Total zero or complete circle -the metaparadox of God
Is there God? My answer is yes.
Is it useful? My answer is yes.
What is God? My answer is silence.
Having thought about God, read about God and even believing that I have experienced God, discussing the matter or the energy that makes God is difficult. My God can be experienced but not explained. It is not just the supernatural fantasy tales’ thousand faced hero; it is a millisecond that multiplies itself into eternity. It is truth absolving itself. It is a metaparadox.
From time immemorial, God has been an intriguing subject for introspection and discussion. The wise men who were able to plot astronomical maps and solve mathematical puzzles in all the early civilizations invariably agreed on the presence of God. It is only in the later years that philosophers chose to question the existence of God. Even when God is described as the essence of existence, existentialism denies God!
God is a convenience that operates on all conscious actions as an unconscious motivation. This very statement may not be a comfortable hypothesis, but it does imply that there is a psychological perspective to be explored in this avenue. Before going further let us sharpen our explorative tools. The Psyche is often synonymously called the mind or its functional capacity. The psyche generally is a product of learning. A culture always teaches. When there is no cultural connotation even an epic would become meaningless. In the case of God, the cultural teaching is universal though the practice is regional- like the dress ethos. Is God necessary? According to Voltaire, “Even if there was no God, it would be necessary to invent him.”
Atheist declarations masquerading as rational assertions (even if we were to take only the honest statements of the believers of disbelief and not the hypocrites’ rhetoric) are invariably a negation. It is not just the word God that infuriates the socially committed rationalist-atheist; it is the concept of God with its socio-cultural consequences that invokes their wrath. Unfortunately God is the word to be used to understand, even if to ultimately deny God – and this is not just because it has been written that in the beginning was the word and word was God.
Early humans were indeed in awe and wonder at nature’s phenomena. Lightning and thunder, sun and moon, fire and water all became unfathomable mysteries for them. As can be seen from the Rg Vedic hymns, varied manifestations of nature were described and worshipped as Gods. This multiplicity became unified into a singular supremacy in later sophisticated upanishads which declared that the universe is God and the universe is within you. Whether named or anomic, designed in exquisitely finite forms or perceived as absolutely formless, God came to stay.
Since God had become an indispensable part of the cultural psyche, the cunning clever connived to create a social order around the epicenter of God. Matters relating to God became prohibited territory for the common man. The ordinary had to accept what the allegedly learned declared. Customs and rituals were crafted by the wily to magnify the mystery of God. The average man was forcibly distanced from God. Worshipping was almost mandatory, but worship was stylized. Intermediaries and agents came into the new design. In due course the idea became just an idol.
Strangely myths told and retold all over the world with their geo-cultural idioms still held a common thread. Zeus gave birth to a god to lead his army, so did Shiva and both of them bequeathed the commander of the armies from their forehead! Over the centuries myths with their symbolic spiritual meanings became simple tales of fantasy and fun. Science went about discovering, and consequently inventing, with great speed. Man was flooded with many things, with which he had many things to do, including making money. God became more distant and a social obligation. Despite pictorial reminders in every place, God became the focus of attention only on select days of convenience. Yet, God remained in the psyche of humans.
Psychology with its inherent curious nature did try to comprehend the complexity of God. Freud did not believe in God, but his concept of super-ego and what many have been declaring as the laws or commandments of God go hand-in-hand. Jung however believed there is divinity, and he even declared it as the unconscious. He went further to insist that this unconscious was collective and universal. He meant that we all know deep inside even the meaning of the most sacred secrets of srichakra. He however was refused recognition by peers and posterity. William James, the original psychophilosopher wrote the wonderful book, `varieties of religious experiences’ in which he tried to enumerate and even quantify some of the experiences that were considered the exclusive domain of enlightened mystics. When psychology interacted constructively with neurology, some of the mystical experiences were studied, and it has been discovered that when certain areas of the brain are stimulated artificially, people do experience states of altered consciousness that has been described and reported by mystics all over the world. Though the experiences are simulated, they did not produce the constant ecstasy that the really enlightened emanated.
Indescribable and ineffable ecstasy is always associated with experiencing God. Human pursuits are all directed towards happiness. The very purpose of life is to be happy. Ecstasy is the peak of happiness. Being in tune with God is supposed to be the peak of ecstasy. God therefore may be surmised as the goal towards which the mind strives. IF THE WORD GOD IS REPLACED WITH PEACE OR HAPPINESS it would make great psychological sense and even be accepted by Freudians.
There have been some qualities that are commonly ascribed to God in all religions and cultures. They are incorporeality, simplicity, unity, eternity, immutability, impassability, goodness, omniscience and omnipotence. Amongst these, omnipotence, omnipresence and eternal goodness are the key concepts that help the distressed human. When there is a need to cry on a shoulder, lean on a pillar, beg or be angry, God is the most convenient object that the mind seeks. God becomes an assured reassurance to whom no favors need to be returned with thanks. This convenience of God is necessary for the human who becomes more self-obsessed and alienated in these times that race with time. God therefore is the mind’s auto defense against unfulfilled desires and failures. Thus is God needed more in sadness than in joy and therefore relegated to remote corners of convenient forgetfulness. Since God is not expected to be mean and angry at ingrates, it (or he or she) becomes like a valuable dictionary shelved to be used occasionally only when an intriguing word appears on the book of life. This convenience is not common knowledge and the social order developed by selfish self-designated religious chiefs, permits and even propagates misconceptions which force the unsuspecting unknowing to engage in idiotic vagaries or idiosyncrasies which range from simple depositing of a `fine’ in the coffers of a temple to tonsuring or torturing oneself.
Word and God have somehow been described as one in the Vedas and the Bible. It would have been a primal sound that became a word with the advent of alphabets. Indian wisdom described this sound as AUM. God is considered as AUM and vice versa. So, to know what is God, one should know what AUM means. In Hindu mythology there is a story that Muruga, the son of Shiva – perhaps using the power of being the Supemo’s son, caught hold of Brahma, the creator-God who also is supposed to be the embodiment of knowledge, and asked him the meaning of AUM. Brahma tried to give vague explanations and the infuriated Muruga put him in a cell! Shiva had to intervene and Muruga insisted that Shiva come to him as a student and only then will he tell the real meaning. Legend says that Shiva went to Muruga as a student and the secret was whispered into his ears! This story was narrated to me by Jeyakanthan the doyen-genius of Tamil Literature, with this curious ending. In his version, Muruga whispers into Shiva’s ears, “ athu onnum illappa” (meaning it is actually nothing).
Perhaps that is the absolute truth. God is nothing- a total zero which can work out any equation or a complete circle that will encompass everything. Inshah Allah we will know the truth.
this was written in 2006 october for Ritz magazine chennai