When I moved to London, I joined a church based in Clapham in 2001 and was baptised a year later. I lived in ignorance for eight years not knowing more than two fundamental truths; firstly that God loved me and exactly understood how I felt, secondly that I needed to shed my old skin but couldn’t.
The battle was full on, yet I was oblivious to the spiritual warfare which was taking place. I couldn’t see the evil forces that were trying to wreck my life and tear my family apart. I didn’t have enough mental, psychological or intellectual tools to understand anything outside the senses. Every day, I was becoming more confused and angry with God who I thought was not helping me to change things for the better. I needed an internal mental revolution, not just learning a few facts here and there. Even understanding some relevant concepts and terminologies, which could have helped to solve a few issues, was not enough. Knowing concepts such as ‘dying to self’, the duality of aversion and surrender, and the meaning of attachment could have alleviated my anxiety but this wasn’t enough to help me shed my old skin, so to speak. It was regrettable that the 2008 Tsunami along with unanswered prayers blew my faith away. Yet I believe God allowed me to leave the faith because He saw that I didn’t/couldn’t grow in it. He had better plans for me and He had already prepared the other path.
I continued my journey as an agnostic, taking life one day at a time and believing religiously in the concept of physical reality. The first thing that happened to me afterwards was my work redundancy and my acceptance of becoming a full time mother, private tutor and a house wife. Most things had improved in time and became better gradually, except the condition of my heart.
God’s love seemed to be irreplaceable and my hunger for him gave way to a feeling of emotional drought; of death. All my efforts to fill this hunger with human love and worldly occupations, failed pathetically. My job as a mother and educator, gradually, seemed unsatisfying. My marital relationship seemed desperately inefficient. My efforts to create a great self image, to exercise regularly and live on strict diet weren’t able to provide me with the reward that I was expecting. My whole life seemed empty.
In a crazy attempt to mend what seemed to be impossible to mend, I demanded that my husband start learning about Psychology to try to ‘broaden’ his horizons. To be able to learn about psychological and philosophical concepts and terminologies, he allowed me in 2011 to enrol us in a course run by the school of economics in Mandeville Square, London.
Meanwhile, and in the mist of my agnosticism, emotional hunger and marital conflicts, I was still blind to God’s miracles in my life. One early afternoon, I was walking in the busy town centre, thinking about trivial things. Realising that I was passing by my favourite chemist, I remembered that I needed to go and weigh myself on the shop’s high tech scale, as I had thousands of times before (since I started my keep-fit life style in 2009). As I was about to cross the road to get to the chemist, the voice that once visited me when I was only 15 years old, came back to finish the conversation!!! He said; telepathically again that he wanted to set me another challenge, to convince me that there was more to life than meets the eye. This meant that He intended to challenge my unbelief once more. The challenge was that He, the all-knower, will tell me about something that is about to happen. Something unpredictable, and beyond my common sense. If what He told me turned out to be the truth, I should then admit that the metaphysical realm exists indeed. He then told me that I wasn’t going to weigh myself that day even though all the factors which are needed for weighing myself, were available. Before answering the voice, I fumbled into my purse looking for some change which I found but there were no 50p coins. This didn’t seem to bother me much as, unlike other chemists, the shop’s policy was to provide customers with change for the scale. So, I turned mentally towards the voice, enquiring if the problem was going to be the change, but it responded negatively. Again as it happened 15 years ago, I was given a short moment to think about this revelation and whether I would take it at face value or not. Although this time I was careful not to reject it too strongly, I made my way towards the chemist, anyway.
As soon as I stepped in the chemist, I realised a huge change. It was still functioning as a chemist, but apparently it was taken over by another company and major transformations were made to it. My mind went: could this be the reason?
