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Part 1: The Purpose of Life
Man and the Universe: A Mirror of God
Harmony, precision and order are evident in nature and the vast cosmos.
For millions of years, the cycles of life, nature and the universe have
repeated themselves with remarkable consistency. It cannot be that this
marvelous universe was formed as the result of an accident. Everything which
exists, even the smallest particle or cell, has some meaning and purpose.
For example, every part of the human body has a distinct, unique function
and interacts with other parts to achieve the higher purpose of sustaining
life. There must be an origin of universal purpose and design, a first cause,
which gives purpose to everything and maintains harmony in the universe.
We call this first cause, God.
Throughout history, humankind has tried to understand this first cause.
Religions have sprung up and guided people on how to connect to the source
of life. Three of the world's major religions-Judaism, Christianity and
Islam-teach that God is our Creator and that He is a being of love. Let
us dwell on this for a moment.
How can we know anything about our Creator if He is invisible and intangible,
and therefore not accessible to the probing of science? According to the
scriptures of many religions, God's character can be understood by examining
the world He designed-the world all around us.
Ever since the creation of the world, his invisible nature,
namely, his eternal power and deity, has been clearly
perceived in the things that have been made.
Indeed, just as the paintings of an artist reveal something about his or
her personality, so too God's personality is reflected in the things which
God created. This follows from the inter-relationship between cause and
effect. Could a chaotic cause create a harmonious universe? Could a heartless
God create a world which has great beauty in it? This would defy all logic.
Therefore, we can learn about the cause, God, by studying the effect, the
The Parenthood of God
What universal attributes can be found in the created world? One is that
all entities have the attributes of male and female, or, in the mineral
realm, of positive and negative. These paired attributes are called dual
characteristics. We see men and women, male and female animals, staminate
and pistillate plants all exemplifying the pair system. On the level of
the mineral world, we discover polarities such as protons and electrons,
cations and anions, plus and minus charges. The world is made in such a
way that everything exists and multiplies through the reciprocal relationship
of give and take action between male and female, positive and negative.
What can this tell us about God? If these dual characteristics exist everywhere
in the universe, then God, who is the cause, must embody not only the essence
of masculine nature in His divine personality, but the essence of feminine
nature as well. Where would feminine nature originate other than from the
same Creator and Designer of life?
Thus, man and woman are equally essential expressions of God. In fact, the
most complete human expression of the heart and personality of God would
require a man and a woman together. Some religions call God our Heavenly
Father. But since God is the origin of femininity, God must have motherly
characteristics also. God is the original Parent of mankind, and we human
beings are His children.
In God, masculinity and femininity are perfectly harmonious. In the creation
also, masculine and feminine, and positive and negative, are in harmony.
This occurs through myriads of give and take relationships. For example,
the body maintains its life through the give and take action of the arteries
and veins, and of inhalation and exhalation. Both plants and animals maintain
their functions through give and take action among their various organs
and systems. Material things come into being and maintain their existence
through physical-chemical reactions based on give and take action between
particles, atoms, and molecules. We find that even the solar system exists
through the give and take action between the sun and the planets in their
There is a second duality which all created entities share: everything has
an internal character as well as an external form. The internal character
gives purpose and value to the external form. We see that on every level
of existence, consciousness, reason and law shape the behavior of energy.
Particles, atoms, and molecules are made of energy, but are guided by the
invisible laws of nature. Plants are made of cells, but are guided by what
scientists call the plant mind, which directs the physiological functions
of the plant. It has been found that plants are sensitive to their environment,
responding to music and human emotions. Animals are made of tissues, but
are guided by their (invisible) instincts. The human being also has a body
that consists of cells, but, in addition, we possess a unique human mind,
which enables us to think and feel in a distinctly human way.
Since everything God created has an external form and internal character,
He Himself must have external and internal aspects also. The external aspect
of God we call Universal Prime Energy, which is the cause of all physical
energy (for example solar and electric power, the force of gravity, magnetism,
etc.) and hence is the cause of all matter. God's Universal Prime Energy
creates, develops and sustains the cosmos.
The internal aspect of God has to do with personhood - motivation, purpose
and identity. To understand this, we must look at ourselves, since human
beings manifest not only the greatest complexity and sophistication of any
creature, but also the greatest self-awareness.
