Saturday, September 7, 2013

PERFECT PEACE CAN BE YOURS---YES, INDEED!

‘Thou wilt keep in perfect peace
whose mind is stayed on Thee’ (Isaiah 26:3)

Deep down, we all crave peace of mind. Call it serenity, tranquillity, equanimity, or imperturbability, we certainly know when we don’t have it. Wanting to be happy all the time is, well, silly, and quite superficial, but peace of mind is an altogether different thing.

This verse from the Hebrew Bible contains a valuable formula for obtaining, and maintaining (‘keeping’), peace of mind. It says that God will keep us in perfect peace if our mind is ‘stayed’ on God.

Who or what is this God? Some theological construct? A person, albeit a supra-normal (whatever that means) one? No, not at all. I know many, many people who call themselves atheists---and that they are, at least when one applies traditional theistic definitions of ‘God’---who have perfect peace. They know God, even though they choose not to use that term---and that is their prerogative.

The word ‘God’ is not the 'thing,' rather it directs us to the reality to which the word 'God' refers. What is that reality, I hear you ask? Well, this is it---God is simply a word that some people choose to use (and others choose not to use) to refer to the medium in which all things live, move, and have their being. Time and space---spacetime, to be more correct---are other words that refer to more-or-less the same 'thing.' They, too, are mediums---or rather the medium---in which all things exist and subsist. No wonder mystics have referred to God as the Eternal Now. Yes, God is the All in all. God is not a ‘thing,’ nor a ‘person,’ as we ordinarily use those words. Got that? God is not a thing, but rather ‘No-Thing’ or ‘No-Thing-ness.’

Now, some or all of the foregoing may be hard to understand but, when you think about it, it makes much more sense than believing in a so-called personal God. Actually, the God to which I refer is both personal and impersonal. It is impersonal in the sense of being general, universal, all-embracing, non-discriminating, and infinite, but it ‘becomes’---for want of a better word---personal in and as you and me and all other persons and things as well as being personal to all who are at-one with its indwelling presence, power, and activity.

So many people have a terrible concept of God---anything but the truth. The true nature of the divine, as pure and ever-perfect Be-ing, is revealed in these Bible verses from the third chapter of the Book of Exodus in the Hebrew Bible:

13 Then Moses said to God, ‘Indeed, when I come to the children of Israel and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they say to me, ‘What is His name?’ what shall I say to them?’

14 And God said to Moses, ‘I AM THAT I AM.’ And He said, ‘Thus you shall say to the children of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’’

The words 'I AM' refer to the subject---note that word, 'subject,' not object---of all existence. The Bible says that I AM is God. So, God (that is, the very essence and being-ness of life itself) becomes what God has said that which God is---'I AM THAT I AM.' That is the name by which God is called---at least in the Hebrew Bible and in metaphysics---and it describes the Presence or Power of God (being the spiritual or divine 'image' of each person's creation) declaring Itself---to Itself. This is the Self-knowingness of God, and we, too, can be conscious (or rather self-conscious) of that very same I AM Presence and Power that is the ground of our being, indeed, the ground of all Be-ing. It is the All-in-all. 

Yes, God---pure Be-ing or existence--is the one form-less, essence-less, self-existent, self-knowing, self-giving, absolute, indestructible, and abundant existence that forever takes form, that is, incarnates, as you, me, and everything else, but which is never even for a moment absorbed by the innumerable objects of its Self-expression. In other words, God---if you choose to use the word at all---is the life that is the subject of true existence, the very life that lies within, and otherwise manifests itself through and as objects, being all persons and things---the very livingness, or rather Self-livingness, of life itself. Put perhaps more simply, you are I AM in expression---as you. In the words of the renowned Unity minister and author Eric Butterworth, you are an 'eachness' within the ALL-ness of God. Yes, 'Thou art That.' Whether or not you are aware of it, you are divine and one with this 'God-ness,' being the point---and just one of an infinite number of such points---at which the Great I AM reproduces and experiences Itself. Amazing!

Back to our Bible text. What is meant by the word ‘perfect,’ in the expression ‘perfect peace’? Well, peace is perfect when it is true, real, and substantial, as opposed to being false or insubstantial. Material things, and even intangible things such as status and reputation, are false and insubstantial because they are ‘grounded’—actually, they are not even ‘grounded’ in any real sense---in our false selves that clamour for attention and the approval of others. Peace is ‘perfect’ when it is grounded in the eternal and infinite; this peace is imperturbable, for it subsists at all times and under all events. The great Swami Vivekananda described this state of mind as 'eternal calmness which cannot be ruffled, the balance of mind which is never disturbed, whatever happens.'


Now, if you want perfect peace in your mind, then keep your mind ‘stayed’ in the Eternal Now, that is, in the medium in which all things live, move, and have their being. Keep your mind grounded in the consciousness of the moment, from one moment to the next. For me, mindfulness is the best form of prayer and meditation. It is the primary means by which I stay grounded in the Eternal Now---God, if you like. You don't need to believe in someone else’s concept of God---not even mine, for heaven’s sake. You don't need to use the word God, or think in theistic terms, at all. All you have to do is to stay mindfully aware of, and alert to, the content (both internal and external) of the present moment at all times or at least as much and as often as you can. Angels---assuming there are any---can do no better. 

