Moving from atheism to panentheism without leaving atheism behind
Apophaticism is negative theology: theology that finds wisdom in negating concepts of God for God's sake. Apophatic pentecostalism is a special kind of apophaticism. It is not so much theology as it is a movement of the heart and mind: a interior movement of the soul. It is the psychological and spiritual activity of awakening to God's Breathing, and thus understanding that God is more than our concept of God; not because God is so far away but because God is closer and more palpable than we ever imagine. It is a shift from God the concept to God the breathing.
From Atheism to Faitheism
For some people this activity requires a process of disbelief, an act of negation, a recognition that God is not a policeman in the sky or a king on a throne. Some become atheists, because God the policeman is the only God they've ever known. In time, for some, this act of negation is followed by an affirmation, the emergence of a trust in God's Breathing. Atheism becomes faitheism. God becomes a universal Consciousness whose breathing winds it way throughout the course of life, animating all things and luring us toward wisdom, compassion and creativity. This Consciousness is not a cosmic person but also not a mere nothing. The Faitheist may or may not believe in the Consciousness, but she believes in the Breathing.
From Faitheism to Pan-en-Theism
In this belief there is no pretense of certainty or absolute knowledge. Indeed certainty is the opposite of faith. We come close to this Breathing when we walk in hopeful uncertainty, not clinging to what is possible, but rather walking in the cloud of the impossible. In the cloud of impossibility, in the womb of hopeful uncertainty, the Breathing walks with us and in us. We cannot grasp it with our minds but we can trust it with our hearts. This is Faitheism.
Is there a Breather behind or within the Breathing? When people pray, is Someone listening? The matter is best left to the lights of the individual Faitheist. If she senses that there is someone listening, she can affirm God the Bodhisattva: the womb-like Life in whom all lives unfold. She becomes a Pan-en-theist: which mean that everything is inside God but God is more than everything added together. If she senses the opposite – namely that there is only the Breathing but not a Breather – she stands in the tradition of Faitheism. Either way, she can live from the Breathing, adding her part of beauty to the larger world. That addition is her gift to the world.
-- Jay McDaniel
Believing in the Holy Spirit but not the cosmic moralist or bully in the sky
an existential possibility
"You think about God too much," a friend said to me. Her point was not that God is unreal, but rather that I was spending too much time thinking about God. God had become an object of my intellect, a focal point in my imagination; and I was trying to be clear about it, figure it out, and share it with others. "You won't grow up spiritually," she said, "until you grow tired of God."
She was right. Sometimes being tired of God -- or least tired of talking and thinking about God -- is a sign of spiritual maturity. It is better to pay attention to the Holy Spirit.
The word "God" is, after all, a finger pointing to the moon. The problem is that, sometimes, we end up worshiping our finger and forgetting the moon. This is true for those among us who are overly focused on our idea of God at the expense of being open to new truths, accepting the ambiguities of life, and loving our neighbors as ourselves. We have turned God into a position in our imagination, a idea to defend, and somehow become lost in our theological heads.
And it is especially true for those who unconsciously use "God" as a tool for controlling others, all under the auspice of sharing what we consider right thinking and good news. We spend too much time trying to convince others to agree with us because we need to feel right about things, not realizing that our need to feel right can suffocate the beauty of differences.
If we are in this situation, the God may well lure us to grow tired of God. In our weariness we gain freedom from a focal object in our imagination and turn to that really matter: loving others and being loved by them. This love is more important to God than "God."
In our turning we are not really leaving God behind, rather we are awakening to the Holy Spirit or God's Breathing. This is thespirit of creative transformation at work in the world, which is inside us as a quiet beckoning to seek truth and goodness and beauty in our lives and to love others as we love ourselves. This Breathing is not in humans alone. It is also in other living beings as their innermost lure to live with satisfaction relative to the situation at hand and within the universe as a whole as a lure toward new forms of order. The ongoing evolution of our universe -- galactic in its scope -- is evoked by this Breathing. If we grow tired of God as a focal object in our imagination, we may be relaxing into God's Breathing and not worry so much about the rest.
-- Jay McDaniel