“…people say it is presumptive to claim I am God, whereas it is an expression of great humility. That man who says “I am the slave of ‘God” affirms two existences, his own and God’s. But he that says “I am God” has made himself non-existent and has given himself up and says “I am God, I am naught, He is all, there is no being but God’s.” This is the extreme of humility…”
The above are the words of Jelaluddin Rumi, a Muslim mystic who lived in present day Turkey in the thirteenth century. Although this sentiment strikes the Western ear as nothing less than heretical, the same thinking is present in every religious/spiritual tradition including Judeo-Christianity. Some examples: “You are part of God. All is one, there is no duality, no ‘I and Thou,’ God and myself.” (William Johnston, SJ) “God’s being is my being…wherever I am, there is God.” (Meister Eckhart) “God is the life of your life.” (St. Augustine) “There is a union of God’s spirit and our inner-most self, so that we and God are in all truth one spirit.” (Thomas Merton)
This is not the message most of us received in our religious upbringing. Speaking for myself, there was always an understanding that the line between humanity and divinity was clear and distinct; God was a Supreme Being, and we were not. But exposure to the teachings of the mystics has led me to realize that that line is really a blessed blur, or as spiritual teacher James Finley puts it, “We are not God, but we are not other than God, either.” Like the ocean and water, or flame and fire, humanity and divinity are not separate entities, but dimensions of one vast, spiritual Mystery.
All of this can be a matter of the mind, ideas and concepts about which we can agree or disagree. However, the teachings of the mystics are not concerns of the head, but of the heart, they are not about speculation, but participation; that is, living with reverence, passion, and compassion based on the belief that God by whatever name is infleshed – in us as us.
The union of humanity and divinity calls us to care for and about everyone, but especially those on the margins of society, for as one Jewish mystic put it, “…whatever you did for the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” (Matthew 25:40)