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God by any name.

November 25, 2017

God by any name..

I spend too much time thinking about God. I spend too much time thinking in general. Does it really do much, if any good to think about God? I don’t know, but it is something I do.

I have come up with a theory about God. Something that makes sense to me, sort of. I think that is the best we can do – those of us who believe in God or the Gods – find a way of thinking that works for each of us.

Some of you probably know I was born and raised a Protestant Christian, and that I’ve not practiced the faith in over two decades. You might also know that I’ve learned at least a bit about Buddhism, Wicca, and other faiths.

I never experienced a feeling of being in the presence of God, or any deity, for that matter, not while I was a Christian.

When I was still in high school, I attended a massive, international missionary conference at the University of Illinois. I was in a huge basketball stadium on campus, where the main meetings were held. There were that many people at this conference.

After a meeting, there was an informal prayer service. There were volunteers who were sort of prayer counselors.. people could talk to them about the experiences they were having during this service.

It was like a Holy Spirit bomb had gone off. Hundreds of people in the room. Many crying, some in other emotional states.

I sat there, and felt depressed. Depression was not new to me, even then.

Occasionally, one of the prayer counselors would come by to check on me, and pray with and for me. They’d say, “Feel anything yet?”

I’d say no.

I left that meeting, and the conference, feeling even worse than I had before I had attended.

It was not until 2014, in a much much smaller room, that I felt I was in the presence of something.. other.

There’s a Wiccan group here in Boise that meets in a back room of a store. That’s where I was at this moment in 2014.

Wiccans have a way of communicating with their deities and bringing forth messages, called “aspecting.” They take on the “particular appearance or quality (one definition of the word “aspect”) “of a deity.

I don’t mean they always dress in costume. Sometimes yes, sometimes no. Usually not. No, this is something different than just costiumes.

Two of the women from the leadership led the meeting. They were among those who belong to the closed coven (one of the purposes of the coven is training of Wiccan clergy, who have the same rights to perform the same rites – marriages, funerals, etc. – as other, more well known clergy). The coven is closed, meaning that only certain people can be part of it. How to become members of this coven? I don’t know all the details, and that’s not important for this essay.

One woman presented a positive, “light” side of a particular goddess.. I forget which one. The other presented the “dark” side.

They both wore normal clothes, except that one wore only white, the other black.

They walked around the rest of us, we who were attendees of the open circle meeting, the meeting that was open to all, unlike the coven.

As the women circled us, walked and talked, I felt something subtle. But definitely felt that there was more than these women talking. There was something or someone else there at the same time. My feeling, although not strong, was a bit unnerving.

I had this feeling once more, when I attended a sort of interactive ritual drama on the Wiccan holiday of Samhain, (pronounced something like “sah-win.” Samhain is October 31st, but sometimes celebrated the night before.

It would take awhile to write about the ritual-drama-experience, and so I won’t do that now. The experience was also at the back of the store. But the spaces in back of the store had been incredibly well and carefully decorated to facilitate our metaphorical journey into the realms of the underworld.

Before I even entered the building, one of the members of the coven came out to see if we all had our tickets – which most of us had purchased days or weeks earlier in the store.
The Wiccan church, which includes both the coven and open circle meeting, is a self-supported group. A LOT of work went in to preparing this experience. The price of the tickets helped defray the cost.

The woman who came out to talk with us, who were waiting outside under a tarp, and watching the rain, was dressed somewhat as a cat. Long flowing skirt, black top, with cat ears, makeup, and claw gloves.

When I looked at her and talked briefly with her, I could tell there was a sort of spirit about her, or temporarily part of her. This woman was aspecting. She just called herself Cat.

The other coven members were aspecting as well. One was the Slavic goddess Baba Yaga, a fierce goddess. Her husband was aspecting a much more kind, benevolent Slavic god whose name I cannot remember.

When I was near these people, and others, I felt that I was genuinely in the presence of deity.

You might be thinking the feelings I experienced were just because of the decorations, the dim lighting, the costumes.

But you’d be wrong. I finally felt a spiritual presence. Not a strong feeling, but a real one. The woman aspecting Baba Yaga felt powerful and somewhat scary. Her husband, who has a nurturing presence, felt more powerful than usual, and felt like an even more loving individual when he was aspecting his deity.

