Chapter 7: What of God?

The Evolution of concepts of God

In this chapter I wish to express two views: the existence of non-dualistic God (to be 'defined' indirectly and non-rigorously) and (in so doing) the inevitable elusiveness of trying to express God in some satisfactory and appropriate manner. In particular I hope to indicate that the language of the Bible needs a radical update (or much better interpreters).

To put you a little more into my perspective on God, I ask and answer two questions:

Question 1: "Is there a God ?"

Answer: "No - God is not an entity."

Question 2: "Is there God ?" or "Do you believe in God?"

Answers (in descending order of satisfactoriness)

  1. Active witnessing of (2.) - no words.
  2. "I believe in that which is and that which is beyond isness."
  3. "Can you define God?"
    "No."
    "Then you should not ask the question."
    [or, people who ask this question don't know what they are talking about.]
  4. Yes.

Someone told me that it is reported that the Buddha was asked this question - he was silent in answer. Perhaps I should say nothing either for this is at any instant, I'm sure, the best 'pure truth' response. However, the majority of the world's population has some concept of God; most of these people are deeply committed to such concepts. From the knowledge I have of these concepts, I'm very concerned - for they are often hugely conditioned and held with such fervour that intolerance may develop subsequently. (Where has God's love gone?) So I feel it is these people who are in most need of being addressed.

To Buddhists in particular I wish to say that it is, I feel, potentially catastrophic to not tackle the problems present in an apparent gulf of understanding between non-theists and theists. Otherwise, an Enlightened individual such as a Bodhisattva may be unable to help effectively in the promotion of spirituality in an already thickly conditioned collective environment. Inadequate response to collective conditioning has resulted throughout history in the eradication of thriving spiritual communities.

Just as the refinement of emotions is a stepping stone to experiencing Enlightenment (and anatta), then so is a refinement of the concept of God a stepping stone to knowledge of God (and anatta) - which is beyond conception 1. I shall shortly be so bold as to attempt the latter stepping stone!

But before I do so, note that concepts of God have evolved through time - e.g. in the Western world, from polytheism to monotheism and within these there have been ongoing subtle changes. By the Law of Conditionality, which operates on thoughts, this evolution will continue - no concept of God will remain static forever. Therefore we cannot cling to any concept, for at some time it will be superseded.

Also, God has and is often defined - by those who wish to explain everything - as a separate entity for the purpose of explaining the (so far) unexplained, much of which is useless; but if one is not interested in such explanations, then why bother to define God?! In accordance with the Law of Conditionality, such an approach has been exposed as faulty by the 20th Century advances in cosmology and quantum physics.

A more enlightened approach to the concept of God, which particularly impressed me, was shown by Twylah Nitsch, an elder and spiritual teacher of the Seneca tribe of North American Indians 2 who pointed out that 'God' was man's creation; she preferred to talk about the 'Great Mystery' and characterised it by talking of energy ...

On Linguistic Expressions of God

These fragments of spiritual philosophy are rather abstract and very much at the conjectural level (proper verification requires experiential insight), but I believe that they indicate to some extent that the language of the Bible is rather inadequate for the contemporary person's background. Anyway, here goes...!

Definition Matter is anything made up of constituents - both solid and not solid (their nature to be determined).
Matter may be measured by mass .

Hypothesis 0 All that is is matter and mind ( mind = collection of all minds/forms of consciousness).

Hypothesis 1 No thing is created out of nothingness. (This is a law of conservation - of matter and mind, including aspects of consciousness, such as emotions 3 - which follows from the Law of Conditionality.)

Hypothesis 2 God is in everything.

Consequences of the Hypotheses

C1.
'God' should take only intransitive verbs.

Thus it is inaccurate to say "God created the Earth" (using subject-object, an expression of duality); rather, one should say, "God became Earth." But this sounds ridiculous. If we are strict, then there is very little we can write about God which makes sense. However, we can say, "God is Light." Also acceptable are, "God is Truth", "God is Love."4

The awkwardness of "God became Earth" prompts me to conjecture:

C2.
There is no smallest (irreducible) particle.
[intuitive 'classical' argument]5 For, consider the smallest particle yet found and then imagine it 'blown up'/magnified until, when viewed under your imaginary microscope, it appears to be the size of a planet. Just look at it - surely, there must be constituent parts? Hence you've just found that this particle is not the smallest!

