Tuesday, May 15, 2012

The "God" Word?

When you hear the word “God” do you flinch, grimace, or roll your eyes? Imagine how many books, sermons, and scriptures have been written referring to and attempting to describe (or worse yet, define) “God.” Surely you don’t expect me to join the jostling crowd of theologians, ministers and preachers?

Well, don’t look now, but . . . . .

Many people reject the word “God.” And I have been one of them for many years. But now I see the term more as a symbol, or a pictograph. As such, each person using it  or hearing or reading it can fill in his own definition, description, feeling, or intention with respect to it. (“With respect to it” has at least two meanings, by the way!)

If your temperament inclines to the impersonal you might interpret the word as a cosmic force, the primal ground of Being, an infinite Light, cosmic consciousness or any number of such terms denoting an intelligent, presumably beneficent, if impersonal, energy or force. This is all well and good and perhaps even possessing a philosophical purity, but, let’s face, it is  also rather sterile. Who in his right mind would want to love a Cosmic Ground of Being? The heart says, “And where, perchance, does one find Him?” And, “What relevance, meaning, or interest in me and my problems has such a Force?”

We might consider the life within ourselves to be the Life Eternal. When we are feeling especially vitalized, for example, whether in strenuous or otherwise energetic actions such as sports, art, drama and countless other peak experiences or where the “force is with you” and energy is flowing: here we might say God’s power is animating your form and consciousness. A nice touch, to be sure, but still somewhat mental, although the delight inherent in the feeling of energy, vitality, confidence, and accomplishment  is certainly strong and satisfying. When it inevitably wanes, however, we are left perhaps inconsolable or moody. In a more refined (and at times even devotional) way, some meditation techniques concentrate the mind upon the life force (“prana”) flowing in the body (physical and astral). 

This form of meditation is very helpful and not difficult. But the leap from “energy” to “divinity” and to a “personal God” is more of stretch for some. We can feel the joy of energy but can we say it’s God’s energy or simply our own?

The peace-feeling of meditation or prayer certainly constitutes a form of worship or mindfulness in respect to the Presence of God. Other aspects frequently identified include deep calmness, transforming love, a flow of insights and intuitive wisdom, and the appearance of the subtle astral sense perceptions such as inner sound or inner light. All of these can be viewed and enjoyed whether devotionally, energetically, or in the light of understanding. Nonetheless, these impersonal forms leave many seekers wandering the labyrinth of the mind without clear sense of direction or heartfelt satisfaction.

It becomes more complex or controversial when one’s view of God turns towards the anthropomorphic, that is, towards the human form. The more common range of such forms includes worship of the monotheistic God who sits upon a throne, dis-incarnate deities (gods or goddesses), angelic beings, incarnations of God in human form (saviors), and saints, sages, and avatars.

Here we become wary, perhaps taciturn, skeptical and stand offish. And, with good reason considering how ripe for exploitation and fraud the human psyche is when trying to convert the usual human experience into the appearance of the Godhead in human form. This latter tendency is not unlike the more normal experience of falling in love with a goddess only to be disillusioned when the goddess you formerly worshipped turns out to be a she-devil (or the god whose power you so admired turns out to be an unfaithful drunkard).

This is where the rubber of “God” meets the road of the “human experience.” It’s like the galloping horse who suddenly comes around a corner to face a face or ditch and stops dead in his tracks, throwing his rider head over heels into the bushes.

But consider this: is it God we confront here, or ourselves? Let us put aside the question of who and what God is. After all, can we really answer that question? Maybe we should start with the question: “Who am I?” Are we merely the obvious, if regrettable, reality of random and unkind thoughts, harmful emotions, and futile actions that passes for the life of most people? If so, our pusillanimity is depth less. 

On the other hand, who seriously accepts that definition of ourselves? Well, many do in saying “We are all sinners.” Falling into this camp are most of the world’s religious adherents. They accordingly  have had to conclude that salvation in one lifetime  is hopeless without a savior to redeem them by superhuman acts of grace and goodwill. Perfection lies so far beyond what any one person could aspire and accomplish that the best we can aspire to is modestly good behavior, belonging to the right church,  and clinging to  the right savior. So, “like yeah, we gotta be saved by the blood.”

In this interpretation we can try to be good but we can never be sure of our fate. The inherent uncertainty causes either disillusionment or fear. Whatever the result it is unsatisfying and leads, for all but rare souls, to sinning up to the border, so to speak: what can I get away with and still be saved?

