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God With and Without Form

Dr Thomas Hickey

According to the perennial wisdom, God is both with form and without form. This is represented through analogy and metaphor in the various "stories" (mythoi) of the wisdom traditions underlying the historical and cultural garb of the various religions.

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1. God with form

("form" does not necessarily mean physical form but considered as having attributes and personality):


Hinduism: Saguna Brahman (Reality with attributes, personal aspect of God), Ishwara (Lord and Creator of the Universe, in relation to creature), minor deities as personified attributes, Adi Purusha (Primeval Man, the Ancient One), Avatars as direct manifestations of God in human form, Perfect Ones as humans having realized God and become one with God. Since Reality is one - the only Being, creation is the manifestation of God in form. There is a gross aspect to this which all are aware, and a subtle aspect (Virat), such as that shown by Krishna to Arjuna.

Kabbalah: Tree of Life, made up of the ten Sefirot as the divine attributes, YHVH (God as Lord and Creator of the Universe in relation to creature, who appears to Abraham, for instance) and Adam Kadmon (Primeval Man). Since Reality is one - the only Being, creation is the manifestation of God in form. Experiential knowledge of the World of Emanation (Atzilut) is divine knowledge in the sense that it transcends the World of Creation (Beriah).

Sufism: Allah as Lord and Creator of the universe, Insan-e-Kamil (Perfect Man), Prophet as Insan-e-Kamil, Qutub as human being having realized Divine Union. Since Reality is one - the only Being, creation is the manifestation of God in form.

Taoism: Shang Jen (Supreme Person), Shang Ti, (Highest Lord), Lao Tzu (Ancient Infant) as divine manifestation, Sage as one having realized and become one with Supreme Reality. Since Tao is ultimate, creation is the manifestation of God in form.

Christianity: God as Creator and Lord, Word (Logos) as intelligibility of God identical to God, Messiah (Christ) as Divine Incarnation.  Since Reality is one - the only Being, creation is the manifestation of God in form.

Buddhism: Buddha did not deny the ancient Vedic conception of personal deity but only pointed out its limitations in popular conception that prevented appreciation of the formless Reality. Buddha can be viewed as reasserting the teaching of the Upanishads.  Buddhas as awakened to Suchness (Tahata) and embodiment of Beyond Beyond (Gate, Gate, Paragate, Parasamgate).  Nirvana (realization of Suchness) is samsara (manifest universe, creation). Like Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism are offshoots of Hinduism and similar parallels can be shown.

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2. God without form (attributes)

Hinduism: Nirguna or Parat Para Brahman (Reality without attributes, transpersonal aspect of God)

Kabbalah: Ayin (nothingness in sense of ineffable essence), Ein Sof (infinite, boundless)

Sufism: Beyond Beyond (Wara-ul-Wara), Hidden of the Hidden (Ghaib-ul-Ghaib, Unknowable and Indefinable (Majhul-un-Nat), Dark Mist (Al Ama), The State to which all indications are dropped (Munqata-ul-Izharat)

Taoism: Tao (From Tao comes one and from one, two, and from two, three, and from three, the ten thousand things).

Mystical Christianity: Eckhart's Godhead. Father ("No one knows the Father except the Son, and no one knows the Son but the Father." Mt 11:27) - Here Eckhart interprets Son as the Father's knowledge of Himself, Christ is the manifestation of that state, and all are called to realize that state.

Buddhism: Suchness (Tathata), Emptiness (Shunyata). Like Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism are offshoots of Hinduism and similar parallels can be shown.


About the author: external link Thomas Hickey is Director of the Circle School, spiritual counselor, Vedic astrologer, Yogacharya of the Advaitin tradition, Bishop in apostolic succession in the Communion of the Christos, and Taoist sifu.










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content by Dr. Thomas Hickey - Circle School

posted on the Donmeh West mail list
Wed, 8 Dec 1999


page uploaded 9 December 1999; last modified 23 March 2003

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