Editor's note: Tikkun is delighted to publish Michael Kagan's book Where's G?d as a series on our website. This is the Prologue, Introduction, & first chapter. For "Night Two," click here.
I met Tara in March 2016 during a trip to London. This may appear a bit strange since I completed Where’s G?d in 2014. But there she was, bubbling with innocence, beautifully wide-eyed, precocious, wise, awake; just as I imagined her but with a difference: this Tara was a mere six and a half years old whereas the girl in my story, my avatar, I imagined to be older, closer to twelve. Tara was so young that you might wonder whether I made her up but there she was sitting in full lotus on the sofa, her little hands pressed together over her heart, her dark eyes closed, her small body rock-still as she led a room full of adults in meditation and prayer.
I was stunned.
I had been invited to a meeting of a select few to discuss plans for a university for the teaching and practice of compassion. The apartment, located near Paddington Station, was filled with the ambiance of India: the colours, the paintings, the books, the statues, the smells, for you see, another difference between my creation and the Tara that confronted me at the door was that this Tara was Indian, at least her mother was Indian. Her large, dark eyes and golden skin, her black hair and mischievous grin, her hand gestures and body language, were all from another world. And when I say ‘confronted’ I mean literally that. After I had knocked politely, the front door was flung open and this bubble of joy threw herself at me. Without any inhibitions, she took me by the hand, led me into the living room and introduced me to the other guests.
I was late (as usual) and the last to arrive. Once I had settled down, Tara’s mother, like the incarnation of Shakti herself, welcomed us to their home. I was sitting on one half of the sofa; Tara was trampolining on the other. I suggested that it would be appropriate to start such a meeting with silence and prayer but with one look at Tara I realized that this would be impossible unless she was put in her place, namely her bedroom. Her mother said something that I didn’t catch and Tara immediately stopped her gyrating, sat crossed-legged and fell easily into mindless silence.
I was impressed.
We followed suit – as best as we could.
After an endless ten minutes, Tara opened her eyes and smiled her delightful smile and quietly left the room. We grown-ups, experienced practitioners of unifying mind, body and soul, proceeded to introduce ourselves in the light of compassion.
After an hour our hostess interrupted to announce that supper was being served. The kitchen was filled with the aromas of chili, turmeric, ginger, cinnamon and many more that I couldn’t identify. Tara appeared, impishly filling her plate with the hottest of curries. I stuck to mild. Again I suggested that we bless the food before eating, and again Tara was asked to lead us in prayer. The little girl sat with her hands suspended above her plate and blessed God for the food and blessed us for good health.
I was even more impressed.
As we finished eating Tara began to pester her mother. “When can I make my presentation? When mum? When?” I was getting a little anxious since I had a flight later that evening and I wanted us to continue the discussion. Tara’s mother asked us to pay attention to the presentation. Tara sat cross-legged in front of us. In her hands she held a ball covered in aluminum foil. The room hushed. She looked at us with her penetrating stare.
“This is Tommy,” she said in her Indian-accented, sweet voice. She was holding up the silvery ball, “Tommy is a boy in my class at school. But Tommy is not really being Tommy. He is very rude. He shouts at the teachers. He pushes other children. He is just not being Tommy.” Tara began to peel off the metallic covering. What was inside? Where was she taking us? “This is the true Tommy,” she continued, letting the wrapping fall to the floor revealing a large rose quartz crystal. We all gasped. “This is the true Tommy,” she repeated, “but he is covered by stuff that is stopping him from being who he truly is. I pray that one day soon Tommy will become Tommy and we will see him as beautiful as this crystal.”
We sat in shocked silence.
Thank you Tara.
So my story, which began with a fifteen-year-old girl called Mayan, meaning ‘Source of Blessings’ in Hebrew, morphed into twelve-year-old Gaia – ‘Mother of All’, and is now seven-year-old Tara – ‘Mother of Liberation’.
May we be blessed by all three.
