“The map is not the territory.”
These words struck my consciousness with immense power. That awakening initiated a continuing struggle to deconstruct the map of my beliefs from the territory of the Whole of Reality.
For more than a decade of education and training, I had been taught to use a map that had been handed down by generations of good and faithful people. It was a map full of codes and creeds, rules and roles, doctrines and dogmas. It was a map of theology, of the study of God. Publicly, way back in 1973, I stood before a group of men and confessed that I believed the map that I had been taught was without error. I was quizzed and tested to make sure that I knew the map well and that I could teach the map faithfully to those I was to lead.
But then I read those words, “The map is not the territory,” in Bandler and Grinder’s book The Structure of Magic, and a whole new world opened up to me.
The expression, I’ve learned, was first used by Alfred Korzybski in 1931 in a paper he delivered to a meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in New Orleans.
Richard Bandler and John Grinder, from whom I received substantial training in the late 1970’s, grabbed the phrase and made it an underlying principle of their own work. From them I learned that we all have constructed maps, or sets of beliefs that orient us, and they are full of generalizations, distortions and deletions. We do not, they claimed, have access to reality itself. The map is not the territory.
Rene Magritte captured this message in his famous surrealist work, The Treachery of Images. The caption below the pipe reads, “This is not a pipe.”
That one three-letter word, G O D, is itself a map of a territory that is, as William James said, "ineffable." That is, God is too great to be mapped.
Kingdom of God.
That is another map, and it was a map of a vision that Jesus had of how we should all be living together. He gave his life for that vision. We might say that Jesus had a vision and a mission, to bring the Kingdom of God into reality.
In fact, we know very little about the human being Jesus of Nazareth. The maps that emerged about him have been confused with reality. Nonetheless, he is truly someone worth believing in.
And so is his vision.
However, on this side of Columbus and the spaceship Voyager, we need an updated map. I’m calling it the Kin-dom of God, a phrase that makes at least three distinctions.
The map that I was taught, the map of the Kingdom of God, is old and outdated and needs to be refreshed so that it speaks with more relevance about how to live well in this age where we know so much more about the Territory of the Wholeness of Reality.
What is your map of God? Of Jesus? Of the Kingdom of God? Of the Wholeness of Reality?
As was mentioned in the newsletter, Michael Dowd's book will spur on much of our conversation. He presents refreshing new maps that will be, at least in part, the subjects in this blog. If you want something to read between now and then, grab his book. You can also go to his website where there are videos and much more.
Onward and Upward!
Andy Atwood's Blog on an Evolutionary Faith and the "Kin-dom of God."
What would today's God-talk sound like if it no longer was based on ideas and beliefs that were created during times long, long ago when everyone still thought the earth was flat?
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