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People must learn how to find a core of true peace and calm inside, and then discover where to find it outside their minds as well. All of these things have to do with personal values and require us to drive down far below the surface intellectual level into the deeper levels of feeling and imagery that we call the realm of the heart. When we are caught in the Dark Night of the Soul, we are “heart-sick,” to use a traditional English-language metaphor, and (continuing that metaphor), we must recognize that mechanical, sub-personal, intellectual theories will not heal “a broken heart.” Nor will theories of that sort turn those who are cowering from fear, into people of courage, nor give them the impetus to jump once more into the fray of life, and take on the struggles that will be required to climb out of the dark pit in which we see only blackness all around us.

Can we remake our lives at the personal level without using personal language to talk about our relationship to the ground of all being and meaning? In practice, it does not work very well, at all. It can at best achieve only a partial healing of the inner wounds that are crippling the soul. We cannot truly relate what are deeper personal problems to a purported source of help that is viewed as sub-personal.

And on the other side, because the ground of being is a source of personal healing for the injured soul, we must regard it as supra-personal because it is not only the ground of being from which physical objects and the mechanical forces of nature emerged, but the ground of meaning from which personal healing can emerge. The ground is not in itself a natural object, but is supra—natural in its role as the cause of the world of nature. In similar manner the ground is not itself a person but is supra-personal in its role as the cause of personal change. Other than that, however, Paul Tillich cautions us that symbolic language using the metaphor of a personal God is only one among many different kinds of religious symbols, and that we should not literalize it or (in Tillich’s understanding of things) we will necessarily end up turning God into an object that we will then begin trying to “figure out” and manipulate to our own advantage. Or if not that, we will begin complaining about this imaginary God and viewing him as a cruel tyrant or our worst enemy, simply because he does not run the universe in the way we would like to see it run.

The most interesting thing about the two great thinkers, Paul Tillich and Albert Einstein and about their great spiritual debate was the area of common ground between them. Einstein in an article that he wrote in 1930, said that there were three kinds of religion: there was a religion of fear, a moral religion based on a belief in a God who gave rewards and punishments, and a third kind of religion, that he called “cosmic religious feeling.” Einstein rejected all fear-based religion, and said that morality was important to human life but had nothing to do with God, morality varies greatly between cultures and what is moral in one culture is amoral or even totally immoral in another and therefore it was best dealt with on totally humanistic grounds. The only valid aspect of religion said Einstein; lay in the third kind of religious impulse, “cosmic religious feeling.”

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Glenn Chesnut

He was Professor of History and Religious Studies at IU South Bend for 33 years, winning IU's Herman Frederic Lieber Award for excellence in teaching in 1988. He has written a number of works that primarily focus on Christianity & Alcoholics Anonymous. > Read Full Biography > More Articles Written By This Writer