Can We Know the Nature of God?
By ARTHUR W. SMITH
What is God? Which Religion gives us the right answer? Did the universe come about by chance? Can man prove his existence? A. W. Smith-former Conducting Teacher of the Boston SRF Center-discusses these questions concerning the nature of God and His creation.
Describing the Indescribable
Even the most hypocritical religious dogmatist has probably asked himself at some time, "What is God?", and there probably isn't a man on this earth who is so firmly convinced that there is no God that this question has never come to his mind. Here then we have a vital question of universal appeal. Where is our answer? In whom should we place confidence in our search for knowledge of the Divine? No man has failed to feel within himself the need for greater enlightenment, but very few are willing to seek it.
There are a hundred answers to every attempted question and so are there a hundred different religious groups that might answer our original question, but-which answer or answers are right? By what measure are we to judge the authority of our teachers in this most vital subject? The only way to test the theory is to hold it up to experience.
Theory alone is non-productive in any given line of thought. Systematic practice of the theory, however, should produce results in accordance with the prognosis of the theorist. If the theory is truly practiced and then the practice is at last found to militate against the theory, the theory may safely be renounced.
If we were to attempt to follow the many practices propounded by all religious sects, we could devote a lifetime of effort without even scratching the outer surface of the vast number of theories. Hence, our wisest procedure is to eliminate the thought of confirming or denying the validity of all teachings, inasmuch as we are not primarily interested in them. Our first and greatest desire is to determine or negate the existence of this God to which Religion has harnessed her tenets.
The Perfect Cause
When a man looks upon the canvas, Empire State Building or the Golden Gate Bridge, he admires the structure, and perhaps thinks of how skilled the architect must have been. It would be absurd for him to imagine that these structures came about by chance; yet when he looks at the even greater beauty of trees, of stars or of his fellow man, how is he able to imagine that these structures came about by chance? Surely there must be a Divine Creator whose skilled hand i at some time in the past, formed and imbued these things with life and established the order so apparent in the Universe.
A man of Science, after studying the physical and chemical phenomena of both living and nonliving objects, soon formulates a general law which we call the Law of Cause and Effect. He has seen by experiment that nothing comes about without a cause. Accepting this law as true, let us philosophize upon it and see what we may derive. I have a concept of a Perfect Being in my mind. This concept, like all other things, must have a cause, but I could not have caused it myself as I am not perfect and a cause is always of the same nature as its effect. Hence, this idea must be caused by God as only He is perfect enough to have caused it. So this idea is our intuitive knowledge of the Divine. It is, to give an analogy, the signature of the artist on the finished
It is annoying to a man of reason to meet one of those curious individuals who consistently tries to prove to you that you do not exist. He attacks your existence on the grounds that you, not knowing your origin, are at a loss to prove it. Nevertheless, you are at this moment conscious of yourself, hence at this moment you exist. The paradox of the whole thing is that he, in his very attempt to prove to you that you do not exist, asserts your existence. Knowing of, or realizing your present existence is, as I will show you, all the proof you need that there must also be in existence a God-call It what you will.
Knowing that you exist, you know also that you had a cause.
This cause cannot be yourself, for you would have made yourself perfect. This cause, then, must be either another finite being or an Infinite being, God. Suppose it were another finite being. Would he not also have need of a cause?
His cause would also need a cause and that a cause, etc., on into infinity. There must have been an Original Cause and as I have pointed out previously, this Cause must have been perfect. What then is a Perfect Cause? It is none other than what we call God. One of the attributes of perfection as we define it is eternal existence.. Hence, God exists eternally. Having, I think, proven the existence of this Creator, let us turn to the problem of the Creation and see if we can ascertain anything as to the nature of God.
Nature of the Cause
As a beginning, let us imagine the Godhead, in any way you fancy, as Cosmic Force, as Cosmic Energy, as Cosmic Mass, or just a blurb of abstraction, existing alone in space. As yet It is not stirred to the task of creation in any manner. It is God alone, if you will permit the phrase. Starting from this point of singular, all-containing existence, we have the nucleus of all future, mental, physical and spiritual offspring which may take form. Let 'me pause a moment to make clear the fact that how this Cosmic Force brought about the phenomena of Creation. is not the problem. One needs only to look about him with open eyes to see that evidently It did. 'Whatever the plan, whatever the purpose, we may rest assured of one thing: all that was to be created mentally, and then physically, had to be composed of various types of energies lent by the Creator from Himself, Therefore, all creation is basically a manifestation of elements contained within the Creator. Hence, the Universe is a manifestation of God, or to put it in another way, God is the Universe. The magnetic force sustaining the atoms, the subtler force which guides and molds the pattern of the physical body at the time of conception (as a unit nudged into active life when the spermatozoon buries itself in the ovum, starting the division of cells that eventually produce a living organism), the force which governs the refraction of light and determines the colors of all objects-all these forces are forms of the greater Cosmic force. This force is God, Ahura Mazda, Brahma, Allah, or anything else which you choose to call it. The names I gave it are those given it by many millions of people. It should be obvious to you by now that nothing "just happens." There is no such thing as blind chance. Even the scientists admit it when they formulate what they call a Law of Chance. This Law is nothing short of an admission that even those things whose causes are not known seem to be governed by definite laws. So, God is also a great Universal Law, which we may call the Law of Karma or the Law of Cause and Effect.
Having reflected upon creation, let us now review and see what we have found to be the nature of God. First, we found that he was Infinite; second, we found Him to be Perfect; third, we found Him to be the Universe; fourth, we found Him to be a threefold Force, that is, a Physical, a Mental, and a Spiritual Force. Realizing now that we ourselves are manifestations of God, let us examine the nature of God within us, which has been called the Atman.
Divinity In Man
The Atman, to begin with, is Eternal. This may be proved in much the same manner as we proved God to be eternal, and may also be proved by science. Science has made the observation that nothing can be created or destroyed So it is with the Atman. Secondly, the Atman is ever-conscious. Let us imagine for a moment that the Atman is not conscious. Would It then exist? No, for the very concept of existence on the mental or spiritual plane, implicitly demands the attribute of Consciousness. We may define consciousness as mental existence.
Lastly, the Atman is Blissful, for how can a thing be eternally conscious, aware of the laws of the Universe and unchanging, yet not be blissful? Bliss is nothing less than spiritual existence. The very notion of instability or change implies a state of restlessness or a lack of blissfulness. As the Atman is defined as eternal, clearly it must be unchanging as the two words are, for practical purposes, synonyms. If the Atman is unchanging, clearly it must be blissful for that is the nature of unchanging Consciousness.
The Atman is the one stable element of ourselves. It is, in the language of the Christians, the Soul. If you will only remember your nature, you will ever be blissful as long as you can link your consciousness with the Eternal Consciousness of the Atman.
That all-sufficient life, primal, life in One, who can regard it without longing, disdainful of all else? Other forms of life are lightless, petty, poor, gloomy, unclean. . . . For evil is here, where life is a copy and mind a shadow. It is there that the Good is, holding all good, the pure Idea itself . . . . . -Plotinus.
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