Who, or What, is "God"?
article by LiveReal Agents Thomas and Grace
Who, or What, is "God"?
Orwell once said, "We have now sunk to a depth at which restatement of the obvious is the first duty of intelligent men."
If we want to be intelligent, then, it seems we should try to state the obvious.
But apparently "the obvious" is often elusive.
Before we start arguing, fighting, and going to war over something, shouldn't we get as clear as possible on what, exactly we're talking about?
Who, or What, is "God"?
A) A big, bearded authority figure in the sky who makes the rules.
B) A fantasy, illusion, imaginary idea, or wild concept that humanity invented in their own ideal image and likeness, which helps them cope with a life of inevitable suffering and death, and who also recently died. (Marx, Freud, Nietzsche, etc.)
C) Whatever It (or He, She, etc) is, It (He, She, etc) definitely has a sense of humor.
D) Something that people pray to when they get into trouble, and forget about shortly after.
E) A "Something" who created the universe.
F) A word that refers to something mysterious, genuine and sacred.
G) Thomas Aquinas: The unmoved mover, the uncaused causer, the purely actual actualizer, the immaterial source of all matter, the omnipotent source of all power, the unchanging changer outside of time and space.
H) "Omnipotent and omnipresent Creator of all, revealed to faith and in the experience of the faithful (and not contradicted by the reason of those who do not deny faith), God is the supreme end of all creation and Himself, unlike HIs creation, finds His end in Himself; everything created stands in relation to and dependence upon Him, Who along depends upon nothing outside Himself; He has created the world that it might live in enjoyment of Him, and everything in the world is oriented toward this end, which however men may miss by a misuse of their freedom." Eugene (Fr. Seraphim) Rose
I) "I don't know, never will know, and think I don't want to know. (Do I know that for sure? No.")
J) An absolute, infinite, eternal, transcendent, immanent, intelligent, omniscient, omnipotent, good, something.
K) Richard Rose: "We take too big a step when we conjure up a God that surmounts all time and space and then pretend to know Him on a first-name basis."
L) Something that seems to have been very active a long time ago (in the days of the burning bush, parting of the Dead Sea, etc), but more recently has stayed hidden.
M) J. B. S. Haldane: "He seems to have an inordinate fondness for beetles."
N) A name we give to anything we don't understand or to anything that feels more powerful than us.
O) A something that has many human characteristics: desires, emotions, pleasures, jealousies, dislikes, and so on . . . to the extent that it seems as though we basically create It/Him in our own image and likeness.
P) Job: Something that bargains for your soul, lets you go through utter hell, and if you endure and pass the test, gives you a lot of sheep and cattle and other things.
Q) A highly effective name to drop when trying to win an argument.
R) Something that has a will that we are supposed to figure out and follow.
S) An absolute state of non-duality which is the root of being, unknowable by the mind which cannot be captured by words.
T) "Love." (And what is "love"?)
U) T. S. Eliot: "The still point of the turning world."
V) Voltaire: "If God did not exist, it would have been necessary to invent Him."
W) Something that gives birth to us, and soon after, kills us.
X) Something that is, at various moments in history, angry, jealous, loving, threatening, forgiving, wrathful, comforting. intimidating, and confusing.
Y) A single actor who appears in many plays using a different stage name ("Allah", "Jehovah", "Tao", "The Void", "God", "The Absolute", etc).
Z) Something that enjoys praise and adoration.
AA) The answer to The Problem of Life. And, the one who created The Problem of Life.
BB) It is the Ultimate Advantage that each side of a war thinks is on their side.
CC) Something that created and gives us life, health, love, and sight, as well as death, disease, hate and blindness.
EE) Something that is "outside" and "transcendent to" the world.
FF) Something that is "inside" and "immanent in" the world.
GG) Something that makes some people blind, sick, maimed, and crippled, and occasionally takes credit for healing a few of them.
HH) H. L. Mencken: "A comedian whose audience is afraid to laugh."
II) Something that created only the good things, and created something else which created all the bad things.
JJ) Something which "saves" very few and "damns" many more. (Also, Walter Kauffman (quoted out of context): "Surely, he must have some weaknesses if he saves only those who eat his son."):
KK) Thomas Szasz: "If you talk to Him, you are praying; if He talks to you, you have schizophrenia."
LL) Pindar: "What is God? Everything."
MM) Something you are born knowing, but soon forget.
NN) Something you are born knowing nothing about, and must find.
OO) Something that can be known, found, or experienced after death.
PP) Something that can be known, found, or experienced during life - for example, in "spiritual enlightenment".
QQ) The guy who lit the fuse on the "Big Bang."
