I can see how easy it is for some of us at some point or another to turn away from God, holding on tight to our modern principles which are based on a deep feeling of justice, equality between all men, and the desire to transform one’s self into a better being. It is very normal to feel good about modern day intellectual, philosophical and ethical achievements. It’s so brilliant and reassuring to see what humanity has achieved in our time; from development and advancement to noble bearing, the sense of justice and the desire to spread good!
However, it is extremely hard to deceive ourselves, as human race, by thinking that what we are all seeking or striving to reach in our modern day society, is freely available and easily accessible outside the domain of spiritual philosophies and religions. It is, also, equally hard to claim that which we are seeking, could be easily replaced or ignored.
In spite of all the social, political and economical achievements, what best describes our lives today is the feeling of tremendous solitude, emptiness and detachment that is constantly increasing, and which influence is spreading swiftly everywhere. And while it is true that our legitimate, secular thinking is transforming us on a daily basis into more civilised and smart individuals, it is also true that this way of thinking does not pay very much attention to feelings, intentions and the hidden truth behind our actions. Our secularism is obsessed with building up relationships based on the principle of hiding our own true self from view. It is developing the skill to build and play as many ‘virtual personas’ as possible to suit all situations and all kind of people. Therefore, we are expected daily not to project what is within to the outside world. Likewise, it is becoming harder for us, each day, to accept the other’s internal truth. And while I am NOT criticising this system which controls the social web of relationships in order to suggest the direct opposite, I would like to draw attention to the fact that it is still not perfect despite its complexity and relative sophistication. This system is lacking something which secularism in the broad sense (1) cannot provide. What is missing here, and which is creating a very frightening emptiness in relationships and individuals themselves, is simply the lack of ability to feel true love.
To pretend to ourselves that love is equal to sympathy and charitable giving, is not convincing enough. Relationships that are built on mutual respect and social and economical co-operation, are truly high quality relationships, therefore, it would be folly to reverse the process. However, it is fair to say that the current social system is still primitive compared to our true, inner potential, because it is void of true love. It is usually the emptiness in relationships that causes individuals to repel, and confines each one to his or her own small space. For example, it is far easier, nowadays, particularly for young people, to build a relationship with a stranger online than ‘to strike up a friendship with the next door neighbour’. This is so, because online chat rooms are anonymous platforms where, so far, you can still afford to show the real YOU. On the other hand, resisting the repelling forces and daring to establish real relationships with the world often leaves us broken. When the only motivating factor for seeking to establish real, traditional relationships is to avoid social stigma or because of boredom, then hypocrisy and falsehood quickly creeps in. It is no wonder that most modern relationships are prone to crisis, and will experience an irreparable break down at one point or another.
The deterioration in individual relationships is a projection of the horrendous emptiness felt by every one, within or outside those relationships themselves. The truth is; we stop being ‘a fan’ of each other as soon as we discover the ‘REAL’ friend/buddy/lover/etc behind the ‘glossy’ appearance. Though we can’t truly feel happy without them either.
Each day, millions of people stumble their way inside the dark tunnel of depression, addiction and promiscuity, looking for a rope to pull them out of the vicious sliding slope, to no avail. Finally, when all time and effort has been exhausted searching for a way out, maybe just then we ‘get the wake up call’, that our tragedy is greater than we ever believed it to be. When we finally realise that there is no special person on earth who is capable to ignite the spark of love within our hearts for ever, that no sexual relationship can ever satisfy our craving for intimacy once and for all, and that no substance in the world can ever keep our spirits up continuously, only then we may discover the door to the light; the way out. The nagging feeling we experience from within while we’re still in the dark tunnel could be impossible to satisfy, and it is able to drive us to self destruction if we choose any other path, a part from the path of wisdom and enlightenment. The emotional hunger within is good evidence that humanity can’t “live by bread alone”. Thus the most honest expression I can find to describe this truth is that there is more to life than meets the eyes. This also means that a good life requires more than ‘sense gratification’.
So, what modern people of this secular age need most is to experience living a strong, deep love that links them with the surrounding, yet rises beyond the mundane reality, and helps them to overlook each other’s flaws and offences. But the main question here is; how can we become able to love in the exact same way we want to be loved, without giving in to selfishness or hypocrisy? How can we ever manage to love this imperfect world with all its flaws and ugliness, so deeply that we immerse into everything and become filled and self sufficient?
The answer is so simple; we can’t. We are selfish and judgmental by nature. We want to take more than we can give and ask for far more than we can ever offer. We can’t experience this love our ‘inner self’ is craving for, because our mind and emotions refuse to allow us. We can’t find this love which our soul is yearning for, simply by relying on our own efforts. Yet, this love exists abundantly around us, and can be easily accessible by us.
