Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Dear “The Spirits’ Book”, You Had Me At “What Is God?”

Confession. I did not immediately take to Spiritism. In fact, I recall at first verbalizing to my (now) husband, who introduced Spiritism to me some 18 years ago, something to the effect of “Well, that’s fine with me that you have ‘your thing’, but I don’t think it’s for me.”  Seems funny to me now to even imagine that! However, I have to remember where I was coming from and the fact that I’d not yet even picked up a Spiritist book at that point. Truth be told, it didn’t take long after that for me to become hooked!

The first Spiritist book I had the chance to read was The Spirits’ Book, and I’ll admit it that it brought me - all at once - a mixture of excitement, interest, and a strange feeling of stepping into this “secret other world”. I really don’t know how to explain well that feeling, but in my naiveté, I had no idea back then just how many people knew about spirits, spirit communication, the spirit realm, etc. As a side note here, perhaps that was a good thing. After all, not too far down the road, that ignorance of mine would be a factor in driving the sense of urgency behind our creation and development of the Explore Spiritism website. And the truth is that there are still a whole lot of people who do not know about the realities that Spiritism helps us to understand; so it’s important to continue sharing.

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Amidst all else I was feeling at the time, I did truly find The Spirits’ Book to be very intriguing. Question after question, I started to see the “spiritual fog” I had long felt immersed in begin to dissipate. In fact, right from the start, Kardec and the spirits won points with me with the first few questions and answers, starting with question #1: “What is God?” 

Notice that it was not “Who is God?”

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We learn from the first section of The Spirits’  Book that at our current stage of human development we do not yet have the capacity to fully understand, nor even the vocabulary to express, a fully extensive definition of God. From our perspective at this time, however, we can at least understand that God is, first and foremost, the supreme intelligence and first cause of all things. In addition, we can talk about certain attributes that, while not complete, do at least represent a list of qualities we can justifiably use to describe God.  

In “The Spirits’ Book”, the attributes identified and discussed are: eternal, unchangeable, immaterial, unique, all-powerful, and sovereignly just and good.

You can read more about the Spiritist understanding of God here on the Explore Spiritism website 

I loved finding in The Spirits' Book an explanation of this “something” (not “someone”) both perfect and greater than all else in existence. I always had trouble imaging God as if God were some sort of individual or personal figure, like a “guy in the sky” grossly speaking. Kardec’s question didn’t start from that viewpoint, however. Nor did the spirits even say anything remotely like that in their answer.

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Now, I know that even though God is defined by what, not who, you will still find us Spiritists occasionally using wording that seems to contradict this - making statements, for example, about what “God wants” or referring to ourselves (human souls) as “God’s children”. This doesn’t have to be an issue. As our knowledge and our vocabulary progress, our expressions about God will likely evolve as well, and in the meantime they help us to think about and reflect other concepts. I’m reminded here of two analogies that I’ll share to help explain.

Consider computer systems. I find that when my coworkers and I talk about the IT systems we use, it’s not uncommon for us to make references to what a system “knows” (as if it were operating with a human-like intelligence), or we’ll comment on how well two different systems “talk to each other” (as if they had dialogue as a way to exchange information).  Do we really mean our words in the literal sense? No, we employ them in order to convey concepts in a way that is useful as part of a broader discussion.

Another visual that comes to mind for me is that of the monkey bars we uses to play on as kids. Do you remember swinging like apes from one bar to the next, crossing from one end to the other? Well, when you cross those monkey bars, you have choices. If you want, you can use the momentum of the swing to fully let go of the latest bar touched bar before having your forward-positioned hand grab on to the next bar (even if skipping one in between). Likewise,  you could let go of the last bar immediately upon grabbing the next one, or you could even pause so as to remain hanging for some time with one hand on each bar until you are ready to fully let go of the back bar and move on to the next one.

Using terminology at times that in one way or another seems to personify God is rather like using the third approach for crossing the monkey bars. I think that sometimes, until we can fully grasp the new perspective and have everyone on board with the vocabulary and background knowledge to embrace it, we just find it helpful to verbalize certain thoughts with one hand still on the old "bar" of expression.  

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I'm ok with the fact that we do this, (a) precisely because I, too, sometimes find it to be helpful and (b) because I know that we do look ahead to where we are ultimately going. At least we recognize that we have more bars to cross; meanwhile, even with an old one still in hand, we are simultaneously touching the newest one, and we can see and shoot for the ones even further ahead. We can also pause to help those who’ve not yet had the same exposure to this vision, so that they too can see the true potential that is our common destiny.

And meanwhile, we can learn more about the supreme intelligence and primary cause of all things -  otherwise known, by Spiritists, as God.  ;)

Thank you for reading!
Blessings to all, today and always

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