In the eighth chapter of Ezekiel, the prophet records his visions regarding the setting up of worship of an alien deity within the Temple at Jerusalem. This was abhorrent to him, but an angelic messenger came to him to show him that much worse was being done in the minds and hearts of those Israelites who outwardly appeared to be worshipping the one true God.
“And he brought me to the door of the court; and when I looked, behold a hole in the wall. Then said he unto me, Son of man, dig now in the wall: and when I had digged in the wall, behold a door. And he said unto me, Go in, and behold the wicked abominations that they do here. So I went in and saw; and behold every form of creeping things, and abominable beasts, and all the idols of the house of Israel, pourtrayed upon the wall round about. And there stood before them seventy men of the ancients of the house of Israel, and in the midst of them stood Jaazaniah the son of Shaphan, with every man his censer in his hand; and a thick cloud of incense went up. Then said he unto me, Son of man, hast thou seen what the ancients of the house of Israel do in the dark, every man in the chambers of his imagery? for they say, The Lord seeth us not; the Lord hath forsaken the earth” (Ezekiel 8:7-12).
The idea is clear: within our mind, our “chambers of imagery,” we are continually worshipping alien “gods,” thereby rendering any declarations of loyalty and service to the true God of no meaning–except hypocrisy.
“Gods before God”
What are these “gods”? For each of us they are different, but their effect on our spiritual life is the same.
A “god before God” is anything that distracts us from our pursuit of union with God. And how we deal with it reveals whether or not we are truly interested in attaining that union. Here is where our priorities come in–not what we say are our priorities in order to appear noble, but what our mode of life says they are. This, too, we should study carefully.
A serious analysis
A “god before God” is anything that obscures our spiritual vision or demands the attention, interest, time, energy, and love that should be given to God. Therefore as aspirants to higher consciousness we need to frequently sit down in all seriousness and analyze every aspect of our life, asking ourselves:
What in my life obscures my spiritual vision?
What in my life demands the attention I should be giving to God?
What in my life demands the interest I should be giving to God?
What in my life demands the time I should be giving to God?
What in my life demands the energy I should be giving to God?
What in my life demands the love I should be giving to God?
Then, after coming up with a list of aspects of our life that affect our spiritual pursuit, we should give serious thought to either eliminating them or changing our evaluation of them or our attitude toward them so they have no detrimental effect or influence on us. This includes supposed “duties” which, when scrutinized, will be seen to be either misplaced priorities or contrived excuses to “rob God” (Malachi 3:8) and “give to Caesar” (Matthew 22:21) that which belongs to God.
In the future before allowing any new element whatsoever into our life, we should carefully consider its possible effect on us, asking:
Will this obscure my spiritual vision?
Will this demand the attention I should be giving to God?
Will this demand the interest I should be giving to God?
Will this demand the time I should be giving to God?
Will this demand the energy I should be giving to God?
Will this demand the love I should be giving to God?
And if the answer is “yes,” then we should either refuse to give it a place in our life or change our attitude toward it or our evaluation of it so it can produce no harm.
When doing this analysis of our life and attitudes, we must not deceive ourself by giving the answers we think we “ought” to give. If we do not really rate our spiritual life above making money, achieving success in a career, influencing others, or gaining personal pleasures, we should say so! After all, who are we talking to but ourself; and if we cannot be truthful to ourself, to whom will we be truthful?
In our spiritual life there are two factors only: God and us. God knows the truth about us already, so why worry? Of course, it is good to know how we should eventually place our priorities, but until we have…we have not.
Self-honesty is of the utmost importance in spiritual life, however much it may pain us on occasion. So we must strive for complete self-honesty throughout our spiritual life.
We can find out whether we have “gods before God” by simply observing our daily life and thoughts–an activity that surprisingly few human beings engage in to any degree. Anything which draws our awareness from being centered on God is itself a “god,” whatever its nature may seem to be.
In many people’s lives, religion and philosophy are the biggest “god” of all, completely obscuring their relationship with the real God.
In meditation, noble and sacred thoughts, inspired insights, feelings of exaltation, and other such seemingly good things are really our spiritual enemies, false gods that keep us from finding the true God. Negative feelings are also such gods, but are easier to recognize for what they are. Whether it be a negative emotion, a noble aspiration, an intuitive vision, or the memory of what we have to do tomorrow, anything that we let distract us in meditation and prayer is a god, an idol that must be “cast out” by turning our attention back to the true God. Therefore our meditation and constant prayer can be the means by which we both discover what our gods are and by which we can eliminate them.
Read the next article in Gnosis of the Ten Commandments and the Beatitudes: Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image…