Day 139 – 144

We have reached Day 12×12 in this long journey. Of course, they haven’t all been properly accompanied by consecutive blog posts, but there’s nothing I can do about the past. All I can do is pick up where I leave off and continue forward.

Prior to writing about Numbers, I feel like sharing a transcription of a recording I made on July 5, 2014. I had intended to share it that day, but the recording is 24 minutes long and will take some time to transcribe. You, lucky reader, get to enjoy the end result without the delay. I know my partner is going to think I’m insane, so all I can say is read all the way to the end of the post, dear, before coming to conclusions. I know you’ll reach some prior to the end, but hey, I figured I’d throw in a disclaimer anyway.

(Except, you know, it’s been six days since I’ve updated. So there’s that.)

I had an interesting revelation today; it was quiet and I’m not even sure where it came from or why I was even thinking about it, now. But I was thinking about why… why are we created? And supposedly our purpose, supposedly according to some Christians, is to worship and glorify God, right? So we’re created from nothing, born into existence, meaninglessly it seems, but with the purpose of giving glory and praise to the Lord.

And I was thinking, “why should this be?” To some people, that’s not… maybe, don’t ask questions, but I think it’s important to ask questions. So, my question is “Why?” Because there are two things at play here: one of them is, “what do we get out of it as human beings?” and the second is “what does God get out of it?”

Now, C.S. Lewis talked about God as a Being which by definition can need nothing. God is all-fulfilling, all-encompassing, and if you ask me, God is literally present everywhere within everything. God is the life of the universe. So if all of us are contained within God, or if you don’t like that explanation, if that theory comes off as blasphemous, then you have to admit that we are all at least within the mind of God, because God, being an omniscient Being, knows everything that is happening and everything that is going to happen, and as far as I can tell, God is past, present, future, so we either exist as part of this manifestation of “the body” of God, or the manifestation of the existence of God, or we exist in the “real world” but everything we do is part of God’s mind. If God literally knows everything, then this is the mind of God. The universe is the mind of God, unless God has an entire duplicate simulation of the universe running inside His mind where everything else is true because He knows everything but just not technically real, an illusion. But I digress.

What was I talking about?

What do we get out of glorifying and worshiping God? There are some Eastern faiths that talk about how God or the Supreme Being or whatever, that God essentially dreamed the world into being specifically so that He could see what it was like to be everything. That’s almost like the universe is like a computer kind of thing, moving forward and moving forward and running what would amount to a simulation, so that God can be it, observe it, and know every possible state of matter and energy, ever. And I guess if you look at what I said earlier, about omniscience, it would seem that God would already know that. But like C.S. Lewis said about Abraham and Issac, just because God knew… God knew that Abraham would not sacrifice his son, He also knew that Abraham would not need to sacrifice his son. Abraham did not know that, though. Lewis says something along the lines of “just because God knows something doesn’t mean that it doesn’t need to happen.”

If you take that Eastern religion philosophy, then we are all a trick, a surprise. God became the world and everything in it and we are pieces of that divine consciousness out to experience the world as a surprise. We don’t know what’s coming. Does the one massive infinite timeless Intelligence know what’s coming? Yeah. But we have forgotten ourselves, and I think that’s the idea behind whatever exactly it is that I’m citing from. The Oneness-That-Is dreamed us all into being in partial states so that we would collectively play out life. Not just every physical state of matter and every energetic state of matter, but every mental, physical, and emotional state of human beings.

When I think about stuff like this I think about “many-worlds theory” and wonder if there are infinite parallel universe where infinite things are happening to me right now. There are infinite life-paths for a human being but we experience one of them. All the other ones are being experienced some where (?) else for lack of a better word, but I’m experiencing one possible run-through of my life. I ‘m experiencing one possible path for my life, and for me right now it seems like the only possible path, but maybe if there are truly many worlds, then it is not. This is the one for me me, and somewhere else there is another me who feels that his path is the one that makes the most sense, and maybe on and on through all people, and it’s not just infinite variations of my person, my body, going through life, it’s endless permutations of that one body changed and changed and ever so slightly different across the dimensions, so really it would be… infinite versions of all people, that the  infinite versions I’m talking about become all people across all time.

