Watching the interview with Bob Woodward on last Sunday’s “60 Minutes,” we were horrified to see a clip of Bush implying that going to war with Iraq was God’s will, and he was praying for continued divine guidance. There are so many theological and philosophical problems with this perspective it’s hard to know where to start picking it apart. So I guess I’ll begin, as humbly as possible, criticizing my own Godly misconceptions and then move on to how Bush has it wrong as well.
In yesterday’s posting, “I’ve become the person I warned myself about,” I wrote about my steadily-increasing reluctance to believe that I am on the One True Way—whether this be in the realm of the martial arts, meditation, or anything else. This means that I make no claim to knowing God’s will, for me or anyone else, which naturally includes Iraq. Heck, I don’t even know whether there is a God who has a will, or, more basically, if God exists at all.
But here’s my best guess about God: whatever God is or isn’t, and however God relates or doesn’t relate to the world, this ultimate reality doesn’t bear the slightest resemblance to anything or anyone we know now. Which means that any possible communication with God isn’t going to have the slightest resemblance to how we communicate now, the TV show “Joan of Arcadia” notwithstanding. (“What if God was…one of us?” intones the show’s theme song; nice idea, but I don’t think so).
Meister Eckhart, the medieval German mystic theologian, says that the prophets who came to know God were struck dumb and could not speak. Why? Because…
“The goodness that they saw and recognized in God was so great and mysterious that their minds could not retain its image, for the images in their minds were all wholly unlike what they saw in God and were such a travesty of the truth that they preferred silence to lies. The second reason is that all they saw in God was so great and sublime that they could derive neither an image nor a form from it in order to speak of it.”
Makes sense to me. So when Bush implies that he knows what God’s will is, with regard to Iraq or anything else, we need to impolitely scream, “Bullshit!” And to be fair, we should utter the same expletive when we hear ourselves making any sort of similar claim. Now, it might seem that this is what I’m doing now—claiming to know the nature of God—but here’s the difference: I’m asserting that God is ineffable, beyond what can be known. I’m claiming that God is Mystery, a claim that holds up very well, thank you, given the clear lack of consensus about what, if anything, lies beyond the reality we know now.
I used to get calls from an annoying woman who would phone me up, berate me about a problem I supposedly was responsible for, and then say, “We need to talk about this. We have some karma to clear up.” I enjoyed replying, “Well, I differ. I think it is my karma to hang up on you right now.” Which is what I’d do. Click. What sort of destiny is it that allows you to do whatever you want? Similarly, what sort of God’s will is it that operates through normal human thoughts, emotions, experiences, imaginations? When George Bush thinks, “I’ve got to invade Iraq and get rid of Saddam Hussein,” what evidence is there that this cognition is anything but Bush’s own mind speaking?
I much prefer Meister Eckhart’s approach. Saying much better what I was trying to say yesterday, Eckhart preached: “You should not confine yourself to just one manner of devotion, since God is to be found in no particular way, neither this one nor that. That is why they do him wrong who take God just in one particular way. They take the way rather than God.”
Eckhart advises that we should purify our consciousness to such an extent that we become blissful blobs of pure being, floating weightlessly in the spiritual ether, happy to be blown wherever, whenever, and however the Holy Spirit intends. This is far different from considering that we have been singled out by God for some special purpose, that every thought and action of ours is carrying out the marching orders of some grand godly battleplan. I realize that George Bush doesn’t read much, but I sure wish he would take to heart these words of Meister Eckhart:
“I would say that as long as it is someone’s will to carry out the most precious will of God, such a person does not have that [spiritual] poverty of which we wish to speak. For this person still has a will with which they wish to please God, and this is not true poverty. If we are to have true poverty, then we must be so free of our own created will as we were before we were created. I tell you by the eternal truth that as long as you have the will to perform God’s will, and a desire for eternity and for God, you are not yet poor. They alone are poor who will nothing and desire nothing.”