Not another boring discussion about the existence of God and who has ownership of ‘him’ and to whom did ‘he’ give the exclusive. As in ‘what we and we alone have is God’s word’, we are ‘his’ chosen people, etc.
That’s all rather ridiculous. Both believing and not believing in God implies, as commonly debated, a God outside all that physically exists. What’s known as a ‘personal God’, the one Stephen Fry said he didn’t believe in because it didn’t intervene to save the Africans from starvation. How could God allow such things to happen?! It’s – LOL – an old way of making God understandable to peasants thousands of years ago; “You see peasant – God is like a good king sitting on his throne, rewarding faithful subjects with fine things and casting the naughty down into the flames of hell’. I suppose that made sense at the time, the Earth understood as flat as a pancake, volcanoes spew fire from underground and heaven, where all the good people, angels and God himself reside, was somewhere up there beyond the fluffy clouds. Simple and effective in keeping the unwashed on the straight and narrow and the scary bit is that this infantile personal God concept remains the basis for debate.
I’m not going to now suggest what God is because I don’t know that anymore than I could answer the question, “Who are you?” God can neither exist nor not exist, just like I cannot know who ‘I am’.
Sounds nonsensical but what we would believe determines ‘you’ does not exist in any way permanent– the question has no answer.
Many have thought about these things and arrived at similar conclusions including the famous samurai and philosopher Miyamoto Musashi who in the last section of his “Book of Five Rings”, “The book of the Void”, wrote,
The Ni To Ichi Way of Strategy is recorded in this the Book of the Void.
What is called the spirit of the void is where there is nothing. It is not
included in man’s knowledge. Of course the void is nothingness. By
knowing things that exist, you can know that which does not exist. That is the void.
People in this world look at things mistakenly, and think that what
they do not understand must be the void. This is not the true void. It is bewilderment.
In the Way of Strategy, also, those who study as warriors think that
whatever they cannot understand in their craft is the void. This is not the true void.
I get what he means – sort of. During the month I spent last year fasting in the forest west of Sydney I arrived at a point where ‘only the mountain remained’. The poem of Li Po on the homepage banner of this blog. The ‘me’ as I understood it had disappeared and yes, there was nothing aside from what Musashi described as “the spirit of the void.” Something permanent like a mountain. Musashi most likely agonised over using the word ‘spirit’ but had no other and so added ‘It is not included in man’s knowledge’. There are no words to describe it.
I agonised over the decision to call an end to my fast, and trust me, it was not easy. I didn’t want to leave the beautiful space I’d found, and return to the world of humans. In the end, back in the city, wandering aimlessly, gradually refuelling my body, unable to make a decision, I just decided to trust and accept what might happen as right. Funny to think I should be long dead – honestly – and I still don’t really ‘get it’, and never will.
A caveat – I would not recommend trying the same thing. That being deliberately going to the edge of life. There are other ways such as prayer, meditation and the one that best works for me which is a combination of meditation both in stillness and in movement using the sword. I’ll expand a bit on all that some other time, especially on the oneness of Zen and Iaido.