Book Preview: Chasing an Elusive God
So much did I enjoy the the prologue of Ray Vincent’s latest book that I asked permission to reprint it here. I’ll be providing a regular book review within a couple weeks, but for now…enjoy his opening, titled The Dream:
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At the beginning of history, human beings began to dream … Their dreams were their fears and their hopes. They dreamed up demons and spirits and hostile gods who caused disease, destruction and death.They dreamed up benevolent spirits who protected them, creative spirits who made the crops grow, happy spirits who made the flowers blossom and inspired people to dance and sing, mysterious spirits who gave them feelings they could not explain.
Then some people became richer and more powerful than others, and they dreamed up gods who protected their wealth and power and kept the poor in their place. They dreamed up national gods who helped them in their battles and defeated other nations. They dreamed up rebel gods who helped them overthrow those more powerful than themselves. They dreamed up power struggles in Heaven reflecting the power struggles on earth, myths to explain why the world is as it is.
Then someone said: “This can’t be right! Let’s be logical about it: someone has to be in charge of the whole lot. If there is ‘god’, there can only be one God”. And people agreed there could only be one God. But what kind of God?
So people dreamed up a God who controls everything, creating good and evil, light and darkness, life and death, a God against whom we are all helpless.
But those who were oppressed and abused said: “This can’t go on forever!” And they dreamed up a God of justice who favours the good and doesn’t allow the wicked to get away with it. And in the name of this God of justice the poor and the weak felt free, and sang songs of hope.
But then the powerful took this God over, and changed the dream to a God of laws and rules, who punishes the little weaknesses of the poor and threatens them with Hell, but overlooks the violence of the powerful because it is “necessary” to keep society in order.
And then someone who was in love said: “Love is the greatest thing in the world. If God is the greatest, God must be loving”. So people dreamed up a God who loves and cares and wants to be our friend. A God like that would not want war and violence, nor punishment, nor barriers of race and class. Such a God would want us all to love one another.
This was not a very popular idea. People who preached about such a God were sometimes scorned as impractical dreamers. Even worse, they were set up on a pedestal and worshipped, and their teaching was twisted so that once again it served the purposes of the powerful.
Time passed, and the circumstances changed. Hindus dreamed of one God in many manifestations. Buddhists dreamed of an eternal Spirit, forming and re-forming itself in every living creature. Jews in all their suffering dreamed of a God whose justice is slow and hard to see, yet perfect. Christians dreamed of a God who came down to earth and became one with suffering humanity. Muslims dreamed of a God who is merciful and compassionate, whom to obey is peace. Sikhs dreamed of a God in whose eyes all faiths are equal.
And then women began to say: “Why do the men assume God is male?” And they dreamed up a God who is our Mother, warm and loving, but strong and fierce to protect us.
And black people, setting themselves free from centuries of oppression, said: “Black is beautiful. God is beautiful. God is black”.
And then gay people said: “Why do all the God-dreamers condemn us? God made us too. He made us different, because he loves variety”.
And so we go on, generation after generation, whoever we are, arguing and praying, in our hopes and in our fears dreaming up the God we need.
And that is how men and women said “Let us create God in our image”.
BUT perhaps there is another story…
From eternity God has had dreams. God’s dreams are energy, forming matter. God dreamed up a universe, with billions of galaxies full of stars. And because God dreamed it, it was real. And God’s dreaming made planets, and life, evolving in thousands of shapes and colours, and intelligence, and human beings.
And God, surprised and delighted at God’s own creativity, said: “They are so beautiful! I can see myself in them!”
And then God said: “I won’t tell them I made them. I’ll let them dream me up. I’ll let them argue about me. They may learn more about me that way. And who knows? I may even learn more about myself.”