Recently I was at a meeting and celebration. Various presenters got up on stage, and great music bands too. One of the presenters, a senior academic, asked the audience the question:
“What is your image of God?“
It was a challenge for us to look honestly within and see what kind of image we had of God, what we believe and feel and think we know about God.
Suddenly my journey with seeking the truth about God throughout my whole life was sitting there with me. Some of the audience got up the courage to stand and speak on microphones about their images of God. I wanted to do that too. But I had so much to share! Where to begin? Share just one bit? But which bit? I felt it would be miserly to share just one bit, but to share it all would take all day and deprive others of the space to speak. What to do? I chose to write this blog.
My Family and my Introduction to School, God and Religion
It began as a young child of six going to school. Once a week all the students were shuffled out of our usual classes and separated into groups according to our religion for ‘Religious Instruction’. It felt weird being split apart from our friends and classmates, and expected to feel some kind of special kinship with strangers who happened to be born as whatever religion their parents followed.
I had been christened Congregational, like my Mum and her Dad before her. I had no idea what that meant, and there were no other kids in that category so I ended up in the ‘odds and ends’ class. We had two very elderly ladies who supervised our class and read the Bible to us. I found it pretty boring and couldn’t wait for the lesson to end. Kids got unruly and distracted, and that didn’t help encourage a studious attitude.
But it raised the question – who or what is this God character?
My family was not religious, in fact, most were quite anti-religious. Mum had loved singing in church as a child and she was probably the most religiously inclined in our family, although it was not overtly expressed until I was in my twenties. Dad had no time for religion. Many people’s only experience of going to church was to attend weddings, and this was so in our case. We were not church-goers, though I vaguely remember being in a church once with relatives, for some reason, being handed a prayer book and expected to join the congregation in singing songs I didn’t know. I recall being most fascinated by the incredible thinness of the book’s pages! Basically there was nothing at home to encourage questions about God.
As an active, curious, imaginative child I had many other things to do: school, taking my younger brother and sister on adventures, collecting bugs and rocks, raising frogs and fish, scientific experiments, reading, art, bikes, pets, games, making stuff… always busy and never bored. We needed no entertainment – our own imaginations and zest for life were more than enough. God and religion were not on the list and there was no pressure or indoctrination. That was great as it meant we were free to make our own discoveries when and if we were ever ready.
We knew someone who’d had a difficult childhood and had become wayward, in lots of trouble, doing terrible things. He was ‘saved’ by the church, and became intensely missionary about Christianity. People considered him to be obsessed, not normal, and they avoided, pitied and rejected him. My mum had compassion and understanding for him though, and I got to see that God and his son Christ were very real for him, a source of great joy and meaning for him. I didn’t experience that myself, but his passion piqued my interest.
Beginning my own Research into God and Religion
I began my researches into religion rather patchily. Sometimes in bed at night I read bits of the New Testament Bible to see if it held any answers about God that I could relate to. I just drifted, reading whatever page I opened to, trying to understand all the strange writing styles and events and characters. It felt like there must be some truth and really interesting stuff in there somewhere, except that I was not finding it. I did find contradictions and more questions than answers though.
God was supposed to be a loving, grey-bearded, kingly and fatherly figure on a throne up in the sky or up on mountains, and yet even on a clear day or night you couldn’t see him up there. I spent a lot of ‘scientific’ time outside looking at the sky day and night and I never saw a guy on a throne. God was sometimes depicted as a huge, terrifying, judgmental hand coming down from the clouds. Attached to what? Surely when there are no clouds and you do something wrong, you should be able to see him attached to his arm and accusing finger? So both images felt wrong and I could not accept them, not to mention that they were quite contradictory to each other.
How could an absolutely loving God also mete out terrible judgments of vengeance and devastation?
Then there was prayer. People did it, and they seemed very earnest about it, so I tried it. I felt silly, talking to someone who did not seem to be there, never gave any sign of having heard me, and in every way imaginable just did not seem to exist.
As I got a bit older and understood more science, another whopping contradiction became apparent. How could God be male when there was only one God? Male without female is like the right shoe without the left: useless and pointless. Thus God must be either gender or both. At least I got that bit sorted out in my mind! But it still didn’t answer what God was, or whether there even was one. I had no image of my own, just other people’s images – all of which I rejected.
