I’ve always known that God exists. I was born with a map and compass in my hand, accompanied by an insane desire to track down this elusive element, tie it to a chair and interrogate it. More a stalker than a seeker, I knew it was my life’s purpose to find out the truth about God even before I was exposed to the preposterous stories about him that were later to addle my brain. In my early years, I remember God as a ‘light’ that ‘burned bright’ within me, and as I got older, felt it was a part of me. Later on, society offered up a metaphor to relate to this ‘light’, but unfortunately it was one that I found madder than The Hatter in Lewis Carrol’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.
This God that everyone talked about in my childhood and way beyond was always a bit of a tricky character, as far as I was concerned. I learned about general society’s version of God through my parents, through school and through religious books foisted upon me by God-fearing people. And with all this so-called religious education, I always found out later that most of the stuff I was told was untrue. An inquisitive child, I was never satisfied with other people’s explanations; I liked to test things out, observe God’s work for myself, and I always came up short in my investigations. He never seemed to do the job everybody appropriated to him, making it his life’s work to act in ‘mysterious ways’. Many people in my life, particularly my parents, seemed to think this mystery was something to be in awe of, but I found it inconvenient and very irritating. My parents informed me that we weren’t supposed to know what was in God’s mind, or why he’d put us here, and that was why we should honour the mystery. But I wasn’t convinced. I intuited at a young age that humankind should and could know where we came from, and that if we made a real concerted effort, we would find there to be no mystery at all. This unaccountable light inside of me was testament to that. I somehow knew that if I applied my mind, then I’d find what we were all looking for.
Adults didn’t always see things clearly, I determined. They were worshipping an idol that didn’t appear to acknowledge them in any way, and yet they were unable to comprehend this fact. Perhaps it was because everybody was so busy with their lives, that they didn’t actually notice God’s neglect? There were so many things wrong with the world, that to my mind, the God of the holy books should be toppled from his heavenly throne and replaced by someone a bit more attentive. For one thing, most of the world was starving, and that bothered my young questioning mind. My father would be adamant that we began our meals with an acknowledgement of God, and then later would insist we finish anything left on our plates out of respect for ‘all the starving people in India’. It really didn’t make sense how a loving, compassionate God would let all those people starve in the first place (or how my respect could possibly help matters). But I did what I was told, my questions burning in one part of my brain, and my father’s assurances that God knew what he was doing, occupying another. I was young, unsure of myself in a world of adults who were supposed to ‘know things’. I allowed myself to be fed these ideas, even though I was suspicious that the adults didn’t really know anything at all.
As I got older, I’d watch the news on our black and white TV and I’d be baffled by the comments I’d hear. There’d be hurricanes that devastated villages, tidal waves that swept whole towns away, volcanoes erupting lava that burned everything in their path, leaving people homeless and vulnerable. And those who lived through the experiences would claim the blessings of God. I often scratched my head wondering if they wondered why God had wreaked havoc on already destitute people, or, more importantly why he hadn’t ‘blessed’ their more unfortunate, dead family members.
The human world itself was proof that there was no God, yet everyone kept insisting that he was very busy sorting through humanity’s problems. And it bothered me that I couldn’t find one person that ever walked this planet that had seen God, Heaven or Hell, yet in our upbringing most people are shaped and bullied by these ideas. My father would tell me horror stories of the things that would happen to me in Hell if I did ‘bad’ things, yet I watched him and a lot of the adults around me behaving in ways that I thought even Hell’s laws wouldn’t permit. My father’s sexual abuse of me didn’t seem to fit anywhere in the Godly scheme of things. My father had told me ‘in confidence’ that everyone was doing the same thing, so it was kind of normal. In some odd way, I reckoned God to be an accomplice in my abuse, since he was ‘all-seeing’, and did nothing about it. God was a separate issue in my father’s book; he kept God removed from his every-day wrong-doing with clever justifications for his behaviour. It was either that, or it was something worse; my parents didn’t believe in God at all, but pretended to themselves that they did. I was learning then about the lies we live with. When I really thought about the state of the world, I couldn’t imagine that anyone really believed in God; they couldn’t do, otherwise the world would be a wonderful place in which to live. A lot of the time, I wondered if I was missing something. I couldn’t be the only one who saw the gaps in logic. Or could I? Were people so desperate to believe, they’d lie to themselves about such things?
