One could write a book about the concept and
experiences people have about God. This article gives you a short overview
about who or what God, or the Divine, is, based on people who have experienced
the Divine, or God, each in their own way.
As a child I was told that
when you die you go straight to heaven where you sit on clouds and eat rice
pudding with a golden spoon. They forget to tell that after a couple of
weeks of eating rice pudding, you probably started to hate rice pudding.
As children we accept those stories at face value. As we grow older we abandon
those stories and /or reject the idea of heaven, or form other notions of
it. But where do we get those ideas? Once I was visited by two Mormons.
Two young American men (I was still in Belgium at that time) who were sent
out to spread their faith in other countries. They gave a short and nice
explanation, with colorful paintings, about their beliefs. But when asked
how they knew it was like that, or how they would explain people’s first
hand spiritual experiences, they could not come up with any answer. It is
obvious that a lot of religious people take for granted what other people,
usually authorities, tell them (who are supposed to know everything). Where
do those authorities get their information from? From other authorities
or from scriptures which were written by ancient authorities.
people put their faith in authorities, it makes life simple. They believe
what they are told to believe, so they don’t have to worry any more about
what things might be. Authorities like it when people don’t question their
authority or power. But once in a while a single person will stand up and
talk about their own experience. Such a person is often persecuted by the
religious authority. Meister Eckhart, a Christian mystic from the 13-14th
century, was regularly attacked by the Catholic Church. His ideas about
God were very different than those of the Church. It still sees God as a
male figure, the Old Testament God that punishes and rewards, despite the
fact that in the New Testament Jesus talks about a God above the old testament
God, whom he calls the Father. God the Father does not punish or reward,
but loves all living beings unconditionally. The term ‘Father’ is from a
Christian sect which was chosen as the state religion by Julius Caesar.
There were many sects, mostly Gnostic. The Gnostics usually used the term
Father-Mother, as they believed that God has no sex and is a dual entity,
as what we experience in the created world is both male and female. The
Gnostics did not accept authority figures among themselves, and stressed
that experience is more important than theories. Thus a bearded old God
with thundering voice is absent in their theology. Momoimus said: "Give
up the seeking for a God, the creation, and similar things. Look for Him
by taking yourself as point of origin. Learn what it is, inside yourself,
that attracts everything to itself and that says: "My God, my spirit,
my thinking, my soul, my body." Study the sources of pain, happiness,
love, hate. If you investigate these things carefully, you will find Him
in yourself." It is an idea we find with many mystics, that God is
both outside and inside oneself, and thus accessible to anyone. In general,
the Gnostics looked at God as the Father-Mother, the highest being, which
is actually a negation because nothing in our language can describe Him
accurately. Therefore God is called incomprehensible, unlimited, indivisible,
the Perfect, the Depth, the Abyss and so on. These are only descriptions
and nothing more.
Paracelsus, the famous Medieval alchemist, said that
one should not believe or accept anything from other people, but one should
investigate and experience for oneself if something is true or not. In keeping
with this we now turn our attention to people who have experienced what
we call God. Usually they tell us that anyone can experience God and that
we should not take their word for granted either. They show us what they
have experienced, and that we can do this too.
Meister Eckhart: "I
have occasionally spoken of a light in the soul which is uncreated and uncreatable.
. . . This light is not satisfied to know the simple, still and divine being
which neither gives nor takes, but rather it desires to know from where
this being comes. It wants to penetrate into the simple ground, into the
still desert, into that which distinction never peeped, neither Father,
Son nor Holy Spirit. There, in that most inward place, where everyone is
a stranger, the light is satisfied, and there it is more inward than it
is when in itself, for this ground is a simple stillness which is immovable
in itself. But all things are moved by this immovability and all the forms
of life are conceived by it which, possessing the light of reason, live
Meister Eckhart leads us to a living God-within-ourselves,
who can be experienced and does not need external proof. As humans beings
we are more than just human, we carry the image of God within us, we are
God in the process of becoming, we are both human and God. Deep inside us
is something that is part of God and connects us with everything. We are
of the same substance as God and therefore we can become conscious of Him
and become one with Him. Man is a ‘little God’, in the process of becoming,
who is given everything God has in power and fullness.
God as having a dual characteristic. At one side God is the Divinity, eternal
immobile, incorporating everything, unknowable for any living creature.
At the other side God is Being in action, a revealing spirit, creator of
the worlds and giving life to all creatures. The first aspect is waiting
for us at the end of the road, the other is at the beginning of self-realization,
our God-Self. Both are at the same time one. God is the essence of the world,
and the world is the revelation of God. "All things are contained in
the One, by virtue of the fact that it is one. for all multiplicity is one,
and is one thing, and is in and through the One. . . The One is not distinct
from all things. Therefore all things in the fullness of being are in the
One by virtue of the indistinctness and unity of the One."
to the Gnostics, Eckhart says: "God is transcendent Being and super-
essential Nothingness. Concerning this St Augustine says: the best thing
that man can say about God is to be able to be silent about Him, from the
wisdom of his inner judgment. Therefore be silent and prate not about God,
for whenever you dare prate about God, you lie, and commit sin. If you will
be without sin, prate not about God. You cannot understand anything about
God, for He is above all understanding. A master said: If I had a God whom
I could understand, I would never hold Him to be God."
(1688-1772) In Stockholm, Sweden he was a leading scientist and got a seat
in the Swedish House of Nobles, where he remained an active participant
in the Swedish government throughout his life. When he was about 55 he developed
the ability to enter the spiritual worlds and converse with its inhabitants.
