Adam Blatner

Words and Images from the Mind of Adam Blatner

Helping God Be Born

Originally posted on August 25, 2011

This is my preferred myth at this point in my life. It really doesn’t matter to me that this may be far from the truth. It feels to me that it’s close enough and by comparison to any other philosophy I’ve encountered—and that relativistic comparison is what counts—it’s better on many counts.

The myth suggests that what we call the Universe (even if it includes multiple universes) is in some sense alive and growing, becoming more complex in innumerable ways. Our relationship to this God-Everything is the relationship of a cell to the organism of which it is a part. I imagine myself to be more like a red blood cell in this organism. Being multi-dimensional in many ways myself—I play roles sensually in enjoying breathing, thinking, eating, being nice to others, etc.—I would not deny that multi-dimensionality to God, and so (1) that larger Being is also a spirit that enjoys Music, Laughter, the birth and death of all sizes of stars, and of all sizes of gnats and bacteria and viruses, etc. (2) and correspondingly, needs its individual parts to play as many roles as possible.

Part of the game is to creatively pack as much different life as is optimal, which varies according to income, temperament (introversion / extroversion), experience (some things: been there, done that), age, priority, interests, and other expressions of individuality. In this myth, I experience in part for me and in part I’m doing this for God.

Part of the creative challenge is to become most fully individuated, integrating and expressing and refining whatever qualities are most authentic in me. Equally, my challenge is to integrate this individually optimally with others, to be helpful, kind, participatory, adding to the good fellowship of the occasion; and also to be helpful with the greater society, doing what I can to add some good to humanity, locally or globally.

Part of that challenge is to remain balanced, cheerful, relaxed, not driven, not frenetic, not spread too thin. That means that there will be an unending list of things I haven’t done—sins of omission, if you like—and coming to terms with all the good I never did, could not comfortably do, and also all that I “missed out on,”—well, there’s another challenge: coming to terms with that. I do so by letting go into the myth, accepting my smallness, recognizing that there is a far, far greater process that I’m part of and that it’s not up to me to keep God alive and growing. But I do know that I can help in my tiny way, and there’s a value gradient in recognizing the range in which a bit of effort makes a difference.

The myth works because I can die into it, feeling good about my life. I can feel proud of my achievements and savor my experiences: Wow, what a great life! I can sing that song Sinatra made famous, “My Way,” knowing also that 2/3 of it all was Grace, given to me, a result of good fortune, synchronicity, the gift of angels, the kindness of strangers, and so forth. That’s a nice balance, though: It fosters some vanity and pride mixed with gratitude and delight at all the sweetness of the cosmos.

I’ve had some pain and loss and trouble.  I’ve been foolish in many ways and have rather enjoyed (at this point) reflecting on how I was foolish, the better to continue learning how to move away from those follies, a few of which still plague me. On balance, this works to reduce my temptation (in the face of so much Grace) to feel guilty for having it so easy. But then I reflect that I haven’t had it so easy, comparatively, even though in many ways it’s been easier than many. I’ve learned it does not further to envy or feel excessive guilt in relation to anyone else’s life. (I don’t always fully succeed in this comparison-activity, but I realize what I should aim for.)

God is in my mind an Embryo in this sector of the Universe, only 13.7 billion years old, which makes God, let’s see—converting to Divine time—about 3.4 months along in development. I like this general age in embryology, because structures are still forming, cells are still migrating, the ol’ brain is not wired up tightly, though it has some major structures in place. I enjoy this metaphor. (As I said, I’m clearly aware it’s nothing more than a particularly generative metaphor in my own mind, but consider the many things it suggests!)

This is a God that is expanding, growing. Part of what it needs is for its cells to become more integrated—its immune system, its nervous system, etc. I am not just a blood cell, but more of a stem cell, and since the metaphor is also multi-dimensional, I can play many cell functions for God. The metaphor stretches at this point. I am at different points a muscle cell exercising or moving chairs in the auditorium, a skin cell enjoying cuddling or a shower, or a nerve cell in the brain, reaching out to build networks of connectedness with other brain cells. I’m a bit more interested in this latter role, in writing, communicating, theory-building, metaphor-building, helping God awaken, become more conscious, or laying down the foundation in the metaphoric Mind of God to awaken more in love, faith, and responsibility.

