How big is your god?

One of the 54 so-called One of the 54 so-called "wrathful deities", Karma Heruka, in union with his consort, Karma Krodeshvari, painted by Shawu Tsering and photographed by Jill Morley Smith, in The Tibetan Book of The Dead, Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition (2005)
Humans like to fight. We enjoy a good war, brawl, mêlée, fracas, dispute, argument, disagreement. And one of the things we most like to fight or argue about is the thing we label as "god".

Mainly, we fight about the nature/attributes of god: has a thousand arms, is found in the sea, is found in the air, is found in a burning bush, throws thunderbolts, was crucified, is male, is female, is genderless, carries a large hammer, enjoys drinking blood, has a long white beard, is wrathful and jealous, likes a good flood, etc.

The attributes of deity are many and various, if not infinite. Some people say that all attributes are manifest in deity, and therein lies an opportunity. If everyone agreed that all attributes are the attributes of deity, then we would have no basis for disagreement about the nature of deity. (And by the way, having all attributes is equivalent to having no attributes.)

By definition Everything has all the attributes there are, have been, will be or could be. I’m not talking about every thing, but rather Everything, in the form of a unit, a whole. I’m not talking about the universe: the universe is only a part of Everything, a biggish part but a part nevertheless. Because Everything encompasses not just material things, and material attributes, but all things and all attributes — material, immaterial, imaginary, illusory, known, unknown, existent, non-existent and otherwise. Everything is that which binds every thing together. Everything has no name, because Everything has all names, including but not limited to ‘The All’, ‘The One’, ‘The Absolute’ and ‘Reality’.

What I’m describing is pantheism, the belief that Everything is deity, or strictly speaking, that deity is Everything. To get technical about it, in theology the term "transcendental" refers to a Creator who is apart and separate from Creation; the term "immanent" refers to a Creator who IS Creation, an indwelling Creator who is one and the same as Creation. The god named Jehovah of the mainstream monotheistic, Abrahamic religions is transcendental. The god of pantheism and panentheism is immanent.

It’s great to be a pantheist because you can happily and truthfully agree with anyone about anything. To illustrate, consider this brief hypothetical conversation between a pantheist and a fisherman:


God is the ocean and in my tribe we name god 'Oceanus' and we worship Oceanus religiously.

Yes, I too believe that ocean is sacred, and that deity permeates the ocean. I have absolute faith about that. And yes, your tribe does name deity ‘Oceanus’, and yes, you do worship Oceanus religiously. That's great. Keep it up. Fine by me. Absolutely no worries mate.

Another great thing about pantheism is that Everything is context-independent and values-free.

Everything can’t appear before you or anyone else in its "true form" because Everything has no true form. In Reality all forms are true. Reality is a burning bush, a pillar of smoke, a bloody corpse upon a cross, a bright light, a thunderbolt, an eighteen-armed ogress, a feathered serpent, an old man with a long white beard, a bolt of lightning, a jar of peanut butter, etc. The point is that Everything is all forms, has no form; depends on every thing, depends on nothing; is all contexts; has no context.

And then there’s the aspect of pantheism that some people find disturbing, Reality’s dark side, if you will. The fact is that Everything cares for nothing (because Everything cares for every thing). Everything values nothing (because Everything values every thing). Everything has no values (because Everything is all values).

In Reality, there’s evil as well as good, hate as well as love. Everything encompasses death, sorrow, ignorance, despair, deception and ugliness, as well as life, joy, wisdom, hope, truth and beauty. But Everything does not value any values or attributes over any other. Reality just doesn't care (cares more than I can know or understand).

And if this portrait of deity offends you, answer me this: do you value diversity? Consider two universes. One is full of love, peace and joy only. And the other is full of love, peace and joy, PLUS hatred, death and sorrow. Of those two hypothetical worlds, which is the richer, more diverse world?

In contrast to the Absolute, we humans are a pretty relative bunch. In the main, the values we hold dear are determined by culture and family. We talk about and think about and place and value everything in relation to its context or backdrop. In some cultures, at some times, child sacrifice is valued as a good. In some cultures in some contexts incest has been seen as the right thing to do. Some cultures value individual achievement and flexibility of thought. Other cultures value group achievement and conformity with the norm. Who is right? Everyone. No-one.

But don't take my word for it. Ask god.


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mgeorge said...

Those living in the wilds - even those who have only returned to such a life not long before - seem to have no difficulty in acknowledging the contribution, significance and complexity of everything around them. E.g., they thank an animal or plant thay have just taken for food almost instinctively.

The serpent(s) in the garden seem to be simple things such as the quest for esteem and alientation. Before you know it, you have dogma and the delusion of concentrated wealth and power.

Unforutately, there is no PLANet B.

masterymistery said...

Hi mgeorge,

Thanks for your comment and please accept my apologies for not responding sooner. This new blog of mine took it upon itself to place your comment in the spam folder. Of course I have now "unspammed" it.

The mess we are making of this planet is making it harder and harder for everyone, including or even especially those who seek to minimise their footprints and live in a gentle, respectful way.

We're going to have to learn how to deal with those serpents, but I fear it may be too late.

Hope I'm wrong.

Yes, there is no PLANet B but we are rapidly approaching the point at which we'll have the means to "boldly go" elsewhere. I just hope that if and when we do, we have have learned to behave ourselves properly, and not make a mess across the galaxy and beyond!