Home, Nature and my Neighbourhood – where was God?
But while my quest to understand religion and find out what God is went on, there was something else very real to me that was non-physical and inexplicable.
I grew up in a working class, poorly educated Aussie family. We had little money and lived in Government housing – a family of 5 crammed into half a house. Like many of the households in that neighbourhood there was alcoholism and domestic violence. Constant choking cigarette smoke. Women at home taking tranquilisers and painkillers all day. Abusive behaviour. Self-sacrificing behaviour. I could barely stand it, retreating into myself, and retreating into Nature – the only places where all was harmonious and made sense to me, where I felt truth, where I felt I belonged and could be truly myself and at peace.
And there was another sanctuary, like the inner form of the outer Nature. Deep inside me, in the region of my heart, but somehow not confined by the thickness of my physical body, was a ‘place’, more like a ‘presence’. There was a core of light: an inviolable, unwavering, dependable, powerful, shining flame that could be trusted to always be there and not be tainted, destroyed, weakened or taken away no matter how dark and ugly things got around me, no matter how hurt or angry or afraid I felt; no matter how much I would have despaired of life, I had that core of light inside me. It sustained me through challenges that many of the kids in our neighbourhood did not get through.
In my part of the city I knew of a sixteen-year-old boy who was already a convicted, repeated rapist and car thief and went to jail young. Pre-pubescent kids were involved in pack fights, getting badly injured. Young girls were getting pregnant. One boy not even in his teens was already a drug dealer and was involved in his brother’s death from an overdose. A woman was carted away on a stretcher, dying of an overdose of a painkiller while her young daughters looked on. A father stood over his son with a big leather strap, supervising the boy’s homework, and every break in attention was met with a beating. The boy turned to a life of crime, and ended up suiciding. A trouble-seeking father was beaten to a pulp at a party and sustained permanent brain damage.
When I was 13 or 14 years old, one older boy who’d been vicious and threatening towards me and my siblings, recently home on leave from the Vietnam war, stood proudly in his army uniform talking about the war. He seemed to love the war and I felt that fitted with his cruel character. I asked him: “What do you like most about the war?” His answer: “The killing.” He was serious!
Stories like this were repeated in various forms throughout most of the neighbourhood. At night you could hear the screaming fights of parents and the thumps of physical violence in other homes.
Where was God? Not anywhere around here!
Asking Difficult Questions about God which went Unanswered
Once my Dad befriended a man from the Salvation Army and, enthused by his new friend, took me and my brother to attend their Sunday school. I resented having my Sundays taken away, expected to sit listening to stuff that didn’t make sense. I was rewarded for the quality of my drawings and ability to regurgitate ‘facts’, but that seemed to me to have nothing to do with religion. I was disgusted. I asked difficult questions. They were not answered. I told my father I refused to go to Sunday school any more, and that was the end of that.
Religious missionaries frequently came and knocked on doors – mostly Jehovah’s Witnesses, plus a few Mormons. I asked them difficult questions. If God made only Adam and Eve, and all of humanity came from them, wouldn’t it mean that brothers and sisters had mated incestuously, and the children should be deformed? How could God be male if he was the only one of his kind? How do they know he exists?
If the one and only God wrote the one and only Bible, why are there so many different versions?
If all men are equal, why do religious people act as if they are superior to others and say that they’re the only ones who are right? What about women? If God is love, we are his children, and we are to treat all people as equals, why aren’t we? How can we be made in the image of God when we all look so different?
The door-knockers usually became uncomfortable and left, unable to answer my questions.
As a teenage high school student and young university student I found that science had nothing useful to say about God either. It pretty much conveyed the idea that God was just a comfortable superstitious belief and had no basis in fact or nature.
No answers for me in science, nor in any religions, with all their fighting and denigration of each other.
I did not seriously study the non-Christian religions, but dipped a toe in enough to sense that they were just as equally empty of any real love, equality or divinity. And yet they all seemed to have the same core principles, that no-one was recognising or living. I kept saying that all religions are really one and need to re-unite. But no-one listened; I didn’t feel that they even understood what I was saying. I stopped talking about it.