And how do you know when you are living mindfully? The answer is simple---you are living mindfully when you are no longer fretting about or fighting the past, or fearing the future. You are able to accept, with calm contentment and total equanimity, whatever is. Perfect peace, just like perfect love, drives out all fear, anxiety, anger, and resentment (cf 1 Jn 4:18). Indeed, there is simply no room in a mindset of perfect peace for any negative thoughts or emotions.


The photos in this post were taken by my son
Peter while on vacation in Baja California, Mexico



6 comments:

  1. Dr. Ellis-Jones,

    I would suggest that the verses you cited from Exodus 3 reveal a very personal God:

    13 Then Moses said to God, .... 14 And God said to Moses,

    I often stumble over this reality, too.

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  2. I am not sure what you mean by the words, 'I often stumble over this reality, too.' If you are suggesting that I have missed some point ('stumbled') you have tried to make, which is supposedly "in" the scripture passage(s) in question, I cannot agree. I have made the point, strongly, and (I thought) unambiguously clearly, that the God of which I speak is both personal and impersonal. If you assert the existence of only a personal God, then that God is limited, finite, and of no help whatsoever. The use of the word "said" should not be interpreted literally. God does not "speak" in the manner that we humans do---at least that is not a God I would want to believe in. God 'speaks' (metaphysically) only One Word. That Word is his "Son," that is, his creation, and we are all sons and daughters, that is, begotten, of the Only One---not just the man Jesus of Nazareth. For me, he was the Great Example, or Exemplar, not the Great Exception, and he never---I repeat, never---claimed anything for himself that he did not also claim as true for and about you and me and every other human being. You can believe in whatever kind of a god you wish to, but if you choose to believe in a small, limited, and wholly personal god, then don't be surprised if your results are small and limited as well. All the best, Ian EJ.

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    1. Doctor Ellis-Jones,

      God (through Moses) used the same Hebrew word translated as "said" in Exodus 3:13-14 for both the LORD and Moses. Whatever form of communication it was between Moses and the LORD, God conveyed the message of "personal". I don't know what "impersonal" means when it comes to God. The LORD did not simply communicate the word "Son" to Moses. He communicated His commands, warnings and promises. As far as God never claiming anything for Himself than He did for us, I disagree - simply based on Isaiah 55:8.

      Isa 55:8 For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD.

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    2. April, dear, we will never agree. You see, your theology is "April", so to speak, whilst mine is "December." Your God is not my God---thank God (my one). Your God is wholly separate from His creation. My God is the medium in which we all live and move and have our being. The latter is from Acts. Look it up. Your God is limited, personal, and very vengeful--always giving commands and warnings, and dishing out punishments. Your God creates miserable sinners, who are not worthy to gather up the crumbs under his table. My God creates little gods, in and out of Himself. As Jesus, said, "Is it not written in your scriptures, 'You are all gods'?"

      In addition, you believe in two powers---one good, and one evil. I believe there is only One Power, and One Presence, active in the Universe, and that Power and Presence is fundamentally good. Your world is one of duality, and thus lack and limitation, whereas mine is a world of unity, oneness, wholeness.

      You say that you do not understand the word "impersonal". Have you heard of electricity? Gravity? They are impersonal forces. So is God, in a very profound sense, a force (law, principle, power) which can be used for good or evil. "I form the light and create darkness, I bring prosperity and create disaster; I, the LORD, do all these things" (Is 45:7).

      My God is the ground of all Being, indeed Be-ing Itself. It gives of Itself so as to create more little gods---all sparks of the Divine. Your God is an anthropomorphic one---one that you and others like you have created in your own limited mindset. My God is Me, individualized---"I and my father are one" (Jn 10:30). My God is the All-in-all. "I am God and there is none else ..." (Is 45:5). "There is no power but of God" (Rom 13:1).

      You say that God did not simply communicate the word "Son". Again, you show your ignorance, always interpreting sacred writings literally, consistent with your immature concept of God. God does NOT speak like you and me. Of course, the tribal, vengeful god of the ancient Israelites spoke Hebrew. What silly nonsense! God "speaks" by giving of Himself to others. God--the One--becomes the many, that the many may know themselves to be One. When I said, God speaks only one word---his Son---I am using the same metaphorical, mystical, sacred, secret language in which ALL sacred scripture (not just the Judeo-Christian scriptures) are written. God speaks by calling things into visibility. Learn some Christian metaphysics please. And you invocation of Is 55:8 simply shows that you don't understand a word that I am saying. Our limited false selves, or carnal/mortal mind, cannot understand the Infinite, that is true, but I would not read more into it than that.

      Now, April, thank you for writing to me, and writing back, and though I would love to keep answering your little epistles, I have a larger audience that awaits my next post, plus students to lecture to, and clients seeking my advice. As I say, our theologies are totally different. Due to my limited time, I will not respond to any further communications from you, nor publish any further communications from you unless it be on an entirely different matter. I do, however, wish you well.

      (Rev Dr) Ian Ellis-Jones

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    4. One more thing, April. I note, from reading your self-description/profile on Google, that you say you are a "Bible believer under God's grace, SEPARATED [my emphasis] from churches, fellowships, groups and traditions of men and aligned only with JESUS CHRIST, the Way, the Truth and the Life." I know this much from my (former) days as a evangelical Christian---the New Testament knows NOTHING, absolutely nothing, of the Christian believer in isolation. The Christian believer is always in visible and physical community worshipping with other like-minded Christians. Your separatist stance is entirely unBiblical. Sad, that, but it explains a lot. (Rev Dr) Ian EJ.

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