August 30, 2023
“Who Knew?” (Thoughts on Oneness and Love)
Genesis 1:1-5 1 John 4:7-16
I have strayed from the lectionary this morning and offered a couple of scripture readings that are part of what I want share today. I have decided to simply talk with you this morning because what I have to say are things that have been on my heart for some time and come from a very deep place in my head and my soul. The impetus for sharing all this in a sermon grew out of a conversation with Nowell at coffee hour (a lot of things seem to grow out of conversations with Nowell at coffee hour).
Let’s begin at the beginning:
Bereishit bara Elohim
Et hashamayim v’et ha’aretz
V’ha’aretz haiyta tohu vavohu
V’choshech al pnei tehom
These are the opening words of the book of Genesis in Hebrew. The words tohu vavohu, which we usually translate as “without form and void” are very dark and mysterious words. They describe a virtual endless sea of chaotic nothingness. Genesis tells us that God brought order out of this chaos to create all that is.
Well, you and I are co-creators with the Almighty. Quantum physicists today tell us that we create the ordered world around us by observing it. That’s a rather mind-blowing assertion. Let me give you my take on how that happens (it may not entirely jibe with the latest theory of biocentrism, but it works for me).
We, all of us, are every minute of our lives, swimming, so to speak, in a virtual sea of quantum particles, waves, and energy. And we, ourselves, are part of that sea. That vast, endless ocean of tohu vavohu (if you will) connects everyone and everything. We are oblivious to most all of it. That is because we have these five senses that we have developed that limit our perception. For example, our eyes are designed to collect information from a tiny slice of the vast electromagnetic spectrum. We do not see ionizing radiation, including gamma rays and x-rays. We don’t see ultraviolet or infrared light, or microwaves, or radio waves. We do not see free electrons, atoms or molecules of hydrogen, helium, or oxygen. We don’t see background radiation. And perhaps most significantly, we don’t see Higgs bosons that make up the Higgs field, filling all of space everywhere. What we see is that small slice of the electromagnetic spectrum that we refer to as “visible light.” It is only visible because that’s the stuff our eyes are tuned to decipher. And the information from our eyes is transmitted to these magnificent brains of ours (far beyond any current computer’s capability). And our brains, in turn create a picture in our minds of the world around us.
We may also think that we hear everything there is to hear, or smell everything there is to smell. If you think that, just take a walk with a dog sometime. Dogs, by the way don’t see the world the same way we do. They have a different array of cones in their eyes for detecting color. They mostly just see blues, perhaps some yellows, but no reds at all. Everything else is just a dull grey. Have you ever considered how different our world would seem to us if we had different sensing apparatuses? Like bats and dolphins who navigate the world using sonar. Dolphins, by the way, can, with their sonar, detect a school of fish ahead, and have a picture of that school of fish in their heads. They can then transmit a sonar signal to other dolphins who then get the same picture of the school of fish in their heads. Have you ever wondered what the world would look like if we had different kinds of sensing organs, or if the sensing organs we have worked differently? The world would be a very, very different place.
There is so much more out there than we can perceive. But the truth of our existence is that we are connected, each being a part of this grand mix of tohu vavohu. And we, each of us and all of us, are, by the limited perceptions of our senses, creating reality in every moment out of the the tohu vavohu in which we swim. In other words, our separateness is simply a matter of perception. In truth, all is One. We are part of each other, and part of the trees, and the sidewalks, and the sky. The whole of the universe is One.
This is not just me speaking. It was one of the most eminent physicists, Bernard d’Espagnat, who wrote, “. . . we know for sure . . . that, in some respects
at least, the world is non-separable. . . non-separability is now one of the most certain general concepts in physics.” Albert Einstein wrote that: “A human being . . . experiences himself and his feelings as separate from the rest, an optical illusion of his consciousness.” And the famous physicist, Erwin Schrödinger (of “Schrödinger’s Cat” fame), said, “There is obviously only one alternative, namely the unification of minds or consciousnesses. Their multiplicity is only apparent, in truth there is only one mind.” How’s that sound coming from a physicist? It seems like Quantum physics is sounding more like Zen Buddhism all the time.
The prophet Jeremiah had an amazing vision. In the midst of hearing the voice of eternity castigating the people of Israel, Jeremiah looked around and experienced everything as, in his words, tohu vavohu. Perhaps he had a glimpse into the truth about this sea of quantum stuff in which we swim: that all is indeed one.
And now a word about love. In our epistle reading this morning John says, “. . .everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. …for God is love.” We have a dear friend to whom we were recently talking. She told us about an experience she had long ago as a young mother. Her daughter had a small New Testament that she loved to play with, even before she could read. One day the little girl accidentally tore a small piece out of one of the pages while she was playing with it. Our friend said she picked it up off the floor and read it. It said, “God is love.” That phrase has been a touchstone for her throughout her life. It could be a touchstone for us as well. “God is love.” That’s an amazing statement. He doesn’t say that God loves, he doesn’t say that God wants us to love, he says “God is love.” I take that to mean that the divinity that lies at the Ground of All Being (to use Tillich’s phrase) is pure love. And, therefore, it is love that fuels, motivates, and drives our being.
Ask any biologist what it is that makes the evolution of life forms work, and they might tell you it’s natural selection. But if you press them further about what drives that, they will probably say it’s the survival instinct. So, what is the survival instinct but a love of life and a love of self. I want to survive because I love myself and I love being alive. That’s the blood, as well as the pumping heart, of living things. It’s what makes life work, because, as the biologist will tell you, it’s what makes evolution work. And without that, living things can’t keep hanging on in an often unfriendly world. But the love of life and the love of self are prerequisites for loving others. And it turns out that is built in as well. That same survival instinct leads living beings to love and care for their offspring and then also the members of their family, or clan, or the community of other beings like them (If you are fortunate enough to take this to the extreme of loving even your enemy, as Buechner writes in our bulletin meditation, that is God’s love). Our Area Minister, Rev. Carol Steinbrecher, whom many of you met, recently wrote an article in which she mentioned that even trees have networks of roots that they use to nourish and care for members of their cluster that are in need of nourishment.
In a very real sense, we cannot choose to love or not love; love is simply built in as a part of our core being. Yes, there are people, times, and circumstances when that being is distorted and hatred or violence reign. But that does not destroy the love that is part of our created self. That cannot be destroyed, because it is the spark of divinity that lies within us. Indeed, in those opening verses of Genesis, the ancient Hebrews shared their insight that God created human beings in God’s own divine image and blessed them and saw that it was good. So, we who share that divine spark of divinity are made of love. John said it, you know, God is love. In Colossians, Paul says that “love . . . binds everything together in perfect harmony.” And in 1 Corinthians, he says that “love never ends.”
So where has all this brought us? Well, here’s the conclusion: The latest determinations of quantum physics as well as the findings of biology and anthropology come into remarkable agreement with the insights of the ancients . All of the universe is not a collection of individual planets, stars, objects, or people. All is one. And because of that, you and I are inseparably part of each other. We are bound together in this infinite sea of tuhu vavohu, out of which, we as co-creators with Divinity in every moment are creating order out of the chaos around us through the wonder of our limited but remarkable senses and brains. And at the heart of our being, the divine fuel that drives us and the power that literally gives us life and allows us to sustain that life is love.