Today I made a lot of sense to myself. Per usual. When I heard myself explaining how Neoplatonism relates to Christianity and why not-knowing is the highest form of religion I was totally convinced that I knew what I was talking about.
This afternoon it was nice to have two captive audiences: me, whom I can’t seem to ever get away from, and a man with whom I have a business relationship, who was trying to entice me to sign up for additional services.
We’d never met, as he’d taken over our account from another guy, so this was a get-to-know-you conversation. Naturally he had to ask what I did. “Basically retired now. I’ve been writing books and keeping up my blogs.”
He then made the mistake of asking what I wrote about. This ended up reducing his sales pitch time considerably. Tip: unless you’ve got time to spare, don’t ask a woman who has recently given birth if her child ever does anything cute, and don’t ask a writer what his books are about.
I rolled through “God’s Whisper, Creation’s Thunder” and “Life is Fair” quickly, but found myself getting more and more enthusiastic about Plotinus and “Return to the One.” Partly because I knew that as soon as I stopped talking, the effort to sell me stuff would start.
But mostly because I was just making so damn much sense, I couldn’t bear to stop listening to myself. You had to be there (as I was, fortunately). However, I’ll try to recreate some of my 5-10 minute synopsis of what Plotinus, Christianity, and the cosmos is all about.
Plotinus, it’s been said, is “Plato without the politics.” So you’re left with Greek spirituality, minus all that boring stuff about the perfect form of governance. It’s also said that if you add Jesus to Plotinus’ Neoplatonism, you’ve got Christianity.
St. Augustine was a big fan of Plato and Plotinus before he became a Christian. The Gospels are mostly stories and don’t say much about the nature of God, soul, creation, and such. So Augustine took Plotinus’ philosophy, grafted it onto Jesus’ teachings, and voila, a Christian theology.
People think that the Greeks were rationalists. But Plotinus was a mystic and had profound experiences of the divine. He realized that thinking can only take you so far. After that, you’re in the realm of Mystery. For him, that was the One. Christians say, “God.”
Makes sense to me. Here we are, sitting in your office, a teeny-tiny part of a 14 billion year old universe. So far as we know, this is the only life in our part of the galaxy. Isn’t that amazing, that we’re here at all? To me, that’s what a genuine sense of religion is all about: Wonder.
Plotinus taught that it isn’t possible to say anything about God, the One. How could you? Whatever we know is something other than the One, because it is knowable—separate, distinct, dual. God can’t be known. Only approached as Mystery.
If every religion would recognize this, wouldn’t the world be a better place? Christians think they know what God is like. So do Muslims and Jews. Even Buddhists, though they don’t speak about “God.”
I don’t know anything about God. Neither do you. Likely nobody does. If we all could sit down together and honestly say “I don’t know” as one, that’d be terrific. Plotinus reminds us that silence is the best way to worship God. Just being present with…whatever.
Sure seems like that should be One, not more than one. Physicists aren’t searching for theories of everything—just one theory. So God likely is One also. If there are two things, given how the world is so nicely interconnected they have to be united in some fashion. Whatever does the final uniting is God, the One.
Science knows a lot about the very small through quantum theory. Science knows a lot about the very large through relativity theory. But the two theories can’t be fit together so far. Superstrings, that’s a possibility. Vibrating energy. Is that God? Nobody knows.
It’s a mystery.
That seemed like a good place to stop talking. Especially since I was only getting a polite smile in response, not the standing philosophical ovation that my not-so-humble self felt that I deserved.
When some papers were pushed across the desk toward me, I got a glimmer why. I noticed a classy-looking silver ring, on which was emblazoned a cross. I’d suspected that I wasn’t talking with a Wiccan. Suspicion confirmed.
So I had to be content with making sense to myself. Didn’t make a convert to churchlessness today. That’s good, I guess.
If you become a believer in anything, even if that is nothing, isn’t that something? And isn’t belief the essence of religion?
Good questions. Looks like I’ve got to have another conversation with myself.