My name is Tara. I am a girl blessed with two wonderful parents. When I was growing up, my parents were kind and loving. They gave me a warm home to thrive in. They protected me. They fed me. And they loved me. But I wasn’t ready yet for this world. I wasn’t ready yet to let go of the place I had come from, a place so very different from this world. I wasn’t ready yet to forget. So in order to protect my memories, I made a decision: I wasn’t going to talk. Yet. I decided to listen and to observe, because I didn’t want to allow myself to be distracted by also having to speak. It wasn’t that I was playing dumb, I just preferred not to speak until I was ready. For some reason, this really upset Mummy and Daddy. They thought that there was something very wrong with me. They took me to doctors and specialists who scanned and probed me. But nobody could find anything wrong with me. Because there wasn’t. Maybe it was unfair of me to put them under such stress and distress, and for that I am sorry. But I simply wasn’t ready to speak yet. Let me re-state this in grown-up language. I preferred to stay in my right-brain as long as possible, so that I could access the wonders of wide-band, rather than to stay in the confines of narrow-band in my language-structured left-brain.
At a very early age, I understood and appreciated books and printed images. As soon as I could, I started reading voraciously. Storybooks were OK, but only if they contained deeper meanings, like the ancient fables and the so-called fairy stories. I had no patience for ordinary, what I call flat, books. Yes, I know it’s true that reading requires language and that language is predominantly a left-brain activity. However, my continued silence allowed me free access across the chasm of existence.
My parents were decidedly happier when they saw me reading. They were relieved that I was not in fact intellectually impaired. But the puzzle of my silence continued to perplex them. I did not like to see them suffer, so I tried to help the situation. Every once in a while, I would utter a word or two to demonstrate that I had normally-functioning vocal chords. Strange to say, this seemed to increase their anxiety and to make matters worse. Until…until at the age of seven, I was ready. And because I was ready, I started to talk.
The following chapters are a not very accurate record of some of the early conversations I had with Mummy and Daddy once I started talking. I hope though that I have succeeded in conveying the wonderful time I had living between dimensions. I found it challenging to describe the special world I experienced. Not because I lacked the necessary vocabulary, but because it was so much brighter, so much vaster, so much newer, and so much more multi-dimensional than people who were no longer babies were able to experience. I quickly discovered that metaphors could serve as convenient tools to help me describe the almost intangible. I started using objects to create an entire fairy story that revealed reality beyond reality.
Now that I’m older, I feel ready to set down in writing my memories of that time and to share them with others. I hope that my stories will stir your memories too. I hope that they will bring you back to that magical place where we all come from. I hope you will be able to recapture the knowledge and the wisdom we all once possessed.
So there I was, lying in my bed, surrounded by everything.
Above me, suspended from the ceiling, was my mobile of little angels that Mummy bought me in an African craft store. Daddy had tied the mobile to a small nail that he hammered into the ceiling. There were ten angels floating in the air. I named each angel:
The Angel of Seeing The Angel of Hearing
The Angel of Knowing
The Angel of Giving The Angel of Receiving
The Angel of Loving
The Angel of Teaching The Angel of Blessing
The Angel of Doing Right
The Angel of Protection
It was dark. The wind was stirring. The angels were dancing. And I was talking to God.
That is, until I was interrupted when my door opened. I had to switch dimensions and re-inhabit my room. Daddy stuck his head in:
“Hi sweetie. Didn’t mean to startle you, but who were you talking to?”
Mummy appeared at the door and she followed suit:
“We heard you talking to someone, and we thought that maybe someone else was in your room.”
They both looked around , expecting to find that somebody. But the only somebody they could see was me. Mummy looked relieved. Daddy looked worried.
“So who were you talking to, dear?” they both asked at the same time.
“I was talking to God.” I smiled my cutest smile. “Is that OK?”
They looked at one another. Daddy’s eyebrows arched upwards. Mummy’s too. It was like looking at both sides of a mirror.
“Sure,” Daddy said. I detected a slight hesitation in his voice.
“Sure,” Mummy repeated.
“Goodnight then,” they said. “Pleasant dreams.”