My self-doubt didn’t stop my brain from working overtime. As far as I was concerned, anyone who was paying attention would soon discover that there was no science in prayer. It was a lottery as to whether God answered our requests or not. When I asked my father about this, he said, ‘Well, sometimes God just says no’. That answer didn’t do much for my confidence. I couldn’t see the point in praying for something if the answer might be a firm ‘no’. One might just as well ask the teapot for help. I was told that God answered our prayers, delivered the things that we requested, which was the whole point of praying. Whether we were praying for our own gains (or if you had a Mother Theresa Complex-for someone else), they still might not be answered. One couldn’t escape the truth; it was a lottery, whatever way you looked at it.
I’d had first-hand experience of God. From start to finish, my childhood was a nightmare, and despite my prayerful pleading, God did nothing to help a vulnerable child in need. To my child’s mind, there was no rhyme or reason in anything God did yet people just kept on believing in his Love and Mercy despite every bit of evidence to the contrary. I’d been assured that God loved children, and so I took it personally that he left me to sort my own problems out.
God hadn’t just dealt me the cruel blow of callous rejection. He had plans for other unsuspecting children too. I had a ‘wayward’ friend in school when I was six years old. Thomas was known to be the ‘naughty boy’ in the class and it was for this reason I found him fascinating. He didn’t do as he was told, was boisterous, and he sometimes disrupted a normally ordered classroom with his playful tomfoolery. In keeping with his impish reputation, he’d say outrageous things to shock the other kids, and I was intrigued by someone who could flout the rules without a prickly conscience. One time, he declared that ‘God was a horror’ and ‘the Devil was the best thing ever’. Always a captive audience, I made him repeat this ‘blasphemy’ over and over. My six-year-old mind was enthralled by his courage to go against the established order with absolute impunity.
The following week, Thomas was killed by an army truck. I spent many hours when I was older, ruminating on God’s handiwork. Was it a punishment for Thomas’s ‘sin’ of blasphemy? I was confused. Didn’t God love children? That was a moot point. My own life was testament that he certainly did not. Was God vindictive? Well Thomas was dead, wasn’t he?
As well as everything else, God, to me, seemed lazy and disorganized. He sent different Prophets to talk about him, bringing along with them a set of Do’s and Don’ts, which divided the different groups of people that they addressed. These Prophets laid down different laws, which were then packaged into different religions through which these divided communities fought against each other. And never once did God himself step in to set the record straight about who was right and who was wrong. Everyone just went on killing each other in the name of their religion. My mind was constantly challenged by all these things. My parents offered no explanation for the madness. They were more confused than I was most of the time, but their God had ordered them not to question, and so they didn’t. They wholeheartedly bought into the preposterous ‘logic’ of religion and God, and warned that I should too.
When I questioned God’s dubious understanding of human nature and indifference to human ignorance, I was told, ‘God is not responsible for how we respond to his messages. The Devil makes us do terrible things to one another.’ That answer shed more light on my gruelling investigation. So if we attributed all the earthquakes and erupting volcanoes and tidal waves to the Devil, and claimed he was responsible for all the evil-doing in the world, where did that leave God? Perhaps he wasn’t as mean-spirited as I’d come to suspect. Perhaps this was the proof that he really was absolutely not all-powerful. It seemed that the Devil had free rein in this world that we lived in. God’s presence was inconsequential if he really didn’t have any power over the Devil. When I mentioned these thoughts to people, I was warned that God would punish me for saying such things. It occurred to me that God went AWOL when he was supposed to be looking after us, but found the time to be offended when we complained about his incompetence.
My brain throbbed with all these conflicting ideas that seemed to live side by side without being questioned. A lot of my alone time was spent pondering these ideas. I was forced to wonder if the Devil hadn’t been sitting on Thomas’s shoulders, or mine, for that matter. I hadn’t been able to stay out of trouble for all my efforts. I’d spent a lot of my time in those early years being punished for being a ‘naughty child’. Perhaps there was something I didn’t know; maybe the Devil had taken over my brain. Could that be why God had snubbed me and had finished off Thomas? Perhaps Thomas and I were partners in crime; we were both the Devil’s children bound for Hell.