RR) The "something" that created the whole of the immensity of the universe, the incomprehensible origin beyond the most staggering reaches of the mortal imagination, the designer of the splendor and magnificence of all of creation, and is only able to communicate with humans through a book.
SS) Meister Eckhart: "Why, oh why, do you prate of God? Whatever you say about God is untrue."
UU) "God is sex, unconscious and buried in the body."
VV) The Force: "...is what gives a Jedi his power. It is an energy field created by all living things. It surrounds us and penetrates us. It binds the galaxy together."
WW) Nyogen Senzaki: "You cannot see it with your eyes. You cannot hold it with your hands. You cannot smell it with your nose. You cannot hear it with your ears. You cannot taste it with your tongue. You cannot form it in your thoughts. Here it is!"
XX) Whatever It is, if you are in touch with It, you'll be happy; if you're not in touch with It, you'll be miserable.
YY) Alexander Pope: "Know then thyself, presume not God to scan; The proper study of mankind is Man."
ZZ) Something that can be found by: chanting, lighting incense, praying, having sex, hugging, meditating, stretching, reading, being still, observing, worshipping, bowing, doing nothing, introspecting, immense effort, no effort, dying, sitting, being quiet, all of the above, none of the above, or various other methods.
AAA) Saint Augustine: A "circle whose center is everywhere and whose circumference is nowhere."
BBB) It is what is there when we - our "egos" - get out of the way.
CCC) Lee Lozowick: "The Divine is not meant to be discovered in heaven. If that were the case, we would be in heaven, not here."
DDD) Ananda K. Coomaraswamy: "...an incessant multiplication of the inexhaustible One and unification of the indefinitely Many. Such are the beginnings and endings of worlds and of individuals beings: expanded from a point without position or dimensions and a now without date or duration."
EEE) Meister Eckhart: "To get at the core of God at his greatest, one must first get into the core of himself at his least, for no one can know God who has not first known himself. Go to the depths of the soul, the secret place of the Most High, to the roots, to the heights: for all the God can do is focused there."
FFF) God is "IT".
GGG) The Old Testament: "I Am that I Am."
HHH) Something that must be known and understood in a very real way if we are to find any true happiness.
III) I don't know.
JJJ) The Westminster Standard: Aside from being "the chief and highest end of man" ("Man's chief and higest end is to glorify God, and fully to enjoy him for ever") - God is "a Spirit, in and of himself infinite in being, glory, blessedness, and perfection; all-sufficient, eternal, unchangeable, incomprehensible, everywhere present, almighty, knowing all things, most wise, most holy, most just, most merciful and gracious, long-suffering, and abundant in goodness and truth.."
KKK) Ranier Maria Rilke: "My God is dark, like a knot with a hundred roots that drink in silence."
LLL) Omraam Mikhaël Aïvanhov: "We can sense the presence of God, but we cannot say who He is. Even the greatest initiates will not be able to tell you. And if you ask them, they will answer with silence, because only silence can express the essence of the Deity. Indeed, it is not enough to try and say everything God is, and to say what He is not is not enough either. To say He is love, wisdom, power, justice . . . is true, but these words overlook the divine reality, they say nothing about the infinity, the eternity and the perfection of God. We cannot know God by talking about Him or listening to others talk about Him. The only way of knowing Him is to enter deep within ourselves in order to reach the region of silence."
MMM) Simone Weil: "It is not for man to seek, or even to believe in, God. He only has to refuse his ultimate love to everything that is not God. This refusal does not presuppose any belief. It is enough to recognize what is obvious to any mind: that all the goods of this world, past, present, and future, real or imaginary, are finite and limited and radically incapable of satisfying the desire that perpetually burns within us for an infinite and perfect good."
NNN) None of the Above
OOO) All of the Above
PPP) Other _____________
What Is Your Answer? ________
When you finish your quiz, please pass your papers to the front.
Please note: This is a quiz that, whether you know it or not, you're kind of already taking.
You will probably be graded, but may not be; we're not sure when or even if you'll ever find out what your grade is, and we might know who will or won't be grading your papers, - but then again, we may be wrong.
"Okay, so, really: who or what IS "God"?
Wrestling with all this can seem a bit overwhelming.
Is there a way to simplify it?
For example, we could boil it down to two basic answers. Either life
A) God exists, or
B) soft nihilism
This is a basic existential riddle we all face. We all have to answer something along those lines.
But even this can seem overwhelming, too. After all, how do we know?
Here’s one approach.
The first step involves hunting down answers from across the world and then collecting them in one spot. This move throws the doors wide open. It’s a cattle-call. All answers are welcome. They can all take their best shot.
