Here, you'll find musings from our authors and staff. We don't promise daily updates. Just posts worth your time.
Thursday, 30 March 2017
The Nature of God
'Why,' say those troubled by religion, 'is God such a shit? Why does he permit suffering - cancer, war, paedophiles, painful deaths, corruption, poverty...?' John Alexandra, author of The Wisdom of Being, examines myths and assertions about the Deity and concludes that, 'god' does not act. It simply IS.
First, why a god and creation at all?
According to Shri Anirvan, all life is born from the Void. From the original Void comes the urge for self-expression—'the thrill of joy breaking through into the irradiance of creation'.
He said that the passivity of the Immutable and the activity of the Demiurge are but two phases of the same reality. He explains that the Vedic seers saw reality as a whole—'a process of gradual illumination occurring in some ineffable neutral being of universal extension and infinite potentiality.'
He said, 'Even Brahman cannot keep for himself what he creates. Everything springs from him and at once flows out. Ten million gods or laws take possession of it.'
Here is a Zen perspective from D. T. Suzuki:
'Probably God was curious to know himself and created man and is trying to satisfy his curiosity through man.
'Being comes into being only when it is conscious of itself. As long as God is content with himself, he is non-existent. He must be awakened to something that is not himself when he is God.
'God is God when God is not God—yet what is not God must be in himself, too. And this—what is not himself—is his own thought or consciousness. With this consciousness, he departs from himself and at the same time returns to himself. You can say that Thought is Being and that Being has its basis in itself. You must say that Being is Being because of Thought, which is to say that Being is Being because Being is not Being.'
He clarifies this abstruseness by concluding: 'The world starts only when there is a mind that appreciates—a mind critically conscious of itself.'
According to Ramana Maharshi, God, like the sun, does not have the least volition. He said that God does not know anything because his nature is the ever real whole—other than which nothing exists to be known. That he has neither will nor desire. That he never acts—just is.
He said, 'There is no meaning in attributing responsibility and motive to the One before it becomes many!' Shri Ramakrishna echoes the concept of an inchoate unformed entity. He said, 'It is immovable, actionless, unattached—without qualities or attributes—between existence and non-existence. It has form, is also formless and beyond both. Unlimited.
'Why should the universe be unreal? It is God himself who has become the universe and all living beings. The world is illusion. Brahman alone is real. The world is of the nature of magic. The magician is real but the magic unreal.'
Ouspensky talked of 'the absolute, the all—infinite, indivisible, one whole, primordial with full unity, will, consciousness.' And his teacher, Gurdjieff, constructed this invocation: God the Holy. God the Mighty. God the Immortal. God all. God nothing. Unimaginable light. Unimaginable darkness.
Gurdjieffpointed out that the Void, the Unmanifest, is supreme Being. Unity. One. But that creation steps this state down. When the first worlds are formed, a mechanical element enters in. And the further the impulse gets from the source, the more automatic the process becomes—no longer subject to the guiding will of the Unformed. And, to reverse the situation, the One would have to destroy all the intervening creation.
Now listen to Meister Eckhart, the celebrated 14th century mystic:
'He is non-loving—being above love and affection.
'God is neither a being nor intelligence and he does not 'know' this or that. God is free of everything and therefore he IS everything.
'Being is God. The One at rest within itself, receiving nothing from without. The cause that has no cause.
'God is Being. Time does not exist because god, that Being, is not in time.
'...therefore I am my own first cause, both of my eternal Being and of my temporal being. To this end I was born, and by virtue of my birth being eternal, I shall never die. ...What I am as a temporal creature is to die and come to nothingness, for it came with time and, with time, will pass away. In my eternal birth however, everything was begotten. I was my own first cause as well as the first cause of everything else. If I had not willed it, neither I nor the world would have come to be. If I had not been, there would be no god. There is, however, no need to understand this.'
If the Unmanifest is Being, how do we approach it?
The Old Testament's Yahweh, announced that I AM THAT I AM. And suggested, 'Be still and know that I AM (god).'
According to Eckhart, 'Nothing in all creation is so like God as stillness,' and said, 'life cannot be perfected until it has returned to its secret source, where life is Being,' and advised '...gather together all your senses and power, all your reason and memory. These must be directed into your ground where your treasure lies hidden. Know also that to find this treasure, you must eschew all other activity and reach a place of unknowing within.' He advises us to '...sink eternally from negation to negation in the One.'
That, 'The Kingdom of God is for none but the thoroughly dead.'
Krishnamurti, said, 'In the 'now' there is nothing. Nothingness is supreme intelligence. Learn to die to yourself completely.'
Near the end of his life was advising: 'It is only out of nothingness that creation takes place. You must be completely naked, empty, alone to see the reality. Be in a state of negation. Die to the known. See directly, without the thought.'
These sages point out that the only way to reach the formless, the Unmanifest, is incarnation. To know 'god' we have to resemble it, join it, become it.
Then, as Eckhartsaid, '...in bursting forth, I discover that God and I are one. ... the unmoved mover who moves all things. Here then a god may find no place in man, for by his poverty, that man achieves the being that was always his and shall remain his eternally.'
Jacob Bohme knew this well:
'But the soul's will, in this firelike urge, must ceaselessly sink itself in this nothing.
'When you leave all creaturehood, when you become a no-thing to all nature and creature, then you are in the eternal one—in God himself.
'It is a treasure above all earthly treasures to be possesses of the light of God and Nature operating in their spheres and to have both the Eye of Time and the Eye of Eternity at once open together, and yet not interfering with each other.
'Alas, how hard it is for the will to sink into nothing, to attract nothing, to imagine nothing. Let it be granted that it is so. Is it not surely worth thy while and all thou canst ever do?'
A final passage from the Diamond Sutra: 'Oh, let nowhere abide and generate the Mind.'
‘God must act and pour himself into us when we are ready. In other words, when we are totally empty of self and creatures. So stand still and do not waver from your emptiness.
‘Therefore, discard the form and be joined to the formless essence. For the spiritual comfort of God is very subtle. Only the hand that erases can write the true thing.’ (Eckhart)
Perhaps one day, for one second, we may be empty, dead, impartial enough for the Unmanifest to flow in and drench us with its force.