“Thank you. Goodnight,” I replied.
The door closed. My room disappeared. I counted to three.
The door opened again. My room reappeared.
“Yes?” I asked as innocently as possible.
“Well,” started Daddy, “what do you mean by ‘talking to God’”?
Both my parents were now back in my room, standing at the foot of my bed. They looked hesitant. So I smiled and patted my comforter to indicate that they could sit down if they wanted. Daddy glanced at Mummy. She accepted my invitation and sat down.
Daddy made a funny sound in his throat. I think he was saying “Well?”
“Yes, I was talking to God.”
“Do you do that often?”
“Oh yes, almost every night as I lie in bed. Except for those nights when I fall asleep in the car or on the sofa. You used to always tell me that I flew to bed, but now I know that it’s really you who carries me here.”
“Where is God?” It was Daddy’s turn to ask.
“God is everywhere.”
“Everywhere? I thought that God was in heaven.”
I giggled and looked up at my angels. They seemed to be giggling too.
“God is everywhere. Everyone knows that, at least everyone except the big people. They’ve forgotten.”
Daddy gave me a strange look.
“Forgotten that God is everywhere, of course.”
“You mean God is in this room right now?” Mummy’s turn to as, as she looked around my room.
“Yes,” I said, “God is in the room right now.”
“And is God in the tree?” she asked, pointing to the window through which we could see my favorite aspen swaying in the wind.
“Yes, God is in the tree,” I answered.
“And in the mountains?” Daddy’s turn.
“Yes, God is in the mountains.”
“And in the flowers?”
“Yes, God is in the flowers.”
“What about in Blackie?” Blackie was our mischievous cat.
“Of course God is in Blackie,” I answered.
“And what about this?” Daddy was pointing to my Cindy doll. I had a feeling that he was trying to catch me out.
“God is also in Cindy. God is everywhere,” I repeated. Grown-ups seem to need to hear things more than once before they catch on.
“Ah!” said Daddy as if he had just understood something. “But if God is everywhere, how could God be in anything? If God is inside something, then God can’t be outside it as well.” Looking quite pleased with himself, he touched Mummy’s elbow as if to indicate that he had won and that it was now time to leave.
“I only said that in order to make it easier for you,” I said. “Actually you’re right. God isn’t inside anything.” Daddy smiled. “And God isn’t outside anything either.” Daddy’s smile grew even wider. “God is everything.” Daddy’s smile disappeared.
“Now sweetie.” It was Mummy’s turn. “How could God be everything? Surely God isn’t the tree? I mean, God couldn’t be Blackie. Blackie’s a cat and God is … well, God is God.”
“God is everywhere because God is everything. God is also Blackie. God is also the mountain and the tree and my Cindy doll and you and me.” Oops, I got the distinct impression that this was going over their heads.
“I’m not God,” announced Daddy, looking at his hands. “What a silly idea.”
“Shh, darling,” said Mummy, discreetly jabbing her elbow into Daddy’s side. “You promised… Now why don’t you sit down and listen. I’m sure that with a bit of patience, we can sort this all out.” Daddy reluctantly moved my red chair over to the bed. He looked funny. He was much too big for my chair. His knees were sticking up in the air.
“How can I help you understand?” I asked. Oops again. Daddy growled. He didn’t like the idea that I could help him understand anything. I sat up in bed. This was all getting too heavy. “I know,” I said with a flash of inspiration. “Could you give me the Mickey Mouse ruler that I got from aunty as a present?” Daddy reached over to my desk and like a huge crane, he lifted the ruler up and handed it over to me.
“One ruler,” he said. “Or is this God too?” I gave him my squint-look to show my disapproval. “Sorry,” he looked suitably embarrassed..
“You see here. It shows a tick and the number zero. And here it shows a tick and the number one.” They peered quizzically at this self-evident truth. “Well if you look carefully, you can see that in between the 0 and 1 there are more little lines, but these lines have no numbers.”
“Those are the millimeter marks,” Daddy said, nodding to Mummy to show that he was still on top of things.
