Friday, October 30, 2015
The Otherwise Holiness of Spirit
A lot of us have a hard time with loaded phrases like the “Holy Spirit.” Even those who embrace it a term of their faith and have come to an understanding of what they themselves mean when they refer to it have differing opinions about what it means or the impact it makes on both the world and on them. To me it is one of several terms that ultimately describes "something that deeply binds us all" and is ineffable, something grand beyond description. What Christianity names "Holy Spirit" is its term for the unnamable force that connects us all; if that’s not too much of an over-simplification of the theology. The interdependent web of all existence referred to in the UU 7th Principle is, I believe, our name for the same matter-less substance that matters quite a lot. But in what other ways have we named this Force? I believe it is Love. Love itself is in my opinion the most common term for Holy Spirit. Some might argue that love infuses the Holy Spirit, but the Holy Spirit is its own force. However, I believe that Love has substance. Love has physics we have yet to learn how to describe or measure. Love is truly ineffable. And it is arguably the mayonnaise that binds humanity together. Why not imagine the term Holy Spirit as an ancient metaphor used to describe this same sacred and powerful bond which occurs between people? When thought of this way it allows for the term Love to have additional meaning and layers regarding its purpose, its identity, and its role within humanity. Many cultures refer to Love in different ways. But none come close to accurately describing it. And in this way, Love is very much just like God. In fact, there is no distinction between the ineffable qualities of the concepts of God or Love. They might even be words used to attempt describe the very same thing without our realizing it. How many other concepts do we believe in together while arguing the ways we each choose to describe it?
We can experience Love, but we cannot wholly describe It. We can only describe Its physical and emotional effects on us; we can’t actually describe It. We can’t even perceive Love with any of our five senses and yet we nearly unanimously accept Its existence as self-evident. We know It’s there. We know It impacts our lives every moment of the day and energetically cradles us as we sleep. Even our perceived lack of Love influences each moment of our lives according to how much Love we are capable for feeling for ourselves. And biblically, that’s the prime directive: Love God as you love yourself. It’s no wonder many of us have a hard time thinking in loving terms of a god we don’t understand. One we actively question and with whom we struggle deeply.
Alternately, and not to suggest this is the only reason for agnosticism, but how could we love anything or anyone if we can’t love ourselves? How could we possibly believe in the inherent goodness of the Universe if we feel that we are a flaw in the model? We feel that if we are a flaw in an otherwise perfect system, then the entire system must be flawed, even if it doesn’t know it. This non-loving attitude becomes a negative feedback loop from which we can struggle for a lifetime to escape. How could a rational person believe in a God that allows suffering for suffering's sake or as punishment, or one that is described as a white bearded dude on a cloud with human jealousy? Neither of those descriptions ring true for me and if that’s all I was being offered, I would be agnostic, too.
What if Love is what we have been describing as “God?” What if Love is the “Holy Spirit” as well? I personally don’t have a hard time at all believing that we have come up with multiple terms to describe the same thing: Love. Snow gets lots of its own words, why not Love? One might argue that a masterful teacher of Love could be seen as the human embodiment of Love in mystical terms. They might even see how the resulting philosophy could save people from destroying each other. “God,” “Holy Spirit” and “Lord” (which comes from the Greek kurios meaning master of the house) in cultural ways have each been seen as words needed to describe one ineffable Thing from different angles; typical for a linear wording system attempting to describe the conceptual. How does one describe a fog or vapor except by multiple terms and understandings of what constitutes a vapor? It must have substance on some level and yet it appears amorphous. It also requires an impetus to become vapor from its previous state. Something that brings it into its present state and keeps it there. Substance, impetus, and manifestation. Each of these things are used to describe vapor. Using only one of them is incomplete and, frankly, unsatisfying. Love appears to be no different.
Regarding the holiness of Love, holy refers to wholeness. Love is fulfilling. Love completes us. Love allows us to collaborate, cooperate, associate, and relate to one another. When we feel It, we are able to accomplish things because of It and in Its name we do them. When two or more gather in the name of Love, the world changes.
I don’t say these things to convert anyone to anything, but to acknowledge our mutuality. To show where we are the same. We are not so different from one another. We argue over semantics and details to the degree that they become loaded and ineffective to their purpose. The responsibility of an examined faith is not only to see other ideas, but to also be brave enough to have a second look at the ones we were first given as well.
Posted by Wil Darcangelo at 7:23 AM