This is a fact I know, because I saw love coming into wretched lives, restoring their hopelessly broken relationships and healing them from the inside out. I saw it turning demon-like creatures into peaceful angels. I also saw this love in some people’s glowing energy and tender facial expressions when they go about their usual business, just being themselves amid complete strangers. I finally witnessed the evidence of this love when it was consumed, taken advantage of and generally challenged. I saw love and I was awed by it, but I could not claim it for myself because I was not able to find the doorway that could lead up to it. As it turned out, love wasn’t a free public property. I couldn’t just decide to feel love, then here I was head over heels for all that’s around me. In actual fact, I found that the more I tried, the more love became aloof. The nicer I tried to be, the rougher I became. The more compassionate I chose to act, the more critical I sounded. After years of hunting, I came to establish three fundamental truths.
1-The first is that love isn’t from this world, even if we are physically wired to love. There is nothing in the pure physical realm that can empower us with this feeling/energy the same way electricity can empower our gadgets or food empowers our bodies. I conclude therefore that love is from beyond this physical reality.
2-The second truth is that you can’t necessarily feel love or have people love you as and when you want to. This fact leads to the realisation that love isn’t ours to claim. Therefore, I conclude that it belongs to a higher power.
3-The third truth is that love exists around us and is being enjoyed freely by some people. With this, I conclude that love can only be given as a gift, bestowed upon some who fit a certain criteria. So, what is the doorway to love?
1-Is spirituality the doorway to love?
Years ago, while I was blissfully living in my old, comfy atheism after a so-called Christian life that didn’t last very long, I felt atheism combined with social stability has given me extra emotional strength, which made me glad. Only, something odd was happening. I felt I was dying on the inside. My heart was turning to stone. Nothing could move me from within anymore.
When my destiny pushed me one more time to discover something new, I found myself joining meditation classes; practicing Dharma and Loving-kindness Meditation. This spiritual exercise was an extension of my atheist views and of the belief that I am capable of improving myself by myself. During this type of meditation, you are encouraged to meditate on loving certain people who you know and like, then others who you know but you don’t get on with, finally you are required to enlarge the circle of your love gradually to include the wider society.
And although meditation in general has proven to be successful in solving some other personal issues such as stress and anxiety, the Loving-kindness meditation itself was purely lip service as far as I was concerned, as the thoughts of love could not sink any deeper than the outer layer of the conscious mind itself.
In the following few years, I continued visiting Buddhist monasteries, and attending spiritual schools and meditation workshops regularly. I could find most things I needed; such as peace, quiet, serenity, gentleness, awareness and alertness, but I was not able to learn unconditional love; the feeling I experienced when I was a Christian.
Buddhist nuns, monks and meditation tutors alike, are warriors who mastered the control of the self through a relentless training that helps to overcome the clash between Self and reality or between Self and that which is perceived to be negative. The most important aspect of this training is to learn detachment and acceptance. Monks and nuns are psychologically tough people who triumphed over reality through the practice of surrender to what is, which is fascinating in itself. I saw all of this ability written on their serious faces, glued on their rigidly straight backs and spoken through their reserved second natures. The only thing I couldn’t see in most of them was love itself. In this place, acceptance, not love, was the key to triumph. However to train the mind to accept reality as it is, may change our personality to create a mentally stronger version of us, but will it sustain our innate need for love? The answer was found years later while observing the high turnover of novices who were mainly youth in quest for something bigger but much simpler than all the things that monasteries and meditation workshops had to offer. They were looking for the excitement of true love.
2- Is Religion the Doorway to Love?
Years earlier, I have also studied and experienced religion in its wider manifestation and general understanding. Here again, I came across a lot of teaching and witnessed various approaches to the God-human relationship, and so I found a lot of learnt values that are of a great benefit to individuals and to the society as a whole. Religion, too, is based on self discipline and the prioritisation of that which is perceived to be our duties, rather than the desires of the self. Depending on the nature of the religion and/or the denomination within each religion, we see that the relationship between God and the believer varies greatly. The more this relationship is based on the sense of duty, blind obedience and fear of punishment, the more we see sadness, emptiness and a vague sense of resentment or anger ingrained deeply within the follower. On the other hand, the more there is intimacy, openness and mutual understanding in this God-human relationship, the more we see freedom, joy and the fulfilment of true love. John 4:16-18
I then concluded that love could be found in religion, but that establishing the right relationship with God might affect the amount of love we could be granted. Therefore, I came to establish that understanding the true nature of love is what helps us eventually find the way to its source (God), and vice versa.
3- Could Prayer be a Doorway to Love?
