A Flurry of I AMs
by Fred Pruitt
(This was originally published as “The Extent of Oneness Part 2” a while back. I wanted to reintroduce it in this title, with thanks to DeeDee, who kept my “flurry of I AMs” I wrote in 2001, on her closest back burner, and kept urging me to re-publish it. The “flurry of I AMs” is quoted verbatim in this writing below.)
I wanted to get back to you on this “I AM” truth. I figured when I published it, there would be some questioning. Now I have to say, I would not be driving this home so firmly, if it were not for the fact that this is the final key to all things – the Single Eye! “The light of the body is the eye; If therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light.”(Matt 6:22)
But for me, it mustn’t be simply a conceptual sight in my mind’s imagination. It isn’t fully mine if that is all it is. We all get light from many sources. Thomas Merton especially helped me in this. It is echoed in most of the old Catholic mystics as well as my main man, Jacob Boehme. What I am talking about is something akin to “nothingness.” That may sound a bit too mystical for our beloved evangelical outlook, but it is echoed strongly in scripture, in the gospels when Jesus says, “Whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:33), “The Son can do nothing of Himself,” (John 5:19), and in Paul’s famous Romans 7, “I find no good thing [nothing good – he does not say evil, or, in other words, a “nothingness of self,”] dwells within me,” (Rom 7:18), and also, “For if a man think himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceiveth himself.”(Gal 6:3) Meister Eckhart said we become so “poor” we do not even have a place left for God. (This is another way to describe our faith plunge into our death with Him in the Cross.)
For years while with Norman and after, we have had the charge of “pantheism” leveled against us by some. I do not normally discuss “ism” words, since I do not believe in an “ism,” but in the Living God, manifest in His Son the Lord Jesus Christ, and live by the Spirit of the Father and Son in the same oneness of selves promised all believers in John 17: 11, 20-23.
The Life of the Spirit in us, which is original in each of us, distinct in working and gifts in each of us, and particular in each of us, cannot be gathered up into a “system of beliefs” and called an “ism,” or an “anity.” My “ISM” Lives, and lives mightily in Me! What temple can I build that will contain Him, what description can I use to describe Him Whom no man has ever seen, or on what platform can I stand in order to observe the Lord as an “object,” so that I might give a description of Him? Since it is the truth that “in Him we live and move and have our being,” there can be no “place outside” that “being,” for the purpose of seeing God as a “thing.”
It is important spiritually (in understanding, knowledge, wisdom, consciousness) that there is always a distinction between God as God Alone Himself, invisible, dwelling in a light no man can approach, and nature (all creation, from spiritual ones to physical ones, animate to inanimate) as God in expression, God expressing Himself, yet we do not say the creation IS God. That would be the fulfillment of Paul’s word in Romans 1, worshiping the “creature,” instead of the “Creator,” which is another way to describe the common sin of all mankind as well as spiritual wickedness “in high places,” from which the sin of mankind comes.
God is forever God alone.
We are forever nature (heavenly or earthly creation) expressing God in and as form. But we do not call the form, “God.” There is always the distinction between the coffee cup and the coffee, to use that metaphor. Other metaphors are also true, e.g., “red hot iron,” or “tea” made from leaves so that we cannot distinguish in the cup between the tea-leaves and the water, because a “new” substance has been created — tea. This we might call a “functioning oneness,” i.e., the creature in union with God, so that we call the creature in functioning oneness with God, God expressing as that creature. However, the creature itself – creation, nature, etc. – cannot itself be called God.
It may seem like a little semantics problem, but it is an understanding of the deepest proportions. Why is this? Because Lucifer was the first pantheist. The sense in which I am meaning that is, Lucifer, from an “everything is God” point of view, said, “I AM GOD!” There is only One Who can “independently” say, “I AM THAT I AM” – The Self-existent, NONE BESIDE HIM, “Creator!” The “created” cannot make that claim, except the “created” recognize to the uttermost it is NOT God, then we may say that God (Creator) and the “created” (individual self) live in a union of selves which produces a unity in heart, mind and will, always “bearing about in [our bodies] the dying of the Lord Jesus … that the Life of Jesus might be manifest in our MORTAL flesh.”
But we do see that idea that “everything is God,” or “everything is one,” rampant in many popular philosophies today, where the press is on for each individual to believe that it, the individual, is God. One needs to simply recognize his or her own inherent “God-ness,” or “Goddess-ness”, as the case may be. It is only another deception, a seemingly good and tasty treat hanging on the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, making us “wise as God.” It is simply the false self-conciousness of independent self, not realizing it is a creature (created), declaring itself God in that false consciousness. Maybe not in so many words, but de facto, “God,” since we are all there is to ourselves.
