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Excerpted from Handbook for the Spirit by Richard Carlson and Benjamin Shield (Editors). Copyright © 2008 by New World Library. Excerpted by permission of New World Library, Inc.  All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. HTML and web pages copyright © by SpiritSite.com.
 

"We must learn to be entranced again by the presence of God in all things."

  Matthew Fox, "Creation Spirituality"
in Handbook for the Spirit
Part 3

In addition, I would respect your experiences. Some people come out of very wounded backgrounds. Being an uncared-for child, for example, determines much of a person's experience of God and the world. I would encourage you to draw, to use your right brain. I often ask people to draw a picture of their experiences with God when they were 10, when they were 20, 30. Then I ask them to reflect on the relationship among the three experiences, how their image of God changed. Many adults, sad to say, still use the image they had when they were eight years old. In other words, their spirituality has not matured. But it's there in promise, in potency. I would work at an image level instead of using just words.

I have a little trouble with the phrase "personal relationship with God," because we have so psychologized reality in our culture. The "personal" tends to imply a kind of tete-a-tete, or a talking to God; a kind of projection of a two-legged person, an anthropomorphizing of divinity that I think is dangerous. We need to listen as well as to talk – to listen to the glory and the pain of our times. I think that most people's basic experiences of God are like Einstein's – the awe of the universe, the experience of the cosmos as our home, and God dwelling there. Rather than say "personal relationship with God," I'd prefer to use the term "personal cosmology"-a relationship to the divine presence that dwells in us. "We dwell in God and God dwells in us." By "we," I don't mean just two-legged creatures, but the whole universe, all creatures. We must learn to be entranced again by the presence of God in all things.

I think there's danger in the "personal," for the American psyche especially. It has something to do with being stuck in our adolescence, when friendship – Am I liked? – meant everything. This idea can be projected into religion, as in "Jesus loves me." This is not adult mysticism. For one thing, it is not child-like enough. Children are citizens playing in the universe. True mystical adults recover that child inside and play in that personalized universe, but don't create out of God some kind of partner or mate who is missing in their lives.

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