Becoming One with God: Do We Make It Harder Than It Is?

05/27/2010 05:30 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

What does it mean to be one with God? Is it an emotionally charged experience? Do you get high like a Pentecostal speaking in tongues, or deep in a meditative state like the Dalai Lama? Is it even possible, or is it just reserved for a chosen few?

And what's the real barometer? Could someone be just experiencing some sort of manic high and calling it God? My own experience with trying to achieve oneness has come out of a desire to escape emotional pain. And on that quest, there have been a number of paths that looked right, but that upon further inspection proved to serve someone else's needs more than my own. Maybe it would be helpful to look into the wisdom of the ages to find the best connection?

Joseph Campbell, in his research of mythological spiritual heroes from around the world, came up with this observation:

The individual, through prolonged psychological disciplines, gives up completely all attachment to his personal limitations, idiosyncrasies, hopes and fears, no longer resists the self-annihilation that is prerequisite to rebirth in the realization of truth, and so becomes ripe, at last, for the great at-one-ment. His personal ambitions being totally dissolved, he no longer tries to live but willingly relaxes to whatever may come to pass in him; he becomes, that is to say, an anonymity. The Law lives in him with his unreserved consent.

The individual goes through "disciplines" to become "ripe." How does that sound to you? In order to experience the at-one-ment, you have to clean out your receptor. The idea flies in the face of what I was brought up with, at least: "Pray more," "Try harder." But if anything, the world mythologies tell us to stop trying and just relax.

Of course there is work involved, but it's not in trying to reach God; it's through "prolonged psychological disciplines." In reading Hero with a Thousand Faces, it becomes apparent that the disciplines refer to following the soul's calling, resisting temptation, and honoring the goddess within, among other things. In modern language the disciplines also refer to letting go of all of the many ways we act out over not getting our way -- getting to a place where we can live life on life's terms.

But the bigger picture, as Campbell points out, is that life involves a self-annihilation and a rebirth. So whether we spend our life acting out to avoid the annihilation with sex, drugs, alcohol, or work, it's still coming, isn't it? It's a fact of life that is inevitable. When we choose to face that fact, therein lies the spiritual gold.

If the work we do on ourselves deals with giving up all attachment to our personal limitations, even our hopes and fears, that's the work that gets us closer to oneness. Giving up attachment to my limitations, that I'm OK with, but my hopes and fears? And who can allow this kind of psychic self-annihilation? It means giving up all the things that worked for us growing up, all the things that bolstered us from dealing with the neglect or abuse that caused our trouble in the first place.

I ask these questions rhetorically because I know in my heart that all that stuff (hopes, fears, limitations) has to go. The ego is so masterful at concocting ways to get around life on life's terms that the more I lose my adapted personality, the more the "law does live within me with unreserved consent."

So in answer to the question, "Do we make it harder?" you'll have to post a response. I know I do. I harbor an old myth that says God is out there somewhere and I've got to pray him down to me. But I think I like Campbell's take on the world mythologies better. "Willingly relaxing to whatever may come to pass" -- you can't beat it, can you?