In nature, animals learn how to be their true nature by watching how their parents do things and trying to do things the same way, sink or swim. Humans too learn through imitation, not only in worldly ways but also in spiritual pursuits.
I love Jesus Christ’s new Facebook status update, a selection from the New Testament:
Ephesians 5:1 – 2 “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”
Too often Christians confuse the spiritual imperative to imitate God with the all-too-human imperative to obey human traditions and institutions. But World Spirituality suggests that imitating God — or Enlightenment, from a different perspective — is our highest calling.
As I see it, the imitation of God is about growing our consciousness, inch by inch, habit by habit, thought by thought, until we understand that our True Self is one with God … as was Jesus’s own Supreme Identity.
What does that look like? It won’t have the same feeling for everyone. At a very general level, there are principles and ways of looking at God-consciousness that can help to draw distinctions. For example, Ephesians also tells us to walk in love and to be selfless in the work we do in the world. Being God-like isn’t an act one puts on. It’s not a demeanor. It’s not an attribute of the personality. It shows up in self-less love, and whenever Love is present, so too is God.
But if love were the answer, surely the world wouldn’t be as messed up as it too often is. Our problems as a world are much more complex and intractable that simply telling people to love each other isn’t a panacea. What’s more, it’s not clear that humanity needs religion to remind us to love our fellow humans. Religion often seems to be a cause of hate and fear rather than a bringer of peace.
When we want to understand what lies behind this complexity and address it in practical ways, that’s where drawing upon a few key Integral principles come into play. Recognizing, for example, that Love evolves in stages — for example, from infatuation to separation to sweetness (as in Marc Gafni’s Three Stations of Love teaching) — we know that we imitate God not by experiencing only warm fuzzy feelings but in the entire process of unfolding relationships. The good. The bad. And the ugly/beautiful.
We imitate God through love … but there are many stages of love, many types of love, many perspectives we can take about love. In practice, love comes into conflict with a variety of other values and appears differently depending on whether we are egocentric, ethnocentric, or worldcentric. Love is not a complete path to God without an integral understanding of love.
Found this additional quote from Marc Gafni in his dialogue with the Dalai Lama that I want to share:
To love someone is to see them with God’s eyes, to perceive them at their highest place, like — as His Holiness said — the mother who sees the baby. The mother, no matter what the baby does when older, always sees the baby as divine. Therefore we call God in Hebrew mysticism, Kabbalah, the divine breast of the Mother who feeds us all. So we are all, like God, trying to see Other with God’s eyes. So to love is to see with God’s eyes, not an emotion, but a perception. … That’s our basic idea. So we say we can train people to love. Because if love is an emotion, we can’t train an emotion. But we can train a perception. We can train people to see.