Is God male or female?
Is God good or evil?
Is God judgmental or accepting?
If there is an answer to any of these questions, then God is “with qualities” – that is, God is a Being with qualities, just like any other being on earth. This God – one “with qualities” is very comforting. One can find pictures of this God, tell stories of God’s wrath or forgiveness, and in general, can relate to God like one relates to any famous entity. Like us, God gets dressed in the morning, controls His temper (or doesn’t) and feels anger and sadness. This God can look like “me”!
There is another concept of God that says that the questions above have no answers – in fact, they make no sense! In that version, God has no qualities – and male, female, good, evil, judgmental and accepting are all qualities. The God with no qualities is much harder to worship. Praying to a God with no qualities really makes no sense, since most prayers are appeals to SOME perceived quality of God (mercy, fairness, justice, omnipotence). No statues or pictures are possible.
The God without qualities appeals to cerebral types – people who are intrigued by an idea of God that insists on mind-bending thinking! How can one create an altar to a God without qualities – and should one? Does the need for worship also go away when the qualities disappear? Do we worship in order to make ourselves happy – or God? A God without qualities will not care, so worship becomes a purely self-satisfying process – much like appreciating a lovely landscape. The land gains nothing from our appreciation – but we feel uplifted by the act of recognition and honor.
The advantages of choosing a God with qualities are evident. One can select a God who shares many of our same qualities (sex, race, appearance) and thereby we understand our own proximity to the Divine. We can seek comfort from a merciful, all-knowing and ever-present God, and turn to this God in times of stress and disaster. We can even be angry with such a God, and rail against It’s mistakes and cruelty.
It is much harder to find the payoffs in choosing a God without qualities. With no worship, no prayer, no intervention, God becomes an IT, distant and uninterested. One may wonder why such a God is even needed! This God can be a useful “first cause” who started the Universe, created the laws of nature, and in some way, keeps the whole 'world thing' going. This God demands that we accept responsibility, define our own ethics and morality, and recognize our desire to impose meaning and value on nature. We are forced to claim all religious activities as simply rituals invented to make ourselves happy. We must release our hopes of an afterlife spent in the company of a loving God – in fact, we must release the loving God!
Those who choose a God without qualities say that this “IS” provides comfort of a different kind. There is comfort in being a co-creator, an active participant in creating a morality that is chosen for rational reasons, rather than one that was inherited. There is power in the choice to live without the comfort of an all-powerful being. There is pleasure in assigning meaning, rather than discovering it. Releasing the God with qualities creates a freedom that is new. Of course, it also demands intellectual rigor to examine and decide to accept or reject virtually all inherited and learned beliefs!
Some choose a middle ground. They “really believe” in a God without qualities as the basis for the universe. However, they adopt a personal God for purposes of worship, comfort, and identification. This middle road seems to offer the benefits of both concepts, without the drawbacks. It does, however, require some intellectual contortions!
So – God as a Yoga Studio?
Defines the concepts of God with and without qualities. Explores what spirituality would look like if God is without qualities, and the emotional gratification of such a spirituality. Considers the advantages of worshiping a God with qualities. Observes the option of a God Who is a mixture of both.
Tess Pender is an ordained Interfaith Minister, active in 12-step programs for over thirty years. Her spiritual practice began with Native American Sweat Lodges, and continued with a series of Vision Quests. She led a Teen Spiritual Education Program, and regularly teaches classes on accessing intuition. She practices Earth-Centered Spirituality. She can be reached on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/Rev-Tess-Interfaith-Minister-1333335763419...