Concepts of God
(Posted on July 12, 2013 by David McMillin)
[NOTE: While serving as mentor for an online version of “A Search For God” study group and working on the God’s Manifestation lesson, a class member shared some powerful meditation experiences with “Creative Forces” and also questioned the use of the word “God” due to its apparent male associations in our culture. Here is my reply, plus several other replies to other members of the group that followed – a very lively and fascinating group interaction. – David McMillin]
Thanks for sharing your thoughts and experiences in the application of this exercise – very beautiful and stimulating. Your experience during meditation touches upon some common themes associated with this exercise: God within and without; personal and impersonal.
"Creative Forces" as a concept of God is one of several designations of the Divine that tend more toward the impersonal (Deistic) images of God (e.g., Creative Energy, First Cause, Universal Force, Electricity, Whole, Universal Whole, Nature, etc) that are closely allied with ecological consciousness and expressions of Wholeness and Oneness.
The personal aspects of the Divine tend to be associated with relationship in some manner including parent/child, creator/created, and even equal companion/co-creator (which is controversial for many, to be sure). And I think you are correct in your observation that this has traditionally (at least in western cultures) carried some strong sex/gender associations.
During the process of creating these lessons, I did discuss this with numerous individuals familiar with the ASFG process, many of whom share your concerns in this area. In attempting to keep the information as inclusive as possible I made several specific choices with regard to lesson titles and content. For example, the original ASFG title for this lesson is "God the Father and His Manifestation in the Earth" which I altered to "God's Manifestation." In Book I, the lesson titled "In His Presence" was changed to "In God's Presence." The original Book I lesson on Fellowship defined human fellowship as "brotherhood." I am fine with the term for what it represents, but tried to be very careful when using the term to also include "sisterhood" as well. And so forth …
In my mind, the sex/gender issue is similar to ideals – we get to choose and apply what we believe – therein lies the growth. So I have attempted to be nonjudgmental and open-minded in creating a level playing field within the context of the Cayce readings and the original ASFG material. That said, the ASFG readings and books do have a strong bias toward the concept of God as a loving male parent (God the Father). However, more broadly, the readings as a whole actually are inclusive of a great many diverse concepts of God along the full spectrum that one typically finds in the great spiritual and philosophical traditions (including "Father-Mother God" in a few readings).
As to whether the word God is inherently masculine and should be abandoned entirely, some would insist that any word falls short of the reality of the Divine and is blasphemous. In this view, there is no human concept or verbal designation that is worthy of the "I Am That I Am." I see it a matter of personal choice.
I agree that the word "God" does carry some cultural baggage, especially since it is commonly used in cursing and has been tainted by association in various other ways. Interestingly, the dictionaries that I consulted for definitions of the word "God," were consistently neutral with regard to sex/gender. So personally, I have no problem with the word itself in that regard. You may have noticed that in my replies in this course, I like to use fairly neutral and inclusive terms such as Source, Spirit, Creative Energy, Whole, Divine, etc.
The Cayce readings insist that God, by whatever designation, desires relationship with the created. God is love. I think God's manifestation as the still small voice within and compassionate action toward others in the world (including all of creation) is the core of this lesson from the perspective of the Cayce readings. But as noted, the readings as a whole do encompass a fairly broad and inclusive approach to the concept of God, leaving it to each of us to make our own choices in our Search For God. My personal favorite quote from the readings that ties in relationship with the Divine as the cause of being is this:
That it, the entity, may KNOW itself to BE itself and part of the Whole; not the Whole but one WITH the whole; and thus retaining its individuality, knowing itself to be itself yet one with the purposes of the First Cause that called it, the entity, into BEING, into the awareness, into the consciousness of itself. That is the purpose, that is the cause of BEING. (826-11)
In putting together resources for each lesson on my website I have collected quotes from the readings on the various topics. So if anyone is interested in sampling some of the concepts of God and God's manifestations as discussed in the Cayce readings, check it out online at:
Again, thanks for sharing your stimulating thoughts and experiences with this lesson – and providing me an opportunity to explain some of my thinking and intent in creating the course material. I have a feeling that there are some in the group who may be wrestling a bit with this exercise, so I have made the effort to provide some additional background for context. Blessings, Dave
Glad you found the information helpful. With this exercise I have tried to provide a blank canvas and plenty of colors with which an individual can "paint" their own personal, unique image of God if they so choose, much as you have done. Or if an individual prefers a more traditional, established image of God (such as God the Father, Yahweh, Allah, etc), that's fine too, so long as there is the choice. Then it is just a matter of being sure that the image or concept of God is consistent with one's spiritual ideal and can be applied in daily living (mental and physical ideals). With the application, the soul grows and moves closer to its Source. The "Light" surrounds us all – yes, and that is another wonderful image of God. Blessings, Dave
Thanks for sharing your concept of God. Like you, I have found the Search For God to be an evolution – a development – a growth in consciousness. As the Cayce readings put it:
That that is Truth is growth! For what is truth today may be tomorrow only partially so, to a developing soul! (1297-1)
The excerpt from the study group readings that you have quoted illustrates one of the primary manifestations of God in the earth – GOD WITHOUT – when we manifest Love by being a channel of blessing to our fellow human beings. You have also made a wonderful point about developing the conscious awareness of the abiding presence of GOD WITHIN as a manifestation of the Divine. Blessings, Dave
Thanks for sharing your knowledge and experience with Hindu concepts of God, particularly the "Divine Mother" and the cultural/family associations associated with that concept.
