Sunday, May 2, 2010

The Holy Spirit

We had our last regular Sunday session of Disciple Bible today, and I really felt the Holy Spirit at work in our group. Not for the first time, but we all were giving the spirit more permission and more latitude. We are learning collectively to let go, and let God.

Rich described that when a group of believers comes together, we all have that slice of holy spirit in us, and when we invoke it, it meets up with the other slices and becomes larger than it could in isolation. That's why it is important to gather in a group to reinforce spiritual growth. Where two or more are gathered in my name, there I am, says God. Or, another way to put it, is our angel meets up with other people's angels, and good things start happening.

We were discussing the book of Revelation today. This book, out of all the New Testament, I hate. I detest it. It's religious mumbo-jumbo and what I have always gotten as the takeaway message is "Believe in me or you're goin' ta Hell!! FOREVER" -- lots of fire and brimstone and eternal gnashing of teeth, a la Dante.

So I was prepared to do a lot of listening today. I figured I had very little meaningful to contribute.

Perhaps the listening helped.

Because -- what a surprise when, midway through the session, my mouth opened (it had been opening already, not infrequently) and I heard a voice I recognized as my own. It explained that John was trying to describe an experience that happened in a spiritual realm, in earthly words. This is why it seems to the modern reader that he was trippin' on acid. He was essentially trying to bring an experience that happened purely on a spiritual level "down to earth" and relate it to things we understand here. I'm sure there were a lot of things about his vision that he didn't understand himself. But he was told to write it down (most of it, anyhow).

So if that's true, that Revelation is a vision of the spiritual realm, I'm now thinking, I can't toss it all out unexamined. There is at least a dimension of spiritual truth to it.

If you accept the premise of evil -- something I struggle with -- as totally separate from good, as the absence of good -- then what happens to evil people? I've seen evil at work in other people, sometimes close up. Somewhere the Bible describes that between heaven and hell is a firmament, and nothing can penetrate it. Nothing can cross over. No one goes "down" and no one ascends "up." I've actually had that feeling before when trying to reach out/understand someone in the grips of evil. I don't understand them, and they cannot understand me. We are in two different realms. Since I have experienced that personally in my life, I can't totally dismiss the concept of heaven and hell. I always believe that we are already there -- in communion with God/good/and all creation, or separated from it, suffering and causing others to suffer.

Look at all the suffering in the world. This is the great question that is at the heart of major religions, that perhaps caused all major religions to bloom. Why is there all this suffering? This is what my wonderful friend Buddha addresses. "There is suffering; there is a cause of suffering; there is an end to suffering; there is an eightfold path" blah blah blah (where I start getting really lost) -- anyhow, those are the Four Noble Truths of Buddhism.

So where is God, and why isn't he stopping all the suffering now? The million-dollar question.


  1. The book of Revelation has made some people very rich. And it really should not have. When we can understand the book as it was written, a type of literature common at the time, it is not a difficult book - most of it was written about the leaders of the time.

    I do like how you express the two realms. I also agree that we are living there now - not something to wait for after we die. I have felt the helplessness of wanting to help someone out of their personal hell, their suffering, but it is as you say, there is nothing that can be said or done because of a lack of understanding on both sides.

    I think God does not stop suffering because it would make us very complacent. I know in my own life, it is the suffering that has allowed me to appreciate the simple, the beautiful, the ordinary.

  2. Thanks for the laugh! No need to bow. I am also on a spiritual journey.

  3. According to my own understanding of Hinduism which has resolved my philosophical conflicts between Christianity and Buddhism, this world is Maya (or illusion). Everything is falsehood, but God. The (apparent) suffering helps souls to re-unite with God again, although I have to say, that some sufferings of others or my own are just too much for my soul to bear.

  4. I don't know if I will get around to studying Hinduism. I was perfectly happy to be nothing at all till I had kids, then embraced Christianity (only) till just recently, when I fell in love with Buddhism. So, who knows what is next? I see all religious practices as human prisms to view God, each with their own imperfections.


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