WILLIAM EDELEN: Is There a God Out There?



The Contrary Minister

In the play Suddenly Last Summer by Tennessee Williams, there is a character who says, “We are like children in a kindergarten trying to spell the name of God with all of the wrong blocks.” I don’t know of a better illustration. Practically every leading Christian denomination has done studies asking sixth graders and adults in their church schools how they think of God. The answers come out the same. “God is a wise man… God wins battles for us when we’re good… God makes miracles happen… God punishes us when we’re bad.”

We still use childish words that impede the intelligent quest for a mature spirituality and for the divine mystery. We must search for the right alphabet blocks to spell out the name of God. Ignorance, magic, superstition, hatred, anger, jealousy, vindictiveness, threats and fears must first be deleted from the alphabet of divinity.

Albert Einstein was not only a genius in physics but a spiritual genius as well. Most people have not heard of that part of the human being, Einstein.

His suggestion was that teachers of religion have the courage to let go of belief in the archaic doctrine of a personal God which has placed vast power in the hands of clergy and priests.
He said, “Such a doctrine is not only unworthy, but fatal and has done incalculable harm to human SPIRITUAL progress.

Millions of human beings following Buddhism, Zen Buddhism, Taoism, Classical Hinduism, as well as Native American traditions have lived full lives with a profound spirituality with no need for, or concept of a personal God. A human being can experience awe, wonder and adoration with no need for this kind of God. The Tao in Taoism, for example, is only a word symbol for the same Mystery and does not refer to a personal God, being or entity or it. The Tao is the womb from which everything comes and to which everything will return. There is no personal creator. There is only creativity. It’s as Buckminster Fuller says: “God is a verb, not a noun.”

Think of creation in terms of the whole and stop thinking in terms of an anthropomorphic “It.” Think of creation as a total reality, a oneness, and that within this cosmos there is some Mystery that is holding everything together, a Mystery beyond our comprehension. Then ask the question: “What name shall I give this Mystery, this flow, this rhythm that keeps the galaxies in their orbit and the earth and sun in its place?” It needs no name. To leave the Mystery unknown and unnamed is not to lose the Mystery. Silence names as well as sound. Definitions of God can vanish, idols can tumble, symbols can fall and Trinities dissolve. It will make no difference because the Eternal Sacred Mystery, the Reality is going to be still flowing through this universe, throughout you, in all and throughout all.

And what does the word “God” mean? The answer contains perhaps the most profound difference in Eastern (Zen/Taoism) and Western (orthodox Judeo/Christian) philosophy. The word God means nothing in itself. It is a symbol for a cosmic force or energy.

What we call God is the ultimate reality that’s in the evening breeze and the leaf’s murmur, that’s in the swell of the ocean, the tides and the rising of the sun.

“So rest here I whisper to the atom; I call to the orb, roll on; I am what was and shall be; I am creation’s ascent and fall… the link… the chain of existence.. the beginning, the end of all. Artist of the solar spaces and artist of human faces, all lips foolishly claim thee; Yet thought and language fail finally to name thee. Mortal lips finally are dumb before thee; Only silence can adore thee.”

If some people still have a neurotic need for theology and would like it to be built on a solid foundation of what can be actually known, rather than on fantasy, it can all be contained in eight words of the physicist Eddington: “Something unknown is doing we know not what.”

Or in the magnificent words of the Rig-Vedas: “O Thou… Thou… before whom all words recoil.”

Nothing more need be said. Nothing can be said.