Thanks, Webwanderer for your careful, lengthy, and thorough reply.
I can see, if we continue on the tack we have chosen, we will be going round and round in circles. This is not an issue that can be debated and a definitive answer reached that will change any of us for the better. My ego has simply reacted to what my mind can't wrap itself around, and I have let my own fear of death have some control over my will. I know better than this, for "perfect love casts out fear". I am not yet perfected in love for God.
YUDoodat, there is one pertinent question that must be answered before any of the three claims you listed can be addressed. That is: what is most important, an understanding of the unvarnished truth of life, or loyalty to ones faith in God as taught by scripture? Another way to put it: which is a higher priority, knowing Truth or knowing God?
(I'm sure I'm not using the quote feature properly...)
Well, Webwanderer, perhaps our disagreement is semantic, but I would maintain that knowing God in an experiential relationship is far more important than having "an understanding of the unvarnished truth of life", as you have worded it. It is not possible to have a correct understanding of Truth - who but God is able to comprehend it all? What is far more important is the question: "What do we do with the little bit of truth that we do indeed possess?"
For me, everything in life boils down to matters of faith. What do you make of the biblical passage, "For without faith it is impossible to please Him (God), for whoever comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him." We are enabled to "see" God only through the eyes of faith. When I look into the starry expanse at night, it is faith that enables me to perceive, and to stand in awe of the One who created it, as opposed to the one without faith who simply sees burning balls of hydrogen many light-years away, and does not know, or perhaps even care how they got there.
God is only perceived through eyes of faith and nothing else. Even for one such as yourself, faith is the operative force which propels you to seek for the God within. 'Being' can not be seen with the physical eyes or objectively studied with the mind. It certainly is not even a remote possibility for the ego to seek God. It can only pretend to do so in order to gain supposed stature and influence in the eyes of other egos.
So I fail to see how it can be anything other than faith through which we operate in our quest of the Ineffable; whether within the parameters of "organised" religion, or else outside them within some other mental construct such as that set forth by ET, or Ram Dass, or Castaneda, or Aldous Huxley. My point is they are ALL 'belief systems' while we are wandering through this life of form and duality, which thickly veils the spiritual Reality behind it all. It is not until we are free of the limitations of this physical life that we shall be able to see things more nearly as they truly are.
Allow me to further elaborate my point on faith. We all must wrestle with the questions of who and what we are going to put our faith in. To this point, I have chosen to put my faith in Jesus Christ. What I mean by that is: I believe what he himself said about who he is; I believe what those who wrote the Biblical prophecies predicted about the Messiah; and I believe what those who were his eyewitnesses have written about him.
Now, before anyone rushes to take issue that we can't base our faith on what someone else has said, let me remind you that we do this all the time in our daily lives. Our court system, which is imperfect as we all are, nevertheless bases it verdicts and judgments largely upon the testimony of witnesses, as well as upon empirical evidence. We trust maps that others have made to get us places that we've not been. We trust teachers to teach us things that, if we had to learn for ourselves, would take lifetime upon lifetime to understand and master. Some trust ET to reveal to them a better way than they by themselves have found. Most trust their own understanding when it comes to living out their personal lives.
I have learned that when I trust myself to find my way through life's maze, I end up hopelessly frustrated and lost. So, I know that I need a Guide. With so many out there, which one do I choose? I choose the best one I have found so far - Jesus Christ. If He is not who he said he is, then yes, this little life is lost. If He IS who he said he is (he said, "I AM the way, the truth and the life; no one comes to the Father but by me."), then I gain everything. I will have my enlightenment at the end of my life on this earth.
You see, Eckhart's worldview seems too impersonal to me. Also, there are too many pitfalls associated with going so deep within the 'self'. I do not trust my 'self'. For now, this is where I am and I make no apology for it.