Because if you take me and you set infinite variably on things like age and temperament and whatever else, it’s like, “Oh, you’ve just described the entire human population. You’ve described every possible person that is was and will be.” So, who knows about this “many-worlds” business.

But anyway, so… we are… See, but that’s true! If we are tiny bits of consciousness, then God knows what’s going to happen to us; He knows what’s going to happen to us and He knows what it would feel like from our perspective. But in order for Him to know that in a timeless sense, at some point it would have to happen or He would have to at least imagine it happening. But to fully imagine what it would mean for, say, me to be placed in a certain situation, you would need to create a universe around it.

If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first invent the universe.

— Carl Sagan

You would have to construct a universe around it, because if you were God and you could literally feel and see and comprehend everything, then each endless variation of what I as a human do is a butterfly effect of endless variations, and it might not seem like that on the macro scale of human life, but every time I move my hand, I displace millions of air molecules, so if I turn my head one way once, and another way another time, not only is there the macro scale of what I saw and what I didn’t see, but there is a micro scale of tiny particles of dust and down to atoms and whatever that are displaced every time I move my body, and that doesn’t even count the micro scale of all the movements of my muscles and my brain and the energy and the cells… That doesn’t even account for all that.

So in order for God to imagine all of these things… well you could say, “Why would He create a universe? He could just imagine it,” then we are living in that imagination. I posit that God imagining the universe into existence, and creating a physical universe into existence, are one and the same thing, and for we living in that creation/imagination, we could never tell the difference. So in order to truly be omniscient, God has to create the universe. God has to create a universe, and I don’t know how laws of physics work on weird scales, or if there are multiple created universes, so that God can know all possible variations of the laws of physics, or all possible whatever , but here we are.

So I guess that would be what God gets out of it… in a sense… God creates a universe of beings somewhere between animal and man… or somewhere between animal and God, because in Genesis we are made, depending on your translation, in the likeness of God. That doesn’t necessarily mean that God looks like a human being; it means that we are made with many of the capacities of God, and active consciousness that can be aware of the self is probably one of those capacities.

In addition to other things, we can conceive of ourselves as beings. So we have “power” to do things because we can sort-of-depending-on-who-you-ask direct our own bodies and minds to action. So somewhere between animal and God, we exist. We are like partial consciousness. We are a partial consciousness. We are not the infinite divine consciousness, nor are we the more limited, for lack of a better word, more limited animal consciousness, although, true, some animals do appear to display human-like intelligence, emotion, and behavior, but anyway…

What is it that makes humans so different? Our capacity to build and form large societies and have large complex thoughts like the ones I’m having now where I’m questioning the very nature of the universe and God and our lives… still we are a partial consciousness. Because the infinite consciousness is filled with joy, love, and bliss, our chance is, as these partial consciousnesses, to strive for that. We have the capacity to strive for more, and we have the ability, the blessing, as much as I say it now, I might disagree with it while I suffer, but we have the blessing of starting with nothing, the blessing of being these imperfect, incomplete, very wound-able, very destroyable beings. And the blessing that comes with that is that we know what it is like without infinite bliss and joy, we know what it’s like without feeling this endless love and power flowing through us, we know what it’s like to not have it. We know what it’s like to be separate from God and in a sense separate from ourselves.

And so when we find God, when we find and accept the things that make our minds and bodies feel Good, capital-G Good, we can truly appreciate them; we can truly appreciate how far we have come and how much we have gone through to reach the point where we can, I’m going to say, commune with the mind and the energy of God, a place where we can truly be at one with God, mentally, emotionally, spiritually, or whatever that looks like.

