Unification News for July and August 1998
What Does Academics Have To Do With God?
by Martin Herbst-Barrytown NY
This is the second in a series of three articles.
And now we have come to love. If faith is the root and mind-body unity is the trunk, then love is definitely the fruit of a religious way of life. Without love all the faith and sacrifice in the world has only sporadic meaning. It is of course great to believe in God, but it is greater to love Him, unreservedly. Love is beyond dogma; it is beyond creed and religious affiliation. The real miracle of life is love, for love has the power to transform anything. In love the ugly becomes the beautiful, the enemy becomes the friend. Through love the parent is transformed and gives birth of a child. The child in turn is transformed and becomes the parent. Out of the parent comes a child and out of the child comes a parent. Such is the circle of life. Love is the beginning and the end, the alpha and omega.
Some years ago I had a dream that still stays vivid in my mind. In the dream I saw an extremely beautiful woman. I saw her from far away and as I moved closer, she became more and more beautiful. Never had I seen such an attractive woman. It was a total attraction which went far beyond sexuality. Automatically I moved close and, when I was standing right in front of her, I recognized the woman: it was my wife! For a short moment I was spellbound. I have such a beautiful wife, I thought. But then I looked again. I began to examine her face in detail. I looked at the nose and found a minor defect. As soon as I observed this "defect" the nose began to grow. It grew and grew like the nose of Pinocchio-although in a much uglier version. Then I looked at the eyes and again caught some imperfection. And the eyes began to grow until they assumed a horrible shape and size. And so it happened with each part of my wifeís face: her mouth, ears, cheeks. From standing before the most beautiful woman the universe had ever known, I was now facing the ugliest of the ugliest, the witch of witches. Then I heard a voice behind me saying, "The one you love becomes the most beautiful." I woke up and thought, "What a sermon!" (I received this dream after having gone to bed Saturday night.) Love has the power to transform anything. In a very real way our reality is created by love.
Love is at the heart of all religious teachings, for only through love can we approach the divine. Love has even the power to make a human being divine, if we so choose. I guess that is one of the messages of Greek mythology. But what does love have to do with academic studies?
Before I began to study, my attitude towards the academic community was rather arrogant. Although I didnít know much, I often had much to say about the men and women of learning. I took the liberty to criticize St. Paul, St. Augustine, Freud, Jung and even Sir Isaac Newton now and then. Little did I know how much these studious individuals and their colleagues had suffered in their quest for the truth. One can easily get upset with St. Paul, who often got quite upset himself, but could you have glimpsed the universal elements in the message of Jesus from Nazareth 2,000 years ago? Looking back from the vantage point of the 20th century, it is so easy to identify the limited approach of Sigmund Freud, but would you have had the courage to pioneer this research into the realm of the unconscious and human sexuality?
Now after having studied the writings of such people, I cannot but feel authentic respect, admiration and even love for them and the sacrifices they had to endure. When I go for a walk in the library, I often cannot help but cry. I sense the spirits of the authors slip through the pages of the books standing there side by side. Each of the books are like stones, small bricks in this palace we call learning. If these books would suddenly begin to talk, they would probably have many a story to tell. Surely the authors must have had economic problems like me. Perhaps they had wives and children to feed. Perhaps they suffered from a chronic disease but continued despite all odds. Perhaps. Perhaps not. Still, I feel better when I appreciate them for their efforts rather than belittling them for their shortcomings. How about you?
Whether we talk about the realm of religion or the realm of academics, life becomes so much richer when we add this dimension of love.
4) A Heavenly Perspective
Finally, I want to talk about the heavenly perspective. A genuine religious way of life allows us to approach the viewpoint of God. To think and act from a heavenly point of view requires a combination of the deepest humility and the utmost courage. On one hand we must be willing to give up what we love the most and on the other hand we must cling to the truth and let it guide us to courses uncharted. On this journey we are called to leave our own narrow point of view to see things in a larger perspective.