Did I become Wiccan? No. I can’t manage to be religious. But these experiences, combined with living with religious relatives – two Catholics and one who was Protestant, converted to Catholicism, and later returned to his Protestant views, and combined with what I’ve learned from my formal and informal religious studies, have often got me thinking about God.

Who is God? What is God?

A theory I have is that there is one Source. The Wiccans call it Spirit. From this source comes all spiritual energy, and all deities.

A second part of my theory is that God will answer by any name.

Some people from all faiths, and those who practice lesser known spiritual ways, such as shamans and so forth, have “religious experiences” – experiences of the divine.

It doesn’t matter if God is called Jesus or Yahweh or Allah or by the names of the Gods of the European pagans, by the names of the deities and spirits of Shinto, or by the names of the 36 million or so Hindu deities.

I’m thinking God will take on the aspect of any deity, and go by any name. That doesn’t mean people control God, but rather, that God meets people where they are, and has chosen to play the roles in which the different peoples of the world understand and worship God.

A third part of the theory is that it doesn’t matter what name a person prays to. A prayer request to one of the Catholic saints might be met by the same God, the all in all and above all, who also chooses to answer to the name Shiva or Kwan Yin or Jehovah.

Jews, Christians and Muslims will likely disagree with my theory. That is understandable.

Many Hindus and Pagans would likely agree with this theory. Hindus have a saying, “That art thou.” Point to anything besides yourself, and you are still pointing to yourself. This is to say that the Hindus (most of them, I’m guessing, if not all) have the view that all is one. All the gods, all the people, all that is, is one, a great, impersonal One.

Some pagans are hard polytheists, and would disagree with me. Hard polytheists believe that the gods each have an individual identity, and do not believe that all goddesses are but aspects and manifestations of one goddess, and the same for all gods being different personas of one male god.

Persona is Latin for “mask” – something a performer would wear.

These hard polytheists would also perhaps disagree with my opinion that perhaps all the deities come from one source.

There are many pagans who do not agree with hard polytheists, and share my views, at least to some extent.

Buddhists – it really depends on the school of Buddhism. Certain gods were mentioned in certain stories of the Buddha’s life, but I’m not aware of any Buddhist teachings that specifically address the idea of God or the gods. In fact, there are many atheists who are happy to be Buddhists. To many Buddhists, God and the very idea of God is irrelevant.

Some Buddhists do believe in deities and spirits. This is especially true of Tibetans, and those who practice a Tibetan form of Buddhism, but who are not Tibetan.

There is a form of Buddhism in Japan, called Pure Land. Adherents of this form of Buddhism believe in a deity who is a non-historical Buddha – not the man Siddhartha Gautama, who was born 500 years before Christ, in what in more modern times has been called Nepal, and who became the Buddha.

No, these Japanese believe in a deity called Amita or Amitabha Buddha – sometimes called the Buddha of Pure Life, or the Buddha of Pure Light. These Buddhists, as far as I understand, believe that Amitabha Buddha is a deity, who, if prayed to, will bring his faithful to the Pure Land, to live with him, after they die.

I doubt the Pure Land Buddhists would agree with my theory. I don’t know if the Tibetans would or not.

I believe we have only theories about God. I don’t believe any religion is the One True Faith, that has the only Absolute Truth.

There is a fourth part to my theory.. one that I don’t like so much. A light side, a dark side. Think of The Force, as an analogy, I suppose.

What if this same source of all spiritual good is also the source of all spiritual evil?

Most Satanists are LaVeyan satanists – followers of Anton LaVey, 20th century author of the Satanic Bible, and founder of the official Church of Satan. These satanists claim to be atheists.

There is another form of satanism, called theistic satanism. These satanists are much more rare.. hopefully. It is they who believe Satan is their god. And they are the satanists who are likely to commit crimes, including terrible crimes.

I don’t know how keen the LaVeyan satanists are on performing black magic. I think the theistic satanists are more into that, or should I say, a lot more serious about it.

There are other forms of dark, evil magic as well.

Does evil spiritual power come from the same source as the good? For my theory to be consistent, yes.

My theory is one among many. I don’t feel entirely at ease with this theory, but it’s the best I can do for myself.

God by any name.

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