Saturday, June 23, 2012

The Present Exaltation

SPECULATION WARNING: I am not preaching certain truth. This post is pure speculation, and could be entirely wrong. 

I have rarely encountered religious scripture as beautiful as what you can find in the Isha Upanishad, a central sacred text in the Vedanta school of Hinduism. A quotation from it follows:

Those who see all creatures in themselves
And themselves in all creatures know no fear.
Those who see all creatures in themselves.
And themselves in all creatures know no grief.
How can the multiplicity of life
Delude the one who sees its unity?

The central message of this text is simple, yet profound: your ultimate, real self is identical with God and the universe. This magnificent idea, not merely limited to Indian religions, also exists in a more diluted form in the mystical traditions of Western faiths (Judaism, Islam, Christianity, etc.). But what about Mormonism? Considering that the Mormon God has a body, it doesn't seem like a hopeful prospect to reconcile the two ideas. And yet, I believe that if we examine doctrine closely, we can demonstrate that the Self is more divine in Mormonism than in nearly any other tradition.

This premise, that the two aforementioned models of God are reconciliable, rests upon a single scripture. Here it is:

"The angels do not reside on a planet like this earth; But they reside in the presence of God, on a globe like a sea of glass and fire, where all things for their glory are manifest, past, present, and future, and are continually before the Lord."
-D&C 130:6-7

This passage, which I have quoted often in my posts, teaches a very important piece of doctrine: since the "past, present, and future" are all  continually manifest before Celestial beings, we know that they reside outside of time. To help conceive of this idea, think of a line which goes through a multi-dimensional space. This line is the history of our world,  flowing like a river from the past to the future, never diverging or wavering. However, God and every other divinity dwell in the infinite height and depth of this place, equally distant to every point on the time-line. Considering this last point, we might modify the original metaphor to make the timeline a circle or sphere, and the divine residence its center. But in any case, we get the impression that exalted entities dwell in a place that is simultaneously apart from and throughout the entirety of time.

Knowing of this chronological boundlessness, we can make an observation which will prove to be key in our pursuit of reconciliation. The point is this: your future, exalted self must exist right now. You see, if and when we become divine, we will begin to see the entirety of time and space as one, meaning that every moment will be there for us to see, including this one. If we return to line metaphor, it becomes apparent that "now" is simply a point along the line, touched as much as any other by the spacious light of Celestial existence. To put it another way, the present moment is a facet of the prism through which all exalted beings, including yourself, continually gaze.

This knowledge has incredible connotations. It means that a version of you, only more perfect and divine, sees all that you do, think, and feel. In fact, seeing as your earthly mind is among the apertures through which a divinity can look, you could say that this "future-me" does everything you do, only vicariously. It's like what a person would experience if they watched a television screen while another person played a first-person video game on it: no control, but full experience. Thus, you can confidently say that this "me", the real me,  is always with you.

But, as I said, the earthly me is only one lens that this divine self looks through. As a matter of fact, every entity in the universe serves as a peephole which you or any other divine person can ultimately use to see the world with. Think of that the next time you dismiss something absentmindedly:  behind every rock, every bush, every dog, and every person gazes the collective eye of the Celestial Kingdom. Thus, we can justifiably say, as Mormons, that "we see all creatures in ourselves, and ourselves in all creatures". 


  1. I like the way that you approach the Isha Upanisad, considering the concepts in light of LDS doctrine. I'm not very famliar, yet, with Hinduism, but I'm taking a world religions class and we just finished reading portions of the Mundaka Upanisad and discussing the history/forms of Vedic theology.

    The concept I have found most striking is that of coming to know the self. The idea that when you best know the ahtman, you best know brahman. Or the way I might apply it: when you best know yourself, you best know God.

  2. When I hear "past, present, and future, and are continually before the Lord" I think of video-editing software. Such software usually has a strip towards the bottom of the screen where all the frames in the video are strung out next to each other. It's probably not quite that way for God, but it's a model that can help us understand. ^___^

    There's a book you might like; it's called The Dark Side of the Light Chasers by Debbie Ford. I'd be interested to see what you think of it.