The main attributes of the human mind are emotion, intellect and will. We
have the capacity for selfless love and the impulse to pursue truth and
goodness. We value the beauty of nature, we are delighted at the arrival
of a newborn baby, we enjoy the harmony of music and dance, and we like
to express our own creativity. We aspire to become knowledgeable and wise.
Our conscience urges us to do good and reject evil. Everyone dreams of a
world of peace and harmony.
What could be the origin of these common qualities and aspirations? We cannot
claim to have created them ourselves; there must be a prior source, our
Creator. God is the source of the values we all cherish: love, truth, beauty
and goodness. God's power is guided always by reason and principle, but
is expressed above all in His impulse to love. Heart is the essence of God's
being. Heart is the impulse to love and seek an object to love. God feels
joy when He can give and receive love with His beloved. God loves each one
of us individually, and rejoices when we return His love and multiply it
by loving others.
The Suffering of God
Joy is created not by an individual alone, but through our having a substantial
object that reflects our own nature. An artist feels joy when she is able
to express herself in a work of art. An architect feels joy by seeing his
building completed. This is because a creation reflects the invisible character
of its creator; we see ourselves reflected in what we create. This likewise
is characteristic of God Himself.
God feels joy when He sees Himself reflected in the creation. Therefore
God wants His love and His ideal expressed through a substantial object.
God has the power to love, but He needs someone to whom He can give His
love, otherwise His heart cannot be satisfied. We, as God's children, are
God's ultimate creation, born with the capacity to receive and reciprocate
Religious scriptures regard human beings as special in that they were created
in the likeness of God. For example, the Bible states that the human being
was made in the image of God. We resemble God most in our creativity and
I have breathed into man of my spirit.
Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.
The superior man reflects in his person the glory of Heaven's virtue.
I Ching 35: Progress
The ultimate Joy is that which parents feel through their children. All
the internal and external traits of the parents are reflected in the child.
Further, the child has the potential to develop the parents' qualities to
new heights. All parents are proud when they see their children become successful
individuals; indeed, they wish for their children to be greater and happier
than themselves. This is precisely the heart of God toward us.
In reality, however, human beings have never been able to return God's love
fully. We are meant to be the objects of God's love, but we are separated
from God, our Parent. We are not a true reflection of our Creator. Instead,
we have given expression to selfish love, which is incompatible with God's
selfless, sacrificial love. God's immense love is unrequited; He sits alone
amidst His own creation; He watches His children suffering at their own
hands. Surely, God as a parent suffers greater pain than we do when He sees
the sorry state of humanity.
God has traditionally been perceived as a being of authority, omnipotence
and mercy, but His suffering has not been fully understood. We have been
like children, who look up to their parents with a sense of awe but with
no awareness of their parents' worries. As we mature spiritually, we can
recognize the suffering heart of God. Each one of us has the Potential,
through prayer and reflection, to discover the heart of God, His loneliness
and grief which resulted from the loss of His children, and His longing
for reunion with each one of us.
The history of humanity up to the present day is the history of God's efforts
to help us change ourselves and repair our relationship with Him. God is
not a cruel judge who is heartlessly watching us suffer and waiting for
the right moment to condemn everyone for their shortcomings. Rather, He
is a heartbroken Parent who has been trying to show us how we can break
out of our misery. Unfortunately, we have almost always refused to listen,
and when we did listen, we usually failed to understand. Today we are challenged
to overcome the obstacles of the past and achieve our potential to realize
our own happiness and the happiness of God. Therefore, we need to understand
the ideal which God envisioned for man and woman. Through fulfilling our
true purpose, we will experience everlasting joy and bring joy to God.
The Purpose of Life: Perfection of Love
According to the Bible, God gave the first humans three blessings: "Be
fruitful and multiply . . . and have dominion." (Gen. 1:28) The first
blessing, to "be fruitful," means that we should perfect or mature
A tree is fruitful when it becomes mature and bears fruit. Similarly, a
fruitful individual is someone who is spiritually, intellectually and emotionally
mature and bears the fruit of love, wisdom, and goodness. Such an individual
personifies God's own nature and heart. A fully mature person has such a
close relationship with God, that he or she is able to feel God's joy or
sorrow and communicate with God fully. Such a person naturally lives and
acts in accordance with God's will.
In His original ideal, God wanted everyone to be perfected in love, able
to give true and unconditional love to every human being and to the creation.
Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you . . .
You must be perfect as your Heavenly Father is perfect.
Jesus personified God's true love. He said: "He who has seen me has
seen the Father." True love is sacrificial life for the sake of others.
In an ideal relationship, however, sacrifice is rewarded, as the person
who receives true love will naturally reciprocate that love. True love acts
like a magnet, drawing others to it and inspiring true love in them as well.
The world's great saints and sages, as well as countless unsung righteous
men and women, were motivated by a force much greater than themselves: the
power of God's love, which inspired them to deny themselves and live for
the sake of others.
Our innate desire for perfection is reflected in the fact that everyone
desires to be the greatest, the best and the brightest, and everyone wants
to marry an ideal husband or wife and have the most wonderful children in
the world. At the same time, we realize our own imperfection; we see the
gap between what we want to be and what we are. Many of us will readily
identify with the conflict the apostle Paul describes: "I do not the
good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do." (Rom. 7:19)
We feel torn between what our conscience tells us to do (or not to do) and
what our selfish nature wants us to do. We feel guilt or shame when we do
things that conflict with our conscience. Perfection is impossible as long
as this inner contradiction persists.
Even though humanity has fallen into spiritual mediocrity, God has never
given up His original ideal, which is that every individual reach the perfection
of love. With God's help and through our own efforts we will eventually
fulfill that potential. We will achieve the original, boundless joy and
happiness for which men and women throughout history have longed.
The second blessing of God to the first humans was to "multiply."
God desired to see a true man and a true woman marry and together raise
sinless children. The children, raised by their perfected parents, would
also become true men and women. These children would grow up experiencing
the masculine love of God through their father and the feminine love of
God through their mother.
Have we ever in history had such a family? No, not really. The first human
ancestors, whom the Bible calls Adam and Eve, tragically, failed to achieve
an ideal family. Instead of multiplying goodness and love through their
descendants, they multiplied selfishness and corruption. As a result, we
have never seen "true parents" who could raise sinless children
and create a sinless lineage. Every person has been deprived of true parents,
parents who perfectly embody God's love.
From true parents, a true family, society, nation and world can be generated,
with children experiencing the love of God as an everyday reality. It is
in the true family that God's love can blossom on all levels: between parents
and children (parental love), between husband and wife (conjugal love),
from the children towards their parents (filial love), and among the children
(brotherly and sisterly love). If the members of a God-centered family practice
these forms of love within their own home, then their family will become
a model for their neighbors, their community, their country and for the
family of humankind. This true family would lead to nothing other than the
kingdom of God on earth.
The strength of society lies in the strength of its families. If we cannot
build healthy families, we cannot build a healthy society. If a society
denies the sanctity of the traditional family--its basic unit--it will be
beset by divorce, free sex and homosexuality. Such a society will inevitably
decline. This is because the prime victims of permissiveness and dysfunctional
families are the children, and they are the ones who will decide the future
of our communities, nations and world.
The third blessing, to "have dominion," is fulfilled naturally
by mature, God-centered individuals and communities interacting with nature.
God created a wonderful environment for us to live in so that we could enjoy
life to the fullest. The beauty of nature is a telling expression of God's
boundless love for His children. He intended our interactions with the creation
to be based on love and appreciation, not on selfishness and exploitation.
Unfortunately, the latter have all too often been the case, resulting in
pollution, the destruction of habitats, the extinction of species and other
serious damage. We will solve environmental problems when we free ourselves
from selfishness and our societies from corruption.
God intended that the first human ancestors fulfill the three blessings
and thereby establish on earth the kingdom of God about which Jesus spoke.
This was God's plan for building a world of true love. There would be no
destructive conflict or corruption of any kind in such a world. Men and
women would live together harmoniously as one big family. Most of us are
probably inclined to think that the realization of such an ideal world is
impossible. But is that necessarily so? Is it not more likely that God,
with the power to create the universe, is able and determined to achieve
His original ideal?
God, the Parent of humankind, has worked through various religions to liberate
His children from evil and selfishness. However, God did not create human
beings as robots which can be manipulated by the touch of a few buttons.
No, He created us with a will of our own. Therefore He needs our voluntary
cooperation. Consequently, even though God is determined to bring about
His original ideal, the accomplishment of this ideal in the life of each
individual depends upon how quickly and completely that person is able to
respond to God's words.
