The World As I See It
“….The most beautiful experience we can have is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion that stands at the cradle of true art and true science. Whoever does not know it and can no longer wonder, no longer marvel, is as good as dead, and his eyes are dimmed. It was the experience of mystery — even if mixed with fear — that engendered religion. A knowledge of the existence of something we cannot penetrate, our perceptions of the profoundest reason and the most radiant beauty, which only in their most primitive forms are accessible to our minds: it is this knowledge and this emotion that constitute true religiosity. In this sense, and only this sense, I am a deeply religious man… I am satisfied with the mystery of life’s eternity and with a knowledge, a sense, of the marvelous structure of existence — as well as the humble attempt to understand even a tiny portion of the Reason that manifests itself in nature.”
Einstein photo and quotation credit: www.aip.org/history/einstein/essay.htm
NASA Royalty- Free Photographs
One spring day in 1949 a man strolled through our lazy Seattle neighborhood, leading a black and white pinto pony. I left my little heart on 50th St. in West Seattle that day. “Hey, kids, you want to ride my pony?” Duh. We ran into the house and wore Mom down with begging. After all, for just $5 she would have a swell portrait of us.
I remember that day as the happiest of my childhood- not the details- I didn’t know until recently that my sister had wanted to wear the chaps, but she let me instead. It’s the experience of ecstasy I remember. It’s there on my face, bursting through the dimples.
I also remember sitting on the floor in front of the book case at age seven and a half, ecstatic at my re-discovery of a book, If Jesus Came To My House. It portrayed a child leading Jesus by the hand through the house and neighborhood, pointing out the most special people, places and toys. I remember feeling so close to Jesus as I read, and the yearning for him to come to my house and stay. The seeds of mysticism planted. A remodled house now, an evolved image of Jesus; nevertheless, the same yearning.
Jesus arrived at my house the day the black and white pinto pony came, and every time since then, when I watch toddlers play, and my cat chase her tail. This old shaker song ,“Simple Gifts” was written and composed in 1848 by Elder Joseph Brackett. It says it all.
‘Tis the gift to be simple,
’tis the gift to be free
‘Tis the gift to come down where we ought to be,
And when we find ourselves in the place just right,
‘Twill be in the valley of love and delight.
When true simplicity is gain’d,
To bow and to bend we shan’t be asham’d,
To turn, turn will be our delight,
Till by turning, turning we come ’round right.
Scripture abounds with crippling images of God as warrior, power-grabbing king, and patronizing parent who would not let anything bad happen to us. The God of Exodus 20.5 says, “I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquities of the fathers upon the children, unto the third and fourth generations.” These images created by the authors of scripture, rob us of any personal authority we have as human beings and they have had such a hold on us, that we relinquish the freedom given to us by the real God who is beyond all images. No wonder Meister Eckhart pleads, “I pray God that he may quit me of god.”
Eric Fromm, the human potential psychologist, escaped the Holocaust and thereafter recognized the evils of manipulating God as a way to legitimate genocide. He chose atheism as his path. He has left us with a passionate analysis of the self-annihilation that results when we totally immerse ourselves in an image of God as a “magic helper.” Fromm reminds us t hat we lose ourselves in this image-making. Human beings “…project the best [they] have onto God, and thus impoverish themselves.” (Psychoanalysis and Religion pg. 49) Fromm’s atheism is different from Eckhart’s, which is a death to negative images, not to the God beyond the images; however, Fromm’s analysis wakes us up, and invites us to rid ourselves of debilitating images of God.
Fromm’s analysis and Eckhart’s plea came together for me as I watched a 60 Minutes presentation May 18, entitled, “Three Generations of Punishment.” It was about Shin Dong-Hyuk, who escaped from Camp 14 in North Korea, after 23 yrs. He was born in the prison. His parents were imprisoned because their parents had advocated against the government. The guards behave like gods; warlike and vengeful on one hand, and patronizing “magic helpers” on the other hand. Until he befriended a new prisoner, Shin dong-Hyuk had no knowledge of the outside world. He thought that the rules of the camp were right and he was happy to obey, to the point of turning in his parents for disobeying, and feeling no remorse at their execution. His experience was very much like the experiences of those suffering from Stockholm Syndrome. A survivor of the TWA Flight 847 terrorist hijacking said of her captors, “They weren’t bad people; they let me eat, they let me sleep, they gave me my life.”
I believe that many of us today suffer from a kind of spiritual Stockholm Syndrome, constructed with the false god-images we have made and worshipped. We stay safe within these images rather than accept the freedom and responsibility of living as fully human persons. I pray for myself and all of us each day, that we may have the courage to let God be God in and through us. I pray that we may rid ourselves of god.