The Invisible Spirit
|Many people fancy God as reason and religion as a structure based on
reasoning. The ultimate critique
of a structure of pure reasoning is it does not last. Reason depends on
an emotion to think on and reason about. Reason needs an emotion to reason about and implement.
Therefore we should realize that the first step in religion is a high emotional awareness. That is to
feel, enjoy and revel in the emotions we have that show us God. The energy comes from the emotions.
Let us begin with a good emotion. Compassion is an emotion any parent feels when a child falls and bumps his head. Any parents from any country around the world feel compassion for a crying child who has fallen and bumped or bruised himself. Now this simple compassion all know comes from common grace. It is example of an attitude of common grace felt universally by mankind. Feeling it is part of being human and is shared by every parent, perhaps any real human, regardless of creed, color or region in the world. As the crying child comes running to the caring adult, a real adult feels a sympathetic acceptance towards the child and open his or her arms wide to comfort the child. This sympathetic response is a universal impulse, an elemental impulse of grace, a trait of God built into humanity by God’s working through nature. Because it is shared by all peoples it is usually classified as common grace. This Common Grace demonstrating sympathetic acceptance can be viewed in nearly all parents and members of nearly all religions all over the world. Common grace is a common foundation of sharing many of the good traits that exemplify God all over the world and that sprinkle the Sovereign God’s world creation.
Now let us suppose that we ourselves may have an experience of the presence of God. When I first had an experience of God I was aware of a presence in the room of an Invisible Personality absolutely radiating outward sympathetic acceptance that I felt applied not only to myself but to the world. Now the sympathetic acceptance I felt from God was scores of times more intense and more magnified than any unconditional or sympathetic acceptance I had ever felt before. I was aware of a sympathetic acceptance that rocked the core of my being. I knew this Invisible Presence was the gift of God that was Special Grace, revealed grace, redeeming grace. I knew then the basis of God was an emotional understanding of God and it was this feeling of God, this sympathetic transcendence, this awareness was at the core of the Gospel and of all religions.
Religion may have creeds, but it is more than a creed. Religion may have rules and duties, but it is more than rules or duties. It is an emotional awareness of the love of God that is the basis of religion. First the emotional awareness of what God is like should be realized, then we should push in the direction of it.
My Invisible Spirit is best but not perfectly compared to a magnet of sympathy that both enabled me to feel the intensified sympathetic acceptance that drew my consciousness to the Spirit. Then after being lifted up spiritually, not literally, my consciousness returned to earth where I felt a great joy in being alive. I found that the textures of the material world had a new, fresh feeling. I was aware of a great silent inner beauty emanating from things. Then I went out walking in the night and rejoiced in my experience and a new certainty of God.
Now I felt that I had spiritually been taken up in Special Grace beyond that state of Common Grace which is the everyday commerce and society of the world. In the life of the world much common grace is ever evident, but now I knew beyond the Common Grace of Everyday Life, which we do not appreciate enough, there now existed to my sure knowledge a Special Grace uncovered to me, a Spirit at the invisible heart of things, a Spiritual fountain of the most intense and magnified love, caring, concern, joy and sympathy.
I also realized, thanks to a theological and religious education, that I was simply joining in the parade of many present as well as past peoples of faith who have had experiences of God. I had met as well as known many people from all races and classes and denominations who had had experiences of God. One has only to read history to find them or look for many within the churches as well as some without the churches. Neither Mother Teresa or Albert Schweitzer would have taken the arguments on the non-existence of God very seriously. It would have been equally silly for me to pay attention to the modern arguments that there is no God because His existence cannot be proved or reasoned.
I did not go to God because of reason. I never heard of anyone who went to God because of reason. The person reasoning himself to God will have a cold time and a dry God. I went to God because of the emotions and enlightenment I had when I met Him. The Apostles went to Jesus for the same reason. They met Him and the great emotions He inspired overwhelmed them.
It was said of the Prophet, Mohammed, that he “fell in love with God.” With him reason again was not the primary issue. I do not believe with God reason will ever be the primary issue. The fact of His appeal is the primary and positive spiritual character of God is such that those who meet Him are overmastered and drawn to Him. They are overmastered and succumb to His sympathetic acceptance, His cleansing of what might be in another and different society termed “karma,” His transcendent understanding, His call to a more compassionate life.
God is the greatest resource of those virtues and traits of character that are always needed in the world. They are needed in the world today as much if not more than ever because the world lives in the shadow of ultimate destructive war. It is because the church and God are great resources of virtue and the quality of life that this world needs that the poet, Dante, termed the contribution of God and the church was “humanitas” or compassion and pity for the suffering and sorrows of mankind
If you are one of those who see no grace in life, look around you. The world is not perfect. It is full of sin and selfishness. But there may be also seen elementals of grace in the self-sacrifice of parents, the trust of children, much beauty and touching loves. No one can be completely selfish because it is written in our natures to reach out to love others. Because you can see these things around you in creation, the touches of grace, then you should be able to realize a greater fountain of grace is out there in stronger and more intense spiritual shape and form awaiting you.
Can you also receive Special Grace and know some aspects of God? Yes, I believe some of you can. When you learn to appreciate and see the signs of God’s image dotting the earth He created through common grace, you are building up to seeking Special Grace. Will you obtain it? I do not know, but if you do not try to look for grace, Common and Special, and allow yourself to be open to God, then you have no chance at all.
Would your awareness of Special Grace be like mine? No, I think probably not. The grace that comes to each of us is cut to us and bears our unique stamp. No one person is big enough to have or hold the full counsel of God, so do not expect it. But seek your share of grace and let God determine it. I am convinced service to others, study of sacred books, the Bible, as well as kindness can prime the pump of grace. After all in II Corinthians 9:8, has not the Apostle written, “God is able to make all grace abound.”
Dr. James MacLeod may be contacted through the Neill Macaulay Foundation.