Dissolving the Concept of “God”
A Navajo prayer song says, “I walk in beauty.” I have always felt the truth of that. We live within something like a presence, a beauty. Rumi sometimes calls it the “rose.” Sometimes “absence” or “nothing.” Simply to be is an act of praise. We are part of what is carrying us along. However we experience and participate in that is religion. The word “God” has become almost unusable for me. Whatever the sacred is, it is a flowing. Evolving qualities in consciousness. Music, changing light. That does not mean that what the word “God” tries to point to—the mystical layers, the mysterious source, the depths of love inside consciousness, inner-outer synchronicities, the ocean of energy and intelligence that animates everything—are not real. They are, it is, the great reality. But the word and the concept are so freighted with doctrine and violence for me, that I mostly leave them alone, though not always.
I do not necessarily recommend this as a way for others. I have to admit I do like to hear others give it a try, the attempt to describe the mystery we inhabit, that inhabits us. Carl Jung says, “The Self (God) is a circle whose center is everywhere, whose circumference is nowhere.” Heraclitus says, “The soul is undiscovered, though explored forever to a depth beyond report.” And Bawa Muhaiyaddeen (who certainly does not shrink from using the word) says, “God has no form. God is a treasure without form or self-image, a treasure that can give peace and tranquility to human life. Just as there exists a point on the tongue that perceives taste and a point of light within the eye that can see, God exists as a point in the wisdom of life, a point within faith, a power. God is a power, and that power can be seen within you.” Many would call that point, that power that comes through the human form especially, grace.
The Name That Cannot Be Spoken or Written
We cannot say the beauty we inhabit, nor can we believe it. Inside everything that happens, there is a flow, a music where all the wantings mix. Who tuned this instrument, Rumi asks, where wind is one string and Shams’s eyes another? As creekwater animates the landscape it moves through, so the absolute, the unknowable, appears as fall begins. Signs come, and the more subtle essence is present, but also absent. Solomon controls the wind of our speaking. Something opens and closes inside our heart. Silence, annihilation, absence. I go back where everything is nothing. What Shams Tabriz is now cannot be said. It is as though a star were growing on a low branch of an olive tree. There is a great spaciousness around where we are standing with David and Rabia and Jesus and Muhammad and Rinzai and Lao-tse. Everything drops away. Bawa Muhaiyaddeen once said, “God has no form, no shape, no color, no differences, no race, no religion, no country, no place, no name, neither beginning nor end. God is the grace that lives within all lives.”
~ Coleman Barks, Rumi, The Big Red Book