So that is why we always keep that distinction, and why pantheism remains one of those “ism” words that still carries weight with me.
Eckhart was declared an heretic because of the charge of pantheism. He really does not mean that sort of oneness, though, because the oneness he describes is a new birth oneness in Christ, and not a “natural oneness” that can even be known in false self.
(Reading the accounts of the time, early 1300s, Eckhart’s problems were less doctrinal or spiritual, but arose out of envy from a certain Bishop who didn’t like his popularity with the parishioners and his fame that was spreading. Eckhart was never more than a normal parish priest, not a contemplative or monastic, as so many of those writers were. His writings are for the most part merely the Sunday sermons he preached, telling his congregation of everyday men and women they were One with Christ. Eventually this bishop stirred up a papal investigation into Eckhart. It was leading up to a trial, but Eckhart died before the trial, greatly saddened at the charges. Even though he had died, they held the trial anyway and declared him an heretic posthumously, with the papal seal. I haven’t read enough to know what prompted the church a couple of centuries later to reinstate Eckhart back to “orthodoxy,” but even with that, he is lesser favored among the more orthodox purists, who usually run most things, Catholic or Protestant alike. They’re still suspicious of him. [I bought my one and only Eckhart book, published 1958, not at a Christian bookstore, but at a used book shop on Haight Street, about 3 shops down from the famous Haight-Ashbury corner in San Francisco. Go figure!])
But regarding this “mystical” talk, our truth in a sense can only come alive in what is formally called, “mysticism.” I don’t like or normally use that word because it conjures up images of a guy in a turban reading a crystal ball or some other caricature. But that is not what we are meaning here. What I mean by that is simply we are speaking of the Living God, who does not live in the mental concepts of man. So when we say, “Confess who you are in Christ,” the intent of our hearts is that we see out of that confession (faith) the Spirit rises, in that the Spirit becomes (to the consciousness of the believer), Living and Upholding. It is the sense in which the people from the village of Sychar came and saw the truth for themselves. We are leading horses to water, and more than anything we long for them to drink the water, because only if they drink it do they rise healed from their mat of 38 years of impotency. THAT is a mystic! “Arise, Shine – Thy Light IS Come!”
So with that foundation I want to go back and touch on the string of “I AM’s” in the previous article, which I will reprint below:
“But what does “oneness” mean?
“Oneness is more than every piece of matter in space and every moment of time in all times being physically interconnected in one unbroken wholeness. Though that is so (as quantum physics tell us), it is a qualitative oneness, even more than a quantitative oneness. It means that I AM the stars in all their fire and energy — it means I AM all the infinity of space and time — it means I AM the magnificent thoroughbreds, running full-tilt in all their beauty in the Kentucky Derby — it means I AM the snow-capped peaks of the Rocky Mountains in hot July — it means I AM the preacher delivering his sermon on Sunday morning — it means I AM the homeless man asking for spare change late night at the downtown gas station so that he can buy a bottle of cheap wine & drink himself into forgetfulness — it means I AM the crack baby born into hopelessness — it means I AM Billy Graham — it means I AM Mick Jagger — it means I AM Boy George — it means I AM John Wayne — it means I AM Timothy McVeigh — it means I AM the man who put the needle in his arm — it means I AM the witnesses to his execution — it means I AM the captain of the Exxon Valdez — it means I AM the birds and fish who washed dead onto the oil-soaked shore — it means I AM Al Gore and I AM George Bush — it means I AM the six million Jews who died in the holocaust — it means I AM the SS guards who herded them into the showers — it means I AM the bomber of Flight 841 — it means I AM the broken-burned bodies scattered on the ground — it means I AM peace — it means I AM war — it means I AM strife — it means I AM calm — it means I AM eternal hunger and desire — it means I AM eternal LIGHT and LIFE — it means I AM the energy of a 50 megaton nuclear warhead — it means I AM the soft trickle of water flowing over rocks in a creek in the woods — it means I AM the croak of a bullfrog — it means I AM the rush of the chaotic wind before the thunderstorm — it means I AM the animal heat of two lovers lost in the oblivious frenzy of their coupling — it means I AM that I AM the fullness of Him who fills All in all. There is NO ONE but I AM.”
“For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen.” (Rom 11:36)
As I said in my previous article, I wrote the paragraph above some time in 2001. As I recall, it all came out in a flurry of typing, pretty much as it is now. I’ll go ahead and admit that this paragraph stretches and perhaps breaks through some theological taboos. When one gets close to some of those taboos, hackles come out sometimes. One of the taboos involves not calling evil good. Says it plainly in scripture, and so it does. It is a good taboo. I’m on the side of “theology” with that one.
