Sermon on the Distributed God

There is a plurality of ways to be a pluralist, and pluralism is prepared to accept the pragmatic consequences of this truth by acknowledging that apparent contradictions to any given truth, even the truth of pluralism, does not imply falsehood.

Pseudopluralism believes that its view on pluralism is the only valid form of pluralism, and sees any contradiction to its own form of pluralism as false and anti-pluralist and something a pluralist should suppress through responsible use of overpowering force.

This is one variant of an ancient and universal trap: of merely knowing, or worse, saying, when we are summoned to act and to be.

Each of us is a divine spark of the immanent Distributed God.

Pluralism is the acknowledgment that our finite efforts to conceive reality from our various points in the divine body will necessarily differ, just as we feel different sensations in different points in our own bodies. Sparks within sparks. Speck-size sparks; flame-size sparks; inferno-size sparks, sun-size sparks, galaxy-size sparks. Sparks seen close-up, sparks seen on the horizon, sparks floating on the surface of the azure sky and sparks set in the depths of darkness.

Each spark regards the others as if through the eye of the one and only God. The Golden Rule urges us to know that we are merely participants in a transcendent one and only God, and we are surrounded by innumerable fellow-participants, fellow sparks. We are all centers of the universe.


In one part of the Asclepius, which was also attributed to Trismegistus, the twelfth-century French theologian, Alain de Lille — Alanus de Insulis — discovered this formula which future generations would not forget: ‘God is an intelligible sphere, whose center is everywhere and whose circumference is nowhere.

Here we can see the ethical dimension of pluralism — an attitude of mutuality toward our fellow-I — who, from our own perspective, is Thou — and actions of reciprocity. The principle of reciprocity — which must not be confused with a rule, because rules determine actions, but principles determine rules — goes by the misnomer “the Golden Rule.” The Golden Principle is a test for any action, and it iterative asks — that is, it interrogates — every action. It asks “By what principle is this action justified?” Then, “Would you accept that principle?” Then it asks, “By what principle is this principle justified? Would you accept that principle?” and this questioning iterates until the test fails, or it terminates at the root of this principle, which requires us to involve our neighbor, our Thou, as ourselves, as fellow participants in a We.

The Golden Principle can be restated as: Thou shalt codesign.

The Jewish tradition, in which the Jesus was a participant of supreme genius, has always approached God as community in covenant. He understood and taught that the Golden Principle — to respect and love Thou as I — is precisely the same principle of loving God with our entire being — not just with our theological minds, not only with our overflowing hearts, not only with our serving strength — but will all of ourselves, integrated and whole and in communion with our fellows in a network of I-Thous, woven into a jewelled Indra’s Net, who can never been seen from outside, despite all appearances. Indra’s Net is woven of first-person. The refractions of first-persons within first-persons is the scintillation of these jewels.

Martin Buber:

To man the world is twofold, in accordance with his twofold attitude.

The attitude of man is twofold, in accordance with the twofold nature of the primary words which he speaks.

The primary words are not isolated words, but combined words.

The one primary word is the combination I-Thou.

The other primary word is the combination I-It; wherein, without a change in the primary word, one of the words He and She can replace It.

Hence the I of man is also twofold.

For the I of the primary word I-Thou is a different I from that of the primary word I-It.

Primary words do not signify things, but they intimate relations.

Primary words do not describe something that might exist independently of them, but being spoken they bring about existence.

Primary words are spoken from the being.

If Thou is said, the I of the combination I-Thou is said along with it.

If It is said the I of the combination I-It is said along with it.

The primary word I-Thou can only be spoken with the whole being.

The primary word I-It can never be spoken with the whole being.

To make the leap from monocentric “I am one with God, and coextensive with God” to polycentric “I am a participant in God, and I am entirely of God and nothing but God, while God infinitely exceeds my finite being” is also to say “My participation in God is inseparable from my participation with my fellow I, as they are also of God, and participants in God’s being.”

To oppose God, the world and other people is to render God finite and deny his very infinite essence. And we all do it every minute of every day. Each moment it is an infinite challenge to overcome this natural sin, and it is to this challenge we are summoned. “Where are you?” To which we respond “Hineini: within Thou who is, am, will be. And to this we say “Amen.”

We are called to radical pluricentrism within the Distributed God.

To know and say it epistemologically: pluralism.

To do it ethically: codesign by the Golden Principle.

To be it ontologically: be a polycentric participant in the Distributed God.

This is my religion. It is Judaism. It is all religion. It is All, or at least one way to situate within All.

I am trying to convey this to anyone with the hope to know better, the will to receive new givens, the ears to hear, the eyes to see, the space of an open outspiraling heart.

I am not trying to convey it to those who do not want it, and that is most people, especially those who say “pluralism!” or related words like “diversity!” or “equity!” or “inclusion!” Two millennia ago, a radical Jew said “Not everyone who says to me ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven.” The kingdom, of course, Malchut, Shekinah, is the enworldment of participation in the Distributed God.

All too often we believe beliefs as a counterfeit for a faith of being and doing and receiving givens.

Last point: Participate first with participants.

You cannot play Uno with one who will only play Solitaire.

But the more people are playing, the more the hesitant will feel compelled to join, and joining is its own kind of persuasion. With games, too — with games, especially — the medium is the message. And what isn’t a game? (Language games. Ethnomethodic games.)

Remember: Persuade the persuadable first.

Starting with the obstinate, focusing on the obstinate, is obstinacy.

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