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Defining God Is Not Easy

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Defining God is not a simple task.

It’s impossible. If you begin with the really big ideas that are generally considered when thinking about the nature of God – infinite, eternal, omnipresent, etc. – it becomes clear, as the Dao Te Jing suggests, that the name we use to identify God, is probably not adequate. I’ve found it helpful to set aside names and work with a pronoun, “It,” when trying to look into the matter of understanding what the Divine is.

“It” helps me remember that I have already put aside my childhood idea of a man in the sky, a white-bearded man, a benevolent dictator managing the affairs of the world. “It” gives me the room to think freed from gender specific ideas and freed from the tendency to assign human qualities to the Divine and turn instead to other ideas, for example, that whatever It is, it’s the only one of Its kind. That helps me satisfy omnipresent: only one thing can hold that title.

Thinking Bigger


When I think of what “It” might be, I try to imagine something, like intelligence, that is the stuff out of which everything is made and also the potential of everything that ever will be made. I don’t mind that I get all tangled up in trying to define It. I am on quest to find a simple and easy way to describe It and I keep discovering new ways to think about It and understand It.

Thaddeus Golas, in The Lazy Man’s Guide to Enlightenment may be the closest I’ve come to a simple definition of It when he wrote “The universe is made up of one kind of whatever-it-is, which cannot be defined. For our purpose, it isn’t necessary to try to define it. All we need to do is assume that there is only one kind of whatever-it-is, and see if it leads to a reasonable explanation for the world as we know it.”

One Kind of Whatever-it-is

The universe is made up of one kind of whatever-it-is is a beautiful idea, but not simple. It births all kinds of questions such as why then is the world is in such a shabby shape? Cities are decaying, land-fills are becoming over full, and people are warring and starving. How do you explain all this in terms of everything being made up of one something?

I don’t explain it. I don’t know the answer. I think of the phrase more as a charge than as an explanation. To me The universe is made up of one kind of whatever-it-is is a charge to view the stuff of the world as if it were all a product of one whatever-it-is and see if that leads to a deeper, more compassionate engagement with the world. In my experience it does.

Can I Make It Through One Day?

Specifically it means to me that I try to look at each person I meet in a day as a being in which It dwells. It means treating everything in my environment as if it were treasured and beautiful because it is made from It. In the course of a single day I stray from the simple idea that It is omnipresent dozens of times. I find the task of mental adjustments and course corrections back to the view of oneness to be what living a spiritual life is all about. I find it worthwhile and personally rewarding to see how far into the day I can get before abandoning my God idea, and the effort and sincerity I put into this exercise seems to be of benefit to those around me.

You may also enjoy reading:

John Hefferlin's explanation of God


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