Another “taboo” is that we cannot make any sort of connection whatsoever with God as a “doer” or even “instigator” of any form of evil. That is where it begins to get murky. (At least the understanding of humans gets murky. God is always clear on everything.) I’ve had people get very indignant with me over this issue – usually misinterpreting what I say – because, as one pointed out, if God was “responsible” for the evil things that happen to us that would make Him some sort of monster, and, “My God is not a monster,” they say.
I understand that. God cannot “do” evil, nor does He “will” evil! He is, as William Law described Him, “the eternal will to all goodness.” Yet evil exists, and everything “lives and moves and has [its] being” in Him.” How can we reconcile this?
If I had leave to identify a scriptural basis for my flurry of I AM’s, I would say it was written in the spirit of Isaiah’s Chapter 45: 5-7.
I am the LORD, and there is none else, there is no God beside me: I girded thee, though thou hast not known me: That they may know from the rising of the sun, and from the west, that there is none beside me. I am the LORD, and there is none else. I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things.
Though the meanings of these verses are somewhat “contested,” I looked at numerous other English versions of Isaiah, and never found anything in any of them that contested with the plainly said meaning in the KJV: “I the LORD do all these things.”
In fact, I cannot find it in scripture that it is our job to “let God off the hook” for all the supposedly “negative” stuff that happens in the world and in our lives. Where does the buck ultimately stop? We may say the enemy did this, and be perfectly correct about it, but where does the buck ultimately stop?
In the early 1960s there was a popular film called, “The Buccaneer,” starring Charlton Heston as General Andrew Jackson, and Yul Brenner as the famous pirate, Jean Lafitte. The story was about the Battle of New Orleans with the British in the War of 1812. As the story went, and there is historical truth to it, Jean Lafitte and his men were instrumental in both procurement of ammunition and powder the army was short of, as well as men to line the defenses, and helped Jackson win the day. I don’t know how much of the rest of the plot was just pure Hollywood, but one part of the story as they told it has stayed with me all these years. A contingent of Lafitte’s men, prior to the battle, had defied Lafitte’s orders to leave the American ships alone, and had taken, robbed and sunk a ship out of New Orleans, killing almost everyone aboard, many of them prominent citizens of the city. Lafitte had tried to stop them from going, but was unsuccessful. He was already working with Jackson and the leaders of New Orleans when news came about the lost ship, taken by pirates, told by a lone survivor. Every eye turned to Lafitte, because they knew it was his men, and they asked him if he had sent the ship on that errand. Knowing with full certainty what their reaction would be – they would rise up and attempt to hang him – he said, “I am responsible!” Though he did not send them on their errand, though he did not “will” them to attack that ship and kill those people, still, he was their captain, he had led them on many such raids before, and, though he did not will this raid, as their captain, as the one responsible to have gotten the whole enterprise together in the first place, he spoke the truth: “I am responsible.” LaFitte said, in Harry Truman terms, “The buck stops with me!” Of course the mob was incensed and rose up to take him outside and hang him on the spot, but General Jackson (Charlton Heston) intervened, keeping Lafitte safe for the battle.
Adam said, “Look, it was the woman you gave me, she got me to do it.”
Eve said, “The snake tricked me. He got me to do it.”
The snake didn’t have anything to say.
God, in Jesus Christ said, “I am responsible. I will die the death for it.”
Of course we never say God is the perpetrator of evil, but we do know, that He is the source of Freedom, because He is Love, and Love cannot exist outside of Freedom. “We love Him, because He first loved us,” is in Freedom. There is no fear in love. He LOVED us into Himself!
However, if there is compulsion, there is no love, only duty under duress. Duty without love becomes legalism. Duty with love, not under duress, becomes not “duty,” but the constraint of love, bursting at the seams to flow out, expanding freedom, and cannot help itself from going out from itself in love, (even, if necessary, at the cost of its own freedom), to reproduce love.
God’s own Freedom lets the created decide if it will love God or itself. There is only one “choice” any sentient creature can make, whether it will live in the harmony of Divine Will in love for others, or whether it will live its own disunity and dissonance of self-for-itself, seeing all the “others” in its life as servants to its own selfish need.
This is the only way Love can be, Free in a milieu of Freedom. We might say Love’s greatest gift, or Love’s greatest attribute, is the gift of Freedom. “Freedom” and “compulsion” are mutually exclusive. If the creature will love God then it will be brought into God’s own Freedom in the kingdom of Love. If it will love itself then it will be brought to its separate-own private freedom in the kingdom of wrath. This is not something “arbitrarily” decided by God, that the creatures have to “love Him,” as if God is some anthropomorphic “God Being” who has this eternal “need” that every creature in the universe might continually praise Him, in order for them to “be saved.” That is not what it means to “love God.”
