. Too many words! lol I was responding to my friend, Daniel, who questions (with reason) my use of the term "non-theist" as a label for myself. Daniel and I've been in conversation for a long time now and I can't express how much those conversations have meant to me.

This post could have been summed up more simply.

1. I don't know anything about God so I can't talk much about that.

2. I experience a Loving Spiritual Guide in my life that helps me become a better human being.

3. I believe that the spirits of people who love me, both living and dead, help guide me toward being a better human being too.

Hystery said...

Here's that song Jeremy suggested. It is a good one.

Let the Mystery Be

Daniel Wilcox said...

Hi Hystery,

Thanks for taking the time to share your perspective on Nontheism.

In the Light,


Jeremy Mott said...

Jeremy Mott said ....
Thank you hystery for not throwing
me out of your house for my
rudeness. I simply am desperately
tired of the new Quakerism that seems to be a religion of talk
as much as action, a notional religion or a religion of constructs.
Theism and nontheism are constructs that really should have
little place in Quakerism. At our
best, we are a religion of the Spirit, not of the the intellect.
At our best, we are also a religion of service and mission.
I note that fundamentalist and
evangelical Quakerism are also
religions of notions or constructs, and they do not satisfy the soul any more than
liberal notional Quakerism.
You could make up some new
verses for the song out of your
three statements.
Jeremy Mott

Hystery said...


Dear Friend, there was no danger that you would ever be thrown out of my house. Your comments, even those that call me to task, are always welcome.

I think my beliefs are simpler than the means by which I convey them. I am trained as an intellectual. That is how I make my way in the world. It is bound to color my language. But I am thankful for reminders of songs that so often speak so clearly to me because they transport me beyond the confines of reason.

I think of "Amazing Grace" and "Morning Has Broken" or of "When the River Meets the Sea." Some may think it silly, but there was a record made by John Denver with Jim Henson's Muppets in which they sang,

"It's in every one of us to be wise.
Find your heart. Open up both your eyes.
We can all know everything without every knowing why.
It's in every one of us, by and by."

I do feel that we can all know everything (at least everything we are called to know) without ever knowing why. This is not an act of intellect. It is an act of Spirit. It is the simple reality that our souls, like seeds, will open to the Sunlight. That's just how we were made.

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