“There are different pieces of the same puzzle.”

If there is one God, why are there so many religions?  Philosophers call this the Problem of the Diversity of Revelations.  But I was told,

(There is) no reason to think (the) diversity of revelations is a problem, any more than for a therapist to say different things to different clients (whose needs and situations differ).

That analogy didn’t take me very far.  The therapist, like a doctor, is giving advice depending on the needs of the client.  But God is giving different people contradictory stories about Himself, and also about how they should live.  Perhaps God’s messages had to start simple, when cultures were primitive, and became more adequate as cultures developed.

“Lord, do Your revelations progress from lower to higher?”

Yes and no.  Much of what I have to say is universal, and good for all times and places.  Some is quite specific to the individual and his or her circumstances, the actions he or she faces.  Some is developmental, on the side of the culture and also on My side.

“Why not just give everyone the whole truth?”

Your question has presuppositions—that I have given different, incompatible stories to different cultures.  This is only apparently true.  If you think them through, they are different pieces of the same puzzle.  Names shift but that is superficial.

“Even though one says ‘God’ and another (thinking of Buddhism) says ‘Nothingness’?”

No religion puts Nothingness in the place of God.  If it appears to, think again.  What is the role of each (name)?  Is one a substitute or replacement for the other?  And (think about) the meaning of each.  Are they really incompatible once you examine their properties?

“Perhaps each religion is like a single eye-witness report of some strange event such as a Martian landing.  The reports might be wildly different from one another.  The challenge would be to sort them out and put them into a single coherent account.”

Not exactly.  It’s not to blend the religions into a single synthesis or theology.  It’s to put them into one story.  (To take your analogy,) imagine a reporter who interviewed everyone who had an encounter with the Martians, starting at the first encounter, and wrote it up as a narrative.  Certain consistent themes might emerge, but this would be different from a scientist trying to adjudicate and synthesize the reports.  In your version (of the religions), there will be an additional unifying factor—Me.

“Pure energy, pure creative force, pure Being…”

 

 

 

Later I was told more about God at the Beginning.

Before I was a Person, I was around “for a long time.”  First there was Nothingness, not just empty space—there was no space and time either.  Out of Nothingness I erupted, “created” Myself.  At that point, I was just pure energy, pure creative force, pure Being, Being itself.  Space and time were created as a result of my Being.  They were the frames of My existence.  The physical universe spun out of Me by My overflowing.  I am the to-be of all things.  I was not yet a Person.  I was not yet self-aware.  I was amorphous energy flowing out radically in all directions.  (Before Creation) I am pure spirit, sufficient unto Myself, and have no “body.”  And I did not exist in a world with physical bodies.  I felt I was lacking something—grounding, facticity, the blunt materiality, the standing-against, the hard edge to push oneself against, the resistance and friction that physical objects have.  So, out of my Being, a world was spun.

“God is, in some sense, all. And all is very multiplex indeed.”

I had been told that God comes different ways to different cultures.

“So any single conception of God will grasp only one of Your aspects?”

Yes, you see the problem.  My nature is quite variegated.  People see one aspect and not another. 

“Lord, are there multiple levels of Being or something along those lines?”

Yes, but don’t interrupt.  The story is much more complex.  God is not mind or matter, or even mind and matter.  God is, in some sense, all.  And all is very multiplex indeed.  Even physics has not been able to produce a universe of “atoms in the void.”  There are forces, elements, patterns – you need to know more to go on – that go beyond them.  Then add the kind of stuff the morphic fields’ guy talks about …

Rupert Sheldrake, author of Dogs That Know When Their Owners Are Coming Home, performs scientifically controlled experiments to test different explanations of the uncanny ability of some animals to know what is happening far away.  He found, for example, that even if the owner came home at randomized times, the dog was always waiting expectantly about a half hour in advance.  He found that the dog responded as soon as the owner formed the intention to return home.

Sheldrake compares the results of these experiments to studies of how birds and other animals can find their way home.  Since standard explanations fail, he advances the idea that these communications travel by way of morphic fields, using an analogy with gravitational and magnetic fields to explain the “action at a distance” that is a feature of these situations.

… and those who talk about organized information and the like – primitive though they may be – and you begin to get an inkling.

I found that organized information and complexity are increasingly important concepts, particularly in biology, but also in cosmology and the social sciences.  Traditional science is reductionist, always trying to explain the whole from the action of the parts.  It is also deterministic, seeing one state of affairs as fully predictable from the previous state.  It was widely assumed that this model, which has been particularly successful in chemistry and mechanics, could be used to explain all natural phenomena.

