Where is God?
I am not sure if many people have reflected on this question on where God is, so I decided to throw out a few thoughts to share some of my observations. What I have observed is that the location of God seems to move around according to the cultural context.
In the Judeo-Christian culture that surrounded me growing up I learned that God was a man in the sky. That was in the 1950s in California. I am not sure if he is still there in California. He may have moved to the mall because people seem to do their worshiping there. However, when I first learned to pray, I learned that God was up there watching over us. I can remember pictures in the Old Testament, which is really the Jewish Torah, about seeing an older man in white beard with white hair sometimes looking pretty peeved at the world. I can understand the Jewish notion of God, because it was the purpose of Moses to unite the tribes of Israel through the application of law in a just manner. Justice means that people are not higher than the law. The law is higher which keeps people’s egos lower. Prior to this time the rulers were above the law. Many of them still are, but that is a different story.
In the 1980s I began working on a Cree Reserve in Alberta, Canada which had the effect of radically altering my view of where God is. For the Crees God is a woman who supports and nurtures all life. Her spirit manifests itself and communicates with us in all things in nature. For the Jews God created order through a set of laws and became a man, but for the Crees God is our mother living in the earth. Could God be in both places at once?
When I read the New Testament which is really the teachings of Christ and then some elaborations, I find that what Jesus was trying to teach was love for one another. He seems to have moved God out of the sky and into the heart, but since you can’t have order without law and justice, God needed to remain in the sky, but also in the heart. Now Christians also have the third place for God which is in the spirit, the Holy Spirit. Hence, Christianity evolved into what they call the trinity. There is God in the sky keeping things in order through justice, God in the heart which brings about love and connection, and God in the spirit which brings about communication and guidance. Before I get to where the spirit is, I just have to say that I am a little bit perplexed as to why the Christians forgot to add the mother like the Crees. For that matter, the Jews abandoned God as a feminine figure as well. Maybe that is why it so hard for the equality of men and women to take root even in western liberal cultures. Could be the source of Jewish mother’s guilt as well.
God may have always been there in one form or another, but the real impetus for God being an invisible force came through Buddhism six centuries before Jesus. God practically disappears in Buddhism because of Buddha’s emphasis on people doing their own internal work rather than relying on things outside of themselves. Buddhism is about detachment. Through meditation and other practices one is forced inward so that the spirit within can communicate and be released into the world to do positive action. In Buddhism God is both invisible and internal.
So we have God being up in the sky, in the earth and nature, in the heart, and invisible and internal. What makes it even more complicated is that with atheists, God is nowhere at all and with agnostics God seems to be there on occasion or in the fog.
Islam and Christianity share the same heritage so whatever is true for Muslims is also true for Christians. The difference is that Muslims do not allow images of God or messengers which is a movement toward God being transcendent, which means that all description of God being in time or space is pure imagination. This also, is the Baha’i view of God which means that it is helpful to imagine where God is terms of virtue, but description of God is beyond all comprehension.
If true religion were ascendant, then it would be very easy for everyone to be in absolute harmony learning and integrating things from each other because virtues have no difficulties working together. Justice and love, detachment and support, and inspiration and acceptance all can live together without difficulty. The problems seem to occur when the egos take the place of God. For instance, instead of God being in the sky administering justice with the rule of law, men put themselves in the sky and do whatever they want whether they be tyrannical leaders such as Hitler, tyrannical CEOs, or tyrannical parents or teachers.
Instead of having love for one another and treating each other with mercy, charity, and kindness, people take the place of God in the heart with lust of sex and power. And instead of going inside to deal with your own spirituality, people seek material satisfaction outside of themselves through material means.
Likewise, instead of relying on spiritual teachings for support such as sharing and generosity, people put their own superstitions in their minds to keep development from happening. Superstition is ultimately an attempt to keep God out through controlling weak minds.
What I think is that if we use the paradigm of God taking over various domains of human beings, you can analyze the weaknesses in religious structures and then change them. For instance, for God to take over the domain of the heart the religion has to place a major emphasis on artistic beauty as expressed in painting, architecture, music, and theater and it needs to look at the quality of loving relationships in the community so that there is kindness, mercy, and attraction. But God still has to be in the sky, not man, for love to take over the heart, because justice is a precondition for love to spread.