An Indian Civilizational Perspective

God and the Misleading Semantics

Cultures and religions over the centuries have eulogized and looked for a God. What or Who that entity is has never been known but adjectives and characteristics have been assigned nevertheless. Some of these are bunched together and assigned based on one’s beliefs as opposed to being assigned based on logic or the results of a reasonable exploration.

In most spiritual and religious traditions, few characteristics have been as important as these: Immanence, Transcendence, and Omnipresence.

Configuration of God has been, on the other hand, been described by – Monotheism, Monism and Polytheism.

Let us first understand each of these terms and see how and why they may explain a God – that most agree rightaway as a going in position is “Infinite”.

Immanence (I):This word comes from the Latin expression in manere which means “to remain within”. This word is used to define God as being part of the world in the sense of Primordial element of existence.
Transcendence (T):is often used to suggest God to transcend the physical existence and in some sense independent of it.
Omnipresence (O): is the property of God to be present everywhere.
Monism: Is the understanding that all is only One, which is God
Monotheism: is the understanding that out of all, only One is really God.

Let us see when Monism is possible and when Monotheism is possible.

T but not I => Superior Entity (above the creation) and WITH a form (since it is “separate” and “different from creation, and has a boundary.. and so a form per force).
O but not I => is not possible. For Omni means everywhere… including the creation. Is the Omnipresent entity is not “within” the creation, then it loses the “omni status”.
T + I = O => is a very logical configuration for Monism

Monotheistic Entity cannot have Immanence nor be Omnipresent. It is only Transcendent. Three strains have been created in various strands of religions to handle this:

Monotheistic Eastern Beliefs: They have solved this issue with differentiating between three (the Trinity): God, Creation and Soul. Soul was an impure manifestation of God, but not God.. and that was the immanent factor, while God is the transcendent factor
Christianity: Christianity also used a Trinity, which was in one essence called God. But this was not written in Bible but developed from its principles. Trinity is a very smart way to define the immanent factor and the transcendent factors.
Islam: Central to islam’s monotheism is Tawhid, which is composed of two concepts – Wahid (One) and Ahad (Unique). But uniquely, the Islamic God is Omnipresent not because He is the entire creation but because His Sovereignty is over everything! So, as someone once said, the relationship between Islamic God and Creation is that All Creation is God’s as opposed to the Eastern God and Creation, where the relation is that All Creation is God.

Interestingly, while Christianity’s Monism defining Trinity was introduced by Jesus himself, he in turn became the reason for its direction into Monotheism, by making the creation a bundle of sin with only a limited “oasis of divinity”! The power of Trinity was suddenly rendered useless.

Islamic God, on the other hand, although introduced as Unity is anything but. It is in a sense Totallitarian – since it owns and not is. The act of owning makes it not only different from the Creation and separate from its collective destiny, but also not responsible for its mess.

Monotheistic Eastern beliefs, on the other hand, just stopped short of this anomaly by calling him omnipresent, formless and eternal yet Monotheistic, which revealed but a confused state of mind. What is separate from the creation could surely not be defined as omnipresent and certainly not formless! It is almost as if the confusion between the negatives and positives of the world was taking these thinkers to the direction of Islamic God, but the baggage of Eastern thinking of Eternal God and Infinite God, kept them stalled somewhere in between their journey.

Monism nevertheless could weave Omnipresent, Transcendent, Immanent, Eternal and Formless God together. However, the presence of creation and it’s obvious anomalies and negatives have created many critics. If all was God, then how can there be “negatives” and “sin”? And more importantly, why have the creation itself?

Answer to that question was attempted in Eastern Monism by calling Creation as Maya or Illusion – because it is incomplete and therefore an illusion. Also, Monism stripped a few things off of their God: Causality (and Purpose), Time, Space, and also Complete and Unquestionable Divinity! Divinity is a flawed belief and a mark of ignorance, for pushing negative to anything other than God and reserving exclusive Divinity for Him, will also inherently and undeniably make him Finite and non-Omnipresent, if we true to those words and not use it in a compromised form. A God separated from Creation or from any characteristic of the Creation is a Finite God and so has a Form (form is the result of a boundary.. ANY boundary!)

So Monistic God cannot be “understood” and Monotheistic God is flawed or worse Totalitarian. Semantics are powerful and yet meaningless.

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