Alright, I can see the point of getting insightful information about ourselves and others. But what about using meditation to find God? Mystics say they rise out of themselves and ecstatically surrender to God, YHWH, Brahman, Tao, the One, Allah, etc. Meditation as you’re describing it, as a way to obtain information, doesn’t appear to include this. So what’s the deal with meditating to find God or using meditation to surrender to the Divine?
We’ll begin with a question of our own. What God are you referring to? We have previously discussed the idea of God as a projection of human desires. Freud was certainly correct when he observed that human beings project God as a supernatural father who they hope will look after them during trying life conditions. Others project a supernatural mother in the form of a goddess, or of Mary, the mother of Christ.
Let’s be clear. There are no supernatural gods. They are an illusion. They are ideas projected onto reality by human beings who need to feel cared for. As we have also pointed out, every single person is cared for. But not by God. Rather it is by close friends in spirit whose help individuals may or may not be aware arrives when needed.
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Another issue rises out of this desire to be cared for by a supernatural father or mother. It is that many individuals want to surrender their life to their God’s control. In doing so they are actually surrendering their responsibility to grapple with the circumstances of their own life, which involves working with purpose and effect, setting and completing challenges, and making the most of their opportunities. The religious idea that believers should surrender to God’s will is self-limiting. Life is a struggle and you need to work hard to achieve anything. There is no way to sugar-coat this. The reason you took on a human body in the first place was precisely to take advantage of the circumstances life provides, to grapple and struggle and use the opportunity to evolve.
On the other hand, it is understandable that at times life becomes too much and people say, “I surrender. I’m leaving it up to you now God.” Everyone has periods, even extended periods, when they feel their life circumstances are too complex or too hard. We refer particularly to when people are caught up in natural disasters, war, or economic conditions that literally squeeze the life out of them.
That at these times people surrender themselves to the mechanisms of life, to fate, or to God’s will, is understandable. It may be that an individual’s life plan has already incorporated the disaster and that the individual’s life terminates at this point. On the other hand, everyone has friends in spirit, and these friends are always on hand to provide a hand. So remaining alert throughout even the most trying circumstances can be useful. Wars and disasters always throw up tales of miraculous survival. Sometimes such survival is entirely a matter of chance. But friends in spirit may also be involved. They intervene to ensure the trapped person survives. Why do so? Because the saved individual’s life plan still has significant events to play out.
Of course, miraculous survival presupposes that the individuals didn’t give up, didn’t surrender themselves to immediate life circumstances. Being alert to alternative possibilities, doing what you can to stay in the game, so to speak, is a key to surviving situations that from the outside appear to be unsurvivable.
In saying this, we are not criticising those who do surrender to life circumstances. At times problematic situations become terminal, and even one’s friends in spirit cannot help. What we are criticising is the widespread religious attitude that one’s life is ultimately under the control of God and that God has formulated a fate for each person that cannot be escaped. This is incorrect. There is no such God and no such inescapable fate.
What does exist for you is your own spiritual you, your friends in spirit—some of whom are incarnated with you and some of whom are keeping an eye out from the spiritual domain—and a life plan that you yourself have selected and set in motion prior to incarnating. However, your life plan is not fixed. It exists as a template for your activities this time round, but you do not have to rigidly adhere to it. You are able to depart from it if you wish.
As we have stated elsewhere, your current life is an experiment that you have set in motion according to what you chose at the level of your spiritual self. You have anticipated certain results for this experiment, and you have particular goals that your spiritual you has set for your human you to achieve. But if something unanticipated occurs that forces a change in the plan, or even if you at the level of your human you decide to change the experiment half way though, that’s fine. Your life experience changes and new life lessons come to the fore. From the perspective of spirit, it is all grist to the mill.
This brings us—finally, you might say—to the question of using meditation to find God. God in the form of a supernatural father or mother has no objective existence, being a projection of human hopes and fears. Such a God can only be found by interrogating your own fears and hopes. Once the source of those fears and hopes are understood and dissolved, the projected idea of God will dissolve too.
