I'm reading a book by Alan Watts, "The Book". He was famous for doing a lot to bridge the gap between the new mysticism (Western counterculture) and the old mysticism (Eastern philosophy/religion).
As I read this book, I'm acutely aware that as a Christian I do not accept his conclusions and in fact find a number of them quite bizarre and off-the-wall. His view of "god" and our existence can not explain reality as it really is. I'm reading this book mainly because I like to know
something about the things I critique.
As I've been reading through the book, I found a statement of his that really jumped out of the page. While I neither agree with his overarching thesis nor his developing argument, something about this statement made me say "WOW":
"The image of God as a personal Being, somehow 'outside' or other than the world, had the merit of letting us feel that life is based on intelligence, that the laws of nature are everywhere consistent in that they proceed from one ruler, and that we could let our imaginations go to the limit in conceiving the sublime qualities of this supreme and perfect Being. The image also gave everyone a sense of importance and meaning. For this God is directly aware of every tiniest fragment of dust and vibration of energy, since it is just his awareness of it that enables it to be. This awareness is also love and, for angels and men at least, he has planned an everlasting life of the purest bliss which is to begin at the end of mortal time. But of course there are strings attached to this reward, and those who purposely and relentlessly deny or disobey the divine will must spend eternity in agonies as intense as the bliss of good and faithful subjects.
The problem of this image of God was that it became too much of a good thing. Children working on their desks in school are almost always put off when even a kindly and respected teacher watches over their shoulders. How much more disconcerting to realize that each single deed, thought, and feeling is watched by the Teachers of teachers, that nowhere on earth or in heaven is there any
hiding-place from that Eye which sees all and judges all."
For all his faults, there are two things in this excerpt that Alan gets right on the money:
1. He identifies (at least as a concession) that the Christian view of God is the foundation for importance, meaning in life, and consistency in the laws of nature.
2. He identifies why the unbeliever does not like the Christian concept of God, He's far too all-knowing, far too holy and just, etc. Humans who rebel against the "Teachers of teachers" can not hide from the eye of God, so naturally they would much rather want no God, or at least a "god" who can be fooled and avoided.
Indeed there is no "hiding place" for those who continue to defy the God who created them.
Many people innately know that a personal God is the very foundation for the things that they depend upon in their life, and yet they still rebel against Him and deny His existence simply because they come to the conclusion that Alan Watts reached: It is "disconcerting to realize that each single deed, thought, and feeling is watched by the Teachers of teachers". I agree that it is disconcerting to our independent spirit to know that God is omnipresent and omnipotent. Unfortunately, though, denying reality does not evade the necessity of dealing with it.
Labels: alan watts, apologetics, books, christianity, eastern philosophy, eastern religion, reading