While he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was moved with pity. He ran to the boy, clasped him in his arms and kissed him tenderly.
An intriguing concept in modern cosmology is the existence of an uncountable number of parallel universes. But there is no evidence or proof of this. There is probably more evidence from science itself of a creative intelligence visible in the beauty of mathematics and the elegance of the universe at the cosmic and microcosmic scales. An implicit order exists in reality, of harmony, beauty and connectedness – that it is possible to perceive despite the existence of chaos, mass killings and innocent suffering.
‘We can never know God by thought but only by love’. In this characteristic statement of mystical consciousness, love means not just an emotion or excitement contained in the range of human pleasure and pain – though it exists there too. Love means the intelligence of spirit, indeed the mind of God itself, which can only be known by sharing in its own being. We all know that when we fall in love the world looks and feels quite different. When we go deeper into love our very sense of self progressively undergoes a massive transformation. We don’t know where it will take us. (The mystic says we eventually become God). But any true form of love, even the most self-centred at first, contains a fragment of the whole, a taste of the beautiful harmony of all things.
Too often the lower levels of human consciousness intervene at crucial transitional moments. Instead of deepening love we opt – or are sucked into – possessiveness, sadness and rage. ‘Each man kills the thing he loves.’ But when the father in the parable of the two brothers (the prodigal son is one, the unwelcoming elder brother is the other) throws aside his dignity and right to rebuke his wayward son and instead embraces him with a kiss, we glimpse that the whole universe is friendly. Who cares then whether it is one or one of many? Despite the clashing together of galaxies, volcanic eruptions and human badness, when we come home, we are always welcomed.
Think of what you feel when you come back to meditation after a time of not doing it. Maybe you have been postponing it because you imagined there would be an inner penalty to pay for having given it up or being late. Instead there is a wonderful sense of ‘no blame’ (as the I Ching puts it) and an unconditional welcome at coming home to our true Self.
It is hard to believe this until you have felt it. And it hard to draw on this feeling because human beings are only rarely so Godlike. How often, between us, does unconditional forgiveness and reconciliation happen? Yet, even as children we have an innate sense of justice and intuitively hope or believe (which, we cannot say), that this is what reality is like. Our inner microcosm thus reflects the whole. We would know it if only we could be real. Until then, God is as imaginary, as out of reach, as parallel universes.