Some years ago, towards the end of several years of study and thought, I sketched a brief framework for personal growth, a Maslovian-like hierarchy of steps. Taken together, they seemed to me the fundamental elements to a sense of well-being and contentment. Admittedly, they were my own projection onto others, but that’s another topic.
My subject here is the last of those steps: Seek the divine. My sense was (and yes, still is) that we each need and benefit from a sense of connection to the underlying mystery and wonder of existence. How one defines that, or finds that connection, is up to the individual. Anything more on my part would seem presumptuous.
Apart from my own experience, I derived this idea from the universal thread of religion throughout mankind’s cultural history. It’s as though it’s in our DNA, a ubiquitous inclination to connect with a plane, a transcendence (for want of a better word) beyond our sensibilities. Signs are everywhere, from the earliest archeological digs of human settlements through the fabric of mystical practices across history and cultures, and into modern religions. It seemed to me that, if this inclination is so ubiquitous, we are remiss not to honestly explore how it plays out in our own psyches.
My immediate problem arises from my the recent discussions with the atheist community, in particular some who are sticklers for the use of words. Let’s call them etymological purists. I’m told I can’t use the term “the divine” in this context because it derives from the concept of God or gods (Latin, divus, I believe) and connotes deity. Thus, it would have no meaning for atheists and be exclusionary. Never mind that language and word usage have evolved since our first utterances, and many words we use today have no practical bearing on their origins.
But I believe it’s exactly the term to express my intent and, in my intention, it means what I say it does. If I am coining a new usage, so be it. It’s up to such readers to let go of their rigidity and embrace the broader context. Blindly clinging to rigid perspectives on any issue can in itself be a barrier to honest self-examination.