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The Personal God

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The Personal God

Theosophy does not support the idea of a personal God – a grand being existing somewhere in heaven, with human properties, but nevertheless all-good, all-wise, all-forgiving, all-merciful, all-powerful and Creator of all except Himself. Such a God-concept is man-made: a God created by the human mind rather than a God who created man. If this God would really exist, how could there be evil, how could there be suffering, how can there be so many obvious imperfections in Nature?

The true creator of existing things is the mind. Not only the human mind, but the greater mind (called mahat in Sanskrit), indivisible in its extend (like space itself), of which a spark is present in each and every conscious being in the universe. The activity of the cosmic mind as reflected in the personal mind of any living being does not have to be part of the distinct awareness of that creature: it can be present in the form of instincts – and some instincts are very complex and sophisticated. How can, for example, insects and birds build complex nests without having enough personal mind to follow an engineering college? How can the complexity of a cell in our body or any creature’s body be explained without a ‘force’ which has a great mental knowledge – much greater than any human scientific knowledge – of materials such as molecules and the capacity to combine their properties to a useful instrument such as a cell? Still we see that throughout the ages the complex structures and forms in Nature are evolving, developing new ways, sometimes abandoning others very soon. This process of evolution is imperfect – it rather reflects the efforts of a larger, but still imperfect mind, itself evolving and developing new vehicles, new forms, new bodies – from the simplest unicellular creature to the most complex structure of, for example, the human brain. Nothing is perfect as yet.

There are uncountable, almost an infinite number of beings endowed with minds, small and great, elemental up to divine minds – and even these last, though forming the top of the hierarchy of minds in the cosmos, are not perfect. Even they make ‘mistakes’ however perfect from a human point of view. Even they are eternally evolving. We humans are a middle class of minds. We can think out clever instruments, systems, policies etc., create beautiful art, music and philosophy, still we can not create even a virus or the simplest prokaryote. Because living beings create from within themselves outwards: that part of their innate mind which belongs to their spiritual essence and connects with the cosmic mind or mahat, though not to their personal material consciousness. Humans can, so far, only create rather ‘primitive’ ideas (compared to the vast intelligence of Nature) from their personal minds, and they need external action to collect materials and combine these to invent and make a new instrument.

So that is one of the reasons why Theosophy rejects the existence of one personal creative God. There is no such perfect God who interferes in everyone’s or anyone’s personal matters, who can perfectly solve our self-created problems when we but ask or pray. That does not mean that there can be no personal help from a higher source – a personal or local deity – just as people around us can help us, but basically we should not try to ask even these lower gods – they might be wise enough intuitively to see inside whether it is necessary or good to help in specific cases if that is their task.

Nevertheless, despite the fact that it is philosophically untenable to maintain the idea of a personal One God-Creator for all humankind or the whole universe, we see that in spiritual literature the world over and throughout the ages, any god or God is often addressed or referred to in a personal way, mostly in terms of He and His, You or Thou, or even I, as Krishna does in the Bhagavad Gītā and Jesus in the Bible. Let us first emphasize that traditionally and wisely we can never ask anything from God. We can not beg His help or support. However – and that is the purpose of human existence – we can elevate ourselves to the highest aspects of our mind and of our spiritual and ethical consciousness. And the divine messenger tells us how to do that. Therefore, in genuine (unspoiled) ancient traditions one could and can not pray for boons. We can only lift ourselves, to the extent we are able to, to the high qualities and properties which gods have in common – so that ultimately we will ourselves become gods. In the shorter run, i.e. today, long before we are full-blown gods – according to the force and quality of our aspirations – according to the force and quality of our aspirations – such a mental and spiritual self-elevation leads to an after-death state in which we find ourselves as to live among the gods, until our next descend or incarnation into the flesh made of earthly elements.

But why do we direct our attention towards a personal God with lofty superhuman qualities? Is it just the psychological desire to direct ourselves to a father-figure or mother-figure,  to feel ourselves ‘on safe ground’ as it were? Or should we replace He and She and His and Hers by ‘It’ and ‘It’s’, to be philosophically correct?

In fact, the impersonalization of God only applies to the eternal, imponderable Divine Essence. This essence is unlimited, eternal, and not catchable by any mental speculation. This essence has no attributes, does not become larger or smaller, younger or older, let alone that it would have a gender and a personality, an outer appearance: outer appearances can never be eternal in time and space of course.