“Yes,” I said, “Here you can see 0.1, 0.2 all the way to 0.9. Now if you could look really carefully, you would be able to see that between the 0 mark and the 0.1 mark, there are smaller marks, 0.01, 0.02 all the way to 0.09. And between the 0 mark and the 0.01 mark there is the whole series of numbers starting with 0.001 up to 0.009. And on and on and on, tinier and tinier and tinier. There is no end to the numbers that lie just between the 0 and the 1.” Mummy and Daddy were staring hard at the ruler, trying to see the infinite arrays of tiny numbers that I was holding in my hand. I continued: “Now imagine, just as this ruler is a straight line that measures from zero to twenty centimeters with centimeter marks, each of the smaller numbers has a line coming off this primary line. Imagine too that all the smaller numbers of those numbers are lines with their smaller numbers on it, and those even smaller numbers have lines stretching out with their smaller numbers on it.”
“Why, there’d be lines all over the place,” exclaimed Mummy. She was on the ball.
“Now,” I asked, “where does this ruler end?”
They hesitated. They evidently sensed that this was a trick question.
“Look,” I said, “this ruler just happens to end at the 20 centimeter mark. But…”
“I get you!” Daddy interjected, “The physical ruler ends at 20 but the numbers continue to … forever.” We all followed the end of the ruler with our eyes, and saw with our inner eye how it extended all the way to the wall of my room. Then through the wall all the way to the end of our street. Then to the end of our town. Then to the ocean. Then into outer space. And then … forever. To infinity.
“‘To Infinity and Beyond!’” we all said together in our best Buzz Lightyear voices.
I continued. “And the same is true for each of those lines stretching out from the sub-divisions, and sub-sub-divisions, and the sub-sub-sub-divisions. And how many of those lines are there?” I could see their minds beginning to crunch numbers as they tried to count the lines.
It was Mummy who came up with the answer first: “Infinite? Yes there are an infinite number of sub-lines.”
“In how many direction?”
“In an infinite number of directions.”
My father chimed in excitedly: “And also in the other direction! The negative numbers. Zero to minus one and on and on.”
“To minus Infinity and Beyond!” We were all laughing now.
“So,” I continued, “is there any piece of space that will not be filled by this infinite array of numbers?” Mummy and Daddy shook their heads.
“Is there any number that could be missing from this infinite set? Could any number have perhaps been overlooked or escaped our attention?”
“I don’t see how any number could be missing? Unless I’m missing something?” Good old Mummy.
“Exactly!” I said.
Silence. I waited for the obvious question. And sure enough it came. From Daddy. “But that’s all very interesting sweetie, but what has that to do with God?”
I summoned up my patience. “Well, God is infinite, otherwise God wouldn’t be God, would God? Now infinite doesn’t just mean very, very, very big does it? Like the ruler, it means that it contains all things up to infinity.”
“What do you mean ‘up to infinity’?” The atmosphere had grown serious again. Or rather, the atmosphere had grown-up again.
“Exactly! There is no ‘up to infinity’ since infinity must be beyond all things. Infinity is infinite; it goes on forever. It is no-thing and yet must contain all-thing. This is what God is. Or rather, this is what God isn’t. Get it?”
“So… just as no number can be missing from the infinite set of numbers that extends from my ruler, so no-thing can be missing from God, otherwise God would not be infinite. Every leaf, every blade of grass, every flower, every sand grain, every person. And all these things, in fact all things, make up the sum total of God. So when I said that Blackie is God, I don’t mean that God is only Blackie. I mean that Blackie is included in God, just as you and I are.”
There followed a torrent of questions.
“So where did the idea of God in Heaven come from?”
“And why aren’t we taught that in religious class?”
“And why if we are all part of God does God appear to be so far away?”
“And of course, what is the meaning of good and evil if everything is God?”
“And who are we praying to if we’re God?”
I must have fallen asleep before the last question was completed. Good night Mummy. Good night Daddy. Good night angels. Good night moon.