'On Purim we acknowledge that God is disguised in the world and that the world itself is God's costume. There is no particle, no corner of this world, that is empty of God's presence, yet this presence is rarely obvious nor even manifest at all. God is masked by the world, by its forms, by our emotional impulses, by nature, and by language, and this is not a modern phenomenon. God has appeared to be absent from the world in every age, and it has been the burden of spiritual practice to unmask God and to bring his presence out of hiding again."

(Alan Lew, in _Be Still and Get Going_) 

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Why has it needed to be like this is a good question but hard to answer.  I suppose that since we make assumptions and pronouncements about god's intention all the time we could make any number of them about this.

However it seems more practical to consider it a given and spend more time thinking about what we do about it.  Our separation from god seems to be a fundamental aspect that religions try to address.  It's certainly foundational in the Genesis story and Christian interpretation of it.  One aspect that I don't see much discussed in Christianity is the idea that "God is disguised in the world and the world itself is God's costume."  I don't think Christianity has successfully wrestled with whether this is a dualistic or non-dualistic creation.

I'll admit I never thought about it much until encountering the Upanishads' assertion that "God is one without a second."  This brought me round to the understanding that in the final analysis there is God and nothing else.  We might even derive it from Genesis if we consider that "In the beginning ..." there was nothing but God, nothing with which to form a creation, and that the manifest universe is really an extension of Spirit into materiality.

But that's all hypothesis.  The reality for every individual is what we do about it.  I have to say that the idea of original sin and separation that can only be reconciled by God's sacrifice of a son just doesn't hold water for me, looking around at this extraordinary creation and the intelligence behind its orderliness.

That's why I find such fundamental spiritual truth in the Quaker understanding of the use of contemplation in arriving at a grasp of oneself finally as Spirit and in that space reducing the separation from God as Spirit to worship "in Spirit and in Truth."

I haven't ignored your response; but I've had some trouble finding "how to respond to it."

I could easily make assumptions and pronouncements about why you believe that separation from God is a given that we can do something about... but it seems more practical to ask you whether you consider it 'a given' in a absolute sense, 

or a relational situation rooted in how we presently think-about and try to interact with God,

(Jacques Ellul observed once that people of his day talked a lot about God having 'fallen silent' in the last century or so: ~ because they'd stopped listening)

Do you think this is more how-things-are, or might it be profitably considered situational? Does a grasp of oneself as Spirit suffice for addressing it?

It seems to be a common, shared experience that although we may believe in a Spirit behind physical reality, what we see is only the physical world.  I'm indebted to Rabbi Rami Shapiro in his discussion of some Hasidic tales for the idea that while we say the goal of our spiritual practice is d'veikus, union with god, we're not in fact ever really separated from god.  What we need is da'at d'veikus, the realization or perception that we are not separated.

Absent sudden blinding breakthrough experiences such as Paul on the road to Damascus, how do we work towards the concrete experience of that unity?  My working hypothesis is that grasping oneself as Spirit does indeed open some kind of communication channel.  One of the impediments to the concrete realization is our strongly developed ego sense of being individual.  But simply knowing that intellectually is not a solution.  Penington offers the hint of "... sink down to the seed that God plants in your heart ..."  And there are certainly spiritual practices that can assist, just as practice in many other endeavors helps.  Letting go of ego is a learning process that has a paradox to it.  Doesn't a serious effort at seeing unity, letting go of ego, require a certain amount of ego to perform?

Forrest Curo said:

I haven't ignored your response; but I've had some trouble finding "how to respond to it."

I could easily make assumptions and pronouncements about why you believe that separation from God is a given that we can do something about... but it seems more practical to ask you whether you consider it 'a given' in a absolute sense, 

or a relational situation rooted in how we presently think-about and try to interact with God,

(Jacques Ellul observed once that people of his day talked a lot about God having 'fallen silent' in the last century or so: ~ because they'd stopped listening)

Do you think this is more how-things-are, or might it be profitably considered situational? Does a grasp of oneself as Spirit suffice for addressing it?

I'm glad I asked! Rami Shapiro is goodfolks; I liked his piece in a collection re Jewish takes on Jesus -- even though he based his interpretation on 'John' rather than the Synoptics. 

That's also an idea shared with many yogis, Sufi writers, Raymond Smullyan [in 'Is God a Taoist?']. (& me as well.)

I'm more inclined to speculate about why God would specifically want us to start out ignorant of our connection. (There's another Jewish story, about the angel giving us a tour of Heaven and the whole universe, then putting his fingerprint right under our noses to keep us from talking about what we'd seen. Again, why?) Something along the lines of: "No use talking to you; it's just like talking to Myself"? The specific views from 'here' (Also 'here', 'here', & 'over there') gives us identities & roles in this big play, and things for us to talk about among our illusory selves.

Anne says "We generate stories, and God likes stories." A small child at Sunday school told me that "We're God's pets." I like being embodied, myself, (when that doesn't go too badly) and occasionally bewildered by how it all "really" works.

We could speculate why god set things up this way but I suspect the complete understanding lies somewhere beyond us.  Not that that kept humans from speaking for what god's intent is.

One perspective might be that it's a way to explore the creative process in infinite permutations which includes all the experiences of love, joy, pain, separation and human emotions of each individual throughout time.  If it were constrained in some way it would become like the Groundhog Day of same old, same old.  How boring.

And I suspect our experience of separation is inescapable, whatever the divine reason.  We're born knowing nothing and spend the first years of our lives intently trying to figure out how all this works.  What happens when this lever is pulled, who can we trust, why are things that way, what is good and what is bad?  It's our experience as an individual distinct from our parents, siblings, community and world.  And the Genesis allegory of Eden speaks for it.  We (inevitably) learn to judge what we think is in our interest and what is not, the judgement of everything as good or evil.  And there we are separated and out of the Garden.

Meditating/praying about this tonight, I felt a strong reminder of what I'd been neglecting in all this.

Smullyan's dialogue wasn't mainly about that realization that 'we' and 'Spirit' are one & never separate... but about the ethical development needed (literal lifetimes of it!) needed before we could become fit to live in that Garden again.

Your mention of the 'Groundhog Day' movie fits right into that: Yes, it would it have been boring if the hero hadn't started to develop love  for the people who lived around him in that small New England town, been forced into a radical change of character through the experience.

The problem with Shapiro's summary of Jesus' teaching was that it didn't include the Synoptics -- with their many precepts that should be taken-for-granted by a devout Jew like Jesus was -- and that ethical background was an essential foundation for his kind of spiritual awareness.

There's a Hindu story about a demon... who practices 'austerities' until he's as powerful as the chief god. But, um, he's a demon. So, once he has that power, he begins to misbehave mightily. (& comes to some sort of a Bad End, phew!)

What Stephen Gaskin said about why traditional Indian yogic teaching started with ethical precepts: If you weren't grounded in these, you'd start building up a little 'juice' (ie spiritual oomph!) and immediately get into trouble with it, would blow some sort of cosmic circuit breaker lest you do serious harm to self & others.

Awareness of our basic unity with God ought to imply an analogous awareness of our unity with everyone else, should lead to love for our fellow lost, blundering avatars. But we aren't always logical and complete in our thinking, are we?

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