The other direction is to affirm that we are made in God’s image. This means there is something innate in our nature and being that is godlike and inherently good. To achieve and fulfill this potential perfection cannot, however, be achieved by most people in one lifetime. Hence, onto the stage trots the doctrine of reincarnation. It would be far too involved to pursue this dogma to its intellectual lair but suffice to say that it solves a lot of human problems: injustice and suffering of innocents, just to count two immensely important questions of human existence. 

Science gives us a view of creation, time, and space that fits rather nicely with the concept of many lives and the evolution of those lives from lower life forms to the human level and upwards to Spirit. Energy can neither be created nor destroyed is a scientific version of the metaphysical doctrine that the soul is eternal and unchanging through its many lives.

If we begin to explore the possibilities of our higher, soul nature as incarnate in human form we begin to turn our face towards the face of God. If we can perhaps (in time and with sustained effort and grace) achieve perfection, we eventually are forced to imagine the possibility that there must other souls who have, in fact, achieved God-realization. The very fact that much of humankind accepts the concept of a "savior" in human form sent by God, and the universal fact of acclaimed spiritual teachers in every age, and saints and reformers in every religion suggests precisely this. That most spiritual teachers are a "work-in-process" or the fact of even frauds and imposters, nor yet the difficulty of knowing one from another, does not change the tantalizing prospect. Great men and women, true masters or geniuses, exist in every field of human endeavor. With the vastness, complexity, and unlimited possibilities of the universe before us, this possibility seems all but a fact.

Does such a prospect however in some way limit the infinity which must also be an attribute of the Deity? Well, what does infinite mean if not also infinitesimal? The testimony of great saints and mystics in every age and every religion affirms the experience of Oneness in God as the greatest beatitude and summum bonum of life, and indeed, as the only true purpose to the creation itself!

If God is One, then we are One with God. If God is One then God is all there is and the multitudinous forms of creation must be His cosmic dream and manifestation. The free will that we as souls have must reflect, however imperfectly, the power of God to act and to create. The separateness of all objects in creation must be an illusion, therefore, just as science tells us that all objects are but manifestations of energy. Monotheism is not really threatened and indeed it is a logical flaw to say "God is One" and then to ignore or reject God's presence in every atom! There is no inherent conflict between monotheism and the creation as a manifestation of God. The separateness is in appearance only and not in reality.

Besides, is this not the de facto testimony of the great Ones? Jesus Christ, Krishna and so many others?  Jesus, when condemned for claiming to be the son of God, retorted (quoting the Old Testament), "Do not your scriptures say, 'Ye are gods?'" If their words of the prophets have been twisted, crucified, and made sectarian by ignorant followers, well, that’s no surprise, is it? Why blame God for our stupidity?

The word “God” therefore ought not to be so irritating a word. It is, after all, only a word. But can also be like a vessel of pure gold reflecting God's eternal promise of our soul’s immortality. God is as much in the smallest atom as in the vast creation; as much in our passing thoughts, our daily challenges, and to our highest aspirations, all as manifestations of the One.

Most of us, however, need a clearer and sharper focus to divinity than the word God. If I place a phone call to the President of the United States I can’t possibly expect to get through. Going directly to “God” is just, if not more, unlikely. If God is One and God is everywhere why look so “far away” when His presence can be found, as Jesus put it, “within you?” And are we so puffed up with ourselves that we are unreceptive to the simple fact that there are living men and women who possess this grace, this presence and have lived it with great intensity and self-sacrifice and are willing to share it with others who are sincere? Why insist that the "old buster" is on his throne up in his heaven and not standing right in front of you? That's a bit convenient, don't you think. Even the "devil quotes the scriptures," but a living saint can correct society's misunderstandings, give guidance, and provide much needed inspiration and an example of how-to-live a spiritual life.

It may be so that it is safest for the ego, beginning its spiritual journey, to approach God with an appreciation of impersonal, divine qualities like inner peace, unconditional love, calmness and wisdom. But as we grow in spiritual understanding and the ego loosens its grip upon our mind and heart, there will come into our life others in human form who can guide us. In some lifetime, now or in the future, as we progress and advance in God consciousness we will begin to meet and train with the “pros,” the saints. We will eventually go from the local, farm teams to the major leagues.

Step by step we grow from infancy to adulthood and step by step we grow in God realization. Those steps take place here on earth amidst those of like mind doing practical God-mindfulness actions for the upliftment of ourselves and others. Seek Divinity in your Self through the science of meditation; seek Him in the beauty of flowers, in the majesty of mountains, in the hearts of all, and most of all, in the wisdom and compassion of those who can truly Know HIm as their own true Self.

Good God! That wasn’t so difficult, was it?

Nayaswami Hriman