The new theories of organization, information, and complexity challenge this assumption.  The whole—whether a cell, an organism, an ecology, or a universe—has some qualities that the parts do not have and cannot explain.  New phenomena, such as life and consciousness, are emergent properties that cannot be understood in terms of inorganic elements.  In some cases, such as why the organs of the body have the size and location that they have, the whole can explain the parts better than the other way around.  The self-organization of complex systems, their creative responses to their environment, and their emergent qualities are neither fully predictable nor fully explainable by their constituent elements or prior states.  I had been told that God is all, and that all is very multiplex indeed.  These concepts could provide the basis for understanding this multiplexity.

“With life, spirit comes into play.”

For millions of years, before there was life, there was just God and a barren universe.

“You felt all alone?”

Yes, I wanted more. In retrospect, the inanimate years feel very lonely.  The emergence of life is a delight.  With life, spirit comes into play.  Wonderful to see amoeba, moss, and so forth.  The frogs (and other creatures), each with a soul and personality, each in a sense in tune with God.  I can play with the animals, “walk among them.”  I love their myriad formsI am not alone anymore.

The creatures that began to stir on the earth are amazing, more amazing than anything that had yet occurred in creation.  They move on their own, they have “internal principles of motion” as Aristotle said, have dramatic lives—even the worms and fishes.

There is birth, growth, death, mating, offspring, colonies and flocks, emergent social orders—ideality as well.  There is telos and purpose, success and failure, standards of perfection and imperfection.

And, over time, further developments in the species, a most amazing, creative ramifying of the evolutionary ladder.  New species emerge that could not have been imagined before.  Your paleontology tells the story:  the first horses could easily fit into the palm of a hand, and so forth.  Can you imagine the spectacle?

“Yes, I think I can.”

“He tried to impose a spiritual vision.”

Akhenaten may have been the first monotheist.  We have his own words, carved in stone.  The young pharaoh reports having been divinely guided to the exact place the Creator had manifested himself at the beginning of the world.  It was a plain near the Nile, bounded by hills except on the east, a great amphitheatre facing the morning sun.

Akhenaten’s vision was not of many gods, but of one god—a god, with no female consort, who created himself anew each day.  He was called the Aten, or Father Aten, and symbolized by the solar disk.  “Thou didst fashion the earth according to thy desire when thou wast alone … thou appointest every man to his place and satisfiest his needs.  Everyone receives his sustenance and his days are numbered.”

The Aten is the source of life itself.  “Thou it is who causest women to conceive and makest seed into man, who gives life to the child in the womb of its mother, who comfortest him so that he cries not therein, nurse that thou art, even in the womb, who givest breath to quicken all that he hath made.”  The god created the great life-giving Nile for Egypt, but he is a universal god who has placed “a Nile in heaven,” the source of rain, as a “gift to foreigners and to beasts of their lands.”

The Aten was symbolized by a figure of the sun with rays reaching out in all directions.  At the end of each ray is an open hand reaching out in loving kindness, as if to touch with life, and to give and to receive gifts.  “Thou art remote yet thy rays are upon the earth,” writes Akhenaten.  “Thou are in the sight of men, yet thy ways are not known.”  The Aten can also be very near, at least to his spokesperson.  “Thou art in my heart.”

It was a breathtaking vision and it shook Egypt from its moorings.  The other gods, he proclaimed, were not gods but idols.  Upon his orders, their images were destroyed.  In their place was put the austere hieroglyph for the Aten, increasingly understood not as the sun or even the sun-god, but as a distant and unrecognizable divinity.

This was gross impiety to most Egyptians, an insult to the gods.  Akhenaten’s “monotheistic zeal offended their reverence for the phenomena [through which the gods made themselves present] and the tolerant wisdom with which they had done justice to the many-sidedness of reality,” explains Henri Frankfort.

The result was perhaps predictable.  Upon the pharaoh’s death, priests and people alike turned against this strange and remote monotheism.  The old statues, temples, and forms of worship were restored.  Ahkenaten’s vision was a stunning venture in spiritual understanding but, in the end, came to nothing.

“Lord, what is the meaning of Akhenaten?”

Akhenaten was an extraordinary recipient of My inspiration (and of My) presence.  He was, as all are, bound by his culture and the symbols he had available.  But he got the main message—that, in a sense, I am One, that I am not to be equated with the sun or any other natural phenomena, that other gods are lesser or “mere” manifestations of Me or, in a sense, non-existent compared to Me.  The problem he ran into is that he was alone in his receptivity.  Others were not prepared, were not open.  The most spiritual Egyptians of his era were attuned to the old religion and could not jump the traces.  It would have seemed impious to them.

“What was the difference between them and the people of Israel?”

The people of Israel were a people.  They—the mass of them—had an intuitive understanding of a Covenant.  Remember that the mass of ancient Jews were not faithful, or (they were) faithful only periodically.  But they all lived under the Covenant and understood that they so lived.  Akhenaten tried to impose a spiritual vision from above, through imperial authority and example.  Even his wife did not understand the vision; she followed it out of her great love for her husband.