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Guide: God & Meditation

A Guide to God and Meditation


If you know little or nothing about the history of the word and concept “God,” this introduction may help. The word “God” has a wide variety of meanings. Usually it refers to the single, all-encompassing, and highest spiritual being. 

In ancient Judaism (as well as the Christian and the Muslim faiths that offer the ancient Jewish texts as their earlier scriptures), “God” declared him/herself as “YHWH,” also known as “Yahweh” (from which the word “Jehovah” derives). This translates roughly as “I AM THAT I AM.”

In another part of the Jewish texts, God is named “Elohim.” This translates roughly as “the One He/She/It/They God.”

In traditional Christianity, God is the source or being from which comes the Trinity of Father/Mother, Son, and Holy Ghost/Spirit, and Christian mystics consider any experience of these three aspects as an experience of God. In Jewish mysticism, these meanings are said to be guides or even experiences to attain: a merging with “God consciousness.” In Islamic Sufi mysticism, followers dance their way into an experience of God. Prayers in all of these three Western religions are delivered to God in some form.

In Hinduism, God is the single and ultimate source of all, and it is composed of the Trinity of primary beings known as Brahma (Creator), Vishnu (Sustainer), and Shiva (Destroyer). Hinduism also speaks of God as being expressed or found within oneself (Atman) and outside of oneself (Brahman). In Hinduism, as well, in the system of seven “chakras” (see “Energy Centers”) that are said to be placed on or near the spinal column from bottom to top, some yoga mystics–for example,

Sri Aurobindo, an early-20th century revolutionary leader in India who then became a well-known modern mystic of the ancient Vedic tradition–claims there is an eighth chakra above the other seven. He says that merging with this highest chakra is what mystics experience when they say they have merged with, seen, or experienced God.

Buddhism tends to avoid praying to God or even worrying about the concept. Buddha taught that one should not worry about theological speculation but instead use the Eight-Fold Path to eventually reach nirvana. However, nirvana is described in Buddhist texts as having a number of levels, and some of the higher ones use language suggesting a mystical meeting with God.  

Zen Buddhism, a major religion in itself, and an offshoot of Buddhism, has its own description of God. The name “Zen” itself derives from the Hindu Sanskrit word for meditation, “Dhyana.” Dhyana is one of Buddhism’s eight steps in its Eight-Fold Path–thus demonstrating this religion’s particular interest in finding higher states of being in meditation.  Lao-Tse (“lout-zoo”), founder of Zen Buddhism, said of God, “There is a thing which is all-containing, which was born before the existence of Heaven and Earth. How silent! How solitary! It stands alone and changes not. It revolves without danger to itself and is the mother of the universe. I do not know its name and so call it the Path” (Okakura Kakuzo, The Book of Tea). The implicit understanding of all such descriptions in Zen Buddhism texts is that a Zen meditator can hope to attain consciousness of these states of being within himself or herself.

Ancient religions of many types existed long before most of today’s major religions. Sometimes these early religions are known as pagan or nativist religions, and some are still practiced by large groups of people. Modern followers of the ancient religions often describe God as being everywhere or within everything, and accessible to those who meditate.

Modern versions with which many people are acquainted include American Indian, Australian, and New Zealand native religions. Practitioners say that God is the soul, secret essence, or Being, and that nature is God’s outward manifestation or body. They add that this Being lies behind or within all of creation, including every smallest and largest part of it; and that while some cultures may give names to individual spirits or spirit beings–e.g., the god of water, the sun god, et al.–all of these lesser beings or deities are also an expression or part of the one divine state of being behind everything in the world.

They believe meditators or spiritual masters are able to pierce the veil of “illusion” (see). This veil, they say, is the illusion that the world is merely unconnected things–and becoming enlightened (see) means you learn to see behind the veil to the one state of being in everything.

Ancient mother-goddess or priestess-led religions in Greece and elsewhere made use of rituals to help them experience God: singing, dancing, chanting, and even using special fumes (as in some Greek mystery Oracles) and potions. Many modern mainstream religions also use such rituals to increase opportunities to more easily find, experience, or imagine God, whether as male or female.

Mystics (see) are individuals who, throughout time and in all major religions, ancient through modern, have made claims of experiencing God in some way. From Islam’s Whirling Dervishes and Christianity’s early ecstatic hermits through Catholicism’s famous medieval mystics like St. Francis of Assisi, St. Theresa of Avila, and Joan of Arc–and from ancient Hindu Vedic mystics through Hindu and Buddhist mystical gurus and teachers–all mystics have discussed their meetings with God or other divine or holy presences.

