Believing in God

reflections of reality  marianmatthews.com

Do I believe in God? This question is perhaps next door to meaningless and therefore unanswerable. There are probably as many meanings for the word God, as there are people in the world.

Let’s start with the fact that God is a three-letter word. Grammatically, it’s a noun and, in my schooldays at any rate, we were told that a noun is a ‘thing’. A verb, on the other hand, is a ‘doing’ word.

For over two and a half thousand years, Buddhists have been telling us that there are no permanent, self-existing ‘things’, ourselves included. ‘Things’ are continuously changing, are coming and going, and their existence is dependent on a whole lot of other ‘things’, ultimately indeed on every other ‘thing’ in the universe. We could say that ‘things’, rather than being nouns, are actually verbs – they’re continually ‘doing’ – changing from moment to moment.

Closer to our own time, philosophers such as Alfred North Whitehead, have told us that what we call ‘things’ might more accurately be thought of as ‘processes’.  I’m writing this post at my desk. At some point in the past it was assembled from a variety of component parts, which had themselves been sourced from the natural world. It came into my room beautifully brand new. It’s gradually showing its age, and will continue to change and decay, until it’s eventually disassembled back into its component parts, which hopefully will then be recycled. So, rather than a ‘thing’, my desk is an ongoing ‘process’ – and so am I. And so are you.

And so, arguably, is God. We can think of God, not as a static ‘thing’ but as a dynamic ‘process’; not as a noun but as a verb. In the words of Paul Tillich, we can think of God as “the ground of all being” – “being” as dynamically understood, and “ground” as the equivalent of what physicists call the “quantum foam”, the infinite, foundational field of dynamic, creative energy, from which there continuously arises what we call ‘reality’.

Once again, however, words can lead us astray. The above word pictures are useful in thinking and talking about ‘things’ that matter – otherwise, we’d have to stay silent (and sometimes, that wouldn’t be a bad ‘thing’.) Word pictures are perhaps best thought of as ‘maps’, guiding us to where they’re no longer needed – to the ‘place’ where, as Carl Gustav Jung said, we no longer need to ‘believe’, because we ‘know’; the place, perhaps, where our individual minds are absorbed into the universal Mind.

It’s in this sort of sense that I think I can say that I believe in God.

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