Humility insists we not latch on to any single image of God; even if it is a cherished one. Imagining that we can grasp the un-grasp-able is hubris of the highest order. Nevertheless, that’s what we Christians usually do. We confidently imagine God as a supreme being, out there somewhere, distinct and separate from ourselves.
We come to this cherished image honestly. It starts when we are infants; when we realize we are not mother. There is me (characterized by my hunger), and eventually it dawns on us that there is other, at first, defined as breast that satisfies my hunger. Over time, other gets more clearly defined as “mom.”
We grow up; we continue to differentiate ourselves. We come to see ourselves bounded inside a bag of skin that exists over here. We realize that my skin-bag is separate from yours. Playing musical chairs as kids, our separate “selves” bump into one another as we both vie to occupy the same space at the same time. Realizing this doesn’t work, we conclude that “I am me; and you are you.” We are two. We are not one.
And it is not just me and you that are “other.” You… and me… and chair… are all “other.” There is me over here… and there are “not-me” objects over there. “Me” as an idea, is separate and distinct from the tree, and the tree is not equivalent to me.
So here we are…
There is you… and there is me… and there is everything. Each is a distinct and discreet package of “otherness.” Reality is made up of billions and billions of distinct pieces of otherness, each separate from the other. Each is unable to occupy the same place at the same time; each unable to be two places at once. We may touch one another, but we are ultimately disconnected.
And this is the framework we’re working with when we formulate our first image of God. When we first begin to imagine the Divine, we do so in terms we’re familiar with; terms of two-ness rather than oneness.
– There is me (1)… and there is not-me (2).
– There is me (1)… and there is God-who-is-not-me (2).
After we make this normal, logical, fundamental framing assumption, the next step is to begin to imagine what the not-me God is like. In our childhood minds, of course, we imagine God’s not-me-ness in parental terms. God is a special, parental, kind of other; an anthropomorphic other.
Imagining God the way we imagine everything else, we see God apart from ourselves; separate from ourselves.
That’s just the way we do it. It’s as normal as normal can be.
But as we’ll see, Jesus, Paul, our saints, and particularly our mystics didn’t see it this way at all. On their journey to imagining God; they didn’t start… or end up where we have.

Share This