by Michael Maciel
Too many people base their religious beliefs on ideas, and too few base them on deep, inner experiences. Language conceals more than it reveals, and beliefs almost always come in words. Even if your belief is predicated on a mystical experience, you have to translate it into words before you can articulate it, even to yourself. And once you speak about it, it becomes an idea, and the idea is far removed from the experience.
The idea that God is within you is also just an idea. Like a traffic sign, it tells you what to do, but it doesn’t do it for you. In order to actually find God within, you have to have some practical means by which to do so. Otherwise, it will remain an idea forever. There has to be a way to put the idea into action in such a way that the idea becomes an experience.
The word “within” can be misleading. What does it mean to “go within”? Let’s try using the word in a different way, using a driverless car as an example. Most of the technology for autonomous vehicles (AV) is invisible, hidden away in its computers. So when we say “within” an AV, we’re not talking about a mystical component but real-life, albeit quasi-physical components in the form of programming. The most “mystical” thing about an AV’s architecture might be its internet and GPS connections – invisible sources of information coming from outside of the vehicle.
“Outside of the vehicle,” however, isn’t really an accurate way to say it, because the signals are everywhere, realistically speaking. The AV swims in a sea of information the way a fish swims in the ocean. This invisible information is, therefore, every bit as real as the AV, maybe even more so, because it’s bigger and more densely packed.
Our body’s “in-the-world” state of being is analogous to this information-rich environment in which the autonomous vehicle functions. For the most part, it doesn’t need us to navigate through most of the activities required for life on Earth. We don’t tell it how to digest its food, how to breathe, or how to circulate blood. It does all these things with mind-boggling proficiency. The sheer sum of all the different kinds of intelligence it takes to keep us alive and healthy is nothing short of miraculous.
In fact, our bodies are so adaptive and resilient in the face of ever-changing environmental conditions that it strongly suggests that they must be connected to a larger network. Their individual neural framework is simply too small. A larger, invisible “brain,” like the Internet and GPS networks that make AVs possible, must exist. This idea is far more plausible than each body being self-contained, having no broader connection with the world at large. This likelihood leads us to believe that the world we see isn’t so much made of matter but of information. Either that or matter IS information, only made visible, in which case it would be nearly impossible to discern where the external world ends and we begin.
The third thing we need to understand about this Sea of Information, this super-conscious, creative intelligence we live within (and that lives within us) is that it is wider and bigger in its field of operation than we are. In other words, it is capable of performing far more tasks than it takes to simply keep us alive. If matter somehow IS information, then the entire universe is one giant mind. It manages everything.
It can be argued that this way of understanding the universe is nothing more than equating God with Nature—“Nature IS God.” This would be true if the nature in question were comprised of only what we can see. But nature is more than that. Much more. The farther we look into its depths, the more mysterious it becomes. Take consciousness, for example. Science still has no idea what it is. No idea whatsoever. Our best guess is that consciousness is somehow epiphenomenal to mind, meaning that it arises out of a much larger field of intelligence than we are capable of comprehending. It is literally the “tip of the iceberg,” when it comes to the totality of our being. It is as though one part of the universal intelligence is looking back at itself, as in a mirror, and what we regard as “us” is nothing more than a reflection—a very small reflection at that. This makes us virtual beings, at least when we think of ourselves as conscious individuals.
This doesn’t make the world we live in unreal. It just makes it different from what we normally think it is.
So, how do we find God? Well, we first have to start thinking in more realistic terms, which means that we have to investigate this idea that we live in a sea of information that is way bigger and far more intelligent than we are. Next, we have to enter into a two-way conversation with it. And since it’s bigger and more intelligent, the best way to approach it is by asking it questions. Asking questions is really the only appropriate interaction we can have, aside from simply acknowledging how awe-inspiring the whole thing is and maybe expressing how grateful we are to be in a position where we can appreciate the enormity of the existential environment we are fortunate enough to inhabit.
And—lest we slip into the false notion that we are dealing with a “blind,” machine-like intelligence, no matter how big and sophisticated—consider this: if this universal mind is more intelligent than we are by some unknown order of magnitude, then it’s more than a little likely that its consciousness is far more profound than ours, in ways that we can’t even imagine. So talking with “it” is not exactly like entering code in a program—it’s more like talking with another person.
If speaking to it in words doesn’t come easy, try showing it pictures. Use your imagination to form images of your highest ideal, your visions of perfection, your fondest hopes, and your most exquisite conceptions of beauty. And if images aren’t your thing, try feelings. In moments of ecstasy, when the goodness of life verges on being unbearable, share THAT. Sing to it, laugh with it, smile with everything you’ve got at it. And do all of these things with the expectation that you will be noticed and that it will respond to you in ways that are as varied and sophisticated as the ways in which you approach it.
Once you establish this kind of communication, your life will never be the same again. Then, if you want, you can go to church. You can adopt a religion. But without this, you might as well not.