Saturday, November 11, 2006

Alan Watts on the Gaze of the Christian God

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.

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Anonymous iamidiot said...

i think that your thoughts on Alan Watts and his view on the perceptions that many believers have of the christian god is partially acurate. However I am afraid that the view of the Christian god comes from the countless ways that people interperate the Bible. Any person who educates themselves in textual critisizm will find that the Bible is just a series of Jewish and later Gentile fairy tails. The Bible contains thousands of errors, bad copies of earlier stories, and the list goes on. So the error of the christian view of god is simply that it is based on a wonderful old library of myth. I grew up in the evangelical church so I understand the fear of researching your own faith. But if you are to be honest with yourself take an honest journey and find out who wrote what in the Bible, when they wrote it, and why. You either need to learn multiple languages while attending a reputable university, or you can simply go to your library.

12:38 AM  
Blogger Mark said...

Mr. Iamidiot (if that is your real name),

Your comment stating that anyone who educates themselves in "textual critiszm" (sic) will find that the Bible is just a series of Jewish and later Gentile "fairy tails" (sic) is patently untrue.

Many people educated in textual criticism remained committed to the historic and evangelical position on the inspiration of the Scriptures. And, yes, many (perhaps the majority nowadays) textual critics are unbelievers. This goes to show that textual criticism is not a neutral art. Ones presuppositions and beliefs do make a difference in how the scholarship is carried out and interpreted.

I have no fear of research my faith, and many Christians can say the same thing. You can repeat the mantras of "thousands of errors", "bad copies", "myths", etc. But, ultimately, you are not saying anything other than reciting old unproven mantras of unbelief.

At least the unbelieving scholars, who I believe are wrong in much of what they produce...are producing some new information. They are putting their "intellectual necks" on the line (in the event that they are refuted). But what you are saying is impossible to refute. Why? Because you aren't really saying anything. Just repeating varied subjective assertions (ie. about fairy tales) with no substantiation to validate (or invalidate) your claims.

Ultimately, you are doing damage to your own "camp". Thanks for the comments, anyways. I do appreciate them, even if they are disagreeable to me. Cheers.

8:07 PM  

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