It seems to me that isn’t this the essence of the story of the prodigal son, that it’s not that we were perpetually living in a a state of bliss and happily stayed there forever and ever, it’s that we, being imperfect creatures, we have within ourselves a rebellious streak: our own egos which constitute a rebel stronghold that drives us to push back against God, to feel like we can do it ourselves, to feel that we have all the answers, and that we need nothing else.

But we do need something else, and so like the prodigal son, we return to our Father’s house and our Father rejoices that we have come back, because we have learned so much out in the world. We have learned so many things, we laid down our rebel flags and came back…

If we were as the brother in that story, then we would have stayed home, we would never have left in the first place, but of the two brothers, the one who stayed and the one who left, who do you think truly appreciates his Father’s company?

Holy shit. So as a result of writing all that I started looking up things on Wikipedia. I started with

  • Omniscience
    • Pantheism
      • Panentheism (not to be confused with the above)
        • Immanence
          • Light of Christ (LDS theology)

But I went back to panentheism and found it fascinating. From there, I found a link to a concept called Tzimtzum, which is transliterated, sort of, from a Hebrew word meaning “contraction” or “withdrawal.” Basically the implication here is that God “contracted” Himself (?) in order to create an “empty space” where the world could exist outside of His totality but still have aspects of His presence. An interesting related quote, apparently from Rabbinic literature is

“He is the Place of the World, but the World is not His Place.”

This concept is interesting because it creates a paradox (at least to us as humans) in that it requires some simultaneous degree of immanence and transcendence from God. God cannot be totally within the world, but He cannot be completely absent from it either. According to Kabbalistic thought on this topic, creation requires God’s immanence.

Paradoxes? Possible illusions of reality? A dualistic God that is simultaneously in two states at once in relation to the world?

This is that I would amend in the above story and in all previous statements. I do not believe that God is confined to this world. That is where I differ from pantheism. God is in everything (or vice versa, or both) but everything is not God (and vice versa).

I like the divine dream/divine consciousness theory more and more, that we are dreamed into existence by God, and that this dreaming is equivalent in all respects to what we would consider a separate physical Creation. But! I don’t know how much this all matters, because philosophies on the origin of the universe tell me little about how to live my life in the universe. So, whatever.

But damn if it ain’t interesting conversation.

Yeah, I’m not going to write about Numbers after all that. Way too much time transcribing and editing.

Tomorrow, though. I’ll get to it and get caught up to Numbers 28.

Good night, all. I hope it’s been as interesting for you as it has been for me.

Peace be upon you.

Day 98-105

“It came to pass on the eighth day that the writer finally updated In Excelsis Deo.”

Welcome back, people. I’m alive, and mostly well. I’ve been very busy, apparently too busy for my duty to myself and to God. It feels bad to write that, sort of.

Here’s the thing: I struggled back and forth with doing

A) a series of rapid-fire, single-post updates, or

B) one giant update with everything in it.

I obviously went with option B. My first thought was that I’d just write every post and make each update individually so that I wouldn’t feel as bad about “copping out” and cramming everything together in one big update. But then, I thought, if I feel bad about writing one big update, then maybe I should just do it and accept my shame. Then I thought, what if I’m being prideful about my shame, and parading it around by admitting it, the way people do when they talk about how humble they are?

“Oh, I’m so ashamed of myself! Look at how low I’ve brought myself before God! Look how devoted I actually am! More than you, I bet!”

It’s like I’m ten layers deep into self-aggrandizement. It’s like Asshole-ception.

So I decided to just say “f*** it” and go for it. It’s true that I goofed up, but apparently (partly due to the nature of this blog) I can neither sin nor be forgiven in silence. Part of the point of this blog is to explain my thought process (often in wondrous streams of consciousness) as I read the Bible and (ideally) move closer to an understanding of God and what He means in my life.