(Spoiler alert: that’s what we did above.)
The next step involves sorting those answers out.
But sorting can become overwhelming as well.
After all, many answers seem insightful, but they contradict other answers. Which one is right? They can’t all be right. Are any “right”? Is it all just a matter of taste? How do we know?
The room can easily start spinning here.
It can be tempting at this point to just throw our hands up, decide it’s all too much, turn on the television, and move through life with some kind of constant, low-grade, unresolved existential crisis.
But luckily, we’ve done some work along those lines as well.
If we hang in there and keep examining the pile of answers, we’ll probably notice a few things.
- like this, for example.
Several of these answers are saying roughly the same basic thing.
If we dig down to the essence or gist of what each is really saying, then we can group them based on that basic underlying point.
Some answers (F, G, DDD, H, FFF, and others) respond that the best answer to the question of “why we’re here” is, in a word, “spirituality.”
Other answers (such as B, N, O, V, and others) are “materialistic,” or atheistic, or just non-spiritual.
Other answers (such as I, MMM, III, K, and others) aren’t necessarily spiritual or atheistic, but could best be described as “agnostic.”
And so on.
The point is, we can group or classify each of the above answers into a few basic categories or families with similar traits.
A better word for these categories might be “worldviews.”
We could also describe them as “life philosophies.”
Whatever we call them, there aren’t unlimited numbers of them.
There are about seven of them, depending on how you slice it.
That helps. We’ve narrowed it down.
Now, at least, it’s much more manageable.
OK, so now what?
Well, we’ve narrowed these down to a few major worldviews.
But now, the next step: which worldview is “right”? Are any of them? None of them? All of them?
How can we decide which “worldview” makes sense, or “works,” or hangs together?
Is this just a matter of personal taste? Are any worldviews “better” than any others? If so, how do we know? How do you even measure that?
That’s explored in some depth right here.
We offer several yardsticks to measure by.
As it turns out, when we measure worldviews using those yardsticks, some of them hold up pretty well.
When a worldview collapses, that leads to an existential crisis, which is no fun.
But here’s where things get really interesting.
Our answers here – to the “why are we here?” question, as well as the worldview question – are interconnected with other questions.
To answer one, you have to answer another.
In other words, to answer question A, you have to answer question B. And to answer question B, you have to answer question C. And so on. Hence the sense of overwhelm that keeps cropping up.
The answer to “God,” for example, solves the problem of meaning and meaninglessness. (If God exists, then life is meaningful. And if not, then it’s meaningless, even if we decide to pretend it isn’t.) The answer to God also solves the problem of suffering (“why do we suffer?) And suffering, of course, is also connected to our ideas about “happiness.” Happiness, of course, is also related to things like our psychological health, which is also related to things like inner strength, our existential fitness, our basic model of human nature, our level of psychological self-defense, our relationships, and so on.
At this point, once again, this might all start to seem like a lot to digest.
But that’s because these problems are “everything problems.”
Some problems are interconnected to other problems.
And eventually, it can start to seem like everything is connected to everything else.
It might seem, for example, that “why are we here?” is an everything problem, and in order to understand one thing, we have to understand everything.
But that can also work in our favor if we reverse it.
If everything is interconnected, then if we then solve one problem, it can have a ripple effect.
Solving one problem can start solving lots of others.
So, if we go through the exercise of establishing a strong foundation – or if we establish a solid groundwork for a life philosophy – then it’s no longer overwhelming. We might no longer get the sense that we’re trying to fit together a thousand unrelated pieces from a thousand different puzzles.
Instead, it can be like we’ve glimpsed the image on the front of the puzzle box.
The image on the front of the puzzle box shows how all the various puzzle pieces will eventually fit together.
So suddenly, all of these various pieces can fit together into one coherent, unified whole. Everything complements everything else, and it all makes much more sense.
Of course, there’s still plenty to do.
We can keep adding pieces and connecting them to make the puzzle more complete.
But now, it seems, we can become much clearer on The Big Questions. Because some answers to Big Questions are connected with other answers, clarity on even one or two can lead to clarity on others. This can help us experience more clarity not just intellectually, but experientially – directly and firsthand – especially if we put in some time on some real contemplation of the whole thing. If we want, we can even run some experiments to help us gather more data on all of it.
If we take that route, we might just wind up with more clarity on knowing “why we’re here.”
But even more, this clarity on knowing why we’re here can ripple out into improving life in other ways, too. In this sense, the quest to “know thyself” might be the most practical search in the world.
Nobody can find that clarity for us, just like no one can eat or breathe or walk through these woods for us. But this is one trail.