When I was young, I had life figured out.
I knew that
God Heavenly Father had a plan for me. I knew the Book of Mormon was the word of God, and that it was translated from Golden Plates by Joseph Smith. I knew, also, that Joseph Smith had seen God, the Father, and His Son, Jesus Christ. Plus all sorts of angels throughout various times of his life.
It’s nice to know something with surety. Especially when it requires faith to know those things. It makes you feel just a little better than the people who lean on logic instead of faith. Silly gentiles.
I also felt a comfort in knowing that my knowledge of the true truth made me special. I knew that Mormons were really the only ones that understood what happiness truly was. There is a certain comfort in knowing that those without the truth are lost without the gospel. They are addicted. They are “ever learning and never knowing.” (Imagine!?) They are miserable and don’t even know it. Not only are they not going to the Celestial Kingdom after they die, but they’re just going to make a mess of their lives here on earth.
I mean, I would never have openly admitted that I believed all that – but, truth is, I think I really kinda did. And I’m pretty sure I wasn’t the only one.
But then, in my late 20’s, I, uh, how do you say, got woke. Left the church, got a divorce, yada yada. I read everything: Conversations with God, The Four Agreements, The Alchemist, and some book about glowing trees that could talk to you or something. Oh, and, of course, The Secret. Ah, I got into all of it. The Science of Getting Rich; Think & Grow Rich (for the 3rd time); Secrets of the Millionaire Mind; the list goes on, and on, and on. My new God became The Universe and the new rules were different and the same, and the promises also the same, but unveiled. Once again, if you didn’t get what you wanted, you just didn’t have enough faith. You were doing it wrong. Again, you had to believe in things that existed but were not seen. You had to see your future rolling out exactly the way you wanted it, and be grateful for it before it could manifest in the flesh.
And so, I would thank the universe for an amazing parking spot before I found one, and when there wasn’t one, I figured I just didn’t believe enough; I was thinking small; I was doing it wrong; or I was abusing the universe’s generosity and it had something else in store for me that day — perhaps it knew I needed the walk. It’s a very personal universe.
Then, without entirely letting go of The Universe, my next God became the Ego; as presented by the dear Libertarian prophet: Ayn Rand.
I read Atlas Shrugged at the recommendation of a rather progressive friend of mine. Part of why I gave it a chance. I liked the concept of man as a heroic character in his own life. Having grown up as a pleaser, it gave me permission to just be..selfish. So then I followed that up with The Fountainhead and The Virtue of Selfishness. If you have read any of her books, you’ll appreciate the Ayn Rand Character Flowchart.
There’s something nice about selfishness: You can always trust a selfish person to put their interests first. When you understand someone’s motivations, you can adjust accordingly.
I would often posit that if I would trust my selfishness, it would serve others as well. For instance, I find that I’m happier when those I care about have their needs met. So, kindness could actually be a selfish act – I get the benefit of seeing my loved ones happy, and they get, I don’t know, a nice meal made for them.
But then there was this country who “elected” a selfish asshole as their president and it destroyed any of the lingering delusions I’d had about the virtues of this limited trait. And so, the god, Ego, fell.
And then I read Self-Therapy: A Step-By-Step Guide to Creating Wholeness and Healing Your Inner Child Using IFS, A New, Cutting-Edge Psychotherapy. It’s quite a title.
It says: “The Self is connected to the deeper ground of being that spiritual teachings speak of, sometimes called God. It has access to a kind of higher wisdom and understanding that can guide you in dealing with the larger questions of life. It allows you to be fully present and embodied in each moment with aliveness and depth. It is an inexhaustible fountain of love.”
That’s the stuff.
Right there in the middle of a chapter about The Self, religion and philosophy reaches a subtle pinnacle: God isn’t what others keep telling you it/he/she/ze is; God is You.
You at your deepest, inner core. You at your best. Even you at your worst. Because there is no best or worst, there is only you. Your self. The only God that you need to get to know; to trust; to listen to.
Emerson said this about the self: “…every individual man has a bias which he must obey, and that it is only as he feels and obeys this that he rightly develops and attains his legitimate power in the world. It is his magnetic needle, which points always in one direction to his proper path, with more or less variation from any other man’s. He is never happy nor strong until he finds it, keeps it; learns to be at home with himself; learns to watch the delicate hints and insights that come to him, and to have the entire assurance of his own mind.”
But how do you access The Self? How do you listen to it? How do you come to trust it? Well, the answer to that will take many posts and many books. Start with reading The Artist’s Way. Or Maria Popova’s writeup of Let Your Life Speak.
You can also start with meditation. Anything that helps you realize that you are not your body; you are not even your thoughts; you are consciousness – you step back and find that little person behind your eyes and suddenly, you’re untouchable. You feel it, don’t you? the clarity, the confidence, the peace. And you know that it won’t always feel like this, but that moment, right there, that’s you. That’s the only God you can truly trust because it’s the only God you can truly know.
This is a God of whom you are always worthy; that you can always access no matter what—without intercession; a God that never leaves you; One that knows you, loves you, and has your best interest, and the tranquility of others at heart.
This God is You.