But I was struggling with this last night, because all day yesterday I put off this update. I recorded this little gem on my phone, describing my feelings:

“Is this one reason that people give up? That people lose faith? Because they don’t feel they’ll ever be good enough? They feel like they’re just too imperfect, too weak, too animalistic, and that it’ll never change? That they’ll never ever be satisfied? That they’ll never be good enough? Is that why?

I don’t know. Because I know it’s hard to reconcile that with the idea of infinite forgiveness. I don’t know what to tell you.”

I mean, it sucks. This is something I’m seeing, especially in our modern society, where suddenly no one has to feel bad for who they are. That’s good, sort of, but we’re doing it for all the wrong reasons. I once heard some quote about — ah, f*** it, it’s worth looking up:

“There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there always has been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that ‘my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.'”

— Isaac Asimov, The Cult of Ignorance

So now what we have is a combination of that as well as what C. S. Lewis mentioned when he wrote that we are (paraphrased) “reducing all virtues to kindness.” So there are two things at play: we reduce all virtue to kindness, thus discounting the possibility of submission, faith, etc., as being virtuous, and then we have this attitude that Isaac Asimov described above.

People want to have the right to not be ashamed of themselves, to not feel guilty. To that I say, well, don’t feel guilty. We can’t help what we are, so there’s no sense feeling guilty about it. But shame? Here’s how I see it, and I’m sorry if I’ve written this before.

“We should have the good sense to look ahead, to dream for something bigger and better, so that when we look at ourselves, we are not content with our current state.”

I wish I could say that more fluidly right now, but oh well. You get the gist of it. By aiming for righteousness, by submitting to God’s will and finding the Good that He works in everything, we can look at the way we are now in comparison to what we will become (so to speak), and we can be ashamed of ourselves. Again, no sense in feeling guilty! But I see now that shame can be a very Good thing.

But people don’t want to feel that. Comfort in life may be an incredible burden disguised by our society as the greatest blessing. Everyone wants to be accepted for who they are, to not be discriminated against. And you can find that in God. But here’s the problem: people also want to be told that who they are is okay. God will not tell you that. God says, “I love you for who you are, no matter what, but I love you so much that I want you, I need you, to become better. I cannot bear to see you the way you are now. I love you and I cannot bear to see you suffering in your sin and imperfection.”

We have to love ourselves enough to want more. Being content with our sins is not self-love, maybe self-acceptance at best. But that is only the first step. If we love ourselves as God loves us, we will strive to be better and better, but we will realize, as I did above, that we hit a wall. We can only go so far in these human bodies. This is why we must turn our eyes above.

As a quick aside, I’m surprised more Christians don’t believe in evolution. To me, the idea that we struggle against our animal natures on the path to God is perfectly in line with Christian theology. Divine souls though we may be, we are confined to animal bodies governed by physical laws.

In the Bible, Adam was created to be supposedly “perfect.” The first sin was disobedience, which granted knowledge that led to self-awareness and shame. The ego is the source of sin.

The way I see it is this: humans evolve, but are still essentially animalistic. They are in awe of the world around them because it does not make sense. It appears in many ways to be unpredictable and uncontrollable. Humans, though having small and “crude” tools, essentially rely on the patterns of earth and sky for their sustenance. And then that changed.

Perhaps in the end it was a fruit: an apple, or perhaps as some have suggested, a fig. Something as simple and innocuous as all that. A person ate the fruit, and found smallish bits inside of it, seeds, that fell to the ground. At some point, some one put two and two together: food could be grown on purpose. Suddenly, Man could rely on himself. This is the turning away from God, from nature, from a state of ignorant bliss. Man thought that he knew how to game the system. Man thought he would no longer struggle, no longer hunger and thirst.

But now rules have to be established. People have to work long hours in the fields and grinding grain. Irrigation has to be controlled and monitored lest floods break out. People want to own land, own livestock, own workers or slaves. There needs to be a sense of order. Rulers have to enforce rules. People gain power and abuse it. Over-farming occurs. Lush fertile land reduces into barren desert. The land turns away from Man, the very earth spurns him. Man is brought low and is ashamed.

