Maybe the most life-saving aspect of AA and all the 12-step programs it has spawned is that we get to pick our own higher power. We don’t have to consider anyone else’s views of an HP — certainly not religion’s — as we generate an idea of the source in which we’ll place our trust.
I like to think of our conceptions of god as a sort of placeholder – something to represent the “you” we turn to – because it can be easier to reach out to “somebody” if we have some sense of who/what that is.
Reaching out to that power is the core of recovery as I know it. If you’re dying from addiction, slowly or quickly, it is the solution. The biggest stumbling block for most newcomers is that our culture still associates “God” with organized religion’s construct of a judgmental deity.
Prior to organized religion, human tribes had for many millennia held a sense of god(dess) that was multifaceted and unified with nature. But in the shadow of the agrarian revolution, as societal power became increasingly stratified, monotheism arose. In the case of the Judeo-Christian tradition, this “God” — the grouchy, punishing Dude in the Bible — became a political tool for those in power to cow the subjugated masses into compliance.
Then, between 1600 and 1945, the Scientific Revolution gradually caused religion to crumble and fall — which was actually a good thing. But, tragically, we have thrown out the baby with the bath water, god with religion, and the result is the spiritual turmoil now raging throughout the world.
We stand at an extremely perilous in-between era of human history, where billions who have turned away from the rubble of religion suffer anxiety and depression, and billions who still cling to its distorted structures justify judgment, exclusion, and cruelty via its tenets.
Humanity needs a new god — one indivisible from Gaia, the complex life system of which we are a part. It is my belief that the evidence brought back consistently by Near Death Experiencers (NDEers) can offer humanity an evidence-based foundation for such a god.
I’ve decided to risk offering a series of posts on my own ideas of god, based on my NDE, the many NDE narratives I’ve heard at IANDS meetings over the past five years, and NDE narratives I have read. If any of these ideas resonate with your ideas of god, take them. If not, leave them.
Have you ever created a personal altar? It’s just a sort of sacred place in your home where photos of loved ones or meaningful objects remind you of what matters. It’s in a similar spirit that we can each assemble our concept of god(dess) – as a collection of ideas that call to us personally. My aim here is just to offer some little crystals or shells you might add to yours.
Two excellent books on Near Death Experiences are Jeffrey Long’s Evidence of the Afterlife (2010) and God and the Afterlife (2017). Both are based on thousands of NDEer’s responses to a survey accessible on the Near Death Research Foundation website. Responses come from all over the world, and the average time elapsed between the NDE event and filling out the survey is 20 years. (Strangely, NDE memories do not fade with time.)
The upshot of Long’s research is that God loves us with a Love more powerful than words can describe. Here are some excerpts:
“I knew that the being I met was comprised of a substance I can only call ‘love,’ and that substance was a force or power, like electricity. Love is the only word I have, but it’s not the right word here” (God, p.53).
“I became aware of a presence vast and unimaginable, everywhere and everything, the beginning and the end, and he was Love. I came to know that Love is a power to rival all powers — real and perceived — in the universe. (God, p. 174).
“All That Is can be perceived simultaneously as a force and as a consciousness that exists within each individual consciousness and yet is separate from each consciousness or being. It might be called God, but the ideas of gods that we have are a pale and incomplete shadow of the All That Is that I perceived” (God, p. 175)
Further, many NDEers learn that we are here on this earthly adventure as part of the expanding evolution of Love – though sadly we “forget” what we came here to do. The challenge of life on earth is to balance the self-preservation instincts we need to keep us housed in our bodies (fear/ego) with our mission of furthering Love by overcoming separation from other sentient beings (who only seem to be “other”).
“I was told that the earth is like a big school, a place where you can apply spiritual lessons you have learned and test yourself to see if you can “live” what you already know you should do” (p. 101).
Many survey respondents (but not I 😦 ) were shown life reviews. These incredibly detailed yet compressed replays of their life’s events are witnessed by about 22% of NDEers (who in turn comprise about 15% of those who die and come back).
Almost exclusively, these replays focus on acts of kindness and cruelty, along with their effects rippling outward throughout the world. Most watch them together with a loving spirit who urges learning but not self-rebuke. Here’s an excerpt:
“I was in the eighth grade, and me and my friends were verbally abusing another one of our friends. It was cruel behavior, and I was drenched in cruelty. … I experienced the humiliation and pain of the girl we were tormenting. I didn’t just see her, I got to be her as she huddled next to the lockers, crying alone… My mind and heart were crying out, ‘I’m so sorry! I’m so, so sorry!’ … I felt a presence with me [that]… expressed amusement over my despair and said, with heart and mind, something to the effect of ‘You were just a kid. How bad could you have been?’ Then I was embraced by layer upon layer of compassion” (p.100).
Even when we fuck up, we are loved. No one expects us to ace this.
In short, god is the energy of Love that created and sustains all that is. Addiction cuts us off from god as we bombard our brains with meaningless dopamine, sabotaging our mission. But when we sincerely ask god for help, we open a channel that allows it to enter us, guiding and strengthening our hearts, healing us from the isolation of addiction.
It does so by slowly teaching us to love others as it loves — unconditionally. That is the not only the purpose of life, but the cure for all that ails us.
More next time. ❤