Wednesday, February 6, 2013
FOR THOSE WHO DON'T LIKE THE WORD "GOD"
Words are wonderful. They allow us to know and experience so much more than we could without them. However, like plucked fruit or flowers, words nearly always go bad. That is the case with the word "God" for some in our modern world. A few of us have lost the ability to believe in or trust a particular religious depiction of God, yet we have not lost a sense of the Presence of “something” divine. We could say that we still enjoy the celestial flowers and fruit, but not after they have gone bad in the religious container.
In C.S. Lewis' book, Till We Have Faces, the protagonist named Orual comes into a temple and sees a newly completed statue of a beautiful young goddess. The priest informs Orual that the marble image represents a woman who "has only just begun to be a goddess. For you must know that, like many other gods, she began by being a mortal". Orual asks him, "And how was she godded?" The priest then tells the story of how a mortal was "godded".
I like Lewis' word, "godded". It implies the result or end of a process which we might call "godding". I find myself these days, when asked if I believe in God, saying that I trust in "godding". I then go on to explain that I view every internal and external life experience to be part of the "godding" process--of making each of us immortal, of being made into the image and likeness of God. I see divinity as a verb, a dynamic process of movement--a sacred wind (Holy Spirit) blowing across the landscape of my soul sculpting the topography from mortality to immortality.
Many do not know that all of the deities in human history began as verbs, or by godding: Zeus as thundering. Aphrodite as beautifying. Vishnu as rescuing. Kali as destroying. YAHWH as I am being. Satan as I am opposing. Allah is qu'raning (reciting). And so on. I am here imaginaing the Gods as verbs, and they are always godding, with an aim toward making us godded or god-like.
I also like that Lewis' priest tells Orual "the story" of the young woman's godding process, of "how a mortal was godded" over many years of lived experience. In the New Testament Paul writes that “We are becoming God’s masterpiece...a letter written to be read by others...” The word “masterpiece” is translated from the Greek word poiema, the origin of our word for “poem.” Great poetic and artistic masterpieces are created line by line and stroke upon stroke via a skilled artisan over time. I call this "godding," or soul-making. The Apostle Peter says the purpose of this godding process is that we "may participate in the divine nature by escaping the decay caused by selfishness". The godding process turns our mortality into immortality, our finitude into infinity.
But how does one have faith in “something” divine? What do we call it? How do we trust it? How do we address it? Answer: As a verb. Or we see the VERB as divine. The “Word” is not the audio or visual symbol, but the archetypal “ing”, the process, the actor, the agent of “ing-ing” I can no longer believe in “god,” but in Godding. All nouns are frozen verbs, captured actions. Just as we are human “be-ings,” the divine is a divine “be-ing,” an active Presence who is not only present, but presencing behind all that is present. Now there is a metaphysical mouthful--but you get the point. Divinity is a verb. I call it Godding.
Our current myth of the Big Bang is the result of Godding. All movement is Godding. Each human has a mini version of the Big Bang in his/her psyche. Inventing, birthing, adventing, mating, hunting, eating, digesting, defecating, warring, thinking, feeling, willing, building, creating, living, dying, rebirthing, resurrecting. My primary religion is “ingism” – or what I choose to call soul-making, psycho-poeisis, the art or skill of godding. Each of us, like the deity in C.S. Lewis' story is in the process of godding with the aim of being godded, or made into a immortal be-ing.
Let me further suggest that Godding is not the same as "unicorning" or belief in unicorns. The human experience of Godding arises from an innate human compulsion--unicorning does not. Unicorning is recognized as a fantasy constructed from the realities of horses and horns, but the existence of such a creature is known to be a fairy tale. Godding (divinity) is not in the same category. Just as beautying, justicing, truthing, loving, etc. exist a priori, so is the ubiquitous human compulsion toward Godding. Pre-human qualities like Beauty and Justice can be willed out of the human mind. These ontological entities are as real and common as grass and rocks—that is why they cannot be willed away or forgotten. Crowd in front of a man in a supermarket line and he will be compelled to justicing. Lie to a woman about something personal to her and she will be compelled to truthing. Place a man in a life and death situation, and he will be compelled to Godding. Tell a woman that there are unicorns or tooth fairies, and she will think you teasing or insane--but she will never take you seriously. These are not in human consciousness like truth, beauty, justice and the divine. That is why even atheists are compelled to un-godding.
I see godding not as metaphysics, but middle-physics—the link between physics and metaphysics—the link between nature and cultural religion. Godding is what compels humans to make Gods, religions, rituals, stories and other “sacred” phenomena. But Godding is not God. To speak of God is like taking a photograph of Godding, freezing an isolated frame of the dynamic movement Itself/Herself/Himself. Godding is the divine equivalent of William James observation that human thought is a "stream of consciousness," always moving; Heraclitus' flowing river into which no one can step twice, always repositioning.
Our modern religious world is transitioning into something not yet known. Of course many of the old frozen religious nouns and plucked religious flowers are still vibrant and thriving for many people—and will continue to be so for some time. But for those who can no longer trust or believe in a particular "God"--you might want to say you believe in "godding".