However I looked to where the scale was kept in the older version of the shop, and it was there, in the same location. I drew close and checked if it was functioning, and indeed it was. Without loosing my cautiousness, I looked around at the staff members, and they were indeed all new to me. I thought, does the chemist still have the same policy regarding the provision of change? So my mind enquired, “could this be the reason?” And a negative response was given to me again. I walked slowly and carefully to the cashier and asked politely if it was ok to change my pound coin in order to use the scale, and with a cheerful smile, she assured me that I could. I noticed from hearing the accents that the staff were East Europeans. All staff members were very courteous. So, I thought this was promising. My heart, then, started racing and I was getting excited. I went to join the queue triumphantly. The race was drawing to a close and I was finally going to prove to myself that the voice was just a silly trick played by my subconscious mind. At last, I was going to prove to myself that life was so simple, logical and predictable. I was already congratulating myself for testing the voice rather than trusting it blindly. Then finally here came my turn. I handed the pound coin over to the cashier who gladly took it from me with a large smile and opened the till which she was using the whole time I was there. Then her smile suddenly faded and her eyes popped wide open. She mumbled a few words which I couldn’t understand then she called for her supervisor. Internally, I knew very well that this was the moment that will stop me from weighing my self. I just didn’t know how. While we were waiting for the other staff member to arrive, I took the opportunity to ask the cashier what was happening. I said: “did you run out of change?” She said: “No, it’s not that.” I, patiently, waited for her to explain further, but she didn’t. She seemed so stressed that I refrained from asking her anymore questions. When the supervisor came, they both tried to do or retrieve something from the already open till. I wasn’t sure what because I wasn’t able to look inside the till from where I was standing. They both seemed really annoyed. After a few minutes of trying, the supervisor finally spoke to her staff member in their language. Then, the cashier said that I wouldn’t be able to weigh myself that day!! She used that very sentence the voice used, and so I felt annoyed a little. All my excitement and triumph disappeared. They were gradually replaced by a feeling of embarrassment, apology, and a forced recognition that maybe there was something out there after all. I felt defeated, but at the same time, in the very deep core of my inner being, I felt an incredible love soaring from this recognition of being defeated. It was a sweet loss that suddenly made me feel protected and safe.
And while it took me eighteen more years to find my way to him after the first call, this time I was better equipped to redirect my path within two years I spent assessing the position of modern science and its claim to be the sole ‘knower’ of the truth. Soon after we started the philosophy course, I realised that there was nothing about common garden philosophy. I was expecting the study of dry logic and reasoning through the giants of classical philosophy such as Socrates and Plato or the more contemporary thinkers like Descartes, Hegel and Niche. Instead, the course was an opportunity to explore the Self and to ask various questions about the essence and mysteries of life, about the why’s and how’s, if you like. Some unknown names were suggested as reading materials such as Eckhart Tolle, writer of The Power of Now.
A few lessons down the line and almost half way through the book, I realised that I couldn’t continue with either of them without clarifying something of a great importance to me. Both the course and the book were, discretely, leading students/readers to a one-way path, which was the path of wisdom to know who you truly are, and whether you are part of a bigger reality.
I needed to investigate, separately from the course and the recommended book, whether the existence of God was a possibility to consider or not, but I wasn’t sure how to start this investigation. The desired solution would have been to turn into an accomplished scientist over night, and learn all the inns and outs of this world and all the laws that govern this universe, but unfortunately, this was beyond me. The other, more realistic possibility was to read books published by scientists about the subject. This solution seemed more plausible and I, immediately, started searching for suitable literature. I quickly concluded that I needed to find three types of scientific books.
a- The first type: books written by open-minded scientists, who are non-believers. The unbelief factor was important so as to eliminate the possibility of an ideological bias.
The questions: *Was science able to prove, beyond all doubt, the non-existence of a creator for this universe.
*Were there ever any natural indications that a creator was indeed required or still being required for the smooth running and continuation of life in this universe?
b- The second type: books written by strong atheists who are utterly anti-religion. The questions: what was the foundation on which they based their theory? Or put differently; were there any strong clues in nature, that suggest the impossibility of a creator? And what were those clues?
c- The third type: books written by scientists who are also believers.
The questions: how they managed to function as scientists-believers at the same time; especially those who work outside the field of evolutionary biology and fundamental physics (the only territories where science and religion can make conflicting claims), and also how they regarded the relationship between science and religion?
After reading several books on the topic, I established the following basic points: the majority of scientists who aren’t believers (from the two, first groups), state clearly that there was no evidence in nature to suggest that God doesn’t exist. On the other hand, and more importantly, the complexity of the laws governing the universe reveals the work of a great mind, which triggered the UK leading physicist; Paul Charles William Davies to call this endeavour a search in ‘The Mind of God’ _ published 1992.
Reading about the relationship between science and religion didn’t only answer my basic questions about the creation of this universe, but it opened my eyes to the epistemological reality of modern day science, on many different levels. These levels and details about my own discoveries and those of many others (either well known scientific professionals, thinkers and intellectuals or other lay men and women who are being affected physically and mentally by what is happening) will be published in a separate article soon.
The Return to my initial journey
These findings that shook my trust in main stream science, encouraged me to go on a journey to discover what I call ‘spiritual philosophy’. The more I explored this eastern philosophy, the more my attention was re-directed to ‘me’, and to what that ‘me’ meant.
