The Enjoyment of God
There is a well-founded proverb which advises us to be careful not to throw the baby away with the bath water. I find this most apt with respect to my relationship with the 'Christian' faith in which I was reared but much of which I later felt I had to reject.
The Presbyterian churches, certainly those in Scotland, used to lay stress on what was known as "The Shorter Catechism" — a collection of over 100 questions and the 'correct' answers as approved by the church. I have now forgotten all except the first question: "What is the chief end of man?"; to which the correct answer was "The chief end of man is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever".
Apart from a nit-picking quibble about the implied limitation of God as a person of the male sex, I could go along with that answer in principle. My difficulties arose chiefly from the further limitations imposed upon God by the answers to the remaining hundred-and-odd questions in the Catechism which, for me, made the 'Glorification and enjoyment of God' lose most of its potential import and nearly all of its natural attraction. God had been shrunk out of meaningful existence by the limitations imposed by the Christian theologians. I am persuaded that there would be no atheists if the churches could remove the artificial theological blinkers they have long applied to the spiritual eyes of the potentially faithful.
Ever since the church was taken over by the Roman Emperor Constantine in about 324 CE, it has functioned more as a political party than as a religion. The main event in the shrinking of God took place at the Council of Nicea in 325 CE, with the suppression of the 'Arian heresy' and the imposition of the dogma that Jesus was not simply a son of God but was also uniquely God incarnate. Although God was said to consist of a 'Holy Trinity' consisting of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, it became difficult from then onwards for any official 'Christian' to conceive of God as anything other than a male person, perhaps only slightly superior to the Emperor and the Emperor's approved chief bishop, the Pope of Rome.
The Protestant Reformation of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries was essentially only a protest against the corrupt practices which had developed in the Roman church as in any other political party. It resulted only in the formation of a new political party which later split and split again to form the many 'Protestant' factions we find scattered around the world today. None of the old Roman theological baggage was got rid of. Never has the concept of God been 'glorified' and restored to its proper place as the author and continuous Creator of everything we can conceive of and, probably, much that is beyond our powers of conception.
While it is nice and easy to venerate Jesus as a stereotypical ideal Man — and thus as a surrogate for God — nothing in what is known about him suggests that he thought of himself as being uniquely God. All the credible evidence portrays him as a great mystic Master, worthy of mention in the same breath as other great Masters such as Buddha or Zoroaster — or Mohammed, who made no claim for himself other than as a prophet of Allah, the one and only God.
It is by no means easy, indeed it is impossible, for mere creatures like us to create an image of God which can do anything approaching justice to the Creator and Maintainer of the cosmic system. Ancient mystics avoided giving any name to God, because any name they could conceive of would imply an unjustifiable limitation. All the multifarious "gods" worshipped by men at various times in different places and cultures are best thought of as being personifications of particular traits attributed to God. Similarly, the material representations that Christians commonly refer to as "idols" are probably better viewed as iconic foci to assist in the veneration of God rather than as representations of gods in their own right. It seems to be characteristic of zealous Christians, as of the more fervent adherents of other political parties, to be extremely uncharitable in their interpretations of the customs and practices of alternative ideologies. One doubts if Jesus would have approved.
It seems to me that if we are to "glorify God", each of us must expand our imagery to the maximum possible extent and still be ready to concede that God will overflow its boundaries. I can think of no better way of putting this than that quoted in the Roman de la Rose: "The nature of God is a circle of which the centre is everywhere and the circumference is nowhere". This gives the mind something to hang on to without having to limit the illimitable. What the mystic discovers is that as he approaches his own centre, he finds God there and, in the quietness, hears God's voice. It then becomes impossible not to "glorify God" as the Ultimate Centre of one's own being and the Source of All one can conceive of. It becomes obvious that the myriad objects, events, persons, concepts and creeds could not become manifest apart from the One, the common "ground" in which all their relationships are rooted. Everything is Divine. Those of us who inhabit a body of flesh are all God incarnate.
Finding God at one's own centre is the most liberating experience it is possible to imagine. All the artificial doctrinal limitations imposed upon God and, supposedly "in God's name", upon man, to serve the enslaving interests of politico-religious tyrants, fall away. The only voice that matters is the still, small voice of God heard in one's own centre. It is whatever makes one feel uncomfortable when one's actions offend against the Natural Laws which God has built into the design of the Cosmos, and it is whatever makes us "feel good" when we "do something right". It is only by such trial in action that each of us can fully explore the Natural world. It is only by becoming conscious of the ensuing feeling of discomfort or satisfaction that one can gradually learn to codify parts of it as "moral values" or spiritual "laws" — much as the scientist derives and tests physical or chemical "laws". Both kinds of laws may be subsumed under the heading of Natural Law. It is my contention that the enjoyment of God consists in acquiring the best possible grasp of Natural Law as it applies in one's personal circumstances and living in accordance with one's personal understanding of it.
Because God must be supposed to be at least "infinite and eternal", there is no question of any single codification in science or mysticism ever being the "last word" on the subject. While we humans are God incarnate wherever we happen to be, we must be careful to avoid the sin of pride and imagining that we are effective everywhere and required to get personally involved with matters beyond our ken. It would be helpful for us to realise that we are only organs or agents of God, localised in space-time, and far from being the totality of God. So the enjoyment of God requires us to be modest in our objectives, to stay with what we know and where we are, to concentrate our efforts on whatever we feel God tells us to do, and to avoid getting in the way of the other agents who are better "placed" by God to undertake whatever work may be required in their own localities.
Living actively, but modestly, as a local centre of God is the greatest possible fun. Could anything be more "fundamental" to living an economical, responsible life?