“Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.
“So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.”
How Have We Created God in Our Own Image?
In what way did God create man in “his own image”? And in what way have we created God in ours? Let me discuss the second question first.
The most obvious way in which we’ve created God in our own image is by casting “him” (1) as a human being and (2) as a man.
On the Sistine Chapel ceiling, Michaelangelo represented God as a paternal figure, an old man with a white beard. His very touch creates. To represent God as human is an example of anthropocentrism – the filter that sees the human standpoint as decisive.
To represent God as a male is an example of androcentrism – the filter that sees the male standpoint as decisive.
But that isn’t the only way we represent God in our own image. Whenever we use a metaphor, whenever we attempt to know the unknown in the terms of the known, we’re making God over in our own image, as we’ll see later in this series.
Neither the perspective of anthro- or androcentrism is adequate to capture anything about God. They simply say a few things about us.
They act to filter our experiences to make what we believe be what we see.
Nonetheless, they do at least point to something worth knowing – something called “God.”
I said on another occasion that Werner Erhard used to call God “Everything/Nothing.”
God is everything (period). There isn’t a stone or a feather, a bolt of lightning or a lightning bug that isn’t God. But God is also not a material thing.
Everything is reducible to God but God is not reducible to any thing. Only God truly exists. The “things” we perceive have no basis in reality and no existence at the level upon which God truly exists. The eternally-existent cannot be reduced to the temporary, the evanescent, the non-existent. (1)
How Were We Made in the Image of God?
How were we made in the image of God?
If we want to consider this subject, we’re obliged to briefly look at the purpose of life.
Briefly, beings were created to realize their true identity in a moment of Self-Realization (or, later, No-Self-Realization). We live life after life, learning about ourselves. We progress from no consciousness of self to consciousness of self to Consciousness of Self and No-Self.
How is this of benefit to God? Each time an individual realizes itself, God meets God. Life was created for this meeting. The whole round of life was created as a leela or divine play, for the enjoyment of the One and All.
With that as a necessary prelude, let’s look at how humanity was made in the image of God. For that we have to start with the One and reach the many.
When God determined to create life for the divine pleasure of meeting Itself, the One first created a primal energy or universal vibration, which some religions call “Aum” or “Amen.” This Holy Spirit that moved upon the waters brought all forms into being, held them for a while, and then plunged them back into immateriality.
Ancient sages named this first-born of God the Father the “Divine Mother.” (2) Others called it Shakti, Kali, the Holy Spirit, Wisdom, Isis, and so on. All point to the same quality of energy in the stillness.
This is the meeting place of image-making. God did divide Itself. But we called the results of that division “Father” and “Mother.” We’re using metaphors to suggest qualities and processes. We’re making God over in our own image again; this time as a family.
Having created the maker of Creation (the Mother, the Creatrix), we now have a divine couple, the Father and the Mother. What these terms point to, what they differentiate is that the Father is still, silent and transcendental; the Mother is active, sonic, and phenomenal.
This representation of God as Father and Mother is simply a teaching tool. The Father is not male and the Mother is not female.
It helps us imagine and differentiate between God as stillness and God as action.
It offers a human counterpart (sacred partnership) in which the attributes of coupleship in general and divine-coupleship in particular can be explored by couples who choose sacred partnership as a path. This in itself is, I’m told, a vehicle to enlightenment.
As above, so below. Tomorrow, let’s look at how the procreation process sheds light on the purpose of life.
(Continued in Part 2.)
(1) To this extent, I agree with empirical materialists that the existent cannot be reduced to the non-existent. However on what “existent” includes we would disagree.
(2) Here is Lao Tzu, for instance:
“Nameless indeed is the source of creation
But things have a mother and she has a name.”
(Lao Tzu, The Way of Life. The Tao Te Ching. trans. R.B. Blakney. New York, etc.: Avon, 1975, 53.)