I practiced meditation to still the mind and sharpen the brain. I explored major Buddhist concepts such as the Dharma, Karma, the Four Noble Truths and Nirvana. I read an English translation of the Dharmapada and several other books. My spiritual journey seemed increasingly exciting even though it remained atheist nevertheless. Buddhism is not introduced to the British population as a faith in a higher authority, but is adopted instead, as a life style and a set of beliefs that, in theory, if practiced properly can lead us to the perfect path. The highest aim in Buddhism is to break off from pain and to overcome suffering through understanding the Self and its relationship with the world around it. It’s a recipe for psychoanalysis therapy one undertakes on himself/herself, mixed with general studies of all human sciences, with a pinch of theology. It is an intense and a long term lesson in wisdom undertaken by individuals themselves, armed by a wealth of Pali scriptures and a free invitation to begin experiencing life mindfully. It is through the mindful experience of life and the process of trial and error that Buddhist followers hope to train themselves to become wise and to overcome suffering.
Buddhist followers also practise loving and kindness meditation to cultivate love and compassion for others, and so I practised that too. After several meditation sessions, I reached two conclusions:
First, opening oneself to love cannot happen upon command. Talking about the concept of love is nothing like experiencing its presence within us. And so, instructing someone to love is just futile. This feeling can only be experienced through a one-to-one relationship with someone we trust. And though they maybe in desperate need for love, people usually only love if they feel truly loved unconditionally.
Second, I realised that what Buddhism calls ‘love’, I would call ‘appreciation’ instead. Therefore, I realised that the Loving and kindness meditation tries to reinforce acceptance in the followers’ minds towards their fellow humans, rather than love in the sense that I experienced before (when I became filled with the holy Spirit) and felt I needed at the time. I, then, concluded that Buddhism didn’t have the answer to my quest; the need for a personal and loving relationship with a creator. It is unable to fill that bottomless pit within one’s soul.
Buddhism, I found, could teach followers to understand themselves and the world around them, could train them to master the self; its cravings, desires and attachments, and it could develop wisdom which might help them overcome suffering. Buddhism could encourage people to be polite and considerate towards each other, help one another and secure a peaceful and contented life. But it could never teach them to feel true love, joy and peace, because the love, joy and peace I’m talking about here (those I know from my own experience) are not something that could be achieved through learning and training. Though it was thanks to the Buddhist practice which stilled my mind that I saw clearly what my soul truly needed.
Years of being misunderstood by my relatives and the society as a whole made my soul long for an unconditional fatherly love that only the person of Jesus can give.
Looking back at my experience now, at my loss of faith in 2008 and at my lack of consideration for God’s attempt to save me to Him twice before, I would like to make the following observations:
I feel God had allowed me to walk out of faith in the past, in order to give me the opportunity to learn and experience things that could make my faith in Him more complete. In the mist of my hunger and thirst for Him, my thoughts were redirected towards my husband to fulfil my need for a pure, fatherly and unconditional love; something which could only be fulfilled by our Heavenly Father alone.
The course that I believed I was booking for my husband to change him into someone he didn’t want to be, turned out to be very relevant to me, and to me alone. Every single thing I have ever come to know and learn from then onwards, was falling into place like pieces of mosaic that, although didn’t hold much value in themselves, made up a great work of art once I came back to Christ.
The second observation or, more truthfully, confession, is that it shocks me now to think that I was unable to react promptly and efficiently to my encounter with the voice of God twice before, even though both experiences had a long lasting affect on my life. Though I recognised the miracle in the challenge that God had set me, twice during my life time, I still insisted on obeying the voice of the mind which is a shared dwelling between the powers of light and those of darkness. After knowing what I know now, I regret that, during my encounter with God, I insisted on obeying the illusion of personal reason and of independent, human logic, over his voice.
How similar was this, to the experience that Adam and Eve themselves had in the garden of Eden? Were they not the first to question God’s commend and strive to experience life and to obtain wisdom independently of Him?
However, God’s grace allowed me to take up the challenge, test things and discover facts, and God’s grace won in the end over human’s pride and strive. God in his mercy used my rebellious attitude and innate pride to drive me into a journey of discovery of the Self and of God. This journey which took a huge amount of time and required lots of effort, led me to realise in the end that there was nothing, out there, for us to be discovered. This realm is like a maze to our minds. There is no knowing where it could end once we began travelling.
After 36 years of exploration (from the age of 12 to the age of 48), I came to realise that there was no exit to the maze I was in. There is no way that the human mind can bridge the gap by itself. There is no true knowledge outside of what God allows us to know.