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Theosophical Encyclopedia

God

The Supreme Being, higher than which nothing can be conceived. The concept of God differs widely among various traditions and religious groups, and may change in time even in the same tradition. In the Judeao-Christian-Islamic tradition, for example, the concept of the Supreme Being has changed since the time of Moses, where Jehovah was regarded as the God of the Jewish people, and implicitly not of the Egyptians. It was also a Deity who could be jealous and angry, and regret what he has done. These facets are not found in the God of the Christians.

In theistic religions, God is often regarded as a personal being, to whom one can pray or petition. In Buddhism and Jainism, there is no personal God or creator. In Hinduism, the concept of deity ranges from monism to polytheism. Belief in God is usually associated with theism, whether it is arrived at by reason, revelation or realization. Deism denotes a belief in God arrived at by reason only. Pantheism is the conviction that God is the whole universe, that is, that God is immanent. Agnosticism declares that the question of whether God exists or not cannot be known. Atheism is the denial that God exists.

Philosophical arguments. In philosophy, there are several traditional arguments for the existence of God. The main ones are as follows:

a. Cosmological Argument: The universe could not have brought itself into existence, since its existence is contingent; therefore, there must be a Necessary Being, God, upon whose existence the universe depends.

b. Causal Argument: Every event has a cause which precedes that event in time. But such a series could not recede indefinitely or else it would never have gotten started; therefore, there must be a First Cause, which is known as God.

c. Ontological Argument: I have a concept of a Being “than which nothing greater can be conceived,” as Anselm (1033-1109) phrased it. But if such a being were to exist only in my mind, another Being which exists both in my mind and in reality would be greater than one which exists only in my mind. Since I have a concept of such a greater Being, that Being, God, must exist in reality as well as in my mind.

d. Teleological Argument: The universe, most especially the earth, exhibits such interrelatedness that it could only have come about as a result of purpose or design; but design necessitates a Designer, or God.

e. Moral Argument: Since there are moral commandments, laws, principles, etc. which one realizes are binding upon human beings, there must be a source for such laws, which is God. (One of the main proponents of this argument was Immanuel Kant who lived 1724-1804.)

f. Religious Experience Argument: Mystics of every culture have had experiences which they assert are of such a transcendental nature that they could only relate to God, therefore such a Divine Being exists.

    The Theosophical View. Theosophy, as expounded in the writings of Helena P. Blavatsky and the Mahatma Letters, does not subscribe to the popular concept of God as a Supreme Being who is also personal. In The Key to Theosophy, H. P. Blavatsky writes:

    We reject the idea of a personal, or an extra-cosmic and anthropomorphic God, who is but the gigantic shadow of man, and not of man at his best, either. The God of theology, we say — and prove it — is a bundle of contradictions and a logical impossibility. . . . We believe in a Universal Divine Principle, the root of ALL, from which all proceeds, and within which all shall be absorbed at the end of the great cycle of Being.

    An elucidation of this Universal Divine Principle may be found in HPB’s The Secret Doctrine, where this principle is called the Absolute, the ground of All, which no words can be used to describe, since every such description would be a limitation. It is not even a Being, but a Be-ness.

    This principle is equivalent to the Hindu PARABRAHMAN, “beyond Brahman,” the Ain or AIN SOPH of the Jewish KABBALAH, the Godhead of Meister ECKHART and DIONYSIUS THE PSEUDO-AREOPAGITE, that which Hegel describes as both Being and Non-Being. It is the first of the three fundamental propositions of the SECRET DOCTRINE:

    An Omnipresent, Eternal, Boundless, and Immutable PRINCIPLE on which all speculation is impossible, since it transcends the power of human conception and could only be dwarfed by any human expression or similitude. It is beyond the range and reach of thought — in the words of Mandukya, “unthinkable and unspeakable. (SD I:14)

    Within this Absolute is the germ of the cosmos, which manifests through three phases:

    1. The unmanifested Logos, or the first LOGOS, the precursor of the “manifested,” equivalent to the neuter BRAHMAN of the Hindus.

    2. Spirit-matter, or Purusa-Prakrti, also called the Second Logos.

    3. The manifested Cosmos or the Third Logos. It is equivalent to BRAHMA of the Hindus, the AVALOKITESVARA of the Buddhist, the Crown Sephira of the Kabalists.

    Subsequent to this is the emanation of innumerable spiritual beings, Planetary Logoi, DHYANI-CHOHANS, etc. These lofty beings are sometimes called gods, but none of them is God in the traditional sense.

    The Mahatma Letters. In THE MAHATMA LETTERS TO A. P. SINNETT, the Mahatma KOOT HOOMI states that while Adepts know of planetary and other spiritual lives, there exists no such being that corresponds to the God of popular belief, whether personal or impersonal. “Parabrahm is not a God, but absolute immutable law, and Iswar is the effect of Avidya and Maya, ignorance based upon the great delusion.”

    Intelligence such as that found among Dhyani-Chohans or high spiritual beings, wrote the Mahatma, is a faculty of complex beings, requiring thinking and ideas, and thus modes of perception to have such ideas. To attribute the thinking faculty to God then would make of him a complex evolved being.

    The word “God” was invented to designate the unknown cause of those effects which man has either admired or dreaded without understanding them, and since we claim and that we are able to prove what we claim — i.e., the knowledge of that cause and causes — we are in a position to maintain there is no God or Gods behind them. (ML, p. 270)

    The idea of God is not an innate but an acquired notion. “The God of the Theologians is simply an imaginary power, un loup garou as d’Holbach expressed it — a power which has never yet manifested itself.” The aim of the Adept brotherhood is to correct this misconception, “to deliver humanity of this nightmare, to teach man virtue for its own sake, and to walk in life relying on himself instead of leaning on a theological crutch, that for countless ages was the direct cause of nearly all human misery.” (Ibid.)

    The Hidden Deity. In The Secret Doctrine, the term “Hidden Deity” refers to the unmanifested Logos (the First Logos), symbolized by the circumference of a circle, as contrasted to the other Logoi. This concept of Deity is different from the popular conception of God. “Deity is not God. It is Nothing, and Darkness. It is nameless, and therefore called Ain-Soph — ‘the word Ayin meaning nothing’” (SD I:350).

    The distinction between the unmanifested and manifested deities is an ancient one that can be found among the Greeks, Hindu, and later Gnostic and Kabbalistic cosmogonies. The Basilidean Gnostics speak of ABRAXAS, the Supreme God, from whom came Mind (or Nous), who in turn produced the Word or Logos. From the Logos, came Providence, then the hierarchy of divine beings, such as principalities, archangels, angels, etc. BASILIDES considers the Deity of the Old Testament to be one of the lower angels.

    The Kabbalah calls this Hidden Deity as the Ain-Soph, from which emerge the Sephiroth or the Tree of Life.

    Be-ness and Being. The unmanifested Deity then is not a Being, according to Blavatsky, but a Be-ness. It is equivalent to the true meaning of Sat in Hindu philosophy.

    V.H.C.

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