Since I think that love is a gift, and since I believe that the donor of the gift is God, then wouldn’t it be much simpler to ask God for the gift of love directly rather than spend our lives trying to earn this love through seeking or serving? This is not to say that love wouldn’t lead us to both seeking and serving in the end, anyway. But, in my opinion, it would be much easier to seek and serve out of love than the other way round.
For many, the issue here is fundamentally to do with pride.
When we were children, it used to be so easy for us to ask for gifts. Yet when we became adults, our pride came in the way. Asking love to enter our lives is recognising that it is actually a conscious energy that may choose to be with us or may not.
But the way we ask, the understanding we hold and the purpose behind our request, that’s what will determine how much love will give us of itself in the end.
The Manifestation of Love:
In Christian terms, love and the Holy Spirit are in fact one. If the Christian’s spirit is filled and if it remained so for a long time, all the person’s desires would all be eventually answered. Romance is sure to come and last for life through stable marriage. Strong friendships are to be built and prosper. Success in a career or a newly found job is sure to be reached. But all these desires will become less intense in the field of emotions because the one and only overpowering feeling that will keep the believer’s spirit high is love itself. Our livelihood, joy and happiness will no longer depend on the physical thrill we experience in this reality. This is how bondage can break instantly without the need for rehabilitation. Love is so beautiful and its sensation within us is indescribable. It makes us feel and look younger. With love, we are filled with peace and serenity without having to undergo extensive meditation training. Love links us with our former, lighter selves; when we were small children, just before sin took over our lives. It makes us truly happy, because it does not only off load our negative emotions and break our wrong thinking-patterns, but it also provides us with real hope for eternal salvation when believing in the grace of God and in the hefty price that Jesus has paid for us.
The Absence of Love
From the moment the Christian starts to know God and to experience true love, s/he becomes aware of the condition of his/her spiritual state. It is possible for a believer to lose their connection with the Holy Spirit, thus reliving the former state they were in before they were saved. The difference between love and the lack of it, is the difference between life and death. If our spiritual life is dead, nothing we could do on a physical level that is able to mask the nagging feeling of death.
Very quickly, our joy and excitement are replaced by a feeling of emptiness and loneliness, regardless on the environmental factors. The absence of the Holy Spirit will also affect our state of peace and clarity of vision, which could leave us wrestling with confusion, anxiety and despair. Without the presence of the Holy Spirit within, there’s always a nagging, dreadful feeling which we may try to numb using food, sex or substance.
All sensations that come from a source which is not true Love (God) can only produce an illusion of sentiments; an illusion of joy and happiness.
This actual emptiness and the feeling of yearning is in truth death itself. For, the opposite of true love is death whereas hate is only one manifestation of death. Therefore, to love is to live, and we can only live by connecting to the source, which is God.
The Question Of Salvation
If the answer to our major human problems is LOVE, why then does it take someone a life time of searching and seeking to find the truth? And why would a great proportion of those who search and seek, fall short of God’s glory?
In my opinion, when searching for the answer becomes a long life quest rather then a matter of days, we know this is an indication of a problem. The problem here is not in the truth we are searching for, but in our readiness to accept it. It is true that inviting love to come to our lives and being able to keep this presence flowing within us is a matter of a personal choice. But the truth, which is rejected by the majority of people in this millennia, states that in order to keep our link with the Holy Spirit, we need to be willing to build our relationship with God on humility, and to regard ourselves as little children in his presence. This means that we should intend to be as obedient to God as good children are to their parents, even if we weren’t successful most times. We ought to accept that we are being held accountable for our future actions. We have to become attentive to the reproach of the Holy Spirit who is at work within us. And finally, we need to be willing to open up to repentance, forgiveness and healing, on a daily basis.
The Stumbling Blocks
However, not all are willing to pay this cost. In general, the 21st century modern seeker is not searching for an eternal solution but an earthly one. For us, the problem is to do with our lives here on earth, and our awareness of the short life span we live. This is why the solution we desire has to be an earthly quick fix. Therefore, if we ever become willing to repair our issues through religion or spirituality, we set clear guidelines to our quest.——When we search for God, we are looking for a civilized, ‘secular’ god who doesn’t express his opinion about us, so that we’re not offended. At the same time, we need a god who is willing to wait patiently until we are in a mood to talk or listen to him. We are seeking a god who can accept our extreme adoration to Self and inflated pride. We need a god who is willing to share his divinity with us. In fact, we are not looking for a god but for a servant who can make all our dreams come true like the genie in Aladdin’s oil lamp. This means a god who cannot refuse us anything, yet does not make any demands of us.
These are our terms and conditions to embrace the simple truth before us. But these are also the stumbling blocks which we lay ahead of our true understanding and real salvation. For relationships which are based on give-and-take imbalance are inefficient and soon become counter productive. For example, parenting which is based on fulfilling a child’s every whim without demanding respect or providing tools to strengthen the child’s character, is inefficient because it doesn’t help the future youth to become productive and it certainly does not teach him/her any thing about respecting values and authority.
