Perfect Vision: Seeing Through a Spiritual Lens
Each year, Unity Worldwide Ministries chooses an overarching theme to tie together teaching, learning, and spiritual development. For 2020 the theme is Perfect Vision: Seeing Through a Spiritual Lens.
Rev. Joanne gets the new year off to a rousing start by addressing the “small” philosophical and spiritual question, ‘What is God?’ This is something that people have been thinking about since humans became human. Evolutionary biologists estimate that anatomically modern humans appeared no less than 100,000 years ago, and perhaps as long ago as 250,000 years.
One of the things that some people believe indicates evidence of humans having a self-awareness of their own mortality and a spiritual outlook, is ritual burials. The earliest undisputed ritual burial known was discovered in Krapina, Croatia and dates to approximately 130,000 years ago. The cave paintings at Lascaux, France that depict a reverence for the natural world and a mystical nature of the relationship between humans and animals date to 40,000 years ago. It is likely that even in the distant past that our cave dwelling ancestors did not all have the same idea of what God is.
When asked the question, ‘What is God?,’ our congregation provided a myriad of answers, God is – love, kindness, everything, nature, infinity, all-knowing, ever-present. And one of our youngest congregants answered, innocently, “I don’t know.” If we could all be so honest . . .
Truthfully, though, all answers provided are valid and correct. That amorphous thing known as “God” is a deeply personal thing. Yet, how much animosity and war has been based upon one group of people believing their conception of God is not just superior to another view, but the only right answer?
What does Unity teach that God is? Drawing once again upon the Revealing Word1, we see that Charles Fillmore made 31 entries on the topic. Space in this blog does not permit citing every definition, but it is instructive to consider the following:
God as mind: The connecting link between God and man. God-Mind embraces all knowledge, wisdom, and understanding and is the source of every manifestation of true knowledge and intelligence. God as principle cannot be comprehended by any of the senses. But the mind of man is limitless, and through it he may come into touch with Divine Mind. The one Mind is a unit and cannot be divided. The individual mind is a state of consciousness in the one Mind.
God as principle: The unchangeable life, love, substance, and intelligence of Being. Principle does not occupy space; neither has it any limitations of time or matter, but it eternally exists as the one underlying cause out of which come forth all true ideas.
God as Spirit: God is Spirit, and Spirit is located and appears wherever it is recognized by an intelligent entity. It thus follows that whoever gives his attention to Spirit and seals his identification with it by His word, starts a flow of Spirit life and all the attributes of Spirit in and through his consciousness. To the extent that man practices identifying himself with the one and only source of existence, he becomes Spirit, until finally the union attains a perfection in which he can say with Jesus, "I and the Father are one" (John 10:30).
God as substance: This does not mean matter, because matter is formed while God is the formless. The substance that God is lies back of all matter and all forms. It is that which is the basis of all form yet enters not into any form as finality. It cannot be seen, tasted, or touched. Yet it is the only enduring substance in the universe.
Whaaaattt, I hear you say? That is as clear as mud. Are these definitions meant to be intentionally vague or convoluted so that they can mean anything? Let us briefly examine each of the above in turn.
God as mind – We are temporal beings who have manifested on this plane of existence as humans. Most spiritual traditions teach that we are comprised of three parts, Mind, Body and Spirit. Each has its place and purpose. One way that we interact with the world is on an intellectual level. As intelligent creatures, whatever that means, we can use our minds to receive sensory input, learn, assess, decide, and act upon the world around us. This includes whatever our personal idea of what God is. Also, it is in our own mind that we have access to Divine Mind. We can receive Divine Ideas directly from Divine Mind. In fact, when we do so and bring them forth into expression, we actively participate in Divine Order.
God as principle – God as principle describes that which God is, that is the foundation of all that is – Spiritual Law. This is analogous to the Laws of Nature such as electromagnetism, gravity and thermodynamics. One cannot touch, see, feel or even measure any of those things. We can only touch, see, feel and measure their effects. One cannot hold a container of gravity, or draw a picture of thermodynamics. We can measure how much something weighs, or how fast it cools, but neither is gravity or is thermodynamics. So too with God as principle. We can sense its effects but not the thing itself.
God as spirit – This seems to be the most personal of the four ideas we are examining. At first it appears to be a circular statement – ‘spirit appears wherever it is recognized,’ followed by ‘whoever gives his attention to Spirit and seals his identification with it by His word, starts a flow of Spirit life and all the attributes of Spirit in and through his consciousness.’ But upon closer examination, this idea is a description of the common wisdom “whatever you focus on expands.” If we look for kindness in others we will find it. If we look for aggression in others, we will find that too. So when we look for evidence of God in our life, we will see it. “Seek, and ye shall find . . .”
God as substance – This is the most amorphous of the set. Both Genesis and the Gospel of John refer to this idea:
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep; and the Spirit of God was moving over the face of the waters. Genesis 1:1-2
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God; all things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made. John 1:1-3
Unity does not teach that God is a Creator-Being that speaks the universe into existence. No, God is the substance that underlies the universe itself. The biblical accounts above are metaphors for God as substance.
Just as every person has an individualized conception of what God is, so too are every one of us individualized expressions of The Christ. We come into this world different but equal in many ways including – by sex, gender, race, national origin. We express ourselves differently by language such as English, Spanish, or Arabic; by local vernacular and dialect; by fashion choice; by gender expression.
One thing that is common throughout history is that change is inevitable. Some is welcome, some not. Some is understood, some not. Some is accepted, some not. In recent years, there has been a growing movement of people who wish to express their gender to the world as they choose, independent of biological sex. Biological sex and gender expression may be closely correlated, but are not 100% guaranteed.
On this Sunday, Rev. Joanne and the Board of Trustees announced to the congregation that for those who would like to do so, gender pronoun stickers are now available for anyone who would like to include them on their nametag, which most congregants wear each week. While our congregation was generally open and receptive to the idea, it is likely that not everyone is comfortable with this concept, and that is okay. New things can sometimes take some time to get used to, or accept. For some, acceptance may or may not ever come, but that in no way prevents us from seeing The Christ in everyone and treating everyone with kindness and respect.
Unity Spiritual Center is an open, loving, and accepting community. We welcome every person as a true expression of God, regardless of how any of us might personally feel about another. Gender expression is no different. We love everyone and see in them The Christ.
God is Spirit, and those who worship in spirit and truth. John 4:24
This week pay attention to the evidence of God in your world. Each day, before sleep, consider the evidence of God’s presence in your day.
It is easy for us to see God in Truth, Beauty, Love, and Joy. But if God is the Substance of All, that means God is also to be found in our Shadows – negativity, regret, judgment and fear. This week, I plan to look for evidence of God in what we might consider as “good,” but also in what we might consider as “not good.” When I read, observe, hear about or directly experience something that is outside my comfort zone, it is there in particular, that I will seek evidence of God. Where will you be looking?
1Revealing Word, The, Charles Fillmore, Unity Press, 1959.