Hello best-people-on-the-web. I’ve been thinking a lot about ways of describing God recently. I think it’s a really useful spiritual exercise to try to put our understanding of the being of God into words, and that is exactly what I will try to do in this article, before inviting your suggestions as to the same.
There’s a tendency in Christianity to refer to God in metaphor (think ‘Mighty Fortress’ or ‘Rock of Ages’ or any number of other such depictions commonly found in traditional hymns and in the Bible). In this article, however, I want us to reflect on how we would literally describe God, if we had to. For the philosophers out there, I’m talking about the ontology of God.
In all of my years of spiritual exploration, I have yet to find a word or phrase that I think perfectly captures my understanding of God’s nature, but here are a few thoughts which are about as close as I can get.
The ‘I AM THAT I AM’ (also sometimes rendered ‘I AM WHO I AM’) which is recorded as God’s way of describing Himself in the book of Exodus is incredibly beautiful and I’m not sure whether I can do better than that (though I’ll give it a go, otherwise my aims with this article would come to nought).
Here’s a suggestion: I think of God as being simultaneously absolute nothingness and absolute fullness. I’m quite proud of that one.
One thing of which I am certain is that God is not simply ‘The Universe’ in the way that ‘Law of Attraction’ fanatics often repeat in parrot-like fashion. Such people seem to objectify God in this very vague and unhelpful way which makes God all impersonal and wishy-washy. I think when New Agers say things like “Ask the Universe!” and “The Universe has got your back!” they are being, frankly, loopy.
I think proponents of Eastern philosophy do better when they describe God as sat-chit-ananda, which directly translated is existence-consciousness-bliss, although there is a similar problem to the New Agers here in that the active personhood of God is nowhere to be found. We are once again in danger of thinking of God as a ‘thing’.
I’ll end with my best stab at this. I was listening to some music earlier on the YouTube Music app and a song title came up by a band that I’d never heard of. The name of the song was ‘Luminous Emptiness’. Woah! Now we’re getting somewhere! I was really struck by this title, even though I’m not sure the musicians in question had any intention of trying to describe God with this phrase.
I gave that phrase some further thought, and felt we could get even closer to the Truth if we described God as Luminous Nothingness. I love the paradox contained in that phrase. So I will settle for that, my friends, and offer it to you as my best attempt at describing the ultimate nature of God.
Just as an aside, the fact that we have a common understanding of what we’re referring to when we use the word ‘God’ speaks volumes, and it could actually be that the word ‘God’ itself is the best way to describe God! But there’s some whacky circularity going on there and we’re in danger of getting into hermeneutics, which is definitely a matter for another day.
This topic is surely inexhaustible, so I’m hoping for a lot of readers to contribute their thoughts, suggestions, anecdotes, and wisdom, in the comments. Perhaps, cumulatively, we can get somewhere close to describing the great I AM in our own words.
Over to you, thinkers!