Fear & Pride Turned The Saviour Into A Source Of Threat
The irony, though, is that in this modern, secular generation we have all become emotionally fragile. Our egos are so sensitive to reproach and correction that the mere mention of a painful experience lived by others, even thousands of years ago can represent a realistic threat to us. Though I wonder if without pain, correction or reproach, would it have been possible for humanity to develop to the stage we are in, in this millennia?
The majority believe that the answer to this question is yes. We examine ourselves as a nation or even as human race and marvel at how civilized our social relationships are and how sophisticated our value system is. But most believe that we owe our modern thinking and behaviour either to the evolutionary leap from ‘monkey-hood’ to ‘human-hood’, or to the most recent XIX century scientific and technological revolution! We believe in evolution because it provides a scientific and historical answer to “how did the creation come into being”, yet we like to think that humanity developed its contemporary sets of values since the first generation of Homo Sapiens!!! Or that humans lived as monkeys up to the industrial revolution where they suddenly turned into the sophisticated beings we now are. We refuse to see ourselves as a bio-historical product, which means that since the first born; the first ever Homo sapien, the human specious has been greatly impacted by the reality and has been, at the same time, continuously shaping its own history and future. This is what Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel calls Dialectical relationship between the person and his/her surrounding, which should shape our method of reading history accordingly.
The above wide spread belief that change happened based on the principle of sudden, unprecedented leaps, causes us to fail considerably in the reading of history and its relationship with God. For example, we think we can relate to people’s values and customs 5000 years before Christ, more than we can relate to God’s mind. This is true because we regard him as an alien, while we consider this generation of Homo sapiens to be identical to us! Then when we attempt to study the bible, we fall into projecting our modern day values and perceptions of life onto the text. We look at the Pharos of Egypt during the time of Moses as if he was David Cameron in Egyptian clothes! The Midianites’ children become our own and every single act of discipline or punishment from God against these generations of Homo sapiens becomes very personal. Yet the bible was full of war accounts.
Reading war accounts usually tricks the brain into imagining a real war situation, and so it leads to the release of a chemical called Norephinephrine. This stimulates a stress response and activates the sympathetic nervous system. When reading war accounts in the bible, we subconsciously prepare ourselves for war. Based on the context, we build an understanding that helps us take sides. Our natural logic is based on prioritising and ordering our sets of allegiances based on ethnicity, nationality and then the wider humanity.
When reading about biblical wars, most perceive them as being an attack against the human race, and so our allegiance is subconsciously given to a generation of Homo sapiens we know very little about, instead of the living God. This is how we end up with a generation that refuses to recognise the existence of God, much less to submit to his authority.
God Was Leading Homo Sapiens to Become More Humans
However, it is important to know that God was not fighting the human race itself, as if this was his intention, then the whole earth would have been sent into oblivion. Instead, God was clearly fighting the system that Homo sapiens had created at that stage of evolution. This intervention came in order to save the human specious from a complete degradation and annihilation. It came in order to lead the human civilisation to where it is right now; to where ethical behaviour is understood to be right, approved and appraised by believers and unbelievers a like. His intention was to remove all those mountains; those stumbling blocks which stood in the way of a desperately needed progress, in order to lead those earlier generations towards a fully mature form of humanity.
God was trying to revolutionise the human race and He was clearly winning! So, if God won the war then, this would mean that we are no longer a continuation of those annihilated generations, but instead, a by-product of the change that was born thanks to the war. We are a by-product of the history that God has stirred into being. We are the children of God.
Nevertheless, even if the method that was adopted a long time ago to save humanity is no longer needed in this modern era, change is not finished yet. In fact, our progress in the 21st century is witnessing a crisis because it is constantly going out of sync with God’s purpose. No wonder that walking with God became equal to being alienated or marginalised. It is because the society is constantly changing, replacing and loosing all those values and ethics that were held in high esteem less than a century ago.
Finally, if you cannot perceive yourself other than an earthly being in this physical realm, prepared to swim with the world wherever the flows takes you, then your issue stops here. You no longer need to seek God anymore. However, if life seems to consist of an ever increasing struggle or that you feel you couldn’t belong anywhere, then maybe there is somewhere else out there for you. Maybe it is worth knowing that there is a whole new reality waiting to be discovered which existence is increasingly supported by modern science and Neo-physics in particular. This other reality is not only about what is on the other side of this physical realm, but it is also about your own personal truth. Only when understanding your essence, your relationship with God and what is He to you, that you maybe able to overcome.
References: 1 – To explore more on secularism and its less broad manifestations, please visit