It’s a name I love, and it’s a name others love to hate. We have all been complicit in some way, whether misguidedly or deliberately, of bastardising the word ‘God’. Since the beginning of time, the word, or the name, has been fraught with tension and conflict. No other name, in all of history has been as misused, misapplied or mishandled, as has the name, God. The word has become empty of meaning says spiritual teacher Eckhart Tolle. And he is right. But I am hoping it’s a misunderstanding that will eventually be rectified.
It was a life altering moment for me when I realised everything, I perceived God to be was a lie. After what seemed like years of unproductive spiritual searching, I made the decision to dump God for good. I was spiritually battered and tired of trying. No more, I thought.
But sometimes life has different plans. My spiritual journey was not over. At the precise moment of my dumping God I was struck by a thought I was, at the time, incapable of thinking. A question. Loud and clear. “What if everything you perceive me to be is a lie?” And it was. A big damned lie. The God I had created, was indeed, a figment of my imagination. A crutch I had been clutching for most of my life. I let that God go, a huge relief to do so. But although the God I thought I loved turned out to be a lie, it was also the beginning of a new happening. An awakening. Ten years later I am still discovering new things about this awakening.
Like me, I wonder how many of you, look at God with eyes tainted by the imagery and experiences of your past, and of the past of others. When you create God based on personal, cultural and life experiences, it is little wonder the name God has become outdated. Eckhart Tolle says the word God has become a closed concept.
“The moment the word is uttered, a mental image is created, no longer, perhaps, of an old man with a white beard but still a mental representation of someone or something outside you, and, yes, almost inevitably a male someone or something.”
Which brings me to religion. Throughout history, the name of God has suffered a great injustice at the hands of those who claim to be the closest to God. Mention God and people start talking religion. Mention religion and people say, ‘Oh, I don’t believe in God’.
Like a taut, tight, woven cobweb, God and religion are difficult to untangle. But in order to reclaim the name of God we must untangle God from religion. Seeking God and identifying with a religion are totally different experiences.
Religions are human institutions. They are an outside experience between you and other people; full of interpretation, theories and opinions. But God, experiencing God, is an ‘inside-out’ experience just between you and God, or whatever name you best identify this feeling with. A feeling in your chest – it’s a matter of the heart. Your mind is not involved. God happens when you allow yourself to wander through the chasms, abysses and crevasses of your own heart and pay attention to what is happening. Religion is not necessary for this.
After I became aware everything I believed God to be was a lie I experimented with new names to replace the word God. A name to fit the source of sheer wonder happening inside of me. At the time the name ‘God’ felt too small and limiting. I tried using names such as Universe, Designer, Creator, and Mother God. In his book, The Power of Now, Tolle uses the name ‘Being’ to describe the source within you. He says it is an open concept, impossible to bring a mental image to the word. But as the shackles of my fabricated God gradually fall away, I find I am returning to using the name God. But that’s just my preference because as Tolle says,
“Neither God nor Being can define or explain the ineffable reality behind the word, so the only important question is whether the word is a help or a hindrance in enabling you to experience That toward which it points…”
What’s in a name? Well, quite a bit if your name is God. A name shackled and controlled by human interference and perception; a name shrouded in lies. From the avid believer, to the ardent atheist, we are good at telling our self lies about God to justify our actions, beliefs or non-beliefs. But we can become equally as good at restoring the name of God.. The decision sits inside each one of us. Take a moment and ask the question – what if everything I perceive God to be is not true? Then let that God go…. and wait.
Swiss Psychiatrist, Carl Jung describes what can happen in this inside waiting space beautifully.
‘Who looks outside dreams.
Who looks inside, awakens.’