However, there is another notion of God that is proposed by mystics and philosophers. This is God as the ground of all existence. In Indian spirituality this ground is called Brahman, the Absolute. We would characterise this ground as unmodulated consciousness, which is beyond everything that exists physically, psychologically, mentally or spiritually. The Indian mystics proposed that atman, each individual’s spiritual self, is made up of the same spiritual stuff as Brahman. This means that Brahman and atman are identical.We affirm that this is the case. You at the level of your spiritual you consist of consciousness. The ground of all existence similarly consists of consciousness. Yet though ultimately they are one, there is a difference between them. The difference is that the ground of all existence is a vast ocean of consciousness, whereas you as an individual are but a drop in it. This well-known metaphor may seem overused and somewhat simplistic, but it is as good as any other to indicate the relationship of individual consciousness to the ground of all existence. Of course, the relationship is more complex than this metaphor indicates. We’ll come back to this point later.
For now we wish to make clear that how the ancient Indian mystics came to the realisation that atman and Brahman are the same stuff of consciousness was via meditation. They closed their eyes and looked within, seeking the ground of their personal being. In doing so, they discovered information about the ground of all beings. The first expositions of their discoveries were recorded in the Upanishads. This phase culminated in the Bhagadvad Gita, which drew together several hundred years of exploration. For another thousand years or so the sages of Vedanta and Buddhism added additional insights to what was originally perceived during meditation.
We do not disagree with their insights. If you define God as the ground of all existence, meditation will certainly enable you to access particular levels of that ground. However, and we emphasise this, there are limits on what you as an awareness currently occupying a human body are capable of perceiving. To explain the nature of these limits we need to make a digression into what are traditionally regarded as metaphysical issues—at least, incarnate human communities see them as metaphysical. For those living in discarnate spiritual communities, human or otherwise, what we are about to say is simply how reality works.
All spiritual identities—including you, us, and beings of every kind, most of which are unknown to humanity—have been manifested out of the oceanic consciousness that is ground of all existence. Each has been born, by which we mean created, by a process of spontaneous extrusion out of consciousness. Technically, each spiritual identity is a modulation of the underlying unmodulated consciousness. More simply, each is a drop of oceanic consciousness.
Not all spiritual identities function in the same way. Most remain a unified identity throughout their existence. However some, soon after their birth, splinter into smaller identities. These splinters number anywhere from just a handful to many thousands. Each spirit that incarnates into a series of human bodies is part of a much larger spiritual entity that has splintered into somewhere between eight hundred and twelve hundred separate identities. There are exceptions, with some having more and some fewer, but this is the average for those spiritual entities that choose to incarnate in the human world.
So at the level of your spiritual self you are one part of a spiritual entity that consists of between eight and twelve hundred independent separate identities. These identities form your immediate spiritual family. Most of your friends in spirit come from this family. However, as is the case within human families, you are closer to some in your spiritual family than to others. In addition, some whose company you enjoy come from other spiritual families. Naturally, you choose to incarnate more frequently with those you are closer to than with those who are not as close.
This metaphysical fact has implications for those who wish to use meditation to know God. It makes clear that several different levels of consciousness are available to the meditator. Initially, meditators lift their awareness to the level of their own spiritual self. Everyday human awareness is cramped, hemmed in and limited compared to the spiritual self’s awareness, which is open, free and expansive. When you are incarnated in a human body you struggle to express your love and hard-won wisdom, but when you have no body you are much freer to emanate that love and wisdom.
When people meditate and reach this spiritual level of themselves, they are frequently overwhelmed by the intensity of what they find. As a result they think they have found and merged with God. This is not the case. They have found and merged with their own spiritual self. The contrast of what they experience, their feeling of being loved and free, reflects the contrast between normal human embodied existence and normal human non-embodied spiritual existence.
A key result of meditation is that it enables you to become aware of the fact that you participate in both levels simultaneously, that at the same time you are bodily hemmed in and spiritually free. It just takes a change in perspective to shift from one level to the other. A key truth of human existence is that human beings function on these two levels. When your body dies you will operate on just one level, the spiritual. Until then meditation helps you switch your perspective to that of your spiritual self and back again.
