A Metaphor for an Encounter with the Divine


“There are two fountains and they each have a basin to be filled with water.  … These two basins fill up in different ways.  The water from one comes from far away, carried through many aqueducts requiring much ingenuity.  The source of water for the other one is right beside it and the basin fills soundlessly.  The spring is abundant and so the basin spills over and a large stream flows from it.  This requires no engineering skills or the construction of conduits.  The water just continuously bubbles forth. … I think that the water that comes through the aqueducts is like spiritual consolations in meditation. … With the other fountain, the water springs directly from its own source: God.”

St. Teresa of Avila, The Interior Castle

The brain is designed to capture and interpret stimuli from the peripheral nervous system and direct the body to respond accordingly.  It does this by deploying ion permeable cells called neurons that catch stimuli and turn them into electrical excitations (action potentials).    These action potentials traverse the length of neurons, quickly being whisked away from their site of generation.  In the brain, dense networks of neurons, hierarchically organized into distinct loci, employ action potentials to perform computations.  But when too many stimuli hit an unprepared (and as in the case of bipolar disorder sensitized) brain, energizing action potentials cannot be processed fast enough.  The result, a brain state where delicate neural networks are drowned in undirected agitation.  For patients that have been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, this narration describes a condition know as “mania.”  Medications can assist in restoring the balance between stimulus and response for individuals suffering from bipolar disorder.  Additionally, spirituality may also promote balance.  Four distinct modes of spirituality exists atheist, deist, agnostic, and theist.

The atheist has no belief in a higher power outside the material universe.  To her, the universe is closed and distinct.  The result of this belief is that psychological states are purely physical; consciousness is an emergent phenomenon arising from distinct properties of the brain.  Conscious and subconscious thoughts emerge through “aqueducts” created by the individual, society, and nature.  For this person, humanistic codes of ethics determine how the mind operates.  The challenge in not having a belief in a higher power is that life is purposeless and random.  For many, this is a terrifying prospect engendering a deep fear of death because after all the earthly life is all that there is.  I sometimes adopt this state of mind.  When miracles seem too fantastic to affirm their truth, I default to not believing in signs of Jesus Christ attested to by scripture.  Thankfully however, this state of mind often evolves into a state of mind that affirms the reality of God.

The deist has a belief in a “watchmaker God,” a higher power that fashioned the universe but stands back from it and allows it to operate on its own.  This point of view on the reality of the divine is a lonely one, God is distant and aloof from life on earth.  Human reason is placed above revelation.  God is not able to access the minds of humans.  The is a very dark belief system for me with regards to struggles with bipolar disorder I.  Who am I to turn to besides friends and family who are often not present or too far away.  The deistic God is a God whose living water flows from outside creation via aquaducts constructed with self generated effort by the individual.  Deism sometimes describes my perception of the divine.  Being a scientist, it is rational to believe that the universe’s order has an ordered intelligent creator behind it.  However, in this state miracles are not permissible as they violate this reasoned order.  Closely related to this view point is the agnostic position.  The only difference between deism and agnosticism is that the deist believes in a God with confidence and the agnostic is not willing to commit to any view point whatsoever.  Despite this difference, the practical application of the belief is that it has not bearing on mental health care.  There is no interventionist God to pray to seek solace and healing.

The theistic position is the most fantastic position.  Like a spring gushing forth water, God enters into the theist’s life and bathes her with love and warmth, “the water springs directly from its own source: God.  When His Majesty wishes to bless us with supernatural favor, the delight brings with it the greatest peace, quietude, and sweetness to our innermost selves.  I don’t know where it comes from or how it comes” (Avila 98).  Theism is mysterious because God is ever present and ever absence to those living on earth.  Humanity years to be with God to receive love and compassion, but one must exhibit great care when seeking a relationship with the divine.  The absence of God can be felt as one of the most painful experience.  If you have tasted the love of God, how do you respond when God feels distance and aloof?  I am gradually accepting theism, God has assumed a  reality in the absence of human love in my life.  I seek God’s love, not as compensation but as the light of God perceived most intensely in times of struggle.

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About kayaerbil

I am a Berkeley educated chemistry Ph.D. who is moving into the area of working on developing appropriate technology for communities that are subjected to socio-economic oppression. The goal is to use simple and effective designs to empower people to live better lives. Currently, I am working with Native Americans on Pine Ridge, the Lakota reservation in South Dakota. I am working with a Native owned and run solar energy company. We are currently working on building a compressed earth block (CEB) house that showcases many of the technologies that the company has developed. The CEB house is made of locally derived resources, earth from the reservation. The blocks are naturally thermally insulating, keeping the house cool in the summer and warm in the winter. Eventually, a solar air heater and photovoltaic panels will be installed into the house to power the home and keep it warm, while preserving the house off the grid. A side project while in Pine Ridge is a solar computer. I hope to learn about blockchain encryption software for building microgrids. In addition, it is an immediate interest of mine to involve local youth in technology education.
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