C3.
(Corollary to C2.) 'Solid' Matter does not exist.

Just repeat the argument above and project it to its limit - this leaves you with no solid matter, but something! Obvious corollary is: our physical bodies have no solid 'building blocks'.

C4.
(Expansion of C3.)[hypothesis, really] 'Matter' is merely a constantly changing collection of energy.

'Mass' is merely a measure of a particular attribute of a kind of condensation of energy. It is likely, I feel, that certain condensations of energy have no mass, although they exist! Perhaps, mass has been overrated as a measure of reality; it appears to me that it is too specific and that it is too closely tied to the notion of separate individuality; where relationships at the sub-atomic (energy) level are considered, there will be paradoxes.

C5.
(Parallel Conjecture to C2.) Mind/Consciousness does not have any irreducible elements.
C6.
(Parallel Corollary to C3.) There is no (individual conscious) immortal 'self' 6! (In Buddhism this is the notion of anatta.) Any emotion we experience cannot last.
C7.
(Parallel Expansion to C4.) One's mind/'self' is merely a constantly changing view of one 'super-consciousness' which may be roughly illustrated by the diagram below.

animated image of shifting consciousness

Each square in this infinite grid represents an aspect pertaining to the super-consciousness; one's 'self' provides the shading, according to the possession by the super-consciousness of varying degrees of the countless aspects. For each self at least one aspect is shaded - there is no nihilism here. Different selves may overlap anywhere - in mind and matter.

Concluding Remarks and some definitions

God is in the energy of C4. and, I aver, in the 'super- consciousness' of C7. To know God requires realisation of these truths at the appropriate experiential level. Now 'God became Earth' becomes more easy to visualise - as a free super-conscious flow of some kind of energy. So, if I attempt to describe God, I should speak of three aspects: energy, non-duality (a oneness), and super-consciousness (knowing experience of reality). In this light, a spiritual life may thus be intimated in a declaration of striving to be 'one with God'.

With reference to the diagram of the super-consciousness above, being one with God means having possible access to any individual square to any extent, but not all squares at once - owing to an apparent limit on the distribution of resources.

Everything up to C6 is the reality of isness; God is the isness. However, more importantly, God is the meta-isness which springs out in C7, the key word being view , where we transcend the mass of conditioning into pure spiritual essence.

Similarly, our mind has two types of reality - the existential (the conditioned) and the meta-existential (the unconditioned). Now I define spirituality as being the unconditioned mind - non-corporeal and non-psychic.

This a far cry from the language of the Bible which, I feel, inadvertently engenders a rather vague and sentimental interpretation. A major problem in current society is that increasing numbers will not accept easily 'unscientific' language (i.e. 'scientific' = pertaining to science post industrial revolution). Thus the Christian texts are largely ineffective. Even if folk do go whole-heartedly into Bible study, the chances are that they will misunderstand the heaps of metaphors, and this provides a big source of causes for conflict.

All linguistic expressions of God must evolve. Thus the Bible, an expression in words, must be open to change and perhaps eventual replacement - for instance, human communication may one day be wholly telepathic, without the written word. To emphasise, since change is inevitable, then we must be prepared for radical revisions since otherwise stagnation and decay follow. If nothing is done, there will be a gradual shift away in society; eventually, this will lead to a rejection of the Bible - with its intended meaning forgotten, it will have become redundant.

I shall illustrate in subsequent chapters how, in my view, the Bible's current language is inadequate. To do this I shall need to pursue the notions of duality and non-duality.

The basis of a dualistic view is the identification of one's spirituality with the conditioned universe.

From this identification one perceives, speaking in Christian terms, God as being beyond oneself - hence it may follow that one vilifies oneself. This is, as I see it, dualism. With such an identification one can never overcome conditioned relativism.

To overcome this dualism, one must realise one's own divinity, identify with God, i.e. know that one is 'of God.' In this identification it is true that the conditioned environment no longer becomes the primary focus, but this is not, as I see it, dualism since there is no relativism, no question of an implicit division, absolutely no rejection of anything in the psychophysical planes.

Further, the realisation of one's divinity is a necessary condition for embracing the whole conditioned universe. Such a view can, therefore, be called non-dualistic.