There is also another teaching in Theosophy – that about infinite hierarchies of conscious individual beings such as men and all lower and higher beings. Some of them, who have been men in the past, have very lofty roles to play in the evolution of life and the history of the planet. They are far beyond any man or women now living publicly on earth. In the future we all can become like them, in the far future, but we humans still have to go through long and interesting cycles of evolution, physically as well as mentally and spiritually. These beings have gained enormous knowledge and wisdom and moreover, developed a gigantic compassion that brings them to voluntarily sacrifice all that they can – their knowledge, their strenuous uninterrupted effort, their own spiritual progress and bliss for a long time, for the sake of helping humankind. This help is of a character very far above personal help. There are scores of such beings in all levels of development and task-fulfilment in the universe and on the planets. They all work under ‘supervision’ of what in Theosophy is called ‘the Hierarchy of Compassion‘. They have nothing to do with any sect or specific religion. At the top, ‘sits’ a Hierarch of Compassion, the director, overseer of a smaller or larger period of evolution and cultural development. In theosophical terms, this supervising being is often indicated with the name ‘Silent Watcher‘. In the silence of his inner being, which is not different from the inner being of all evolving beings, he oversees, watches and guides evolution for one period or a still larger period and ‘waits’ for hundreds of thousands or millions or even billions of earthly years until all up-striving men have reached the safety of nirvāṇa within his cycle of service. Then only he has successfully fulfilled his vow to liberate all living beings from the shackles of their rounds of suffering and illusion. The well-known Buddhist and modern theosophical term for such beings is dhyāni-bodhisattva, literally ‘lords of meditation (dhyāna) whose very essence is wisdom’ Above them is the still loftier Dhyāni-Buddha or Buddha of Meditation. By their wisdom they are continuously active, without resting for a second, without leaving their station, to lay the basis and form the ground for the evolutionary and spiritual development of humankind. They do so by sending out prophets, human Buddha‘s and Bodhisattva‘s, Christs or Messiahs, Heavenly Dragons or Serpent, etc. with specific teachings and impulses for humankind at particular moments and places. They work, of course, step by step, exposing those teachings and impulses which at least the best among mankind can grasp at that moment – thus laying the basis for new cultures and new religions, ore revitalizing existing ones in smaller cycles. They know the purpose of human existence and they know the influences of cosmic cycles when our planet solar system or galaxy is peregrinating through space. Thus they govern humanity. They represent the highest, loftiest ethical properties and powers we can recognize in the core of our own being. When we direct our expressions of devotion and our efforts to such beings and internally connect ourselves with their high qualities, we truly work for the benefit of humankind, while we ourselves make rapid progress to godhood. This is true prayer.

In the ancient Persian manuscript the Desâtîr, stemming from a long time before and until after Alexander the Great, contains a number of such beautiful prayers. These are meant to elevate ourselves, and by elevating ourselves we elevate the world of thought and the world of action. We copy one such prayer here, from The Book Of Shet Shaikiliv (verses 5-28). Shaikiliv is one of the 14 prophets discussed in the book, the first and greatest of which is called Mehâbâd, the other 13 prophets each of them having their own particular task within the cycle of Mehâbâd. I think a prayer or ode like this, such aphorisms for meditation and practice, could apply to those compassionate beings as mentioned above – those whose infinite love and action is 24×7 and for ages of their immortality as long as they remain,directed towards the well-being of humankind, besides all other living beings on our particular planet, or any planet:

 

 

  • Now [God, the Highest Being, says], thee [Shaikiliv] have I chosen, and sent thee on the work of prophecy: Glorify Me in manner following;[1]
 
  • In the name of Hermehr, the Bestower of sustenance, the Protector.
 
  • Thou art exalted, O our Lord!
 
  • From Thee is praise, and to Thee is praise!
 
  • Thou art necessarily-existent, and there is nought self-existent but Thee.
 
  • Thou art worthy of the adoration of adorers, and none is worthy of the worship of worlds but Thee!
 
  • Thou art One, excelling in glory;
 
  • And of mighty praise:
 
  • And Thy light exceeding powerful and brilliant:
 
  • And Thy grandeur passing great;
 
  • Thy perfection is perfect;
 
  • And Thy bounty complete,
 
  • And Thy goodness most expansive,
 
  • And Thy splendor very glorious,
 
  • And Thy dignity extreme,
 
  • And Thy effulgence most bright,
 
  • And Thy mightiness very powerful,
 
  • And Thy generosity most cheering,
 
  • And Thy world-of-body (tenistân)[2] [3] very capacious.
 
  • Thy goodness most shining,
 
  • Thy substance most excellent,
 
  • Thy world of Intelligences very pure.
 
  • Thy world of Souls very glorious!
 
  • Thou art Mighty!

– Desâtîr: The Book Of Shet Shaikiliv

  1. DTh note: The Divine teaches us to glorify Him, i.e. to meditate upon the highest essences of noble character and thus lifting ourselves to the level of the Divine. Our own essence is equal with It. He is not a personal God who solves anyone’s problems or donates boons, nor bestows wisdom on us by His grace. It is our duty and destiny as humans to become gods or angels ourselves in nearer of further future, exponents of divine properties; not to become spiritual beggars. [<<]
  2. Persian Note: Thy world of forms, the city of bodies, the place of created things, very spacious and long and broad and deep. [<<]
  3. DTh note: the world-of-body appears to be the whole universe of visible things in the universe. So the above qualities are not ‘personal’, but universal divine qualities, and apply wherever and whenever living beings live in the universe. All these qualities reflect themselves in all lower and smaller divisions in the universe, running in smaller cycles. [<<]