The quest for meaning has long been the bedrock of human existence, often entwined with our perceptions of divinity and cosmic order. While many people find solace in the intentions and plans of a higher power, others, myself included, wrestle with this idea, seeking an alternative framework that might marry a more ‘existentialist’ approach with spirituality. But, can we even talk about a divine realm that doesn’t operate on intentional principles? This article aims to explore the idea that meaning doesn’t necessarily have to be a scripted drama directed by some celestial force but can be a spontaneous emanation from the simple act of being.
When talking about divinity, the concept of intention often dominates the conversation. The assumption is that there’s a higher power that has a plan or a purpose for everything. But this raises numerous philosophical and moral dilemmas, such as the problem of evil and the paradox of free will. If everything is part of a grand plan, what space is left for human agency? And how do we reconcile the existence of suffering within this intended universe?
An Existentialist Viewpoint
Existentialists like Jean-Paul Sartre and Albert Camus have made strong cases against a preordained universe. They argue that life, in its essence, has no inherent meaning. Meaning is something that we give to life through our actions, choices, and relationships. It’s a powerful idea that shifts the locus of spiritual and existential significance from an external divine entity to the individual human experience.
Being as Meaning
So, what if we strip divinity of intention? What are we left with? From this perspective, divinity becomes synonymous with the very fabric of existence. Rather than a playwright crafting our lives, it becomes the stage upon which we perform. Meaning emanates not from a scripted destiny but from the act of being itself.
In Eastern philosophies like Zen Buddhism, there’s a focus on the suchness or is-ness of things. It suggests that simply being is in itself a divine act, replete with meaning. When you engage deeply with the present moment, you’re not just a spectator in your life but an active participant in the unfolding divinity of being.
The Judeo-Christian Narrative: A Mirror to Human Experience?
When I examine the concept of divinity and its relationship with intention, I cannot ignore the significant influence of Judeo-Christian theology – my own religious tradition. The God of these traditions is usually portrayed as an omnipotent, omniscient entity with a plan for the universe and its inhabitants. Scriptures are full of stories of divine intervention, prophecies, and moral mandates that guide human behaviour.
But what if these narratives are, in essence, human inspired constructs – our way of grappling with the incomprehensible vastness of the divine? When we peel back the layers of religious texts, rituals, and doctrines, we often find that these sacred stories resemble our own human experiences more than they do any celestial playbook. They feature love, loss, betrayal, sacrifice – emotions and events that are innately human.
This isn’t to discredit the value of religious narratives but to pose the question: Could these stories be our way of seeking a deeper understanding of the divine through familiar frameworks? Is it possible that in the very human act of creating God in our image, we inadvertently limit the divine to human comprehension?
A God Who Offers a Place To Be
Amidst the grand narratives and complex theologies, there might be a kernel of universal truth the idea that divinity offers us a place to be. In Judeo-Christian traditions, notions like the Sabbath – a day of rest, reflection, and simply ‘being’ – hint at a deeper theology that transcends intention and action. In this light, even a God portrayed as a cosmic planner might be inviting us to find solace, not in the scripted drama of life, but in the freedom and dignity of just being.
Eastern Religions: A Window onto Non-Intentional Divinity
In contrast to Western religious traditions, which often focus on the human experience as a lens to understand the divine, Eastern philosophies like Buddhism, Taoism, and Hinduism delve into the nature of reality itself. Rather than presenting a God who acts like a cosmic playwright, Eastern philosophies often concern themselves with the suchness of existence.
In Taoism, the concept of Wu Wei — or non-action — illustrates a divinity that doesn’t intervene but simply is. Similarly, the Hindu philosophy of Advaita Vedanta talks about Brahman, the ultimate reality, as something beyond human comprehension, beyond names and forms, and importantly, beyond intention. Even in Buddhism, where the concept of God is either abstract or non-existent, the focus is on the immediate experience of reality through mindfulness and meditation.
Eastern religions, by investigating the nature of reality, allow us to explore the concept of a non-intentional divinity in depth. These traditions provide us with philosophical tools to understand a form of divinity that doesn’t plan, doesn’t judge but simply allows being to unfold naturally.
The Liberation in Unplanned Divinity
When we remove intention from the equation, what we get is a form of divinity that doesn’t judge, doesn’t plan, and most importantly, doesn’t interfere. It creates a space for us to exercise our free will genuinely, to make mistakes, to learn, and to grow. It’s a more egalitarian view of divinity, one that places all forms of life on a level playing field.
By examining the multifaceted views of divinity, from the intentional God of Judeo-Christian narratives to the non-intentional divine concepts in Eastern religions, we can arrive at a more nuanced understanding. While Western religions offer valuable insights through human-centric stories, these narratives may sometimes limit our view, trapping the divine within the boundaries of human comprehension. On the other hand, Eastern philosophies, with their focus on the nature of reality, broaden the scope, inviting us to consider a non-intentional divinity that simply is.
The freedom to find meaning outside a grand cosmic plan can be both liberating and daunting. However, whether through the lens of Western religious stories or Eastern philosophical concepts, the essence remains the same: The divine is not just an external entity pulling strings but a stage upon which we’re all performing. And perhaps, it’s in the spontaneous act of being that we find the most profound connection to the divine, regardless of cultural or religious affiliations.