What is God?

A New Definition.

God is so much bigger than the human dimension that correct definition by humans must be a combination of definitions that only truly fit together as one in the realm of the infinite.  All concise human definitions for God are incomplete because God is infinite, and infinitude is almost the opposite of the human dimension. 

Glimpsing a wisp of God's infinitude startlingly supersedes the logic of the human dimension.  This doesn't put the understanding and knowledge of God out of our reach, it just requires us to lift our thoughts out of human limitations into the spiritual realm of the infinite, by reaching for higher altitudes and embracing higher abstractions of thought.

We can consider aspects of God, during meditations on God's infinite nature, that can lead to revelations of His marvelous and extraordinary oneness.  A glimpse of God's true nature leads us towards comfort and healing, because that is the natural and inevitable effect of the true idea of God touching consciousness.   I hope the following discussions will help you see why this is so.

God is One.

The first thing to know about God is that God is one.

This is the whole truth.  There is no god but God. It is God who is the Mighty, the Wise One.  Say: ‘People of the Book, let us come to an agreement: that we will worship none but God, that we will associate none with Him, and that none of us shall set up mortals as deities besides God.’  (The Koran 3:61)

Translation by N.J.Dawood, Penguin Books, 1993

Individuals and civilizations often learn of God through a sequence of steps, beginning with God as lawgiver and then as loving and merciful.  Most of us aren't too familiar with comprehending these as spiritual principles, so there is a human tendency to personalize these qualities of God, especially the ones we find comforting.  We need to be careful, however, because prematurely personalizing attributes of God tends us back into aspects of polytheism, as we imagine human theologies to explain the breathless expanse of the divine.  When we worship human conceptions of the divine, we can't help but inadvertently fracture the purity of God's oneness into lesser modes amounting to personal idolatry.  Holding to such images blinds us to better understanding the true idea of God.  God is one, period. 

God is Beyond Images.

I am the Lord: that is my name: and my glory will I not give to another, neither my praise to graven images. (Isa 42:8)

To whom then will ye liken God? or what likeness will ye compare unto him?   To whom then will ye liken me, or shall I be equal? saith the Holy One.  (Isa 40:18, 25)

In order to think about God, you may compare him with other beings; but remember that he is incomparable. In this way you will live in the house of truth.  -Ibn Arabi, "Fusus al-hikam"

From "366 Readings From Islam," translated by Robert Van der Weyer. Copyright 2000; John Hunt Publishing, United Kingdom.

The outward form of things passes away, but the essence remains for ever. How long will you be besotted with the shape of the jug? Cast aside the jug, and seek the water. If you look too closely at the form, you miss the essence. If you are wise, you will always pick out the pearl from the shell.  -Rumi, "Masnavi"(Ibid)

God, the supreme being, is neither circumscribed by space, nor touched by time; he cannot be found in a particular direction, and his essence cannot change. The secret conversation is thus entirely spiritual; it is a direct encounter between God and the soul, abstracted from all material constraints. -Ibn Sina, "Kitab al-Najat" (Ibid)

Our minds naturally imagine things.  At our best, we reach into the realm of words and beyond, and then see images form in our minds.  When we reach beyond our conceptions for the idea of God, we are in the right place.  When we gain a mental image from this process, that image is not God, it is now become manifestation, it is become an aspect in the realm of man.  Appreciate the images you conceive, but don't worship them, because they are the fruits of your thinking not the seeds. 

True Worship.

Worship God only.  As monotheists, we forsake worship of nature and mysticism.  More subtle is the need to go beyond personal conceptions of God such as the mother of God, the saints and angels, the son of God or the personal Jesus.   Worshipping finite personal conceptions of the divine must be outgrown if we are ever to know the only and true God, even the infinite holy One. 

Talk as much philosophy as you like, worship as many gods as you please, observe ceremonies and sing devotional hymns, but liberation will never come, even after a hundred aeons, without realizing the Oneness. -Sankara

"The Wisdom of the Hindu Gurus," edited by Timothy Freke, published by Godsfield Press.