Some men find God and turn to him, appealing to a higher power, looking for the answer they cannot find by themselves. Some curse God for their misfortune and decide that they can make it work on their own without His help. And so it goes…

Leviticus 8

Alright, now these are going to be rapid-fire updates. Here goes nothing!

Moses takes Aaron and his sons, dresses them up in the prescribed priest’s clothes, they sacrifice some animals, and Moses consecrates Aaron and his boys with oil. Here’s a bunch more rules that you have to follow, the end.

(I know this is half-assed. Deal with it.)

Leviticus 9

Moses explains some things to Aaron about making atonement, not just for himself but for the people of Israel. They sprinkle lots of blood around the altar, several times, I believe. Aaron blesses all the people, comes out from the tabernacle, the Lord appears in all his glory, and consumes the burnt offering in fire. Everyone is awed and falls on their faces.

Leviticus 10

Two of Aaron’s sons, Nadab and Abihu, decide to make an offering or some such thing that was previously forbidden by the Lord. He fries them.

Aaron is understandably upset about this, but Moses basically tells him, hey, look, God said “if people are going to try and come to Me, they need to do it properly and respectfully.” In my opinion, this is so that people will not constantly be making excuses, misinterpreting God’s word and trying to do His work while in reality committing sin against Him. I could see how this would be applicable today.

So anyway, there’s also a thing in here about not getting drunk in the tabernacle so that no one goofs up the sacrifices.

At the end of this chapter, two of Aaron’s sons screw up an offering. Moses rails against them and Aaron explains:

“Look. My boys are grieving. I am grieving. Sorry we were stressed out and couldn’t do it right, but we tried our best to keep the spirit of the offering. I was supposed to be rejoicing over this gift of food, but I am not in the right mind to do so. Do you really think God would have wanted me to eat it and disobey him thusly?”

Moses realizes that Aaron is sincere in his desire to please God, and has done nothing wrong. As long we have that desire sincerely in our hearts, we will eventually begin to do right.

(Credit for this chapter goes to John Wesley’s Explanatory Notes, because I had no idea how to interpret Lev 10:16-20.)

Leviticus 11

Here’s what you can eat, here’s what you can’t eat, here’s what dead animals not to ever touch, here’s how to clean yourself if you do touch them.

Taxonomy Bonus: Apparently bats are birds. (Lev 11:13-19)

Entomology Bonus: Apparently flying insects have four feet. (Lev11:20-25) This one I’m willing to chalk up to translation errors, but who knows.

Leviticus 12

If a lady gives birth, she’s unclean, she needs to be purified, etc. etc. Longer for a female than for a male, apparently.

This passage probably draws a lot of ire, but I interpret it like this: the whole blood and suffering thing that comes along with childbirth should serve as a reminder of our animal natures. Therefore, we should seek to “clean” ourselves afterward, reaffirming our commitment to being cleansed by God. Hell, wait til Leviticus 15, and men get theirs too.

Leviticus 13

Leviticus 14

Here’s the process for ceremoniously cleansing a leper or someone with a skin condition.

Also, if you get mold or whatever in your house, here’s how you guys deal with that. There’s only a moderate chance that you’ll have to tear down the whole house. Wash your clothes, don’t let them get moldy. Nasty.

Leviticus 15

This is the Biblical prescription for STDs. Enjoy that. Anything you sit or lie on or whatever is unclean.

If a man emits semen, he is a filthy animal and needs to wash. If he has sex (but only if he finishes?) then both need to wash.

If a woman is on her period, then for God’s sake, anything she sits on is unclean. If you have sex with her, you’re unclean.

If anyone’s unclean, separate them so that they don’t walk into the tabernacle and get fried.

And that’s the ball game!

Peace be upon you.