Wednesday, February 6, 2013
FOR THOSE WHO DON'T LIKE THE WORD "GOD", TRY "GODDING"
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 "God" 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, from a generic human to a unique personality.
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 being. Satan as opposing. Allah as qu'raning (reciting). And so on. I am here imaginaing the Gods as verbs, active participants in the human soul-making endeavor. This earth is the realm of godding, with an aim toward making each human godded or god-like. That is the purpose of this planet.
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. John Keats calls Lewis' "godding" process, 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" (II Peter 1:4). The godding process turns human mortality into immortality, finitude into infinity.
But how does one have faith in “something” like this? What do we call it? How do we trust it? How do we address it? Answer: As a verb. Or rather, we perceive God as divine action in every moment. The “Word” is not the audio or visual symbol, but the archetypal “___ing” -- the process, the actor, the agent of “____ing”. I can no longer merely intellectually believe or trust in “god,” but in Godding.
Try ceasing to view God as a noun, or name. All nouns are frozen verbs, captured actions. Just as we are human “be-ings”, so to the divine is divine “be-ing”--action, process, an active Presence Who is not merely present, but presencing behind and through all that is present. Now there is a metaphysical mouthful, or maybe New Age mumbo jumbo--but you get the point. Divinity is a verb. With Lewis, I call it Godding.
Our current myth of the Big Bang may be the result of Godding. All movement is Godding--cosmic, psychological, relational, emotional, political, historical, scientific, etc. Each human is a kind of mini version of the Big Bang occurring in his/her psyche. Each soul is in the process of inventing, birthing, adventing, mating, hunting, eating, digesting, defecating, warring, thinking, feeling, willing, building, creating, living, dying, rebirthing, resurrecting.
My primary religion then is “ingism” – or what I choose to call soul-making, psycho-poeisis, or what the Eastern Orthodox Church calls theois, 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 is not in the same category. Just as beautying, justicing, truthing, loving, etc. exist a priori, so is the ubiquitous human compulsion toward Godding. Transcendent qualities like Beauty and Justice are ontological entities--as real and common as grass and rocks—that is why they cannot be willed away or forgotten. Justice or fairness is a good example: Crowd in front of a man in a supermarket line and he will be compelled to justicing. Truth is another: Lie to a woman about something personal to her and she will be compelled to truthing. Tell that man or woman that there are unicorns or tooth fairies, and they will think you teasing or insane. Unicorns and tooth fairies are not in human consciousness like truth, beauty, justice and godding. That is why atheists are so obsessed with un-godding--just as a criminal is obsessed with wiping out justice. These eternal, archetypal entities may be annoying, but they are not made up by the human mind.
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 in every culture to find Gods or ultimate authorities, religions, rituals, stories and other “sacred” phenomena. But Godding is different than 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 re-positioning.
Our modern world is transitioning into something not yet known--a new kind of godding. 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".