We experience the mystery of being as a deep love that unites all things as one. The New Testament puts this beautifully in religious language when it declares:
‘God is love
and those that live in love
live in God
and God lives in them.’
I remember coming to deep-know this was true during my awakening experience as a 12-year-old boy. Some weeks later, in a religious education lesson at school, the teacher invited in a priest to discuss Christianity. As part of our class discussion I suggested that all we really needed to understand was ‘God is love’. The teacher and priest smiled condescendingly and one of them said: ‘If only it were as simple as that.’ But I was sure it truly was as simple as that. And I still am.
The presence of God is a reality in my life. But for me God isn’t a great spirit that is separate from me. God is the primal oneness that is conscious through me. God is the mystery of being that is arising as all beings. And when I know God I experience a love that embraces all beings.
Religious traditions often portray God as a big person who decrees how we should live in holy books, which are the ‘word of God’. But God doesn’t speak to us. God is the primal silence that speaks through us. All words are human words and conditioned by the human experience of living in time. They are partial expressions of a truth that can never be articulated. There is no ‘word of God’, but if there were it would only be one word. And that word is ‘love’.
During the early years of my awakening I experienced an intense love affair with God, full of passionate longing when we felt apart, and deep communion when we found each other again. It is such a precious feeling when, as the Christian mystic Hildegard von Bingen puts it, ‘the mystery of God hugs you in its all-encompassing arm’.
Many spiritual traditions describe awakening as an experience of devotion to God. Other traditions maintain that having a devotional relationship with God characterizes a lesser awakening. It shows we’re still enmeshed in the illusion of separateness, because in reality we are one with God.
In my experience, however, these two approaches are complementary not contradictory. Being one with God and being in love with God are paralogically different ways of experiencing the same awakened state. When I’m deep awake I see I am both separate and not-separate from all that is. I am one with the mystery of being and I’m this separate individual called ‘Tim’ who feels intense love for the mystery of being.
The great Christian mystic Meister Eckhart teaches that ‘God is Being’ and urges us to ‘love God’. When I first read these lines I became full of insight. If God is being, then to love God is to love being. It is to love being here and now as Tim. It is to love the being of everything and everyone. It is to love all that is, simply because it is.
When I love being, it feels good to be. I know how much I want to exist. This love of being is something that permeates the whole of nature, which biologists call the ‘survival instinct’. But it is much more than just the will to survive; it’s an experience of the fundamental joy of living.
This love of being is always present, even when we’re not conscious of it. And this is why to awaken to deep love we don’t need to change ourselves or our lives. We simply need to become conscious of the ground of being that is perpetually present. And then there’s the deep love waiting to welcome us with open arms.
A World of Wonders
When I’m deep awake I find myself in love with both the mystery of being and the exquisite world of appearances. I become awed by the beauty of the world. I become overcome with wonder at the multifarious richness of life. I see the numinous in nature.
The German scholar Rudolf Otto describes the feeling of communing with the natural world as:
…the sense of being immersed in the oneness of nature, so that man feels all the individuality, all the peculiarities of natural things in himself. He dances with the motes of dust and radiates with the sun; he rises with the dawn, surges with the wave, is fragrant with the rose, rapt with the nightingale: he knows and is all being, all strength, all joy, all desire, all pain in all things inseparably.
In mythological language when we fall in love with nature we’re paying homage to the divine Goddess. She represents the mysterious appearances of life, just as God represents the mysterious essence of life. God is the life-dreamer. She is the life-dream. We are living in her sacred presence right now. She is everything we can see and hear and touch and taste. She is Mother Nature.
My deep love affair is with both God as the ground of being and Goddess as the appearance of being. The natural world is an objective expression of the unconscious oneness from which we have arisen. It is the unconscious foundation from which conscious bodies have evolved. When I see the numinous nature, I see the mystery in the manifest.
Heaven on Earth
In the Gnostic ‘Gospel of Thomas’ Jesus proclaims:
The Kingdom of Heaven is laid out upon the earth, but people do not see it.
Heaven and hell aren’t afterlife rewards for good and bad behaviour, they are states of consciousness we inhabit here and now. In my experience, when I’m only superficially awake my life is at best banal and at worst full of suffering. But when I’m deep awake, life becomes magical. The everyday world becomes a lucent miracle shimmering with deep love. I see that heaven is truly here on Earth.
In the ‘Gospel of Thomas’ Jesus also teaches:
The Kingdom is inside of you and it is outside of you.
If we reach deeply within or without, we discover the same mystery of being, which holds the world together in its loving embrace.
Then we fall in love with being. And this transforms hell into heaven.
From The Mystery Experience, © 2012 by Tim Freke, published by Watkins.