Thursday, November 17, 2011

The Name of God

If I've never gone so far as to say it, there was a time in my past when I practised the neo-pagen pseudo-religion of Wicca, which was about as free-form and self-directed as spirituality can be. That's nothing against Wiccans, mind you, but the disciplines weren't for me.

What stuck, however, was an interest in things most aptly described as "occult". Anything old or arcane, really, though there's often a direct connection between these ideas and the idea of magic. In the course of this study, one theme in particular seems to have been a surprisingly common trend: the importance of a name.

Occultists of ages both past and present have continuously come around to the idea that the true name of something had a special power over that thing. Demonologists, as some call themselves, have believed that the names of various spirits, up to and including the angels themselves, were a key component of the rites to summon those powers into the material world, and even binding them to their service. The Dharma faiths of the east recognized the central importance of the Om, a key mantra said to encompass all reality, and in some Hindu sects, it is considered to be the name of God. The Abrahamic faiths considered the true name of God to be too holy to pronounce, and even his known name, YHWH, is best left unpronounced, or so it is said. Even Benedictine monks, at least in part, have a belief in the importance of names, and at least one monk from Worth Abbey in England holds that a passage in Revelations states that everyone's true name is recorded on a white stone in heaven, and advises others to try and find this true name.

The idea of a name is intimately connected with what a thing is, even from a purely linguistic view. Names can be simple or complex, and a thing can go by many names, with each name being a different face, sometimes an entirely different thing. Sometimes these differences are a matter of presentation, as a forum user hiding behind a moniker, but we must remember that all of these names show a kernel of truth, and are, in one way or another, rooted in the identity of the thing so named. A laptop is properly a computer, but that hardly tells the whole story. What is it's operating system? Who manufactured it? How is it configured uniquely by the user? This is so with God.

I'm supposed to use these posts to make an observation about the nature of the world, so here it is: the goal of the spirit is to learn the name of God.  Anyone who has ever taking a moment to examine their spirituality has, at some point, had to make the distinction between spirituality and religion, if only because the various religions of the world are so disparate. One is tempted to make the mistake that anyone one religion is necessarily more true or totally true as compared to the others, but I hold that this is not necessarily true.

Those who study the ancient history of man and religion as a whole have found, increasingly so, that religions are increasingly recursive. Taking our own familiar Abrahamic faith as an example, we can show that Islam developed out of Christianity (where Christ appears as a prophet), and that Judaism was the forerunner of Christianity, but we also know that there are forerunners to Judaism, and forerunners to the forerunners, and so on and so forth, to the point where it is almost tempting to say that the most accurate of the religions would be the oldest... except that there are no records of any of those ancient faiths outside of a few specious archaeological remnants.

However, a very clever woman and I recently hypothesised, and had done so in the past, that when we finally die and become aware of the true nature of God, we'll find quite the amalgamation of the lessons of all faiths, and the identity of god will be quite a bit different from the paternalistic elder image we so freely associate with him. The idea of recursive faiths moving closer together the further back in time one goes seems to support this conclusion.

I wish to learn the name of God. I think, on some level, everyone does. If only I had some idea how to go about that... thoughts?


  1. What I gathered from your post, Zachary, is that you want to somehow distinguish the true identity of the "Higher Being" the world considers when it is in need of spiritual comfort, confidence or guidance. You won't distinguish it in this life. Not in the sense that you're thinking -- bearing that what I understood from your post is correct.

    I hope my opinion doesn't discourage you, however. I only hope to encourage you this, that in the matter of finding a satisfactory state of spirituality, you choose to rely on faith, and not logic. While faith and logic are able to link hands, they more often separate than they do unite as one. Faith is a surpassing of logic, an extension of common belief, and it is necessary in all aspects of your young spiritual journey to follow it, more vital than it is to solve God -- or Buddha, or Jesus, or Brahma -- as a puzzle.

    If it still feels as though the ability to distinguish the right "God" -- that is, the God you feel the most strong in following not only as a student, but as a believer -- is a priority to you, I believe very strongly that you've yet to conclude your search. It may be possible that you are rushing to find a belief to cling to for eternity, but without TRULY finding yourself able to follow without doubt, you aren't truly a follower.

    There is nothing sinful or wrong about this. This is what I think. God surely understands that we are curious, questioning and we long constantly for spiritual satisfaction; surely He understands, because He created us. It would please Him more, or so I believe, that we follow Him based on undaunted faith, than we follow Him based on some human-made necessity. If we don't believe or understand who we are following, what we are preaching, or what we are learning, we are encouraged to dig deep and discover.

  2. This is where I'll finally try to answer your question as best as any human being can. An idea to "go about that". :) Because how does one find the "right" church? The "right" book? The "right" God?

    I would start by fully identifying yourself. Try to understand who YOU are, what you stand for in terms of morale, what actions or behaviours you support or condemn, etc. What brings you joy and sadness, what you want to live for, what you want to accomplish, what YOU think the meaning of this life is. Try to answer these to yourself as absolutely honestly as possible. Don't try to think in the mind of a Christian or a hindu or a Buddhist -- Put your person before a mirror, open it to itself only. This is not a process that can be completed in an hour. This may take months or years. Never rush it. Given that you have a hundred years to live, never feel rushed to fully discover yourself.

    When you have discovered at least more than half of your TRUE self -- not who you hope or want to be, but who you ARE -- you may want to consider asking yourself what place spirituality or religion will take in your life. A common mistake everyone makes on their spiritual journey is 'believing' in something that they don't, be it a principle, a religion, or even a god. If you find that you cannot truly believe in something without some sort of alternate, unrelated support to help you grin and bear it, you may want to reconsider how you plan to study, or, likely the healthier route -- ask. Ask and ask, and don't just ask one person, ask many. (Beware of the internet. Despite its convenience and its occasional mix of good opinions, you'll be met with more bad than good, as people tend to act even more conceited from behind their computer screens).

    What is a relationship with God to you? A string of prayers? A source of comfort? A paragon? An excuse to point fingers and cast blame?

    When you know what it is you'll be looking for in this relationship, I recommend visiting churches or other spiritual resources. I also recommend reading the Bible, both testaments, an English copy of the Koran, and texts from other religions.

    Study them.

    Don't give in until you've learned all that you can. Don't be lead into a faith blind, or lead out of a faith because you have been overwhelmed.

    God encourages us to learn. To believe with sense. While He discourages us from participating in evil, He will not condemn you while you search for Him. As always, He will love you, and He will wait for you.

    You are doing more right in trying to find the answer, than you would be in convincing yourself that you have.

    Good luck, Zachary!