It is in love that religion exists and not in ceremony - in the pure and sincere love in the heart. Unless a man is pure in body and mind, his coming into a temple and worshipping Shiva is useless. The prayers of those who are pure in mind and body will be answered by Shiva, and those who are impure and yet try to teach religion to others will fail in the end. External worship is only a symbol of internal worship, but internal worship and purity are the real things. Without them, external worship would be of no avail.   -Vivekananda

"Teachings of the Hindu Mystics," (c) 2001 by Andrew Harvey;  Shambhala Publications, Boston, www.shambhala.com.

Righteousness does not consist in whether you face the East or the West. (The Koran 2:177)

Translation by N.J. Dawood, Penguin Books, 1993

And a certain ruler asked him, saying, Good Master, what shall we do to inherit eternal life?  And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou me good? none is good, save one, that is, God.  (Luke 18:19)

And I John saw these things, and heard them.  And when I had heard and seen, I fell down to worship before the feet of the angel which shewed me these things.  Then saith he unto me, See thou do it not: for I am thy fellowservant, and of thy brethren the prophets, and of them which keep the sayings of this book: worship God.  (Rev 22:8,9) 

But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshipers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him.  God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.  (John 4:23,24)

Understanding Infinite Love.

Our ability to accept or understand progressively more righteous, benevolent, spiritual, and infinite definitions for God advances as we progress spiritually.  In this progression, we pass through the levels of spiritual awareness, obedience to a lawgiver, faith in a loving God, spiritual understanding of God as living supreme Principle, and recognition of God as infinite Mind, as our only and ever-present I am.  Each of these levels of revelation can involve magnificent spiritual insights; they are the indispensable stepping stones towards understanding the infinite holy God, the infinite I.

Two modern definitions of God, written by Mary Baker Eddy at the end of the 19th century, can help us understand God as divine Mind, supreme Spirit, and infinite Love: 

God is incorporeal, divine, supreme, infinite Mind, Spirit, Soul, Principle, Life, Truth, Love. Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures (465:9) 

GOD. The great I AM; the all-knowing, all-seeing, all-acting, all-wise, all-loving, and eternal; Principle; Mind; Soul; Spirit; Life; Truth; Love; all substance; intelligence. (S&H 587:5)

Meditating on these definitions, amplifying the words through devout study, and putting them into practice in your daily expression will bring spiritual understanding that acquaints you with the power, presence and loveliness of God embracing your life.

The Twoness of Oneness.

Once you get comfortable with these definitions, leading up to understanding God as infinite Love, you may find out there is more.  Understanding the spiritual allness of God must be accompanied by gradual demonstration of the spiritual nothingness of evil.  These two move forward in tandem.

For now, let's call this particularly interesting aspect of God the twoness of God's oneness.  Let's further this idea by considering the interesting symmetry of opposites at the end of these two Bible verses:

Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else.  (Isa 45:22)

Remember the former things of old: for I am God, and there is none else: I am God, and there is none like me. (Isa 46:9)

God's oneness has crisp conceptual edges, in the world of ideas.   Knowing God is not just about monotheism, it is radical monotheism; it is out of this world.  It is not just the affirmation of God, but the denial of anything else.  That is an aspect of the twoness of God's oneness, if you will.  That is why God's truth is as a "two-edged sword."  It cuts two ways.  This aspect of God's nature reveals that God isn't just good, but that the creative power of God's goodness bristles with such extraordinary quality that it assertively precludes any reality of evil forever; a Love so immense, that it precludes any existence of hate; a Life forever fresh and new, that precludes any sense of death; and so on.  It is this "and there is none else" aspect of God's nature that provides the ultimate comfort.

The infinite singularity of God's oneness includes God's definition of atomic action - the action of true oneness - "defiant of error or matter."   (Phrase in quotes from "Misc. Writings," by Mary Baker Eddy, p. 190:1)

In the view of the infinite, the negative is but a sweet absence making room for new conception.  

