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What Are the Many Faces of God?

Many Faces of God

Q: Reading Abbot Burke’s The Christ of India, (all in all a great book) I am a bit confused as to the disposition of Saint Thomas Christians on the matter of God? At one point, he states that they are Unitarian and at other times asserts they are Trinitarian, both practically and esoterically. Which is it?

It is both, because God is both Unity and Trinity. We must realize that since human beings are only on the first rung of the evolutionary ladder, the material universe, they really cannot comprehend the divine nature as it is, since it is beyond conception–but not beyond direct experience. As a result, we must speak of it in terms common to this world.

God is beyond all conception, and therefore is beyond both Unity and Trinity as we think of it. Yet in speaking of the possibility of interaction between humans and God and the ultimate realization of their oneness, we have to speak as well as we can, though only approximately. God is absolutely One, yet in relating to us manifests in a triune manner. And since God never changes, he must be essentially One and Three simultaneously, otherwise it could not happen. Yet, since even the concepts of one and three are from our side only, he is neither one nor three.

A child beginning to talk really does not have the mental development to understand what his mother and father really are as human beings. But they respond to his addressing them, even if he does not articulate “mother” or “father” clearly. In the same way, our reaching out to comprehend through language is an act of will which does lead us onward to increasing understanding and then transcendence of that limited comprehension into “open vision direct and instant” (Bhagavad Gita 9:1) which is beyond words. And in that vision we get beyond them, too.

To someone who, referring to the foregoing answer asked why it had to be one and three and not four, five, six, or any number.

You are absolutely right. Any number that applies to an aspect of God is perfectly legitimate. Here is an interesting section from the upanishads regarding this.

“Then Vidagdha Sakalya asked him: How many gods are there, Yajnavalkya? He answered, in accord with the following nivid (invocation of the gods): As many as are mentioned in the nivid of the hymn of praise to the Vishwedevas, namely, three hundred and three, and three thousand and three. Yes, he said, but how many gods are there, Yajnavalkya? Thirty three. Yes, he said, but how many gods are there, Yajnavalkya? Six. Yes, said he, but how many gods are there, Yajnavalkya? Three. Yes, said he, but how many gods are there, Yajnavalkya? Two. Yes, said he, but how many gods are there, Yajnavalkya? One and a half. Yes, said he, but how many gods are there, Yajnavalkya? One. Yes, said he.” (Brihadaranyaka Upanishad 3.9.1)

God is not like an egg or an apple that you can count him, so he is not really one, either. As the ancient sages of India have told us over and over, he is all and he is no thing. Therefore he is every number and no number.

The only ones who really understand this are the siddhas, the perfected yogis.

Further Reading:

  • Esoteric Christian Beliefs — The various esoteric Christian beliefs outlined in this article are blessedly outside “official” churchdom and therefore not a set of imposed dogmas but a spiritual perspective, the “mind of Christ” (I Corinthians 2:16) without which no one is a real Christian. Christian discipleship is spiritual practice–and the experience and knowledge gained from such practice–rather than the intellectual concepts of theology and dogma, but there is a certain broad framework, outlined in this article, within which the disciple works out his salvation, but theological details and their interpretation are left up to the individual. By Abbot George Burke.
  • Robe of Light — “Where am I?…How did I get here?” is more than a trite line from nineteenth century melodramas and novels. It is a query put forth by potential sages throughout the history of conscious mankind. When asked on a cosmic scale, it is bold indeed: What is this universe I keep finding myself in, and how did I get here? That is answered by esoteric Christian cosmology outlined in this article. By Abbot George Burke. Also available in print and as an ebook here.
  • Religion for Awakening — A profound study in practical truth by F. W. Pigott, an esoteric Christian bishop within the Liberal Catholic Church in Great Britain who wrote in the first half of the twentieth century. This is an edited–and occasionally adapted–version, edited by Abbot George Burke.
  • The Esoteric Christian Creed — Bishops Wedgwood and Leadbeater were adherents of the Non-dual (Advaita) philosophy of India as uncompromisingly taught by Madame Blavatsky, with whom Leadbeater lived for several years in India. This creed embodies that esoteric view. Commentary by Abbot George Burke.
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