"We should have a great many fewer disputes in the world if words were taken for what they are, the signs of our ideas only, and not for things themselves". ~ John Locke
Recently I had an interesting conversation with a gentleman I met at a birthday party for a mutual friend. We spoke amicably and philosophically for a few minutes and were having a wonderful time. When the typical, "so, what do you do for a living?" question came up and I told him I was an author of inspirational books and a spiritual mentor I could see he was visibly agitated. His eyes sort of rolled back in his head and it became obvious he was preparing himself for a debate (argument) with me. "Oh," he said. "A real man of God are you?" with a snide nasty emphasis on the word God. I thought this was quite amazing given the fact I never mentioned the word God--he did. There was a very awkward moment of silence and then he took a deep breath and apologized for the way he said what he did.
He said that for most of his adult life he had trouble dealing with the word God because of memories of his childhood experiences in a church where the word God was always spoken in conjunction with inference to hell, damnation, anger, guilt, shame, fear, eternal punishment and control. He said. "I have no problem with spirituality and the quest to know we are part of something that is larger than we, but don't call it God. Clearly, for him, the word God symbolizes something negative. At that moment, realizing he was not the only person on the planet who thinks this way I started feeling great sadness for those people who continue to allow a "word" that may have some negative history around it to come between them and a universal Presence that goes far beyond names we human beings have affixed to it.
Harold Robbins Haldeman wrote, "We are getting into semantics again. If we use words, there is a very grave danger they will be misinterpreted". It's funny how the same words can be interpreted so differently. I encourage you to remember that words merely serve as symbols, which represent beliefs, thoughts, and ideas that each of us must interpret for ourselves. I am keenly aware that words can mean different things for different people. Throughout my teaching and writings there are numerous references to the word God. At times I will use other words describing God that mean the same thing to me, but in a different way depending on the context in which it is being used. I often interchange the word God with other words such as Source, The Infinite One, Being, Him, Her, Presence, Self, The Whole, Divine Mind, Life, Spirit, Universal Intelligence and even, It. There are more words I use as well, but I trust you get my point. In my mind there is one God, which is known by many different names (words/symbols)...so call It what you may.
To further make my point, some people might be comfortable or not comfortable with yet other names for God such as Atman, Brahman, Allah, Baha'u'llah, The Christ, The Buddha Nature, Wakan Tanka, The Creator, The Great Maker, Jehovah, Elohim, Yahweh, That which Is, The Father, Goddess, The Great Spirit, The Beloved, and so on. When it comes to names for God there seems to be something for everybody. Then again, as with my birthday party friend, others may not resonate whatsoever with any particular concept or name for God. Perhaps the "G word" even makes them want to shut down and disconnect from what is being said.
Because they come from our heads (intellect) rather than our hearts, perhaps all words referring to God do nothing but get in the way, building a sense of separation from It. Perhaps Divinity lives so fully in our hearts as a feeling that the minute we name or label It something we automatically limit our experience of It by drawing boundaries around It. Hannah Arendt wrote, "Nothing we use or hear or touch can be expressed in words that equal what we are given by the senses". I encourage you to open your heart and move beyond any attachment to the words used by yourself or others to describe that which truly is, and always has been, beyond description. Words are but symbols, which, at the end of the day, have no more or less meaning than what we individually choose to assign them. Call it what you like, I say it's all good!