My childhood was fraught with mad ideas and off-kilter thinking patterns. I was never taught anything really religious, except in school where we were mildly exposed to Christian religious education. We didn’t perform any religious activities attributed to ‘our’ religion. We never celebrated any religious holidays except Christmas and Easter where God didn’t even enter the picture. My associated memories of those happy occasions are of wrapped up presents and chocolate rabbits. Yet with no religious input, God seemed to haunt the corridors of our home. According to my parents he was always listening in, waiting for the transgressions to take place. He wanted to see if we’d listen to the Devil’s orders. My mother and father didn’t really believe in anything, I’d by now deduced. God had become just another threat of punishment, like the belt my mother hung ominously in the hallway, or the thin cane she hid in the cupboard. My parents hardly demonstrated any religious behaviour, although they declared themselves devoted to God. It was all too obvious that they only paid lip-service to laws their God had laid down. My father was abusive, a philanderer and most weekends, a drunk. I often hoped that God would strike him down. I figured that God must have been either too busy to tend to my father’s’ misdemeanours, or his own mother was right. For some obscure reason, my grandmother had declared him a lucky person, ‘one who had God’s finger on one shoulder’. She was right in one sense. He spent his life making everyone miserable, and never appeared to pay for his wrong-doing. I often wondered if little Thomas wasn’t right. Perhaps God really was a horror who put his finger on evil people’s shoulders and got them to scare the daylights out of everyone else just for fun. Or maybe the Devil had got to my father first, whispering evil nothings since the day he was born. At times it did appear that the Devil had more power than God. You only had to have an honest look at the world to verify that idea. I could never really make up my mind which theory about my father was right.
I was often a bit worried about Hell; while no-one could prove it existed, I couldn’t prove that it didn’t either. I liked the idea that horrid people got their come-uppance somewhere in this universe of unjust behaviour, but I wasn’t really convinced of Hell’s actual reality. The light I felt inside of me had no association with Hell, and this light was getting to be the place where I weighed up all the worldly fantasies about God. I felt the same way about the Devil. I didn’t really buy into the Devil stories, but as with Hell, I kept my childish options open. My father had painted so vivid a picture of the Hell-fires I could almost smell the burning furnaces when I was disobedient. While I sometimes hoped that God would be sensible and save me if I found myself headed into the fires, I would almost at once remember that he was psychotic; he worked in mysterious ways and he didn’t have a propensity for helping children. I couldn’t guarantee that he wouldn’t get mysterious and let me suffer the torments of Hell for no apparent reason.
In spite of everything I had pondered, I grew up with a profound sense of the Divine, but the God of my inner world had very little resemblance to the crazy worldly God of the holy books. I had no trust whatsoever in the illogical things this worldly God stood for. As for the Devil, it wasn’t long before I’d taken him out of the equation. To me, the Devil was an absurd idea, one as unsound as his counterpart in Heaven.
By the time I reached adulthood, my obsessive desire to understand this entity called God bordered on madness. By now I’d computed that most of the things I had learned about God, through scriptures and religious teachings were definitely wrong. I’d been a keen observer of life, listening to and mentally filing away every bit of insane religious logic uttered in God’s name. I’d come to understand why this insanity continued throughout the ages. I knew that within every one of us is this light, this sense of the Divine, whether we acknowledge it or not. For those of us in touch with it, we try to find an expression of this force. Throughout the ages the mind has reached out for a metaphor to express its Divinity; there have been Greek Gods, Egyptian Gods, Roman Gods. Now we have a Christian God, a Muslim God, a Jewish God, a Hindu God and many more besides. Being human, we try to translate our Divinity into human terms, which then makes the Gods that we project outwards as contrary as we are.
Once I finally dropped all the worldly beliefs surrounding ‘him’, I did finally meet with God, and I laughed uproariously at myself when it happened. I’d been searching for so long, yet in that moment, I understood that I hadn’t needed to travel anywhere at all. Here I was, filled with light, a part of Divinity…I kind of was God. I say kind of, because there is still an imaginary door between It and I, that I hope one day to remove. That day will be the moment I enter heaven…not up there, but within. And when I first met with God (or my True Self), I did as I knew I would do; I performed an exhaustive interrogation; I asked a gazillion questions. And the answers that came are for other blogs!