Truth and Beauty

Our Awesome, Incomprehensible God

Divine glory 

God in the sense of our common understanding – a being, a noun – does not exist as existence is defined – in space and time. Jewish mystics refer to God as Ein Sof or Endlessness. It is something that should not be conceptualized by any names of God such as Father, Creator, etc., or referred to as He, for It is genderless. Ein Sof includes all the divine attributes the Bible speaks about but cannot be defined by any or even all of them combined. It indeed is unknowable. However, giving It a name enables our mind to give It identity. A false illusion is then created that we can get to know It intellectually. 

Concerning creation and the universe, mystics have long understood and science has now confirmed that there is an interconnection among all things. It has been called a soul force, love, ether, or, in science, energy. Yet the nature of this force and our relationship to it is a subject of debates.  

Jewish mystics, starting with Isaac the Blind who lived in the 12th century, teach that the first line of the Genesis story could be better translated as: “With a beginning [It] created God (Elohim), the heavens and the earth.” That is, out of Nothingness the potential to begin was created – “Beginningness”.  Once there was a beginning, God (in a plural form) was created – an aspect of God to which the rest of the creation could relate. Then the heaven and earth were created. Mathematically, as a progression, this can be represented as nothing and infinity (before zero), beginning (zero), God the Creator (one), heaven and earth in time and space (two). The creative force and ongoing process, Ein Sof, precedes and first creates “Nothing” before the attributes of God (emanations of Itself) to which we can relate. 

Nothingness can be viewed as a level of awareness that is the result of the “annihilation of thought.” Awareness is an all-penetrating reality which is also present in Nothingness. Some mystics identify awareness as the central unifying medium of creation and thus another definition of the Divine. 

Because of our finite and limited minds, we cannot imagine nothingness or even infinity – yet Ein Sof transcends Nothingness that surrounds infinity. However, Ein Sof can be known and related to in ways that transcend thought. It is important to realize that all the various biblical names for God represent only aspects of Ein Sof – each of them is a representation of a far deeper mystery. 

The Old Testament Song of Songs (Song of Solomon) can be seen as describing, through images of Eros, our potential relationship with the Divine. This relationship becomes possible if we are able to perceive the presence of the Divine being revealed in the fullness of each moment. By grace, through a mystical epiphany, we can experience in the depth of our being the realization that for each step we take, the Divine steps with us; each breath we draw is connected with the breath of the universe; and that lover, beloved, and the essence of love are all reflections of the same thing. In each of these moments we “know” the presence of the Divine, and there is no separation. The ultimate is a union with the Source – an intertwining where we and our Source are one. (Cf. Jesus’ saying in John’s gospel 14:20; 15:4; and 17:21.) 

Indeed, the presence of the Divine permeates all things – God is near at all times if we have the eyes to see. (Cf. Acts 17:26-28.) 

God can be seen as an interactive verb – “God-ing”, rather than a noun. Creation can be seen in the same way as can all creatures, including ourselves. Each part of the universe is in a dynamic relationship with every other part – in some ways like marriage where the two people are, in a certain sense, one. The concept of “God-ing” is a way for us to have a relationship with the Divine – though not with Ein Sof which includes many names and is much more than the sum of them. 

An ongoing relationship with the Divine can dramatically change our lives. It can start spontaneously through an insight or incident – without an obvious reason, an experience of grace. It can also happen through a, probably God-given, desire to connect with truth and meaning and is facilitated through daily prayer, meditation and other spiritual practices. Once on a spiritual path, we gain wisdom – a deep knowing – which is the fountain of true mystical experience, the driving force of all spiritual inquiry. It sustains us in doubts, nourishes us in discouragement, and comforts us in grief. We also experience awe through our ever-present dance with God-ing in the Now.   

While Ein Sof is unknowable and inconceivable, it can be discerned, but only in the context of process and interaction. We get a glimpse of God-ing when we succeed in merging with the continuous process of unfolding creation. The experience arises in our encountering the magical quality of life, the exquisite unfolding of nature, the intricacies of our minds, and the profound awe at the enormity of the universe. That awe draws us into the centre of creation till at some point we merge with it. 

Humans as conscious beings have been given free will and can choose whether to practise acts of loving kindness or not. Both types of actions – kind and unkind – have an effect on the world – nothing is inconsequential in an interconnected universe, and even small acts can have far reaching consequences. In this way, we are co-creators and co-partners with God. 

Degrees of free will are also built into lower creatures and in fact into the whole fabric of what exists. In that sense free will and process go hand in hand. There is a dynamic relationship between the Creator and the creation. As God is “God-ing” and creation is “creation-ing”, every aspect of creation is in process and continuously unfolding like the petals of an infinite flower. Through this process, which is the whole purpose of existence, the universe is being constantly and indefinitely perfected. The process will never stop for perfection is perfect only if it continues to have the potential for perfecting. If absolute perfection without further potential for improvement were reached, a stalemate would result with no place to go and the universe would cease to exist. 

This view of our continuous perfecting, in contrast to us one day achieving a state of total perfection, is important.  Once we surrender to the fact that we will be constantly repairing our own souls and those of others, we gain a new sense of the fullness of each moment. When we accept each moment as a new opportunity for fulfilling our purpose, we are always present, always succeeding, always changing the world for the better. And we are always “here”, rather than “there” – in an imaginary state of total perfection which we’ll never be able to reach despite always striving and therefore become frustrated. 

When we fully realize that life is here, right now, we do not fall asleep or get bored. We don’t seek the perfect mate or perfect teacher. We make the best choices we can and work with what we have. With perfecting as our model, we do not need to look beyond what we have because this idea of continuous perfecting is in itself perfect. 

  Rabbi David A. Cooper, God Is a Verb, Riverhead Books, New York, 1997, pgs. 65-79

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