Beyond Theology

“When God is dead, man, who was always defined as a creature other than God, begins to feel himself as other than reality – a sentimental irregularity in a dog-eat-dog system that might have been contrived by the Devil, if Devil there were.  Men so at odds with their environment must either bulldoze it into obedience or destroy it.  The two choices come to the same thing.

But a superior religion goes beyond theology.  It turns toward the center; it investigates and feels out the inmost depths of man himself, since it is here that we are in most intimate contact, or rather, in identity with existence itself.  Dependence on theological ideas and symbols is replaced by direct, non-conceptual touch with a level of being which is simultaneously one’s own and the being of all others.  For at the point where I am most myself I am most beyond myself.  At root I am one with all the other branches.  Yet this level of being is not something to be grasped and categorized, to be inspected, analyzed or made an object of knowledge – not because it is taboo or sacrosanct, but because it is the point from which one radiates, the light not before but within the eyes…

There is, then, a more structural and objective foundation for that leap of faith in which a man may dare to think that he is not a stranger in the universe, nor a solitary and tragic flash of awareness in endless and overwhelming darkness.  For, in the light of what we now know in physical terms, it is not unreasonable to wager that deep down at the center: ‘I myself’ is ‘It’ – as in ‘as it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, world without end.’

If this is a hope, or a fervent belief, Krishnamurti is right in saying that it should be challenged and tested with the question, ‘Why do you want to believe that?  Is it because you are so afraid of dying, of coming to an end?  Is this identification with the cosmic Self the last desperate resort of your ego to continue its game?’  Indeed, if this Supreme Identity is, for me, a belief to which I am clinging, I am in total self-contradiction.  Not only is there no sense in clinging to what I am; the very act of clinging also implies that I do not really know that I am it!  Such belief is merely doubt dressed up.  The final meaning of negative theology, of knowing God by unknowing, of the abandonment of idols both sensible and conceptual, is that ultimate faith is not in or upon anything at all.  It is complete letting go.  Not only is it beyond theology; it is also beyond atheism and nihilism.  Such letting go cannot be attained.  It cannot be acquired or developed through perseverance and exercises, except insofar as such efforts prove the impossibility of acquiring it.  Letting go comes only through desperation.  When you know that it is beyond you – beyond your powers of action as beyond your powers of relaxation.  When you give up every trick and device for getting it,  including this ‘giving up’ as something that one might do, say, at ten o’clock  tonight.  That you cannot by any means do it – that is it!  That is the mighty self-abandonment which gives birth to the stars.”

-Alan Watts

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