It may be that the real value of understanding the twoness of oneness is so you can have the joy of witnessing the oneness of twoness.  :)

That which has form emerges from that which has no form; that which has no form emerges from that which has form. Therefore the path of supreme spirituality cannot be sought in being and cannot be fathomed in nonbeing; it cannot be lost through movement and cannot be gained through stillness.  -Ming-Chiao, "Five Houses of Zen"

This human idea of twoness grows out of God's oneness, and is definitely subsidiary to it.  If this doesn't make any sense to you yet, go back to God's oneness and stay there.  All true understanding and wisdom unfolds from God's oneness.   Some of the sayings of great spiritual seers seem almost intentionally indecipherable, as if someone were trying to make the knowledge of God beyond our reach.  Recently while reading the New Testament, I got that familiar feeling that fulfilling all the spiritual demands was just plain impossible.   Jesus addressed this concern: "With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible."  (Matt 19:26)  So the answer, as always, is to turn whole-heartedly to God, and by waiting patiently on God, and serving as best we can, we will find everything we need to guide us in God's plan. 

The Threeness of Oneness.

These two elements of spiritual understanding, the divine positive and the sweet negative, converge in the wholeness of the Infinite.  This is a beginning approximation of God's infinite point of view.   The simultaneous recognition of the wholeness of these harmonious divine opposites brings to human consciousness a glimpse of true holiness

When wholeness is realized from the simultaneous recognition of the fatherhood and motherhood of God, this realization brings a third element to oneness, as if their oneness had spawned an observer apart. 

These three offices of supersensible oneness can be illustrated as the truth of what is, the truth of what isn't, and the recognition of their wholeness as One.  Several millennia of religious history have involved debating whether this represents three persons or one person.  But this isn't about persons in any finite sense.  In a court of law, when you swear "to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth," how many truths are there?  There is only one truth, even if it takes us three different angles to pin it down in our minds.

These spiritual truths give rise to the following bit of wisdom:

Question:  How many Zen Buddhists does it take to change a light bulb?

Answer:  Three. One to change the lightbulb, one not to change the lightbulb, and one to neither change nor not change the lightbulb.

- Thanks to www.beliefnet.com

And now perhaps you can rationally understand why that jokes makes sense!  How wild is that?

Additional Food for Thought.

These passages from the world's great religions were selected to show the central pattern within God's oneness.  I like that these great seers of religious history have seen glimpses of the same thing.

Quotations other than from the King James Version of the Bible and "The Koran" were collected from www.beliefnet.com daily wisdom.

Ye are my witnesses, saith the Lord, and my servant whom I have chosen: that ye may know and believe me, and understand that I am he: before me there was no God formed, neither shall there be after me.  I, even I, am the Lord; and beside me there is no saviour. (Isa 43:10,11)

Thus saith the Lord the King of Israel, and his redeemer the Lord of hosts: I am the first and I am the last; and beside me there is no God.  (Isa 44:6)

I am the Lord, and there is none else, there is no God beside me: I girded thee, though thou hast not known me:  (Isa 45:5)

The wealth of this world consists of treasures to which there are keys. But blessed is the one whom the Almighty makes a key to the world of good, but a lock to contain evil. -The Prophet Muhammad, as reported by Sahl bin Sa'ad

Hadith translated by Aneela Khalid Arshed. Copyright 1999; The Crossroad Publishing Company, New York.

Tibetan lamas often say: "Not seeing is the perfect seeing." Strange words, perhaps, but they have a profound meaning. They describe the advanced meditator's experience of spacious, universal reality, the experience beyond dualism. -Lama Thubten Yeshe, "Introduction to Tantra"

Copyright Wisdom Publications 2001; From "Daily Wisdom: 365 Buddhist Inspirations," edited by Josh Bartok, Wisdom Publications, Somerville, MA; www.wisdompubs.org.

