I am responding to questions in Lunar Wisdom’s Mystical Seeker’s Year on Youtube. This is my response to week 2.
The question of whether humans created deity or whether deity created humans is a complex one for me. The polytheistic deities that I feel can help our human minds to connect with our own spirituality are not literal beings but symbolic in my view, so those gods were of course invented by human beings. But the mystical All, that pantheist deity that I sense in nature and the cosmos… that is a more complex question.
I do not believe it created us as such. I think, if it exists, that it is a presence within nature itself. It sort of emerges from within the Universe, or is a principle of the Universe itself. But I do not believe in a Creator or a designer. I think that conflicts with scientific evidence. We emerged from a process of evolution and natural selection. But if there is some real presence or essence of deity within nature itself, then obviously that existed before we did and was not at all created by us. However it is possible that the cosmos really is impersonal and unfeeling, and this concept of connectedness or a spiritual presence we can connect with, is really just a product of human consciousness, something we need for our own psychological reasons. That doesn’t make it useless and I have a pragmatic approach to spiritual matters. These concepts have worth on a human level, and can help us gain perspective, hope and wisdom and help us to navigate our lives in an ethical and psychologically healthy way.
On the other hand it is also possible that the Universe is far stranger than we give it credit for, and that, being part of the Universe, we can have a kind of relationship with what exists and really plug in to an interconnectedness that can have an uncannily beneficial effect on our lives. All we have to do is open ourselves to it and connect.
So there’s a bit of a question mark in my heart when it comes to this question.
As for the attributes that deity has: I believe it is non-judgemental, it is a force of connectedness, it is creative, it is mysterious, subtle, complex, there is insight and wisdom in nature, there is a kind of compassion, albeit a passive, hands-off kind of compassion, a gentleness, a patience almost.
As for the question of whether these attributes fall into one category. What is interesting is there is a kind of tension here between two, maybe three different ideas of deity. We have the distant, cold, impersonal force of nature. Then we have a gentle, patient reservoir of wisdom that wants to help but perhaps has a lightness of touch about it. There is possibly a third set of attributes here too – the creativity, the mystery, the slight weirdness about nature/the Universe that confounds our expectations, that perhaps “plays” at creating without much caring about the outcome.
However it’s easy to see how this is all just different ways of describing and thinking about nature, lending credence to the idea that this is a human conception and interpretation of something that in its own nature might not even be a deity anyway, but simply the cold, mysterious cosmos. In desiring to connect with the All, we seek compassion and wisdom, but in its own nature it is unfeeling and distant, and somewhere in the middle of all this we can rationalise it as a playful, reckless and slightly weird creative energy that cares little about the outcome of its actions but just creates for the joy of it.
I guess I am an atheist. I just like to be poetic about it. Like I said, spirituality is pragmatic for me. It is human nature to desire to interact with the Universe in this way, to dream up our own spiritual symbols and metaphors. But that doesn’t mean we should reject this impulse. I think we can and should embrace it. I think it is healthy to do so, as long as we also realise that this is not the realm of literal fact but simply our own emotional yearning for a deeper spiritual connection and understanding.