Today I have a special guest blogger: Yotam Schachter. He is also doing personal/professional work on spiritual practices without using the name/concept God. As in previous posts of mine, you'll note that he's also exploring which words generally associated with God (such as soul, prayer, and divine) could still be useful outside of an explicitly Godly context. Enjoy!
Most of the time, I don’t believe in a God who can be influenced by prayer, or who loves me any differently from anything else. I do believe in Hasidut as a spiritual path, and I am exploring the notion that I can walk that path by substituting for the term God something like “All of myself other than my immediate conscious ego.” Call it my Soul, perhaps: All of my awareness, past, present, and future, other than my ego at this moment.
The relationship I strive for with my Soul is one of love, humility, gratitude, and occasional influence – much like the Hasidic relationship with God. Practices like hitbodedut carry over seamlessly. The unification of divine aspects, the redemption of fallen sparks, and the pursuit of dvekut all translate. In prayer, I try to bring about alignment between my ego and my Soul – sometimes by easing the grip of my ego, and sometimes by reconciling divergent forces within my Soul. I choose to affirm that by calling upon my Soul to serve the principles and communities I value, I increase the odds that my future actions will have the best possible impact.
Encountering the non-egoic vastness within me as though it were the Hasidic divine in this way, I feel like I do when I believe in God: Loved, welcome, and of service to the world.
And perhaps this is the classical Hasidic divine after all. My Soul blends without clear boundary into my biology, my relationships, and my environment, part of a diffuse web of mutual influence. The question of theology becomes an appraisal of the strength and coherence of that web: if my prayers can influence the weather, and if some form of higher guidance can influence me, then my Soul is a foyer to the house of a living God. If not, then the foyer is enough.