There is a sphere where there is neither earth nor water nor heat nor air, for it is beyond the field of matter; nor is it the sphere of infinite space, or consciousness, for it is beyond the field of mind. There is not the condition of nothingness, neither is there the state of this world or another world, nor sun nor moon. This is the uncreated.  This condition I call neither arising nor passing away, neither dying nor being born. It is without form and without change. It is the eternal, which never originates and never passes away. To find it is the end of sorrow.  -Udana Sutta

From "Buddha Speaks," edited by Anne Bancroft, 2000; Shambhala Publications, Boston.

Honesty can be cultivated by transforming your inner language. For example, you might think: "I am no good" or "They are not good." Is this true? For some strange reason, people want to wallow in the idea of being either the best or the worst. What is true in this moment? How close can we get to the reality of our experiences?   -Martine Batchelor, "Meditation For Life"

Copyright Wisdom Publications 2001; Reprinted from "Daily Wisdom: 365 Buddhist Inspirations," edited by Josh Bartok; Wisdom Publications.

One man believes in existence,
Another says, “There is nothing!”
Rare is the man who believes in neither.
He is free from confusion
-Ashtavakra Gita 18:42

 "The Heart of Awareness: A Translation of the Ashtavakra Gita," by Thomas Byrom, 1990;   Shambhala Publications, Inc., Boston.

 “The formless Absolute is my Father, and God with form is my Mother.” God reveals Himself in the form which His devotee loves most. His love for the devotee knows no bounds.   -Ramakrishna

"Teachings of the Hindu Mystics," (c) 2001 by Andrew Harvey; Shambhala Publications, Boston.

By honest conduct one achieves honorable eminence,
While corrupt conduct brings one nothing but blame.
Good conduct is the seed in virtue's field;
Wicked conduct's harvest is never-ending sorrow.

-Tirukkural 14:137-138

Excerpted from the Tirukkural, translated by Satguru Sivaya Subramuniyaswami. Copyright Himalayan Academy Publications, www.himalayanacademy.com

O Krishna, it is right that the world delights and rejoices in your praise, that all the saints and sages bow down to you and all evil flees before you to the far corners of the universe.  How could they not worship you, O Lord? You are the eternal spirit, who existed before Brahman the Creator and who will never cease to be. Lord of the gods, you are the abode of the universe. Changeless, you are what is and what is not, and beyond the duality of existence and nonexistence.  -Bhagavad Gita 11:36-37

Excerpted from The Bhagavad Gita, translated by Eknath Easwaran, copyright 1985; Nilgiri Press, www.nilgiri.org.

View all problems as challenges. Look upon negativities that arise as opportunities to learn and to grow. Don't run from them, condemn yourself, or bury your burden in saintly silence. You have a problem? Great. More grist for the mill. Rejoice, dive in, and investigate. -Bhante Henepola Gunaratana, "Mindfulness in Plain English"

Copyright Wisdom Publications 2001; Reprinted from "Daily Wisdom: 365 Buddhist Inspirations," edited by Josh Bartok; Wisdom Publications.

Final Thoughts:

O GOD, thou art my God; early will I seek thee: my soul thirsteth for thee, my flesh longeth for thee in a dry and thirsty land, where no water is;
To see thy power and thy glory, so as I have seen the in the sanctuary.
Because thy loving kindness is better than life, my lips shall praise thee.
Thus will I bless thee while I live: I will lift up my hands in thy name.
My soul shall be satisfied as with marrow and fatness; and my mouth shall praise thee with joyful lips:
When I remember thee upon my bed, and meditate on thee in the night watches. 
Because thou has been my help, therefore in the shadow of thy wings will I rejoice. 
My soul followeth hard after thee: thy right hand upholdeth me.   

(Psalms 63:1-8)

Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report, if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.

(Philippians 4:8)

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Page created 1-2-05.  Last updated 3-4-05.