Monday, March 10, 2008

What Can We UUs Offer to Those Who Hunger & Thirst for G_d?

Those who hunger and thirst after G_d should not allow themselves to be deflected from their yearning by our or any other church. It is G_d who answers our prayers, not an institution, not religion.

So the first thing I think we can say out of our UU experience is: “You are on the right path. It is your hunger that will feed you. Hold it close and do not let it go.”

Unitarian Universalists begin with the individual. The ultimate basis of our thought is personal experience. We start in our awareness of life — not in holy books or creeds or traditions. This is not to say that there is no help in these resources, but this is not where it begins. It begins in the heart, in the striving, in the quest, in the transcendent mystery that moves us to renewal of the spirit.

The heart is the seat of knowledge. Our science teaches us that we think with our whole bodies, not merely with our brains. Those who hunger and thirst in their pursuit of true knowledge are already on the path to G_d. We do not urge them to leave that path in order to take our predetermined, one-size-fits-all way.

We can teach that wisdom gathered from many of the world’s religious resources will lead such seekers to recognize that true knowledge does not lie in the content of what we have learned alone, but in the insights we have accumulated through experience of our actions and awareness of our personal characteristics.

For the great Muslim philosopher al-Ghazzali:
“Such knowledge is a ‘disposition deeply rooted in the soul from which actions flow naturally and easily without means of reflection or judgment.’ Such knowledge is not only what we know but what we feel. It is knowledge that is not only known but meant. The fusion of knowing, feeling, and doing integrates the outer and the inner man.” *

In the process of such integration the individual may best hope to find G_d. Unitarian Universalism does not need to invent a separate unique path to G_d. We need to actively point to the many paths already available. In doing so we may reveal the power of the diversity we embrace and provide the open path particularly suited to post-modern times.

The second thing I think we can say out of our experience is: “You are on the right path. It is your hunger that will feed you. Hold it close and do not let it go.”

In your hunger you will digest your experience, becoming one with it. In your thirst you will taste, not merely consume what life brings to you. This path of integration is the path of G_d.

The respect, that you will gain as you experience the interconnectedness of all existence, will draw you more and more deeply into what Christians sometimes call the kingdom of G_d — this place where we belong; this place where your heart’s hunger can find satisfaction; this mystery where you recognize the living G_d that exists beside and within you.

*Revivification of the Religious Sciences as quoted in Ira Lapidus, A History of Islamic Societies, p. 165.

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