To love God is to peer into and dare divine freedom. To love God is to see Him where He is and give praise and worship in all things, because He is seen in all things. To love God means to be united with Him in His will and purposes, in a love that “seeks not itself,” but that it might go out of itself (instead of living in a walled citadel of self), that it might edify and bring Abundant Life, bringing Light into darkness, bringing the True Bread from Heaven that satisfies eternally, liberally distributed to all.
Above all to love God is to love the brethren. For me, “the brethren” must in some sense include all, for how could I distinguish between them and judge which is which and therefore “worthy” of my love? I know believers who say we are obligated to love our brothers and sisters in Christ only, and not the unbelievers. What horrid nonsense! God has not made me such a judge. And love has no such measuring stick! Let the sun shine wherever it lands – we do not break off a bruised reed; we do not quench a smoking flax …
“He that receiveth you receiveth me, and he that receiveth me receiveth him that sent me. He that receiveth a prophet in the name of a prophet shall receive a prophet’s reward; and he that receiveth a righteous man in the name of a righteous man shall receive a righteous man’s reward. And whosoever shall give to drink unto one of these little ones a cup of cold water only in the name of a disciple, verily I say unto you, he shall in no wise lose his reward.”(Matt 10: 40-42).
Back to our subject …
Though I know I stretched boundaries in the “I AM’s” above, I have to say our sight is finally complete when we look out into the world (or into our own lives) and see only One Who works all things according to the counsel of His own will, (Eph 4:11), in the good and in the evil.
I use these scriptures probably as much as any, but they are key verses to understanding how God is All in all, in light and darkness, good and evil.
Two simple passages explain it all to me.
“With the merciful thou wilt show thyself merciful; with an upright man thou wilt show thyself upright; With the pure thou wilt show thyself pure; and with the froward thou wilt show thyself froward.” (Ps 18: 25,26)
“Unto the pure all things are pure: but unto them that are defiled and unbelieving is nothing pure; but even their mind and conscience is defiled.” (Titus 1:15)
(And I’ll add one more that occurs to me in this moment.)
“For we are unto God a sweet savour of Christ, in them that are saved, and in them that perish: To the one we are the savour of death unto death; and to the other the savour of life unto life.” (2 Cor 2:15)
What am I saying here? I am saying that in freedom, God’s “life” and “being” is to the person according to that person’s consciousness, perception, or desire. It is all in God’s freedom; it is all in God’s “being” (existence); it is all in the Only Power there is, the “power of God,” which is ALL in the hands of the Son and the sons – “All power in heaven and earth is given unto Me!” (Matt 28:18) – and truly belongs to only them. There is no separate, rival “evil power,” contesting with God. If that were the case, that would put Satan co-equal with God, Evil as a rival and separate power and will of its own, and equal to God. Apparently the devil is self-deceived in this delusion, but he is only God’s own “power” or “being” twisted into distortion by self-will, and yet perfectly used by the overall Divine Will to bring forth the sons of God by means of his (Satan’s) rebellion. Satan is the will to evil, to self-for-itself. We cannot and do not call Satan’s will to evil, “God’s will.” And yet, here we are in what scripture calls the end of days, and this has been our history. Human history is rampant with Satan’s “will to evil.” Finding the righteousness in it is the greater difficulty.
But here we are, right here in this moment, and what do we say of it?
That is what this “single sight” means. Whatever we are confronted with, whether “good” or “evil,” we see through all circumstances and appearances, to the Living God at the center, the God Who says, “I the Lord do all these things,” not for our destruction, not for our demise, nor our chastisement nor for more lessons, but for resurrection in the here and now! Of course we do not say God sent a robber, or God made our car crash, or anything else like that.
But at the same time, we can but praise and give thanks in all things, as Paul said, and that would include the evil and the good. “What do we have that we have not received? Paul asked, and when we live the life of heaven, then we know that everything that comes to us is at the hand of our Father. I know that will cause people to balk or perhaps misunderstand my meaning, because there are some things that we would find great difficulty wanting to say or believe they came to us “at the hand of our Father.”
I don’t know about anyone else in this regard. I know we all have tough stuff from time to time. I’ve been angry with “the heavens” a time or two. I might have blamed or cursed Satan a time or two, or more. But at some point it always got down to brass tacks when in my heart or mind or with my voice said to the One Who works all things after the counsel of His own will, “How could YOU let this happen?”
Where does the buck stop?
It stops in the hands of love.
Where it always has been.
When we know that ….. we have complete sight.