‘God is a circle whose centre is everywhere, whose circumference is nowhere’: Definitions of God and Religion – by Dr Roger Prentice |Leave a comment
March 3 by The Running Son
Spiritual maturity, as related to religion, is a function of two things. Firstly the degree toward which the ‘believer’ manages to de-anthropomorphise God, and gain a grown-up understanding of Ultimate Reality.
Secondly the ability to feel and think and do without attachment to ‘thumb-sucking’ supports – they vary with each individual.
The pay-off? We consequently learn to live with justice as the conditioning influence of all we see, think and do – we come to see through his own eyes and not through the eyes of another.
God of course by definition is undefinable.
Here is one definition that defies that indefinablity AND manage to capture the essence of the combined immanence and transcendence of the theological position known as panentheism;
“God is a circle whose centre is everywhere, whose circumference is nowhere.”
Anonymous, ‘The Book of the Twenty-four Philosophers‘ (12thC)
Here are some other attempts -less satisfactory;
To define God is to limit Him. Still it seems inevitable that man should do that in order to get some edge to which his mind may cling. – Heywood Broun
When I was fifteen years old or so I came up with a definition of God to which, in my old age, I come back more and more, I would call it an operational definition. It reads as follows: God is the partner of your most intimate soliloquies. – Viktor Frankl
God is the experience of looking at a tree and saying, Ah! – Joseph Campbell
We know God easily, if we do not constrain ourselves to define him. – Joseph Joubert
God… a being whose only definition is that he is beyond man’s power to conceive. – Ayn Rand
A stimulating, and largely satisfactory phenomenological definition of God is;
The philosopher Michel Henry defines God in a phenomenological point of view. He says: “God is Life, he is the essence of Life, or, if we prefer, the essence of Life is God. Saying this we already know what is God, we know it not by the effect of a learning or of some knowledge, we don’t know it by the thought, on the background of the truth of the world ; we know it and we can know it only in and by the Life itself. We can know it only in God.” (I Am the Truth. Toward a Philosophy of Christianity).
This Life is not biological life defined by objective and exterior properties, nor an abstract and empty philosophical concept, but the absolute phenomenological life, a radically immanent life which possesses in it the power of showing itself in itself without distance, a life which reveals permanently itself. A manifestation of oneself and a self-revelation which doesn’t consist in the fact of seeing outside of oneself or of perceiving the exterior world, but in the fact of feeling and of feeling oneself, of experiencing in oneself its own inner and affective reality.
As Michel Henry says also in this same book, “God is that pure Revelation that reveals nothing other than itself. God reveals Himself. The Revelation of God is his self-revelation”. God is in himself revelation, he is the primordial Revelation that tears everything from nothingness, a revelation which is the pathetic self-revelation and the absolute self-enjoyment of Life. As John says, God is love, because Life loves itself in an infinite and eternal love. See HERE for more
The Baha’i view is also panentheistic;
In the Bahá’í Faith, God is described as a single, imperishable God, the creator of all things, including all the creatures and forces in the universe. The connection between God and the world is that of the creator to his creation. God is understood to be independent of his creation, and that creation is dependent and contingent on God. God, however, is not seen to be part of creation as he cannot be divided and does not descend to the condition of his creatures. Instead, in the Bahá’í understanding, the world of creation emanates from God, in that all things have been realized by him and have attained to existence. Creation is seen as the expression of God’s will in the contingent world and every created thing is seen as a sign of God’s sovereignty, and leading to knowledge of him; the signs of God are most particularly revealed in human beings.
The above two are more less long-winded – why not just say with the blessed Anonymous from the 12thC “God is a circle whose centre is everywhere, whose circumference is nowhere.”
Each of us, each and every part of Creation is a ‘sunbeam’ shining out of the Whole. All is Spirit. Spirit with a capital ‘S’ is the Whole, the ultimate Oneness, Mystery, ultimate Reality……God (not anthropomorphised) if you prefer.
All that isn’t Spirit per se is spirit-as-emanation, emanation set aside in each case for a special purpose. The rock is spirit-as-emanation set aside for the purpose of manifesting the rockness of a rock. The tree is spirit-as-emanation set aside for the purpose of manifesting the treeness of a tree. The human being is spirit-as-emanation set aside for the purpose of manifesting the positive and noble humanness of a human being.
What would be a starting point forward? The teaching of the Golden Rule in all schools would be a great step forward – SEARCH articles on the Golden Rule on this site. But the Universalist world view, including the panentheistic perspective enables something much more importanta federalist position. Just as I am British, Chinese or Kenyan I am also first and foremost a human being. Similarly I am proudly and faithfully Christian/Moslem/Buddhist or whatever but I am also a Universalist through recognizing
1) The Golden Rule,
2) the essential Oneness of the mystical core of religions and that
3) we are all emanations of one Source.
Probably no idea has more power to overcome the seemingly endless capacity for suffering and creating suffering than this; ‘There are many paths to the summit but only one summit’.
Revised Dec 01 2008