Intuitively, children are right when they picture God on the clouds. Indeed, to truly meet Christ we must for a moment leave our own secure, earthly habitation. We must rise above individualism, nationalism, racism and culturalism, and allow ourselves to see things from a radically different perspective. We must, in a sense, "come on the clouds." Then and only then are we free to see with the eyes of God and to sense the togetherness of all things.
This ability to see things from a more comprehensive point of view is as important as the hatching of a new idea itself. Some years ago I read Scott Peckís The Road Less Traveled. I was impressed and thought that title as well as content was both meaningful and daring. I was thinking to myself, "Why did not one else get this idea of describing spiritual growth as Ďa road less traveledí?" The answer came when I read Carl Jung. Several times Jung uses the term "the road less traveled" when speaking of spiritual growth. And I recognized a great number of other similarities as well. Then I read Stephen Coveyís Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. One of his key insights is that creativity is what lies between stimulus and response. I acknowledged the greatness of the thought. But then I studied Adler who precisely defines creativity as the possibility between stimulus and response. I could go on and on with such examples. What should I conclude? That there is nothing really new under the sun? Perhaps. But a genius is often not so much the innovator of a completely new idea. Rather, he synthesizes, harmonizes and makes a certain insight relevant for people like you and me. In doing that, he is approaching "Godís point of view."
A heavenly point of view is not mysterious or incomprehensible, but rather the natural, healthy way of looking at things. Often it is heard that a great deal of what we are taught is garbage. Even that being the case what do you actually do with garbage? Do you throw it away? Where? Into your neighborís garden? Then where do we throw it? Out into nature? And where does nature throw it? Nature does in fact not throw the garbage anywhere. Here we can learn from the wisdom of Mother Nature. Nature has no intention of throwing the garbage out on someone else. Instead she quietly takes it upon herself to digest it. She extracts nutritious elements from it and allows herself to be transformed by it in such a way that her beauty is maintained and even increased. Just because something looks like garbage doesnít mean we should not take an interest in it! By being loyal to your own nature which is rooted in God you will find yourself capable of digesting all kinds of opinions and claims. Allow yourself to be transformed by them and you will appear more beautiful than when you started. Just like nature. Only the person who does not trust God within himself must be always on his guard constantly protecting himself against the possible contamination of new, dangerous ideas. As students we should be careful, but the danger does not so much lie in the garbage itself, however rotten it may be. The real danger lies within The real danger lies within your own incapability to digest, transform and create. We need to develop a healthy critical sense. While it is true that there is something fundamentally sick about a person who always complains, there is something equally sick about a person who cannot be critical. A person who either complains too much or is lacking a critical sense altogether is a person out of touch with himself, God and the world. To create this balance between acceptance and rejection between humility and courage is at the heart of a healthy life.
In my own Unificationist tradition, figures such as Karl Marx, Sigmund Freud and Friedrich Nietzsche are often regarded as the really bad guys, the three evil musketeers of the 20th century. It does not take a genius to identify the havoc their ideas caused. For 2,000 years European philosophy had more or less followed an idealistic, spirit-oriented tradition. Now these guys come along and make us focus all our attention on the body and the material causes of the world. To locate all meaning and value in the body is obviously incorrect. But what if the whole goal of civilization is to evolve towards a fuller understanding of love? Would it then not be necessary to go through the realm of the body, which is essential for a complete experience of love? By all means the body and sexual love, which until then had been rejected, somehow had to be resurrected and justified to be able to take their proper place in Godís creation. The insights of the above-mentioned individuals could perhaps have been harmonized with a more comprehensive understanding of the human condition. My point is that we are better off when we humbly listen even to viewpoints that at first seem inconceivable. A parental attitude can only further our spiritual growth, for Godís love and truth extends to all corners of the world.
As we can see, God is not so far away. Since God is eternal, so is education. A genuine, religious way of life involves faith , discipline, love and the constant striving for a more meaningful point of view. So does our campus life. Let us climb the ladder together. The place where we study could be "none other than the house of God, and the gate of heaven." Thank you, and let us pray.
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