Monday, February 16, 2009

Many Names For That Which Lies Beyond Names

I mostly agree with Juliet when she declares, “That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” The essence of that magnificent flower lies not in the name we give it, but in its tantalizing scent and the rich hues that dance across its soft petals.

But were we to call that flower 'terror' or 'obligation', would not its aroma diminish and its color fade a bit?

Words have an objective meaning found in the dictionary. They often also have an idiosyncratic significance arising from our personal temperament and histories. God is such a word, sitting as it does atop all our varied experience of religion, life and our own selves.

For many of us, the word God falls from our lips with ease, and we hear in it all things grand, loving and just. It is not so for everyone.

For those who have been frightened, shamed, or worse in the name of God, the word evokes something much different. For those whose natures do not allow belief in a male God or faith in a personal God at all, the word can bring with it images at odds with their deepest sensibilities.

So the word God can sometimes just get in the way.

It can lead some folks to bypass an always available transcendent experience, while encouraging others to mistake the word itself for the reality which lies ever behind it.

The rich array of spiritual paths we humans tread is but a small reflection of the infinite variations of life on this beautiful blue planet of ours. Perhaps we adhere to the Judeo~Christian~Islamic tradition, or follow the path of Buddhism, Hinduism, or various earth~centered practices. Maybe we consider ourselves agnostic or atheist, or have found no label accurately captures our spiritual orientation.  

By choosing words that honor the commonality within these differences, though, communication and a sense of unity can be furthered.

Mystery. 
Spirit. 
The Cosmos. 
Life Force. 
Higher Power. 
Grace.
All That Is. 
The Sacred.
Ground of Being. 
The Divine. 
Love. 
The Infinite. 
Animating Force. 
Energy. 
The Unknowable. 
Source.
The Universe. 
That Which Lies Beyond. 

Not all these names will work for everyone, and some others may fit better. But if we do whatever translating is needed, perhaps we can stop fueling divisiveness about that which actually speaks of our ultimate connection.

Maybe if we get words out of the way, words that can never adequately grasp that which is beyond every conceptualization our limited human minds can devise, we can focus instead on what really matters.

To return to the flower metaphor, if we hold our differences lightly, perhaps we can cease debating which appellation is the best or which color the truest. Maybe we could look more deeply into the bush itself and honor that ineffable Essence that shines through its various blossoms, leaves, and even those pesky thorns.

Possibly all of us, no matter how we conceive of the bush or its flowers, can agree with the words of that most brilliant of atheists, Albert Einstein, when he wrote, “The most beautiful and most profound experience is the sensation of the mystical…He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead.”

An experience of awe, wonder, and rapture. Isn't this what truly matters, regardless of the name?

May this week strengthen your ability to "wonder and stand rapt in awe"

Blessings always!

Loanne Marie

2 comments:

Jay said...

One of the most profound stops along the way of this spritual journey that I somewhat haltingly travel was a conversation with a great man, Fr. Nick Lassios, an Eastern Orthodox Priest who responded with such gentleness when I said I did not beleive in the God as seen on the Cistine Chapel. He asked what I did believe in. "Love" I said, "or Energy," and he suggested that the next time I found myself in Church I swap in one of those words for "God" since that seemed to be getting in my way. I felt lucky that this man effectively gave me permission to make the experience my own, and to eliminate the barriers. He knew that rules are meant to be broken. The next time I found myself in church was just a few months later for this man's funeral. I can't say exactly where I am on the journey (where's that map?!?!) but Fr. Nick is a constant guide for me. So glad you picked up this idea and went with it Loanne!

Loanne Marie said...

What a gift of a man! And I felt myself go a bit goose bumpy when I read that your very next church experience was for Fr. Nick's funeral. Wow!

Thanks for writing, Jay, and thereby allowing Fr. Nick to live on in us.

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Leia Marie