God can be (and has been and will continue to be) defined as a great many things, including:
- The Creator of the Universe and the Source of all moral authority.
- A perfect and all-powerful spirit or being that is worshipped.
- The One who has power over nature and human fortunes.
I’ve never proactively gone to church, but I have over the last two weekends, not only as an opportunity to see parts of a location not usually frequented but also as a way to remove myself from a heavy workload, tourist schedule and external factors, even if just for one hour.
St Georges Cathedral in Cape Town is steeped in history and is renowned for the political stance it took during apartheid and is recognised as a strong symbol for democracy in South Africa. It’s significance lies not just with the building itself but also by the actions of different clergymen, including Desmond Tutu, the first black archbishop of South Africa who led numerous marches and campaigns for the formal end of apartheid from the front steps. It was a common meeting point for all activists of all races as well as woman’s rights groups who were part of the resistance to apartheid laws and the struggle for social justice, equality and human rights.
As I sat there listening to the gospels and hymns, one thing struck me. When I started to strip back things within this place, a certainty revealed itself to me at least, hidden for those who choose not to, or know not how to, peel back the layers.
Take away the church building itself. Take away the religious symbols and iconography. Take away the ceremony. Take away the physicality of the congregation. What is left is connection; oneness of being in the same place, a spiritual and aggregated consciousness tuning in to the same frequency.
Whilst in quiet contemplation or prayer during certain times of the service, external reality closes off its influence on the mind and allows one to go beyond the physical to get closer to the core, to inner essence (call it Heaven, call it Nirvana or call it Consciousness – for me it is the same thing).
On the topic of the resurrection, we were reminded by the Bishop that we ourselves should not fear death as life is eternal, and when we leave our mortal bonds we become one with God and join him in Heaven. It was at this point that I was also reminded of a lyric in a song I hold dear, “Presence” by Anathema:
“One has to come to term us with one’s own mortality, and you can’t really help people who are having problems with mortality if you’ve got problems of your own. So you have to begin to sort things out and I thought I had sorted things out until I saw this excerpt from this book, of certainty I shall remember what it said:
“Life is not the opposite of death. Death is the opposite of birth. Life is eternal.”
And I thought that it’s the most profound words I have ever heard and it really put me at peace. And that’s it, what else is there to say? Life is eternal. Surely the opposite of life is not the death, but life is eternal. There is no opposite. It is a state of pure consciousness, stillness and silence. What we are looking for now, we are searching for and we have been searching for is already there; there for ever to seek. It is there and it’s going be there, all the time, forevermore”…
Leaving church left me with a great many things to contemplate. Without the offertory, the amount of churches would diminish and with that those who rely on buildings and ceremony as symbols for hope and peace would be lost. Churches, synagogues, temples and mosques are bricks and mortar, but true spirituality lies within its patrons and not itself, yet if by going to them reminds one to be more spiritual and less materialistic, then one should go.
So it was no shock to me that soon after my return from the cathedral, that flicking through the channels on the afternoon TV I found one of my favourite films Groundhog Day, an ontological orgasm of a film, whereby Bill Murray plays out the Buddhist eternal return (resurrections included) until he gains enough knowledge and wisdom to move on.
After the film had finished, I phoned home and asked the wife how things were going three weeks in to my six week stint in South Africa, the first words from her mouth were “It’s like Groundhog Day”.
As if that was not odd enough, I was in work this morning when my colleague and friend shared with me the last two chocolates from the UK, namely two boxes of Mini-Smarties. He turned to me and said “What’s the answer to life, ‘maybe Smarties has the answer’ eh?” the jingle/phrase that accompanied the product on a UK TV advertisement. I turned to him and said “Well you know the answer to the ultimate question is 42 (according to Douglas Adams and his Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy) and if there are 42 Smarties inside that box then that is proof that there is something else beyond physical death and life is eternal”.
So there he sat, next to me counting out the Smarties in the small cardboard box into piles of ten. The look of shock on his face and mine when, after four piles were laid out on the desk, he showed me the open box to reveal two left inside.
An extraordinary synchronicity, could that have really been just a coincidence or was it a message from the other side?