Other Features of the Metaphor

First of all, there’s a mischievous reversal of conventional status images: God as King (male) on His throne—the conventional image—is one who needs nothing. I was influenced by Nikos Kazantsakis’ somewhat poetic book, “The Saviors of God,” when I was younger. What if God really need us to help manifest God’s fullest potential. What if God were trapped in a prison of mere materiality, or in other ways needed our help? This image also fit with my later (but still early mid-life) reading about Moreno’s theology—a God that needs our creativity to become most fully.

This metaphor of God-as-Embryo is dynamic and expanding in all dimensions. The variety of ways embryos and then babies and then middle-aged men “wake up,” go through phase transitions in which consciousness takes on new tone-color, making previous ways we thought seem almost naive, this process continues in a multi-dimensional way. We awaken to new skills, dimensions of knowledge (e.g., music appreciation), perspectives, community experiences, and so forth—in so many different ways. Our internal maps get re-arranged as we discover that we can suck our toes (as limber babies), or that we can fake out our daddy with a game of hide the toy—opening the world of “as if.” The cognitive psychologist called this “accommodation,” and it’s a major part of development. So the Multi-Cosmic Embryo image includes all these associations.

The embryo has thousands of different lines of cells differentiating further into even more specialized form, which symbolizes to me the way it takes all kinds to make a world. I am reassured that my way of being a bit scholastic and introverted in this way, exuberant and extroverted a little in that way, is okay. In contrast to my childhood, when I believed (and I think most people believed) there were some ways of being that were “better”—types of popularity— ways of being more masculine or feminine, and so forth—or even just the illusion that there was a kind of “normal” that we should try to be—and how that had a mildly competitive tone to it. I’ve only settled into truly accepting myself in my mid-70s, and occasionally actually need to struggle a bit to get my balance.

There’s a sense of vigorous and open-ended adventure about being an embryo or baby. There are so many things it could grow up to be, do, pursue, join with—it takes the multi-potentiality of infancy or childhood, that exciting innocence, and extends it to the pre-birth state.

But why an embryo rather than a baby? I sort of have an impression that for the embryo, the adventure of the cells getting lined up in structures and cross-connected just is a little closer to my struggle to be relevant in the whole process—the cellular level. The baby is already too formed as an organism. Certainly the growth of a baby into a child or adult—child development, offers an equally valid and complex metaphor, and there are innumerable other metaphors we can use, too, but what can I say? The embryo works for me. Perhaps it relates to my medical background, although my class on embryology—which deeply impressed me—was in my junior or senior year in college back at UC Berkeley.

(This again is how I’m aware that the semantic network—what a word like “God” might connect with—is so multi-faceted and as a result, so necessarily unique that certain deeply held concepts must of necessity be idiosyncratic. I don’t expect anyone to experience the “meaning” I have when I talk or write like this. Nor, then, do I pretend I can fully understand anyone else. It’s a fun game to try to get close in understanding, but that’s not the same as the presumptuous line, “I know exactly what you mean.” So there’s a deeper understanding of my own peculiarity and the necessary barriers of language. Still, we can be empathic enough to harmonize. A bit of humility  and play mellows the process.)

Linking Metaphor and Life

I find this image of God-as-Embryo to work for me, and I don’t expect it to work for others. Well, some readers may want to take parts of it and creatively weave it or see if any of fits with their own conscious or unconscious construction they are doing of what it’s all about. All I can say is that I’ve been thinking about religion for 65 years or so and this pleases me better than others. I realize I may replace this with a better metaphor in time. I may do things I still can’t imagine much less forsee—but that’s just an exercise in staying open-minded.

