(*** spoiler alert…) I think I can safely assume that as children we all believed in a Santa Claus who lived at the North Pole and delivered gifts to good people on Christmas Day faithfully every year. And then we got the news that Santa Claus isn’t a real person. That fairy tale no longer served. We had to learn that it represented the “spirit of Christmas”, and that anyone who gave was, in a sense, Santa Claus.
At one point we believed that God is an all-powerful being who sits in Heaven on a huge throne ruling the earth and our affairs. We believed that Jesus is a person who shows up in our hearts or in our rooms to bring comfort or instruction or discipline. We believed that the Holy Spirit was a power that could inspire us or make a worship service work.
For many of us, that rendition no longer serves us well.
The imagery of the waterfalls that I had in a dream provided me with a way of understanding the structure of reality. It was like I was standing at the bottom of Niagara Falls, as I have actually done several times, looking up at the infinite deluge of water coming over the rim. This is not a picture of reality. It is reality!
God: Theologians say that God is the all-powerful creator, sovereign, independent and eternal. What is over the rim, beyond my sight, is the Infinite Source, forever gushing forth a never-ending stream. Standing at the bottom of Niagara Falls, I am always struck by the thought, “It never ends! Where does all this water come from?” While continually emptying itself, it never sacrifices its own identity. It never surrenders its essence. It remains. So while what we call creation is a separation from the Source, it is at the same time an emanation of the Source which never decreases or reduces or changes. Scientifically, we now know where it all comes from. There is a water cycle, and it all returns to the Infinite Source to start all over again. As theologians put it, all things come from the Father and return to the Father.
Jesus: Theologians say that Jesus is God and the perfect picture of who God is. Put simply, they say “If you want to know what God is like, look at Jesus.” What we see pouring over the rim is the obvious manifestation of the Infinite Source. We have a clue of what the source is by the revelation of itself in the waterfalls. It is wild, uncontrollable, and immeasurable. But it is a faithful representation… no, it is more than a representation!… it is a faithful declaration of the Infinite Source. The Mystery is now made plain for all to see. It’s purpose is beginning to be made known.
Spirit: Theologians say that the Holy Spirit is the spirit of Jesus present in the collective of believers. Jesus promised that when he left his disciples he would send the Holy Spirit in his stead to abide with them, comfort them and instruct them forever. Standing at the bottom of Niagara Falls, I am always impressed with all that spreads throughout the land, providing water for the earth and all that is in it. It is actually overwhelming. No one is exempt. It floods over everyone and everything, encompassing all in its magnificent deluge.
Eventually, when this water reaches the very end of its journey, to the last drop that stretches over the soil and dries on a heated stone, we know that every bit of it has been absorbed into all things and even eventually finds its way in the cycle back to the Infinite Source above the rim to resume its impressively vast emanation, revelation and application all over again.
This is how I see Niagara Falls. This is reality. Again, it isn’t just a picture of reality. It is actually reality. This is indeed what is happening. This provides for me a way of understanding That Which We Call God, Jesus and the Spirit. I no longer see them as “people”, but I do definitely feel this as “personal”. I do feel, when I am my sanest self, a connection and even a compassionate grace at the center of it all. The words “God”, “Jesus” and “Spirit”, have become, for me, burdened with baggage and limiting. I know what they mean. I know what they attempt to describe. But the language is archaic, loaded with cultic significance, exclusionary, colonized and ghettoized. Religious. I use them at times, but only as pointers to what they are pointing to. They are signs. Symbols. The word is not the thing.
I will admit that it isn’t easy letting go of overused categories and their words. There is great emotional investment, sentimentality and nostalgia clinging to these. But I just remind myself that forsaking the word is not forsaking the thing. While this model, which I have called the z-theory, has given me a way to understand my reality from a Christian perspective, it has also opened up all the doors of access to all other religions, philosophies and world-views. It has offered my mind a great measure of peace. I am now connected to all things, and I know it.
It is not an accident that I am looking out over the Kennebecasis River right now as I write this to you. It is 95 kilometers long, about 2 kilometers wide where I live, and very, very deep. It is constantly flowing. The sun is shining on it now. Boats are racing along the surface. And birds. It flows with fish, including our modern-day dinosaurs of the deep, the sturgeon. Lisa and I are thinking of going down to the beach to read and relax in a bit. We might sneak some wine in a thermos so we look like innocent coffee drinkers.
I hope you all have a good day!