Quotation from Chapter One: Vision and Practice
…. If we now look at the rather problematic relationship between this kind of creator-God and his creation, we will notice that all forms of practice, ritual and symbolism in these religions are directed towards resolving this single problem their followers face: their ultimate and absolute separation from God. Instead of feeling nourished from within the God that created them, they can only look up to heaven and meekly pray for help. This form of practice is a direct result of the way in which God is described as an all-powerful entity, separate from his creation.
Elaborate attempts have been made to appease this God through prayers and songs of praise, symbolic or real sacrifices and deeds deemed to be of merit in his eyes. Detailed rituals, such as baptizing, circumcision, fasting, going on pilgrimages, attending religious gatherings and so on, were developed in attempts to establish more direct bonds with the Creator and to bridge the eternal divide between God and his creation.
Yet, all these are merely symbolic or, at best, psychologically comforting, because in the final analyses the closest one could ever get to this God is to join him in heaven after death. Until then he remains distinct, and often rather aloof, from his creation.
It is also interesting to note that no merging is possible with the Judaic God. He is a creative and directive power, but because his creation is ultimately seen as separate from himself, humanity can never become God. No part of creation is considered to be an integral part of God. Humanity is destined, even in the after-life, to continue in a dualistic, subject-object relationship with its God where he always plays the dominant, controlling and ultimately determining role.
This necessitated a totally different psychological and emotional relationship with God to what we find in the Hindu Vedantic teachings where God is seen as being directly accessible to the individual through meditation and inner exploration. Although the notion of God as creator also exists, he is not ultimately regarded as categorically separate from his creation. This is especially the case in the non-dualistic teachings of the Advaita Vedanta philosophy: humanity cleared from everything it has placed in the way of experiencing its identity with God, can in fact become God or realize its already existing unity with God, Consciousness or Brahman. In these teachings the relationship between humanity and God takes on a distinctly less dualistic and authoritarian role than we find in the Judaic religions.
To make sense of one’s life in the context of a God who has never directly revealed himself to any aspect of his creation, and therefore exists merely as an idea and belief in the minds of his followers, is very different to believing in a God that is perceived to be directly accessible and who could be found ‘within’, if only we were to look.
In the one we have an authority figure we have never seen or had any contact with, who created us, told us what to do and made it very clear that we will suffer greatly if we do not obey his commands. In the other we also have a creator, but one who allows our return after freeing ourselves from our own delusory ways of looking at things. And not only are we offered the opportunity to return to this God, we are also assured that we could merge back into the totality of his nature.
We are not here concerned with weighing up the merits or demerits of these religions, the one against the other. From a humanistic perspective, the entire notion of some God as the Great Other, whether ultimately separate from us or to be merged with in mystic unity, is based on the fundamental error of mistaking a projection of thought for reality. In both the Judaic and Hindu traditions we notice a distinct sense of duality, and it is this fundamental duality in all religious thought which humanism rejects as mere philosophical and metaphysical speculation. Clearly, if the notion of God is a concern to us, such a misconception needs to be investigated as an integral part of our path of self-enquiry and self-transcendence. This is why it is crucial that we investigate the nature of dualistic vision and its effects on our being as a whole.