Responsibility and Freedom
The fact that it took millions of years for the cosmos to be created implies
that a time period is necessary for everything to come into existence. Nothing
becomes what it is instantaneously. A flowering plant, for example, starts
as a seed and reaches its maturity when it has grown to its full size, producing
flowers and seeds for the next generation. Humans also need a time period
to grow physically and spiritually.
Ideally a person's spirit and body would grow harmoniously together so that
by the time a person reaches adulthood, he or she would not only be physically
but also spiritually mature. The human body, given proper care and nourishment,
grows to maturity automatically in accordance with its genetic inheritance.
But spiritual growth is a different matter.
God instilled the power of creativity in human beings. He gave us free will
and an original mind inclined towards goodness and unselfishness. Unlike
plants and animals, whose growth is guided and controlled by the laws of
nature, humans perfect themselves based not only on the principles of biological
growth, but also on the fulfillment of their responsibility.
Why did God give such responsibility to human beings and not to other creatures?
First of all, God wanted human beings--His children-to rule the creation
with responsible love. To give us this authority, God had to make human
beings superior to all other creatures by giving us a responsibility which
no other beings have. Second, God wanted to give us each the unique privilege
of participating in the development and creation of our own personalities.
We are therefore co-creators with God and are to inherit God's creativity.
Third, for us to be able to love, we need to have freedom. No one, not even
God, can force us to love. Love which does not come freely from the heart
is not true love.
However, if we have freedom, we also have the capability to misuse that
freedom. Therefore, God gave man and woman a guideline, as expressed in
the commandment to Adam and Eve, so they could stay within the Principle
while growing to maturity. Adherence to the commandment was their responsibility.
When man and woman reach perfection, they have such a caring and disciplined
nature and such a deep oneness with God that they can never betray God.
Therefore, a person can act in an unprincipled manner only prior to attaining
perfection, while still in a state of spiritual immaturity. This is precisely
what happened with the first human ancestors. They misused their God-given
freedom while they were growing towards perfection.
By sustained effort, earnestness, discipline, and self-control,
let the wise man make for himself an island which no
flood can overcome.
In today's society, freedom is emphasized while responsibility is downplayed.
The result of this imbalance can be seen all around us: crime is at an all-time
high and immorality is rampant. This in turn, has created a climate of fear
and mistrust, which has substantially limited everyone's freedom, from the
elderly who are afraid to leave their homes, to women afraid of being sexually
harassed at the work place, to students who must pass through a metal detector
before they are allowed to enter school. The solution to these social problems
begins when individuals learn to value their responsibilities as much as
Where Do We Go When We Die?
While many people share a belief in some kind of life after death, it is
not commonly understood that even during our physical lifetime we exist
in two realms at once --material and spiritual. God created each person
with a physical self and a spirit self.
Just as the physical world is the environment for our physical self, so
is the spirit world the environment for our spirit self. But whereas our
sojourn on this earth is temporary, our life in the spirit world is eternal.
God, the universal Parent and source of love, created us as His children
to be the recipients of His love for eternity. Through the physical life
on earth, centering on the family, we practice all kinds of love, thus creating
within ourselves the basis for this eternally developing relationship. Once
we achieve this purpose for which God placed us on the earth, there is no
longer a need for us to prolong our physical existence. All physical bodies
naturally age and die. This is why God did not create a physical world alone;
He created a spirit world as well.
This world is like a vestibule before the world to come; prepare
yourself in the vestibule that you may enter the hall.
Mishnah, Abot 4:21
Now man is made of determination; according to what his
determination is in this world so will he be when he has
departed this life.
Shankara, Vedaltta Sutra 1.2.1
In God's original ideal, we on earth would be able to interact with the
spirit world through our five spiritual senses. However, because we separated
from God and failed to achieve spiritual maturity, our spiritual senses
have been impaired to the point where we have become ignorant of the spirit
Today, perhaps the most dramatic testimony to the existence of the spiritual
dimension comes from those who have had what are commonly called near death
experiences. Many of these individuals, who were pronounced clinically dead
by doctors but who later revived, recall remarkably similar experiences
while they were dead. As recorded in such books as Dr. Raymond Moody's Life
After Life, they tell us that after they died they floated outside of their
bodies and viewed their bodies from a distance. Other spirits came to help
them, and they often recognized them as friends and relatives who had previously
Many people have had some limited experience of the other world, when they
were able to see or sense certain things beyond the realm of their physical
perception. In rare cases, individuals have been able to communicate directly
with the spirits of people who had passed on. In his book, Life in the World
Unseen, Anthony Borgia writes about his communications with a deceased Anglican
priest. Describing his afterlife experience, the priest reportedly said
that the spirit world in many ways appears to be like the physical world,
with mountains, trees and flowers. But its residents, he said, occupy different
levels corresponding to the level of spiritual maturity they achieved during
their life on earth.
