“It’s a mistake to try to control God . . .”

My first impressions of the ancient Egyptians were formed in Sunday School, put to music by gospels such as “Go Down Moses,” and brought to the silver screen by Cecil B. DeMille.  It was not a pretty picture—false gods, harsh rulers, fake magicians, and slave-drivers wielding the lash.  Egypt was on the wrong side of everything.

But now I was told that God was sending divine messages to every culture.  So I had to look at the land of the pharaohs through different eyes, Egyptian eyes.

Written in hieroglyphs that were already old when Sumerian cuneiform was young, the Pyramid texts date back almost five thousand years.  Chiseled into the walls of the dark corridors beneath these monumental tombs, these texts provide the deceased Pharaoh with the keys to a successful afterlife:  how to overcome each obstacle on the way to the divine realm and what words to speak to the guardians who block the way.  One strategy was to enter the cyclical course of the cosmos and accompany the sun god in the barque that transverses the sky each day.  The deceased king went so far, according to one inscription, as to kick the sun god overboard to make room for himself in the divine barque.

The complex mythology of the Egyptians far surpassed the simple piety of preliterate polytheism.  But, however complex, these greedy efforts to compel or trick the divine powers seem spiritually retrograde compared to the sensitive cave paintings and the humble peasant honoring a stream with a pile of stones.

“Isn’t that right, Lord?”

Yes, it is a fundamental mistake of man to try to control God rather than the other way around.  Do not exaggerate it.  It is no different from (no worse than) trying to bribe the king’s mistress or learn the password that goes you through the palace gates, but it is not high spirituality, and in fact is not really a kind of spirituality at all.

Illuminations

 I Did Not Feel Ineffable.

Mysticism is often considered the highest level of religion, but for a long time, there were no mystics.  God was interacting with people in many ways, but not through mystical union.  Then the first mystic seers appeared.  In prayer, God explained,

Now people were coming to me—not in limited ways, praying and offering sacrifices and so forth—but in a kind of merger … they were entering into Me, and I was receiving them.  That was a new experience.

“So You responded?”

It is hard to explain.  It’s like suddenly finding that you are the natural home for these creatures … the bosom or womb or home or ocean that all return to.  That is no more important a part of My nature than others we have discussed, but it is important … 

And then another thing happened.  Much more than before, these sages began to ponder My nature and (to) try to articulate their understanding of it.

And two changes occurred as a result.  First, for the first time, I was an object, to be defined and analyzed.  It is like your first experience with a psychologist who has a lot of boxes to put you in (introverted, repressed, etc.).  As God, I had not pondered My own “nature.”  I had no need to “define” Myself, but the effort of others to do so had an impact … 

It came clearer that I was an object to others, a source of puzzlement, even mystery, to them.  In fact, they would say that My nature was ineffable, beyond all language, all logical categories.  They would describe Me in paradoxes—neither existent nor non-existent, and so forth.

And this has an impact.  I did not feel ineffable.  To be sure, I am hard to describe and human concepts are not adequate, but that is true of the physical universe as well.

“You say it has an impact?”

It creates a problem.  It puts a barrier between Me and My creatures.  How can they approach the ineffable?  And even that mystical aspect leads them to regard Me as a pea-soup they want to dive into.

It did leave Me with a problem:  how to break through the fog ….

“Then mystical union is not the goal?  The purpose is to live the life you’re given?  Is that right, Lord?”

Yes!