Dionysius, Christian author of the Corpus Areopagiticum of about 500 CE/AD, described mystical union with God as “a darkness that shines brighter than light, that invisibly and intangibly illuminates with splendours of inconceivable beauty” (Jacques Maritain Center). Generally, mystics of most major religions describe similar or related experiences of union with God, in which opposite extremes of perception occur in and as one.

On the other hand, many modern theologians and philosophers either state that no one can experience God or even that God is simply a philosophical or theological abstract. God is, in these views, a something-ultimate that is unknowable.  

What does modern science think of God? Primarily, science remains agnostic, claiming neither belief nor disbelief in something outside its realm. However, physicists have played with the idea of a “God” particle or originating particle that began the universe. In physics’ most recent explanation of the universe, something much smaller than atomic sub-particles theoretically may exist: strings of very tiny matter. These strings are said to fold in ten dimensions (our four dimensions of space and time, and six micro-dimensions even our best early twenty-first century microscopes cannot yet see).

These strings vibrate, creating harmonies, together, that shape space and time. In size, one string is said to be to an atom about the same as one atom is to our solar system.

Mystics might say that if one thinks of nature as God’s coat and atoms as God’s clothes, then strings of matter might be God’s skin–but there will always be something more under the skin. As Hindu mystic Aurobindo said, above the highest level of God consciousness that mystics attain, there likely are higher levels, and above them, even more–and humanity will evolve over the next thousand or million years to experience ever more of them.

A person might conclude that if God exists, then he/she/it is always one step beyond science and philosophy. This may remain true even as science and philosophy stretch and grow to understand the universe and its ultimate rational meanings.

Meditation and God: For the great majority of meditators, worrying about the question of God’s existence or nature is not necessary. You can develop excellent and far-advanced meditation skills without trying to figure out whether God exists.

If you wish to pursue such intellectual considerations, there is nothing wrong with doing so. But intellectual pursuits are not meditation practice, any more than are thinking about the economy or studying the ultimate meaning of subatomic particles.

If you wish to pursue thoughts of God in a meditative way, then you must mindfully and thoroughly concentrate on the meaning or essence of each word or concept (see “Jnana Yoga”). Otherwise, in normal meditation practice, your aim is to meditate and/or concentrate in certain conscious ways.

If you have an experience that is spiritual or otherwise very uplifting, then it is possible to include it in meditation by meditating or concentrating upon it or, for more than one such experience, on several of them, one at a time or together. How do you accomplish this? If your experience/s are in some way of God, of some other spiritual being, or of a spiritual state, then in meditation, you simply concentrate or remember such experiences. This is a way of increasing or improving your meditation and of exploring higher states of consciousness.

If you have an actual experience of merging with or sensing God, as do mystics, it is likely you will know it. But always be willing to check, research, and verify.

On the other hand, beware of receiving verbal commands from God, especially ones that go against what your intuition, conscience, heart, or normal reason tells you is right. (See “Delusion.”)  Such verbal conversations with “God” or some other higher being might just as easily be in the domain of imagination or psychosis, rather than in reality.

If you experience such conversation, follow normal, rational procedures for validating and verifying everything you can: (1) Get advice from legitimate, highly regarded sources (not just Internet gossip) by looking up others’ experiences that are similar. (2) Consult legitimate meditation masters who believe in such events and are experienced in helping others with them. (3) Consult your own deepest thoughts and feelings.

Above all, be cautious and rational. If your experience is real, it will not go against reason.

If, however, you do have a legitimate, classically-described experience of merging, seeing, hearing, or being with God–the kind such as that described above by Dionysius the Areopagite or by other mystics who have defined them throughout the ages–especially nonverbal experiences, then there is reason not to trust it: try including it in your meditation practices. You may not want to claim you “saw God” or “merged with God,” as there are various levels and types of such experiences. However, what you label it should not affect your continuing pursuit of it.

In conclusion, you always should remember that meditation practice is very different from speculation about the meaning of “God.” Once again, you certainly may speculate on meanings. However, such speculation usually is not meditation practice. Whatever your interests in the concept of “God,” simply continue your normal meditation techniques and practices in pursuit of your meditation goals.



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Text © 2017-2020 by Richard Jewell

Images © 1994-2018 by Gabriel R. Jewell

First edition: 1 Sept. 2018. Second edition: 1 Sept. 2019. Free Use Policy

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