When the subject of God comes up in the west, it’s almost always in the context of belief. Do you or do you not believe in God?
People tend to place themselves in one of 3 camps first:
1) I do Believe.
2) I don’t believe, the atheist. The rejection of theism.
3) I don’t know, the agnostic – the unsure, noncommittal or doubtful. ( a- or not gnostic)
The believer usually follows a teaching of what God to believe in. They believe in a specific God. Some faiths in the east ask you to choose the form of God you most relate to, something that may be handed down through families. But many are taught “our” God is the only “real” God – anything else is a mistake or worse.
The atheist will sometimes suggest theirs is the rational view as it is an “absence of belief”. Actually, it is another belief, in this case in the nonexistence of God. If it was not a belief, it would not have a name and conceptual position associated with it. The mind is tricky that way, especially with people who consider themselves “objective”.
The agnostic may suggest that we cannot know God so we cannot know if God exists or not. Some would like to believe but want evidence. Others are closet atheists who want to keep their options open. Or they’ve not thought it through enough to make a decision.
The problem with this entire debate is that it’s all conceptual. It brings a discussion of God into a political debate rather than an exploration of comparative reality. The believer and the atheist are both following beliefs, not exploring reality.
I am not suggesting that if you are an atheist or that if you believe in God you’re wrong. That’s just bringing it back to a conceptual debate again. Belief is a choice we make that is built on our upbringing, our community, and our experience of the world. But fundamentally, belief remains a mental concept that has nothing to do with our transcendent reality. While our beliefs reflect our personal reality and will affect how we experience life, they make no difference to the reality that underlies all experience. Just how we see it.
It’s true that a belief in God may encourage people to behave in more loving ways. All of the major faiths are founded on the love of God. But it’s equally true that those same beliefs are twisted and used as weapons for killing and control in the “name of God”. Completely contrary to their own fundamental teachings.
Here is the key point. What you believe is up to you. It doesn’t matter if you believe or don’t believe in God, even to God. But what you believe will affect your ability to know God directly.
The weakness here is believing in belief, in ideas of the mind. Belief will always fail us as it is not grounded in being. As I have outlined elsewhere, all faith and belief must be outgrown in order to see what is beyond it.
Many atheists and agnostics have chosen their position as they have not seen God through their experience of the world. I can certainly understand why many would reject the vision of God they were given as a child. It’s often not even a healthy belief.
What they have not realized is that the apparent concrete world, by itself, is just a belief. Unless it’s perception is founded in fundamental reality, the world is seen incompletely. Out of context. And the “hand of God” is missed entirely.
A number of the worlds great scientists have concluded that God is real, but usually in an impersonal way, as a fundamental underlying intelligence. This includes Einstein, Planck, Kelvin, Faraday, Newton, Descartes, and many more.
They have observed that the world behaves in a largely orderly way under the apparent chaos. That laws of nature illustrate an underlying intelligence. Some, like the laws of entropy, illustrate there is an intelligence that transcends even those laws. Otherwise, there would be no laws and no order for entropy to deteriorate. In fact, the idea that we evolved entirely randomly, by accident, conflicts with those same laws. Order requires a continual input of order or else everything devolves into evenly dispersed dust, not complex self-aware beings. Consider how often you have to clean your home and how often the dust bunnies come alive and reproduce. (yeah, it can seem that way)
Exploration by effect is known as inference or indirect knowledge. Some suggest that once the gaps in scientific understanding are filled, there will be no room for God. Yet the deeper we go, the larger the space becomes. Yes, some laws can be inferred from other laws but we still come back to a place of fundamental structure, of underlying order.
In the 6 systems of Indian Philosophy, Nyaya explores inference, perception and other means of knowing and being decisive. But it is Yoga and Vedanta that outline the actual means of direct knowing of reality. And by that, God is directly knowable and experience-able.
God, however, cannot be fully known until we know who we are. Thus, it is after Self Realization that God Realization can dawn. If we are typically western mind-oriented, we may also find God Realization unfolds after Unity, as I outlined here. But God can begin to become known long before this if we stand with an open mind and heart. IF we simply look at what is here, now.
The “true” God is inclusive of everything, including all beliefs. God will be what you want He/She to be. Transcendent but infusing everything. Omnipresent in life. Love incarnate.
God may first become apparent as the fundamental silent reality, called Brahman in Sanskrit. As our experience deepens, the underlying intelligence becomes increasingly obvious. As the deepest values of expression unfold and the heart becomes divine, the capacity to directly experience God in a deeply personal and intimate way unfolds.
And that intimacy is not just within but found everywhere. Oneness with the divine is so far beyond any concept of God. It cannot be conceived, let alone believed. But it can be lived.