Finding the Answers for Myself… Growing my own Sense of God
As an adult I thought I must be an atheist, convinced there was no God, or at least an agnostic, undecided about the matter. Intellectually that kind of fitted, except for a constant sense that underneath all that, I was actually religious and knew that God existed in some form, without any ‘evidence’ to prove it to myself or anyone else.
It kept coming back to me: I had to find the answers for myself.
I felt there had to be some connection between the stillness and harmony of Nature, and this enigmatic concept – God. It seemed to me that if there was a God, it was that special something which was in all the awe-inspiring order, beauty and intelligence of Nature, not just a finite figure up in the sky or in some mythical paradise.
And whatever God might be, it had a similar feel to that core of light inside me.
It had a similar feel to the feeling of selfless care and love for others that I felt in my heart, and to the ‘conscience’ that was always there guiding my choices and preventing me from doing wrong. I did not attach the name ‘God’ to my core of light and love or my conscience, as I was still in rejection of all the images of God that existed in society around me. I suppose my own private sense of God was growing and developing, without form, while humanity and its works and beliefs continued to look like a loveless, godless mess.
Enter ‘Evidence’ of God… and the New Age
I didn’t speak about God with other people; it was such a fruitless topic. But one day when I was a 21-year-old university science student (as I’ve shared with a few people and written about before), I was at an end-of-year departmental party. A professor of mathematics said to me: “You can’t study Pure Mathematics for long before you realise there must be a God.” This was an awesome moment! Here was a modern reductionist scientist who’d found satisfactory ‘evidence’ of God in nature.
And as I looked more and more for myself, it was inescapable. We were being taught about the senseless randomness of particle movements, ‘blind, directionless nature’ and purely physical evolution, which might appear accurate on small scales, but did not ‘cut the mustard’ in the big picture for me. And modern science to this day still has no grasp of how the miracles of embryology or consciousness are even possible.
Enter the New Age. Some denied the existence of God, some spoke of God being not male, but a Goddess, some spoke of having conversations with God, some said there were lots of gods and they were all really just archetypes in the human mind, some claimed God was an alien, some that God was a physical man living in a certain country, some said they had seen God and drew pictures of ‘him’ or ‘her’. For me, it all went into the trash can of illusion pretty quickly.
All I had was my enduring non-image of God as possibly being connected with the feelings of light and love and conscience deep inside me, and the essence of all of Nature. It fitted with what Jesus said about the Kingdom of God being inside us, and yet God being everywhere and being all-knowing love and light.
Enter Theosophy, Esoteric Studies, Serge Benhayon and Universal Medicine, God, and Me…
Enter theosophy, esoteric studies, Serge Benhayon and Universal Medicine in 2002. A great leap forward in my understanding of God! Initially I had an academic approach and many interesting revelations from the knowledge imparted in books and presentations. But I still squirmed at the mention of the word ‘God’ and had trouble even saying it because of all the false pictures I had seen in society up to this point.
However, as my choices changed upon the basis of experimenting with the new knowledge, for example quitting drugs, changing my diet, claiming a higher level of awareness and responsibility, etc, my ability to directly sense and experience things that are beyond physical and scientific understanding has grown.
My inner voice of wisdom has grown. My sense of God has grown, and is still growing.
I have not seen a grey-haired man on a throne or a big hand coming from the sky! I have not felt sinful, lesser, guilty or judged by some power above me! But I have felt the indescribable stillness that is the foundation of the harmony, order and intelligence in Nature.
I have felt and seen in another human being the magnitude of love, truth, joy, harmony, stillness, responsibility, care and understanding that are to me defining attributes of God, and felt them grow within me too, from contact with that greatness freely given without expectation or imposition. I have seen the light and love in my core shining in the eyes of another person, and increasing numbers of people, and know without doubt that we are all one, we are all held in the body of God and we all contain the all.
I still don’t have an ‘image’ of God, but I feel I now know something of God, for real. It’s taken 6 decades, and this is still only the beginning!
By Dianne Trussell
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