"The God-Shaped Vacuum" (Prologue from) In the Absence of God — Sam Keen

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--“El Federal Cafe IV” by Fabian Perez


There is a God-shaped vacuum in the heart of every man which cannot be filled by any created thing.
—Blaise Pascal

--Digging beneath my immediate mind, which distracts itself with pizza, paper clips, and the rising and falling of the Dow, I uncover ruins of old dwellings, a house, a temple, and a town square once occupied, believed in, faithfully tended.

--I stumble, unstable on shifting ground. My mind wanders through layers of rubble, discarded beliefs, outworn creeds, broken hopes, shattered illusions, bones of failed heroes and false saviors.

--Socrates, that old trickster, taught me a way of thinking, dialectic and dialogue, an endless approach. But I never arrived at the promised vision of the good, the beautiful, and the true.

--I believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, with as much heart, mind, and soul as I could manage, but he failed to saved me from death's dominion and the fear of nothingness.

--I trusted Freud to lead me down into an underworld (neither he nor I conquered) from which I returned wounded, with little redemptive wisdom other than a sermon on coping and the virtues of love and work.

--Marx, in whom I never believed, taught me better than he knew the danger of all Utopias and left me with the bitter truth that I and all the bourgeoisie are moved more by desire for power and profit than by love of justice.

--Tiring of pure reason, I dreamed of the dark kingdom of Dionysus, an orgy of the senses to wash away the pale abstractions of the mind. In time I learned what Apollo knows: Order may be sweet, and discipline a path to delight.

--A skilled archeologist might map more layers, passions, persons, and places that I thought might save me— from what I am not certain—and give me peace at last.
--Should I mourn and build again? Clear away the debris, smooth out the ground, prepare a solid foundation for a new edifice to house my spirit?

--Wherever I stand, tectonic plates rumble. I am earthquake-prone. Not a good insurance risk.

--I think it is better to dwell in the desert under open skies, look for hidden oases, make a hearth, light a fire, cherish sunrise, noonday, moonset, a flight of Canada geese, an ant empire being built an arm's length away, the comfort of touch, the language of glances, smiles, laughter, tears—sacred moments.
--Be thankful for the myriad hints of a G-d present in absence, in the longing without end. Amen.


--We who have been unsatisfied by any traditional religion have spent our lives in quest of a rose, but the closest we ever get is entering a room still redolent with the scent of a rose that was removed before we arrived. We cannot easily locate God in the house of our longing, yet we remain haunted; God's missing presence echoes throughout the empty rooms. In the void we hear faint hymns of an ancient faith for which we no longer have room among the endless quarks, waves, and subatomic particles identified by science. We exist in a God-shaped vacuum. That which is no longer present (but is not completely absent) gives shape to our aspirations and longings.

--Although longing seems to be perennial, the historical tide of faith ebbs and flows. Currently in the industrialized nations it seems to have receded, depositing its driftwood of nihilism and violence on the shore, leaving us devoid of a vision of the sacred that we need in order to create a hopeful society. We suffer from a spiritual autoimmune disease. Lacking antibodies of faith to keep us from despair, we attack ourselves.

--We are trapped in a life in which little attention is paid to the encompassing mystery of Being traditionally known by the Ten Thousand Names of God. Many of us feel the loss of this absent God, and we feel outrage. You can hear it in the voices of the new atheologians who condemn the violence of religious fundamentalism but are angry that a God in whom they do not believe does not prevent holocausts or provide verifiable evidence of His existence. It is painful to be aware of what is missing, but the experience of longing should not be denied, covered up, or tranquilized. It is precisely from this point that we may start on a path toward renewal.

--Our experience of absence rests firmly upon an ancient memory of presence. The premise and promise of this book is that if we have the courage to wait patiently on the border between agnosticism and faith, forsaking the false certainties promised by the God of traditional religion (a God whose nature and name true believers presume to know), we may find ourselves encompassed by the G-d of the mystics, the ultimate reality that energizes all beings but can only be named in the gossamer language of myth and metaphor and poetry. (Note: Throughout, I will continue to use "God" and "G-d" to differentiate traditional from mystical religion.) As we will find, only by rediscovering the elementary emotions that accompany the experience of the sacred—wonder, awe, gratitude, anxiety, joy, grief, reverence, empowerment, vocation, compassion, outrage, hope, humility, trust—may we once again find ourselves in the presence of an unknowable but all-present G-d.

--Hold a chambered shell to your ear and you will hear the undulating surge and sigh of the primal sea.

—Sandor McNab

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