I use various metaphors for God. Often I dip back into being apophatic—a fancy term for defining God only in terms of what God is not. It’s an exercise in awe and owning of my ignorance and extending this to recognizing the limitation of human mind and probably any manifest organism’s mind to truly grasp the Everything.  Sometimes I mentally leaf through my philosophy books and see if there are any ideas that jump out and stick to my preferred image. Some philosophies do a little more than others. I favor Spinoza and hold a lot with the process thought of Whitehead and Hartshorne, but also feel some sympathy with a goodly number of others—Bergson, Dewey, James, and the list goes on.

Some philosophers and poets and mystics may well be right, but their writings just don’t work for me, don’t draw on the fundamental archetypes that resonate with my soul.  They draw on other images or themes that are compelling to others but leave me cold. Note that I’m not saying they’re wrong—au contraire—my point is that deep down, theology and philosophy derives from the uniqueness of personality that owns it.

Unfortunately, for centuries, at least, we have lived in a world in which ortho-doxy—i.e. “right thinking”— was determined not by an understanding of the inevitability of world-view based on the ubiquity of individuality, but rather a belief—misleading in my opinion, that there is a truth that can be expressed in human language and that applies absolutely to all people in all worlds for all times. I don’t believe this, even though I think that most folks raised in the 20th century think this way.

My awareness of essential and necessary difference arises in part from my being married to a woman whom I adore, and with whom I engage in philosophical explorations of the highest order—a true soul mate. Yet I’ve realized in the last year or so that she operates from a rather different base metaphor. I’ve realized that my feeling “right” in no way makes her “wrong.” What a great way to learn deeply that different people can have different deep philosophical constellations and they really have to be different in order to best serve that individual.

I sort of knew that, but in Allee’s case, so up close and personal, I so deeply respect her and want to bring her forth in full liberation as her wonderful self, that I must support her exploration of different archetypal orientations, a different metaphor for God, time, purpose, etc. I know she’s deeply good, but different.  I look around me at the blessing of a number of friends and family whose destinies I similarly value and respect and realize that no one—no one else ever—can share the nuance of the story I’ve constructed and witnessed to in this essay, and it’s great.

There is a small tension as I realize that I’m rather deeply conditioned—but not absolutely—to feel that there exists one truth and all else is false. What a deeply programed cultural illusion! Breaking free into postmodernist relativism feels almost wrong, however I may be able to modify it. So that adds to the subtle sense of intellectual and philosophical adventur. I realize I may be mistaken, but as I say, so far it seems that others (in my mind) have been even more mistaken.

This is a bit funny, too, because I have no doubt that in light of future discoveries in many directions and of many kinds, human consciousness will be at a different place in a few hundred years. There will remain some verities, like kindness, I think, some things that don’t change much; and there will be profound changes that are inconceivable today. From the viewpoint of the future, my most sophisticated mythmakings will seem a bit quaint. The best I can hope for is that they’ll indulgently say, “He was sort of on the right path.”

On the other hand, it doesn’t matter all that much if I was wrong! I also believe in the dialectic process, meaning that however I may be mistaken only offers grist for the mill, something that someone else will critique, play off of: Adam Blatner had some good ideas, but I think his theory of X should be revised so that it’s more like Y. I suspect some of this will happen. I’ve been doing it in my theories about life, psychology, culture, theology, and other topics, and it’s been fun! I wouldn’t deny this pleasure to my posterity.

The God Embryo myth contains all these currents as joyous and interesting vicissitudes, pulsing up-whelmings, small bubble collapses, like cereal cooking. It’s a symbol of multi-dimensional progress that includes apoptosis (cell suicide) and—here’s a word I either never learned or forgot—necrobiosis—as in the way skin cells slough off and die. Death is in no way a bad thing when looked at from the big picture. Cells that multiply and don’t die are called cancer. So there’s a surrendering into the needs for balance and harmony in the big picture.

Well, that’s enough for now. If anyone wanted to know my manifesto, phrased in a sort of saying-mantra, it would be a little song: “Helping God be Born.”

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