SA Harvest near Two Wells, Nov 2014

Finding Presence

Worship in the Absence of God (3)

Finding Presence
Finding a new worship in the absence of God is not easy. There is a lostness in Western society which means there are no longer ready paths to follow, especially when we become alert to the idolatrous nature that many reasons for living can take on.

We need a religious revival on a personal level. I say personal level because if you have read this far you have already found the present corporate models largely unhelpful. And I say "revival" for two reasons. Revival implies that the old is not invalid, but needs renewal. I sense this to be the case. I am not persuaded that the old faith is totally without validity. But it surely needs renewal. I also use the language of "revival" because of what it implies. Outside of the United States where "revival" often meant ‘a tent coming into town and lots of preaching and singing,' revival traditionally has meant a new personal experience built on the old foundations. It meant a very new experience... the Luthers and Wesleys were thrown out of the church of their day. But they were also founded in the tradition they came from.

A new experience will shape a new paradigm or faith world view. This is what we need.

Adopting someone else's paradigm may simply be to adopt a new slavery to a paradigm without meaning. So going from Christianity to Buddhism or Islam, or to Christianity from Islam is not the answer for someone who has found God is not there in the old way. It is not reviving, it is just adopting another ready made religious paradigm from a pre-scientific world view.

There may be another problem with this adoption. For example, our whole subconscious in the west is based around Christianity in large measure. If we are seeking a new reality of God, what does it mean to abandon much of the part of our being which is perhaps closest to Reality; i.e. our unconscious self. We will be at odds enough with our society and culture without going further than we have to.

Likewise for the Buddhist adopting western Christianity. What models and deeply unconscious reality may be abandoned or suppressed to conform to the morés of the western church in the name of faithfulness to God?

If we think the experience of God will involve the whole of ourselves intersecting with the Divine in some way, then surely divorcing ourselves from our instinctive history is a limiting move. I think it is critical to have some sense of this. My loss of the presence of God in the religious models or forms I have grown up with is not about God ceasing to exist. It is about a world view which no longer works. There is no reality in the language of that world view. As children we are gripped by the story of Father Christmas. As we grow up the story just does not "work" any more. It does not link into the reality we live in. The traditional Christian story is the same. It doesn't work to mediate the reality of the Divine to us.

As far as I can see, my grip on reality is constructed by a kind of spiral growth through experience which allows me to interpret and conceptualise. The conceptualisations allow me to perceive more of the phenomenon I have experienced. So, in a sense I need to nurture my experience enough for a new set of concepts and interpretations to develop. These form the new paradigm or reality in which I live. This can be a partly conscious effort and yet is partly outside my control. The very nature of a worldview or paradigm is that it in some sense rules us! It defines our reality and opens our eyes to some realities and blinds us to and or shields us from others.

This dealing with a reality shift, or paradigm change is what makes me think it is unwise to cast ourselves too far adrift from the old traditions. They are still something of an anchor point to reality (albeit failing) until a new paradigm has enough strength and clarity to sustain us. To lose all our symbolic reference points would be to turn a profound personal crisis into a disaster and perhaps breakdown or even the more permanent breakdown we could call insanity.

In the Australian bush travellers are warned, 'Don't leave the car if you have a breakdown or get lost.' Those who do often die of thirst. Those who stay are more often found alive by searchers. Perhaps this is an illustration of the danger of wandering too far from our tradition before we have developed a knowledge of the new landscape.

It is from this point on that the strokes on my mudmap have become much less certain. I am near the end of known territory and having to explore my way carefully. The Mudmap Pages make no pretence to having the answers. They do not. I too, am drawing a new reality.

October 21 2001


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