I'm acutely aware that more evidence for non-duality is required, but I'm afraid that I can only summarise and hence dilute what has been said above - only experience can convince further. However, modern physics is demonstrating increasingly the existence of interaction between apparently separate bodies: in quantum physics, mind and matter seem to be inextricably interlinked 7. Mind you, I think that one could be exceptionally advanced spiritually and not really grasp the nettle of non-duality; it is an expression of reality which is 'too perfect' for most practical purposes!8 How many experience genuine non-duality when confronted with revered images?!

Lower and Higher Evolutions

There are running side by side what can be described as two evolutions - the 'lower evolution' of the natural world - as investigated by the likes of Darwin - and the 'higher evolution' of one's spiritual path. The latter, not ignoring the Law of Conditionality, operates within the environment of the former, but points ultimately beyond it; the lower evolution has no intrinsic worth for the higher evolution. Growth in the higher evolution may or may not be reflected in some marked way in the lower evolution, though there is usually a direct effect.

It follows that it is a fallacy to place some intrinsic value on a corporeal manifestation (our physical bodies); however, our bodies, whilst our minds are attached to conditionings, reflect directly our state of mind! Having a body is merely a consequence of conditionings; though a most useful vehicle in which to realise spiritual truth, it is nevertheless of no value by itself for it is ephemeral.

There is a particularly important topic which I wish to discuss in the light of a non-dualistic view of God, and that is the notion of a 'personal relationship with God.'

Personality

[Definition: A person is (a view of) mind in a human form.]

The essence of personality is entirely the state of mind and has nothing to do with [biological] humanness. The 'eternal qualities' of humanity etc. do not exist - only unconditioned mind reflects anything eternal; in this lies our essence and it is divine.

Hence if one is to seek a personal relationship with God, one must see through the human construction, possibly completely deconstructing it first, then transcend it and in due course look deeper into one's own mind/(super)consciousness. Only there will one come to know God. Any notion that God has some essence which may be ascribed by humanity arises only from ignorance - if we were a race of rhombuses which could experience God's light, say, then we'd naturally cry out, "Look, God is rhomboid!"

Unfortunately, nature has such a great influence over us that our spiritual awareness is severely dulled - the illusion of separate individuality makes some conceive of some part of our human personality being eternal, something which God will glorify through His grace. Oh dear! Please let go of this attachment!

Footnotes

  1. Indeed this was, I believe, a criterion for the way Jesus taught - he aimed to add to and refine the knowledge and understanding of the Jews (and not to wipe it out). I find it conceivable that he was in a way engaging in Buddhist-Jewish dialogue! ^
    [... A few years on, I feel that 'Hindu [Vedic] - Jewish' is perhaps a more appropriate suggestion]
  2. Channel 4, 5/9/91, "Women of Wisdom". ^
  3. Thus I do not believe in the existence of a separate divine being; my view of God is non-dualistic. ^
  4. Here, the verb 'to be' is not expressing equivalence. Love and truth are aspects of God: we can use some notation to denote this, God >= love, God >= truth (where >= is a symbol which denotes containment, allowing for equality). So God may be partially or completely revealed in the form of love. ^
    [subsequently, I've learnt the importance of love in terms of the Four Brahmaviharas - metta (loving kindness), karuna (compassion), mudita (sympathetic joy) and - regarded as most important - upekkha (equanimity).]
  5. The entire section (C1 to C7) was written in complete ignorance of quantum theory. Having subsequently learnt just a tiny bit about the latter, any revised argument would be rather different; nevertheless I say, 'Stet!' (I don't pretend to prove anything!) ^
  6. What is the 'self' of a schizophrenic? ^
  7. In fact, a feature of quantum mechanics, which has been verified by numerous experiments, is that physical systems behave differently when they are being observed and when they are not; a well-known theoretical example is 'Schr&oumldinger's cat'. The apparent inconsistency stems from the limitations of classical measuring systems (ultimately the brain). (See e.g. New Scientist 10/10/92 pp. 25-29). ^
  8. In Hinduism, there is no mention of 'anatta' for Hindus talk about the transmigration of the soul (Atman) - which I take as a metaphorical dualistic expression of existential reality as an echo of non-dualistic meta-existential reality(!) ^

Next chapter: On Eternal Life | Contents

- Paul Trafford 1996,97 Paul's home page