My God used to be very sensible. But, of course, I was really too young to understand. As a small boy I saw him frequently, got the scent of his fragrance, heard his voice, tasted his words in my own mouth and reached out to curl my small hand around a single finger of his. Every one of my five senses connected me to him.
I made the mistake of talking to adults about this. They mussed my already-unruly mop of hair and smiled indulgently at my naiveté – that is everybody except my great-grandmother who had managed to survive into old age without ever losing her mystical ability and my grandfather who was a life-long druid.
A second, even bigger, mistake was made on my behalf; I was sent to school, initially to the nuns and later to the Christian Brothers. They told me that God wasn’t sensible but rather that he was sensible, as in he followed common sense. And I believed them, because they wore the insignia of God: habits and veils and Roman collars; and the important adults in my life all deferred to them.
For the next 13 years I was meticulously versed in this very sensible God, this down-to-earth, commonsensical divinity, who wore sensible brown shoes and created people to be sensible plodders. Sure, he did produce the odd mystic, but they were all safely dead. For the rest of us, the advice was to keep our heads down and measure out our lives in teaspoonfuls; dull, pain-filled, anxious lives that were best navigated by commonsense, old wives’ tales and Old Testament examples. For God was a commonsense God, even when he consigned unbaptized babies to Limbo or sent sinners into everlasting flames for missing mass on Sundays or eating sausages on Fridays. This, too, made sense.
At age 18, I entered the seminary, and now God became even more sensible. In exquisite detail, Dogmatic Theology, Sacramental Theology and Moral Theology constructed a fully consistent, logical framework, backed by scriptural references that made it madness to be agnostic let alone atheistic. That is until I started at university and majored in mathematical physics and pure mathematics. Now I was introduced to the “God of the gaps.” He was slowly being edged out by science and being given increasingly unimportant portfolios until such time as science itself had enough manpower and evidence to give him a golden handshake (with the presentation being made by Nietzsche) and retire him to an Old Folks’ Home.
Religion reacted by either vigorously defending the commonsense God of the scriptures or deftly surfing the scientific waves, remaking God to survive the Copernican Revolution, Darwinian Evolution, Relativity Theory and Quantum Mechanics. The more creative theologians even managed to find scriptural references that foretold all of these discoveries. These religious thinkers claimed that God is still really sensible and predicted that real scientists would eventually see the light.
I landed in Kenya at age 26 in a remote area without phones, electric light or companionship. So I did the reasonable thing, I began dabbling in mystical ideas, radical new cosmologies and in thinking-for-myself. We all have mystical experiences, but typically we regard them as insubstantial, like the dreams of the night. So I began recording and working with the dreams of the night and also with the visions of the day. I had an “aha!” experience when I read that in Hebrew “vision” and “dream” are synonyms. So when the prophet Joel said, “In the days to come I will pour out my Spirit on all humankind; your young men shall see visions and your old men shall dream dreams” he wasn’t discriminating against the senior citizens; for dreams are visions you have while you are asleep, and visions are dreams you have while you are awake.
God was very sensible again; but now he made sense because experiences of him were enabled by transcending the five senses, and commonsense, and theology and science; and, instead, utilizing the soul.
And then, today, the 18th of December 2007, something else happened. It has been raining heavily for three days and the forest is spectacular during the rainy season; and besides, my dog Kayla needs to walk. So we set off, me in my rain gear and she in her house clothes. And we bumped into God – again and again and again.
Firstly, I tasted Him. Pearl-shaped droplets of water hung on each twig. Every leaf on every tree was a chalice of God-life. So I stuck my tongue out under a broad leaf and reverently received communion; the blood of God from a Eucharistic minister called Madrona. It was as ecstatic a moment as my First Holy Communion at age seven.
Then I saw Him, sitting astride a faery horse that wore green, gossamer-thin garments of ferns about its fetlocks. God’s long flowing locks were made of light-green lichen, and each strand was a lace lattice for catching dreams and attracting visions. The steed was planted upon the hillside with its powerful limbs soaking up energy from the earth as he rested on his journey. We saw each other and each of us whispered, “Namasté.”
As I continued to walk I realized that each time I dug my sturdy staff in the ground I was touching an acupuncture point on the skin of Gaia, and she responded by sending shivers of Earth energy up my spine.
Then I smelt Him, fleetingly. I had just walked through a power spot, so I stopped and backed up, moved my head from side to side and sniffed like Kayla taught me. There it was again! I stood absolutely still and sniffed again. I had it! An entire shelf-full from the Akashic Records tumbled into my brain releasing a myriad of memories from many lifetimes on this planet. They danced like children newly reunited with long-lost parents.
It was evening before I returned home. All was still in the forest. I listened more silently than ever before and then I heard it, the sound of the sunset. It resonated in every cell of my body, light vibrating with light. After a few moments all was utterly quiet again; and then a new song sounded; it was the slow sensual symphony of the moonrise, a half-moon teasingly concealing the left side of her face. This song would last for the entire night. And the stars responded with a poem of their own; a poem crafted by the genius of a Yeats, in the language of a Rilke and spoken in the mystical tones of a Rumi.
Finally, I climbed to the top of my shrine, the place I call, “Cnochán Dara na Naomh” or “The Hillock of the Oak Tree of the Avatars.” An ancient Scrub Oak rests there, a garland on the crown chakra of that sacred space. It is always the culmination of my daily pilgrimage. I rested my right hand on the weather-beaten bark and through my now-sensitized palm I could feel the heartbeat of the acorn that begot it; the slow powerful thump-thump-thump of the druid-tree.
So today I came full circle. Today, as I had done in my childhood, I smelt God, I felt God, I heard God, I saw God and I tasted God. After 61 years in this incarnation, I can say once again, “My God is a very sensible God!”
Sean O’Laoire, Tir n’an Og, California, 18th December 2007