Look at how God is presented in the Old Testament: God is spatially present. A tabernacle is built for God to make Godself’s visitations. An ark is crafted to direct Godself’s presence toward a single point, a small area between wings of seraphim.
When structures are created in which a spatial presence of God can dwell, then purity-regimes are sure to follow, as is evidenced by the text of Leviticus and Deuteronomy in the Old Testament. When the sacred can be realized spatially, then the materiality of the body takes on a new significance. This causes single individuals to be venerated, and ritual cleansing to propagate and seek control of the access to the holy.
Once a single central temple is built, once the spatial worship of God is concentrated in a sole authoritative building, then corruption and factions of power are sure to follow. As is evidenced by the next parts of the Old Testament after the Pentateuch.
Abstraction accretes over time, and when the Christ walks the earth God is not a contract or in one place, but God is granter of the greatest kingdom. That central ruling thought of the New Testament, that of the kingdom of God, what does it say about God being spatially present?
Well in that book God is our Father in heaven, right? God is not spatially present here. In this life God does not give Godself’s presence, but only a period of testing. That is what this life truly is, the New Testament says. We are separated from God, and this life is a time of testing, a time of suffering and trial. One could almost say birth was like a sentence handed down, punishment for some past crime of which we remember not. And oh yeah, God the Father is not spatially present at all anymore. The best you can hope for is to enjoy a strict moral discipline.
I’ve heard many people dismiss the New Testament as crude wish-fulfillment, a system promoting fantasy comforts, a doctrine for the weak who can’t face reality. The message of the New Testament sounds rather more bleak in the way I’ve just described it. If you ask me to back up this characterization with gospel quotes, I would ask you to pick up a bible, and open to any page of the New Testament. I could point out to you on that page the part which connects to this human life you lead being ultimately nothing more than a time of testing. Literally every single page is related to that truth.
Now, whether or not you agree that this is the case – that you were born as a prisoner of sin and the truth of this life is that it is a time of testing – you must agree that’s what the New Testament is proposing.
But wait, if the Christ is God, then wouldn’t God in fact be spatially present also in the world of the New Testament? The Christian says yes, because the Christ is indeed God. The Christ came to earth, and that is the greatest thing to ever happen, so amazing, and that incredible occurrence is something to be worshipped.
But what did the Christ say? Not what do Christians say about the Christ, but what is the Christ quoted as saying about himself, and the immediate presence of God?
He calls himself “the Son of Man.” That which is spatially present in this life, equally present to every single person, is “the kingdom of God.” But what is the kingdom of God? Is it a king who will rise and lead Israel to glory?
Something was coming. Everybody agreed something was going to happen, and a lot of people at the time referred to it as the kingdom of God. What the kingdom of God actually is was the big question. But something was coming. Something is coming. Now we just call it “the future.” Maybe “the singularity.” Some people still call it the kingdom of God.
But what did the Christ mean when describing the kingdom of God? – He was saying that you find the kingdom of God for yourself by considering this life a time of testing. This life is a time of suffering and trial. Everything else in this world is just a passing illusion.
If this life is a time of testing, what are we being tested on? What are the right answers on this test? How do we answer suffering, and vast material inequality, and evil? It is love – it is love that passes the test, it is love that makes up for every error, it is love that corrects us.
Personally my question has always been How do you love? more so than What is love? But now I realize that although they are two different questions, the answer is the same. The how and the what are the same here. God in heaven gives us all the love we need. Our job is to put that love into action. And the vehicle for true action in this realm is the kingdom of God.
What is the kingdom of God? Because although this life is a time of testing, a finite period of suffering and trial, you can escape this suffering and certain death. You can pass this time of testing and inherit an eternal fortune. How? By finding the kingdom of God.
The kingdom of God is not just some idea, some theoretical construct, some master metaphor – no, the kingdom of God is spatially present here and now. Or at least it can be. That is up to you.
Every person possesses infinite potential. Of that there can be no doubt, a person is a cosmic portal, and the possibility which lives within each and every person is boundless. The kingdom of God is how you realize that potential. The kingdom of God unlocks goodness like a treasure chest, it is the key to every hope.
You have a limited scope of your actions, you cannot feed a village in famine and you cannot save someone who is a victim of gun violence – but your intention is unlimited, it is an infinite source of material, of conscience framing. This is why the kingdom of God fulfills human potential – because by considering this life a time of testing, you are driven to purify your intentions. And when you purify your intentions, the world opens up to you.
This opening up of the world, this reality is spatially present here and now. Imagine that it corresponds to the concept of samadhi in meditative traditions. And it is in fact the case that the dharma can only begin in the same way as the kingdom of God. You must first consider this life a time of testing, a period of suffering and trial. Then you can seek for the right answers, what the Buddha called the eight part noble path. It is similar to a written exam, in that you start at the first question, you must respond to them all, and you have a limited time period in which to answer. The questions go like this: What is the right view? What is the right livelihood? What is the right intention? And so on.
Only in that way can the process of enlightenment begin. That this is the only correct starting point in the process of transcendence is simply a law of nature. You cannot question it, but only seek it out, only consider it the answer in order to start. You must consider it to be true so that you can start looking, and only when looking is seeing possible. And once you can truly see, then the truth is never the same.
But did the same thing happen to Moses?