Swedenborg wrote many books about his experiences, and his descriptions
of these worlds would later be confirmed others who visited them through
out-of-the-body experiences. Some of the insights he gained were so unusual
that the Catholic Church came down on him more than once.
also said that man cannot really comprehend who God is because man tries
to picture God through his senses, which by nature are limited. Visiting
the heavens he found that no angel ever conceives of the Divine as being
in any other form than a human form, and that those in the higher heavens
are unable to think of the Divine in any other way. The human form of the
Divine is called the Lord. This form allows the angels to perceive the Divine.
God appearing in human form is a central theme with Swedenborg. He does
not say that God is a old man, as does the Catholic Church. He says that
although the Divine is invisible, unknowable, and without form, It can and
does show itself in a human form as the Lord, in this way God becomes visible
and knowable to the created beings. It is as this Visible God that the Lord
now rules His kingdom in heaven and on earth. As such, as God-with-us, God
operating visibly and understandably together with humanity, God exercises
the infinite power of love and wisdom; and as such reveals the glory of
Muktananda, a contemporary Indian mystic who attained God-realization,
sees God as formless, but at the same time He can appear in form. "People
wonder whether to meditate on the Form or on the Form-less aspect of God,
but you should not feel any conflict about this. Both meditations give the
same results. Saints like Tukaram, Tulsidas, Namdev, Mirabai, and Janabai
were devoted to the Form, the personal aspect of God. God came to them in
a personal form, but they also realized the Formless. The God with form,
or saguna aspect, is not imaginary. God’s greatness is unlimited. He created
this habitable world in the midst of nothingness out of the storehouse of
His unlimited power. He alone became the world, manifesting Himself in all
its various objects. How can it be difficult for Him, whose names and forms
are limitless, to take form?"
Like Eckhart, Muktanandra says that
looking for God outside oneself is foolish. "God exists in your understanding,
which means that God is within you. You yourself are the inner thought-free
state, aham, the pure "I"-consciousness, which is God." God
is an extraordinary inner experience.
As we live in a world of limitations
and often personalize the unknown or mysterious, why would God not show
himself in a human form? Nobody would accept Him in a form of a dog or a
stone. Not that He could not do that, but who would accept such an image
of God? Nevertheless, for those who are more spiritually evolved, they are
able to see God in any form, as God is present in all of His creation and
can communicate with us in any form.
Could God actually speak to you?
Mystics have claimed that God spoke directly to them, often to the dismay
of the religious institutions. We have been taught that God only spoke to
a selected few in the distant past, as God spoke to Moses, with thundering
voice and burning bushes. Why should God limit himself to such a display?
As we are all God's children, why would God not talk in a normal way with
a normal person? To Neale Donald Walsch, this is what happened and is still
happening. His book "Conversations with God" was a New York Times
bestseller. Not shy of answering any question, God explains his communication
with humans: "I talk to everyone. All the time. The question is not
to whom do I talk, but who listens?" Although God talks to Walsch,
God says that his most common form of communication is through feeling. "Feeling
is the language if the soul." "People choose to believe that God
communicates in special ways and only with special people. This removes
the mass of the people from the responsibility of hearing My message, much
less receiving it, and allows them to take someone else’s word for everything."
Walsch is not the only one who says that we definitely can feel the presence
of God. Paramahansa Yogananda tells us that though the mind is incapable
of encompassing Omnipresence, it is nevertheless able to feel God. We cannot
grasp the totality of God, but there is a point of contact, where the Infinite
becomes the finite. He calls this point of contact the superconscious mind.
When we expand the ordinary mind until it impinges on the superconscious
mind, we are able to feel God's presence.
about the form or shape God has, God replies to Walsch: "That would
be impossible, for I have no form or shape you understand. I could adopt
a form or shape you could understand, but then everyone would assume what
they have seen is the only form and shape of God, rather than a form or
shape of God, one of many. People believe Me what they see Me as, rather
than what they do not see. But I am the Great Unseen, not only what I cause
Myself to be in a particular moment. In a sense, I am what I am not. It
is from the am-notness that I come and to it I always return." Does
God come to hear and fulfill your prayers? "God is the Observer, not
the creator. And God stands ready to assist you in living your life, but
not in the way you might expect. It is not God’s function to create, or
uncreate, the circumstances or conditions of your life. God created you,
in the image and likeness of God. You have created the rest, through the
power God has given you."
True to the explanation of the mystics,
God also explains the concept of ‘experiencing Himself’. In the beginning
It was all there was. All that was could know Itself, because there was
nothing else. This All That Is could only know its utter ‘magnificence’
conceptually, but not experientially. It wanted to know what it felt like
to be so ‘magnificent’, unless ‘that which is not’ shows up. It needed a
reference point within itself, and thus It divided Itself into portions.
Each portion could look back on the rest of Itself and see magnificence.
This is very similar to the Gnostic idea how the Father-Mother (the
Divine) split itself into numerous divine sparks that went out into the
Darkness. Each of us, and every living being, is such a divine spark.
As God tells Walsch: "My divine purpose in dividing Me was to create
sufficient parts of Me so that I could know Myself experientially. There
is only one way for the Creator to know Itself experientially as the Creator,
and that is to create. And so I gave to each of the countless parts of Me
(to all of My spirit children) the same power to create which I have as
a whole." "My purpose in creating you, My spiritual offspring,
was for Me to know Myself as God. I have no way to do that save through
you. Thus it can be said that My purpose for you is that you should know
yourself as Me."
Walsch is not the only one who says that we definitely
can feel the presence of God. Paramahansa Yogananda tells us that though
the mind is incapable of encompassing Omnipresence, it is nevertheless able
to feel God. We cannot grasp God in its entirety but there is a point of
contact, where the Infinite becomes the finite. He calls this point of contact
the superconscious mind. When we expand the ordinary mind until it impinges
on the superconscious mind, we are able to feel Its presence.