It is also possible to use meditation to tune in at the level of your collective spiritual family. This is an empowering, overpowering experience. Think of how intoxicating it is when your everyday awareness merges with your own spiritual self. Then multiply that by ten, by one hundred, by a thousand. As far as your human-level awareness is concerned, being united with the love and accumulated wisdom of your spiritual family would, to use the vernacular, blow you away. The experience is that intense. This is why it rarely occurs at the human embodied level. Even in a non-embodied state it takes much preparation before individual splinters are ready to merge with their full extended family. Merging on this level is an art that is learned and perfected by incarnating a thousand or more times into the human world.
There are further levels of potential merging. Each collected family of spiritual identities merges with other similar groups of collective identities in ways that cannot be described here, both because it has no meaning on the human level and because human concepts of love and surrender are inadequate to describe what is involved. So we are not being coy in withholding information, it is simply that it would be like trying to describe the principles of higher mathematics to a goldfish. Knowledge of what is involved will come when you complete your cycle of incarnations, rise of out the fishbowl that is life on this planet, and move on to encounter what comes next.
All this means there are numerous levels for your awareness to rise through before it can merge with the pure unmodulated consciousness that is the ground of all existence. Just as all spiritual identities emerged out of this ground, so all will eventually return to it. However, from a human perspective, this is a long way in the future.
In the meantime, is it possible for individuals to merge with this ground of unmodulated consciousness? After all, people have written accounts of feeling their awareness lifted into another realm, which is sometimes characterised as heaven, sometimes as a void, sometimes as shamanic worlds, sometimes as hyper-dimensional space, and having the feeling of coming into contact with the ground of consciousness. We offer two observations.
First, human beings have long been conditioned by their religions to think of spiritual reality as ultimately consisting of the human soul and God. Between the human soul and God, separating them, are heaven and hell, which are inhabited by beings such as angels and demons. So when human beings experience a spiritual presence, and they know it isn’t an angel or devil, they assume they have experienced God. What they perceive is truly perceived, but their interpretation of their perception is incorrect. Traditional religious notions have led them astray.
Second, what gives rise to these erroneous notions is humanity’s tendency towards being grandiose. It has long been an assumption among the religious, and more recently among those who practise the sciences, that human beings are the only conscious beings in physical existence. As a result, the idea has risen that human truths are universal truths and that as the ancient Greek philosopher asserted man is the measure of all things—and we deliberately retain the sexist term to reinforce just how limited such a proposition is.
The fact is that human beings, women and men, are not the measure of anything beyond their own experience. No single person is even the measure of all human experience, given how varied life is in the human world and that no one has tried every possible human activity and skill, let alone become expert in them all. In addition, human psychological make-up varies immensely, with some happily enjoying experiences that others find highly distasteful, even repellent. As another homily puts it, there is no accounting for taste. The upshot is that one person’s measure, which results from their experience and judgement, is certainly not the same as someone else’s measure. To place the cap on this line of thought, we observe that humanity’s collective perception and judgement provides just one possible measure of reality among innumerable measures applied by all the different species living throughout the universe.
So, far from being the measure of all things, human beings struggle to provide a coherent measure even for everything that occupies them for the duration of their lives. Do not think that we are being sarcastic or sneering when we say this. We too lived many human lives during which we thought that our perceptions, along with our tastes, assumptions and judgements, provided a valid measure for all things. With experience comes wisdom, with wisdom comes humility, and humility involves the realisation that one should not speculate or make grandiose assumptions regarding matters for which one lacks the full facts.
To end this answer to the question on using meditation to merge with God, we offer the unavoidably deflating response that you should keep your focus close to home. If you are able to freely contact and merge with your spiritual self whenever you wish, and if you develop knowledge of what members of your own spiritual family are doing in relation to your life plan and what you are doing in relation to theirs, then you have achieved a great deal.
Leave God to do God’s business, whatever that might be. The business of making the most of your opportunities of being human is more than sufficient to grapple with in the short time you have available to you in this life. Paradoxically, it is also the most effective way to find God. Everything that exists is a manifestation of the ground of all existence. By exploring the world we are living in right now we are engaging with the manifestations and modulations of unmanifest and unmodulated consciousness. As the old adage wisely states, we each find God by finding ourselves in the midst of whatever reality we currently inhabit.