Your questions about Jesus and how that relates to the concept of God are certainly reasonable and have been struggled with by theologians, philosophers, and lay people for many centuries. At one extreme is the view that Jesus was God incarnate, hence Jesus is a concept of God. Of course there is the trinity as a three-dimensional concept of God (which the readings attribute to the three-dimensional consciousness that souls have on earth). The Cayce readings speak of "Jesus, thy Friend, thy Brother" (262-105), also called "elder brother" (262-44); "the man Jesus who became the Christ" (4065-1).
I believe when the readings speak of the "Whole" in a spiritual context (as you have cited), it refers to God. The readings used many such terms interchangeably. Your concept of God as consciousness present in all of creation is actually very close to the ideas presented in the Cayce readings, such as this:
What is the first cause? That which has brought, is bringing, all life into being; or animation, or force, or power, or movement, or consciousness, as to either the material plane, the mental plane, the spiritual plane. Hence it is the force that is called Lord, God, Jehovah, Yah, Ohum, Abba and the like. Hence the activity that is seen of any element in the material plane is a manifestation of that first cause. One Force. (254-67)
Again, thanks for sharing. Blessings, Dave
Thanks for sharing your unique cultural perspective on this lesson. It sounds like you have made some great progress over the years in becoming aware of God's manifestation – feeling God's presence in meditation (God within) and in your interactions with others (God without).
The concept of God as father is a powerful metaphor (symbolic representation or image) that can be very useful, depending upon your beliefs. It does have some limitations, as you have noted, especially if your personal experience of father is not so positive.
For me, this image or concept of God makes the most sense if I think of all of humanity as a great family with God as the benevolent, loving parent. Thus we are all children of God – brothers and sisters in a spiritual sense. Jesus is a brother (an "elder brother"), who has gone before and set an example – showed the way, just as the eldest sibling in a family tends to do. I know this probably sounds pretty simplistic, but that is the way Jesus taught with symbols and parables that can be easily understood. If you "seek" God using this concept or image of God, you will probably be more likely to have a "personal" experience of God, as many Cayce readings have indicated. Although the Cayce readings provide many diverse concepts of God (as we have noted throughout this lesson), for the most part, the preferable image of God is that of a parent who manifests love, mercy, and justice (which can be impersonal, as in law and karma).
One common theme in many spiritual traditions is that God is everywhere and in all things. God is "All That Is, The Whole, The One." If you seek God in personal relationships (such as "God the Father" or as a member of the family of God), you will probably experience the Divine as a very personal God. If you seek God in the impersonal laws of the universe (as some scientists and philosophers have done throughout the ages), then you may experience the awe of the Divine in nature, as the Creator, First Cause, Creative Force of the Universe, etc.
As [another class member] noted in one of his posts, Christianity is not the only religion that has a concept of God as loving parent (i.e., the nurturing Hindu "Mother God"). However traditional Christianity does seem to have a strong preference for a masculine God. Even so, in some versions of Christianity (i.e., Catholicism), the feminine aspects of divinity are emphasized in Mary, the mother of Jesus.
There are many concepts of God, even within the Judeo-Christian religion. Concepts of God are human-created symbols (like a map or menu as was discussed in the video overview). Sometimes we tend to take our concepts of God pretty literally and seriously, forgetting that they are only symbolic, representational tools to help us grasp that which is beyond our limited three-dimensional consciousness while incarnate in flesh bodies. As the Christian scriptures observe:
For now we see through a glass, darkly [while incarnate in this three-dimensional flesh body with its limited conscious mind]; but then face to face [in Spirit]: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known. (1 Corinthians 13:12)
Thanks for your excellent questions and feedback. My prayer is that these ideas and explanations are helpful and can be applied in some practical manner. Blessings, Dave