Adam Blatner

Words and Images from the Mind of Adam Blatner

My Angle on God (Part 2)

Originally posted on April 20, 2011

This evocative phrase occurred to me last night, following some reading about the mid-Renaissance German mystic, Jacob Boehme. It’s a playful turn of phrase that stands in contrast to the idea that there is only one right way to understand the Divine—i.e., orthodoxy. Can people develop their own take, their own interpretation, aside from that which has become general consensus? Traditionally, ordinary people aren’t supposed to have “an angle” on something so grand as the Deity. One should either have a mystical insight which reveals ultimate truth in contrast to orthodoxy—in which case one risks being branded a heretic—or one should adhere to the accepted elements of doctrine as handed down by authorities who claim to know better.

But “angle on God” implies a shift away from true-or-false ways of thinking—i.e., science or art. It implies something closer to art. Art is a complex interaction of subjectivity and a little bit of objectivity; it is accepted that it makes no sense to talk about a single correct interpretation of music or art. The game is to take a flow of impulses that come through intuition, imagination, and inspiration and form them into an original and yet aesthetically rewarding interpretation. This may be done in musical composition, in art, in finding a “voice” or style in singing or drama, in dance, poetry, and so forth. No “truth” in the sense of a “right answer” is expected; rather, some pieces are deemed more “true” relatively, depending on their impact on the audience’s aesthetic or emotional sensibilities. Even then, art is not expected to be evocative for all potential audiences.

So what if we moved religion away from science and towards art? And what if we moved a fair amount of philosophy in that direction, too? That is to say, consider that much of philosophy involves a relative weighting of this or that principle, depending on the power of the archetype that draws the mind toward that principle. Anyway, what if thinking of the formulations, the left-brain language assigned to ultimate intuitions, might be more like art? And this in turn might lead to more tolerance, more diversity, more self-expression, more mutual influences. Even if you don’t take what I say as “true” in the sense of buying the whole package, you might or might not find a few elements in it that are useful to your ongoing constructive process. What if our ideas are presented not as arguments but rather as simply witnessing to what works for us, what seems plausible and perhaps interesting or exciting or beautiful?

All this is predicated on a discovery that has been accumulating in depth and breadth in the last century or so: Everything—from stars to atoms—is so complex, made up of so many different elements, that in their aggregate they are of necessity unique in the universe! Consider that one implication of this is that we recognize individuality more sharply and shift our socio-cultural institutions to include this recognition.

First, we need to recognize that history over the last several centuries has had this theme in the process of emergence of complexity and individuality—in theories of liberty, freedom, etc. We need to recognize also that this individuality is inconvenient or problematical to administrators who find it easier to make firm rules about how people should be—in religion, education, law, government, medicine, and all other fields. We need to recognize that as far as civil harmony and ethics is concerned, some of this conformity is truly necessary—but much of it really serves the ease, convenience, or the advantage of those in power.

For the limited consciousness that equates ease with the nature of the challenge, it might seem  easier to teach. Just assume that all kids need to know the same stuff—just fill their little open minds as if they were vessels. It’s harder to figure out how to ignite the fire of the desire to learn in different minds because, well, for one thing, they’re all so different! But harder isn’t the same as impossible. A similar argument can be made for the management of religion. Or politics, or other mass cultural institutions. Still, the trend toward individualization continues to be one of those factors pressing against the difficulties of administrators to allow for such variances.

So there’s a socio-cultural resistance towards individuality, especially in the realm of spirituality. But if we recognize this, we can negotiate it all more openly. As long as it remains hidden, unconscious, then the struggle operates indirectly and driven by phony rationalizations.

This, then, is a partial explanation of the idea that spiritual insight often involves the person’s particular angle on apprehending the Divine. The phrase supports what many sages have said about their being many paths to God. (What my angle is was discussed on a related blog posted today.)

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