Defining My Terms #1

I’ve been putting up a lot of posts that many people will consider “doom and gloom.” (See my previous post, for instance.) And I completely agree that it’s no good just to lay back and criticize without having something positive to offer. I do, in fact, believe there is hope. There isn’t any hope for our current way of doing things—that has quite nearly run its course now—but there is a path we can move to that does work. I believe we’re going to have one more chance to set things right. It may well be our last chance. I’ve been reluctant to get into these positive possibilities because of a problem with language. Words trigger automatic reactions in people’s minds—words like “terrorist,” “conservative,” “liberal,” “evil,” “socialist,” “pacifist.” They create images that are seldom useful for arriving at an understanding.

I keep seeing that one word I will have to use in any discussion of possibilities is “God.” The idea of God that most Americans argue over is the anthropomorphic idea of God, the creator God, the sometimes loving, sometimes angry guy in the robes and white beard who lives outside his creation and passes judgment on us all. This is the God that atheists love to ridicule and Christians feel compelled to promote and defend. As far as I can tell, it’s been a completely useless debate. Nobody is talking about anything real. God is, first of all, a word, a word that we use to discuss something that’s nearly impossible to discuss. The word really refers to the massive intelligence of the universe, the intelligence that is beyond physics and beyond intellectual comprehension. It doesn’t have a personality. It’s of a different order than that. I don’t believe that Jesus believed in this creator God. Those who surrounded him and who followed him did, but they never really understood what Jesus was talking about. And I don’t believe that Buddha was an atheist. Buddhists who say he was are either pointing out that he didn’t have a belief in a creator God, or they don’t know what they’re talking about. I find that there are just as many Buddhists who don’t understand their own religion as there are Christians who don’t understand theirs. Actually, there is no Christianity and there is no Buddhism. There is only one religion, and it has no name. Both Buddha and Christ saw and believed the same thing. (I use these two examples because, other than Lao Tzu, who is less known, they are the ones whom I’ve studied in greatest depth.)

Having said all that, my experience in conversation is that I can explain what I intend when I say “God,” and the next time I use the word, the person I’m talking to will immediately conjure up the image of the creator God. The image is so deeply imbedded. I could use terms like “the Great Spirit,” and I undoubtedly will. But “Great Spirit” often sounds affected to me. “God” is the word I almost always want to use. It’s simple and to the point—I wish. For those unfamiliar with this idea of God, I will add that it’s not of my own making. It’s ancient. There’s a more detailed exposition of my view in my book, The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill, in the chapter called “Consciousness Explained.”

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One Response to “Defining My Terms #1”

  1. Karen Says:

    I used to think I understood what the universe was, but then physicists started talking about multiple dimensions, parallel universes, and string theory. I see some of the universe but can’t explain it; how can I ever explain God, who I never see?

    Sometimes I think about my own body and all its cells and the bacteria and viruses that dwell within me, and I wonder if they think of me as a god, the creator of their world. I, of course, do not spend my time creating them, let alone contemplating their individual needs. I suspect the same is true for God about me. That’s fine with me so long as God takes good care of the universe (his body?) in which I live.

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