Others with direct contact with the spirit world have also testified to
the different levels or realms there. It is not God who sends people to
one place or another. People themselves determine their place in the spirit
world. Their destination correlates with the ability to love they attained
during their life on earth. For example, the few great saints the world
has known dwell in the spirit world close to God in a realm of brilliance
and warmth. But those whose lives were marked by greed and rapacity gather
together in a realm virtually devoid of love. An environment of violence
in the spirit world draws the violent soul. An environment of goodness draws
the loving soul. Therefore, the oft-used terms "heaven" and "hell"
are not merely locations in the afterlife, but actually correspond to the
development and purity of heart, or lack thereof, in a person's life.
In God's plan for an ideal world, the spiritual realm, like the physical
world, was never meant to be a place of torment, fear and punishment. God
intended it to be a place where all men and women, having perfected themselves,
would live harmoniously together with God and their families for eternity.
Thus, all men and women, no matter what kind of life they have lived here
on earth, eventually will be elevated to the highest realm of the spirit
world. This is because God, as the Parent of all humankind, cannot suffer
anyone enduring eternal separation from him, and, as the almighty Creator,
He will ultimately draw all His children to Him. But again, because human
beings have their own freedom, this process of restoration and development
requires that each person take responsibility for his or her own growth.
How Does Spiritual Growth Come About?
Existing in both the physical and spirit worlds, each of us consists of
both a spirit self and a physical self. The spirit self is in the subject
position and gives purpose and direction to the physical self. Furthermore,
the physical self is composed of a physical body (made up of cells) and
a physical mind (which manifests itself, for example, in the desire for
food and sleep). In the same way, man's spirit self has both a spirit body
and a spirit mind. As the spirit body takes a form similar to that of the
physical body, people can be recognized in the spirit world. This explains
why some people who have contact with the spirit world are able to identify
friends and relatives who are deceased. The spirit mind is the core of a
person's being, containing heart, emotion, intellect and will. Through the
spirit mind God is able to communicate with us, inspire us and guide us
in our growth.
The spirit self needs the physical self for its growth. Our actions of good
(or evil) provide the good (or bad) nourishment for our spirit. In return,
the spirit gives energy to or drains energy from the physical body. When
the spirit self has fully matured and achieved the purpose of life, its
attachment to the physical body is no longer essential. It can continue
to live freely and eternally in the spirit world, even after the body returns
to the earth. But the spirits of people who never attained maturity must
return to the earth in the spirit, in order to complete their process of
growth through influencing persons on earth.
Each time a person acts in accordance with God's will and the principles
of love and service, that person's spirit receives vitality from the physical
body, experiences true joy, and is able to receive more of God's love and
truth and so grow. On the other hand, if the spirit self receives bad vitality
elements resulting from selfish actions, it will make the person feel guilty
and his spirit will decline. The only recourse for this person is to repent
and right his or her wrongs. The development and quality of a person's spirit
self is thus dependent on the quality of his or her actions.
What does it profit, my brethren, if a man says he has faith
but has not works? ... For as the body apart from the spirit is
dead, so faith apart from works is dead also.
James 2:14, 26
It is not sufficient to only hear and believe the Word of God, it has to
be practiced also. We need to deny ourselves and live for the sake of others.
The physical lifetime is our greatest opportunity to achieve spiritual growth.
Once our life on earth ends, we can no longer receive vitality elements
from our physical selves and our spiritual growth therefore becomes much
more difficult. In other words, since our spirit selves grow on the foundation
of the good actions performed by our physical bodies, our experience of
love, beauty and joy on earth conditions our ability to experience them
in the spirit world. This is why our life on earth is so important. It is
on earth that God's ideal and His purpose of creation must be realized.
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