Adam Blatner

Words and Images from the Mind of Adam Blatner

Naming the Everything

Originally posted on March 24, 2013

Tradition is strong, and the names of certain gods themselves became sacred, as they were called on as local, special protectors. This is a residue of what was called “hinotheism,” and some have noted that early Judaism didn’t so much as deny the existence of other gods as make it obligatory for our tribe—on pain of death—to worship only “our” god, as differentiated from the gods of other peoples in the region.

Woven into this tradition is the idea that a worthy god has a proper “name,” but it’s a secret name known only to the highest of priests. In Judaism many names are used that aren’t the real name, the correct pronunciation of which is not known today. (Legend has it that only the high priest learned from his predecessor and he only used it fully one day a year when he would enter the depths of the holy temple and say it as part of a very formal prayer. It was all lost when the first temple in Jerusalem was destroyed as part of the Babylonian conquest and exile in around the 6th century before the Common Era.) Most of the words for God are euphemisms in Hebrew, Ha-Shem, being “the name,” or Adonai, meaning “Lord.” The four letters of the proper name are known, y h v h, and translated as Jehovah, though they didn’t have the dj sound of the first letter until as late as the 15th century when French significantly influenced English. Orthodox Jews don’t even write the word, or modify it as G-d. Those who think about it will justify this as a reminder that what is being referred to is so far beyond our being that it would be misleading to think we know what that word really means. I sort of agree with this.

Anyway, the question comes up whether that local, tribal god, later magnified to be a global deity, transformed into the one God of all creation, etc., if that three-letter German-derived word does the job it’s supposed to do: Does it direct us to the proper set of mental images and associations? (Or do people forget that the “devil can quote scripture,” and might they be using what they have been taught to justify whatever their current biases, prejudices, entitlements, and political beliefs they find comforting or profitable?)

Certainly those embedded in tradition would not begin to hear of any proposed changes of the name, but as I’ve been going through my own wrestling with spirituality, certain local names don’t work for me. Semantically, I’m inclined to try to find words that directly remind me of what we’re vaguely aiming at: The Everything, the More, Yet, the Ground of Being, the Living Cosmos (which involves the dimensions of mind as well as matter, space, time, and energy), and so forth. Source, Great Spirit, these aren’t bad. More local names that have no other meaning to the masses tend to lead me to associate that name with the set of beliefs of the masses who worship that name—and I don’t find any commonly used concepts to be compatible with the vast expansion of the knowledge of the size, duration, and subtlety of the cosmos that we’ve been discovering in the last century.

I want or need something that will raise my consciousness towards what it names. I clearly cannot begin to begin to grasp what I’m reaching for. I’m sort of apophatic that way—meaning that I don’t think the human mind can know even a little of what it’s all about. Well, maybe a tiny little, but that’s about it. And yes, that tiny-little is growing, but it’s still pretty little.

For me, a name should lead our mind towards some complex of associations. For some people, the name leads deeper into the history of the religion, or higher into the teachings of whatever spiritual master they find compellingly worthy. For me the name should lead me towards my highest values or images, the complex beyond any words of ideals, images, dreams, eluding any possible definition. Indeed, one name might be “Beyond-any-attempt at a definition.”
I like the name “The Everything,” but people then tend to think that having named it, it can be encompassed by mind. Far from it! The Everything includes not only everything we can think of, but also
  – lots of stuff that we haven’t discovered yet, and some that we won’t discover or understand for  another thousand years
  – lots of stuff we vaguely know about but cannot begin to imagine how much there is, how varied it is, and how much we don’t know about its individuality
  – lots of stuff we don’t even think is real—but really, it is real, but it’s a kind of reality that we don’t yet know how to include in our worldview—stuff like intuition and faith and dreams…
  – or the idea that indeed there are different kinds of reality other than our more familiar types
  – or even that we fully share and understand anyone else’s reality.

The Everything includes every notion, hallucination, weird idea, cartoon, and idiosyncrasy of every human, and every complex and hardly-understood nuance of bird song and behavioral signal of a dust mite guy signaling sexually to his gal, and bacterial emitted substance that might attract food or a mate—most of which we know nothing about.

The Everything includes all this world of what’s mentioned above times a billion as we range through the universe and discover other life forms—and their worlds have as much unknown to them as it is to us.

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