Not all of us have had the "full range" of human experiences, by which I mean, the good, intense feelings, a full body laugh with others, the
exhilarating feel of falling in the air (either towards water, or as sky diving) or winning a game for your team as onlookers watch on. These are
intense, positively valenced feelings that do not happen often, but when they do happen, they occur primarily through interacting with others.
There are also bad feelings, and it is these sorts of feelings which create complexity in human experience - and the socializing process in
particular. Some people, by no fault of their own, are prejudiced by their lack of negative affective experience that causes them to relate to the
world in a rather 'myopic', or limited - in terms of the ways the world "feels" for humans - sort of way.
Because of this, not all minds are "equal" in their conceptualizations of things like 'God', because the concept of God is in itself borne from a
world of feelings - a world where relation, with other people, and eventually with the objects of our minds, "build upwards" by biasing cognition
towards certain types of thought.
The real crazy part is how thought becomes what it becomes. I believe past experiences, and in particular, hearing certain words, phrases, or
narratives about a particular subject, spoken by others (and the feelings they evoked from us), form 'basins of attraction' (a concept from systems
theory which highlights the influence of the past in "channeling" future processes; imagine a paths in the woods that are 'built out' of people
constantly walking through them; basins of attraction operate, just like this, via feedback processes that in this case, take information from the
'perception' of the pathway, and utilizes it, unconsciously, in the selection of an action (to walk on the well trodden path) Action and perception,
or perception and action, therefore 'feedback' and 'forward' to one another).
So when God passes into someones mind, it is inevitably filtered by the "way they feel" about the world. The way they feel, of course, is an
enormously broad concept that encompasses the whole of our history, from the intrauterine events that biased late fetal feelings to infant
experiences, early childhood, middle childhood, adolescence, adulthood ----> and on. The 'channeling' is ultimately affective, and the meanings or
cognitions which give semantic structure to the Self-in-the-world, have emerged in a very 'natural' way, that is, by logical and law-based
I think suffering aids in the self-reflective process because it helps you pay attention to the phenomenological events that accompany our ordinary
experience. It is a mistake to think we do not feel when we do feel, that is, when we do not recognize the occurrence of feelings that bias our
attentional focus. Feelings such as these happen but are ignored because they have formed the 'background' of our experience of the world since
childhood. It is also difficult to pay attention to the qualities of this process when the mind isn't well differentiated, or said differently, when
prefrontal areas do not have the 'connections' for a deeper consciousness of mind events, i.e to be aware, via medial structures, of what is felt in
On a side note, it is totally wrong to think that because we do not know that we feel, that we do not have a consciousness of feeling. Everyone knows
the experience of persisting in a certain way of thinking, even though we know, implicitly and indirectly, that our body state (our feelings)
indicates defensive arousal, yet we convince ourselves it's not even relevant. We do this, despite the event occurring as a feeling (one that can be
integrated in focal awareness) even though we dot have a word for what we are doing (such as dissociation).
On to the topic: God.
This is how I see it:
When a human being suffers long enough and painful enough, it eventually is brought to a state of awareness: I can't do this alone. Why does it think
this, or rather, feel and act, quite cognitively, in ways that restore a feeling of strength? It's simple: it cannot make the feelings go away. You
think and think, and you may try all sorts of techniques to 'assuage' the feeling, but nothing works. Indeed, anytime we "watch" and pay attention
to a negative feeling state, we are interacting, from a brain perspective, with that particular time-locked brain event. The "brain event" that is
time-locked is the feelings you're perceiving in your body. The awareness OF THIS, then educes the perception of "fear". Fear amplifies the
underlying stress-response bodily processes that keep up the terrifying arousal you are so afraid of. In this way, as anyone who has dealt with mental
suffering knows, our thinking and reflecting become "locked" with an affective process in the body which maintains the 'circuit'.
Doing this eventually tires us, not in the dull old common way, where we get tired and can sleep; ah, no! The human mind which succumbs to such a
feedback loop (were all capable of this) bears witness to its fearfulness, the anxiety in it's body, and in doing so, makes it worse for itself. Fear
keeps generating anxiety, which then draws consciousness towards another act of perception: Fear! and then anxiety. Such a mind is too charged by
norepinephrine, dopamine, cortisol and in particular, adrenaline, to stop paying attention. This is the environment-organism 'threat-detection system
gone wild via existential rumination. Anxiety itself becomes the fear until eventually, fear becomes the threat that fear fears.
When you're put in this condition, presumably, an absolute extreme in terms of how a self-aware human can experience the world, one is incredibly
impressed by the INEVITABILITY of "positing" an other - God, Buddha, an image of a loved one - so that one can 'feel better'. Amazingly, the
theory of the social causation of self could not be better supported than this: the 'self' or self-care of the mind, only works not only when we
posit, but when the posited force becomes operative, we feel it as "being loved", or "love", or even as 'compassion'.
The self only exists when it establishes a close relation with some 'other'. It amuses me how common this is - everyone who lives in relation and
believes in something does it; but how many consider this process, so basic to human meaning-making, to be something to pay attention to? Self only
exists in relation. Martin Buber probably said it most poetically with "I and Thou". The thou being anything, from the get-go, which gives the self
meaning - whether that be Nietzsches concept of an Ubermensch (which he himself formed a close, ironic relationship with) or the concept of God, as
best friend, personified and regarded as feeling human emotions.
In a sense, this characterization is not that weird when you consider the way this process - of always relating the activities of 'self' to some
implied referent - is active in any meaningful activity we engage in. In particular, in our greatest moments of crisis, we remember "something" - an
idea, which gives us coherence, control and stability - and all of a sudden summon the ability to 'feel better'.
Compassion in particular saves us from negative feelings. When we feel that bad, it is only love, feeling loved, seeing the faces of loving others,
imagining a benevolent force of compassion (such as in metta meditation) or feeling the love of a loving God.