The First Principle of Faith
As societies in Western Europe have become more secular, faith in God or in some form of supreme intelligence is often viewed as irrational. Modern science contends that ‘truth’ is to be found in ‘facts’. However, only phenomena that can be observed, measured, and verified come to acquire such a status. The notion that anything exists beyond material or sensory experience is rejected. The natural sciences are thus preoccupied with uncovering the physical laws of the universe, describing, often in minute detail, their intricate patterns, complexity, and order.
How such laws have come into existence is a question considered to be inexplicable or best left to metaphysics. Nonetheless, it is data and knowledge accumulated by science that provides the best material evidence that the universe has not occurred randomly. The Anthropic Principle for instance, which sets out all the multitude of coincidences that render the cosmos suited to life, makes it difficult to draw any conclusion other than that it has been created by a supreme consciousness. Call it God or any other name. Not coincidentally, this is a universal truth expressed consistently in all mystical literature.
The passages reproduced at the end of this commentary are good examples of such truth: the first is a passage from the Bible, the second is the Mool Mantra, the opening stanza of the Sikh scriptures Adi Granth, and the third is a Hasidic poem inspired by Ecclesiastes, one of the books of the Bible.
Written at different times, in different places, and for different audiences, all three excerpts begin by explaining that God exists, with the first line of the Hasidic poem emphasizing that accepting his existence constitutes the first principle of faith. This is similar to the response Jesus makes in Saint Mark’s gospel in the Bible when asked which was the single most important commandment: “Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one.” The opening line of the Mool Mantra also underlines the existence of one God, meaning that he is the single source from which the entire universe has sprung.
The excerpts explain that God brought himself into existence and, in doing so, went on to establish his creative power, a great dynamic current, called the Word, Name, or Hokhmah, the Hebrew term for wisdom. It is God’s creative power that created the universe and now sustains it and the life of all things in it. Using language that is more familiar to us, the author of Yoga and the Bible describes this Word in the following way:
All life and energy in the universe come from the divine Word. It is a power that is mightier than any known on earth, for it is the power behind all other powers. All other powers are finite, but this power is infinite. It is the one basic power in the universe. It shows itself in many apparently different forms of energy; but trace them back to their original source and they are all found to be fundamentally one – the dynamic power of God. It dwells hidden, but supremely active, at the back of all other energy.
God’s creative power is thus the very essence and life-force of all things, ourselves included, as the Bible makes clear in the opening passage of Saint John’s gospel: “In him was life; and the life was the light of men.” In other words, the power of God, which brought the universe into being, is the same energy that is our own real self. Although God dwells within us and is our very life, he remains invisible in much the same way as does, for example, the fragrance within a flower. Realizing him through the intellect is also impossible. Nonetheless, in an attempt to understand something of what God is, mystical literature seeks to identify his many attributes. The Qur’ān, for instance, ascribes ninety-nine qualities to Allah. Collectively known as ‘The Most Beautiful Names’, each one is intended to explicate an aspect of his essence. Likewise, the Mool Mantra describes God as unborn, self-existent, without fear, without enmity, and of timeless form. Each attribute conveys esoteric insights of such profundity that the entire Jap Ji is devoted to explaining what they mean.
Love is the essence
Depending on our mood, we may find reading about the various qualities of God to be inspiring, unimaginable, unfathomable, and perhaps frustrating. We may feel distant from him, since the nature of his supremacy is so utterly beyond our experience that relating to him proves difficult. There is, however, one quality emphasized by the mystics above all others to which we can relate – love. This is the essence of God, and since our essence is the same as his, our defining quality is also love. We experience this each time we are the agents or the recipients of kindness, compassion, generosity, gentleness, nurturing, and patience; when we are joyful for no other reason than simply being; when we feel calm, peaceful, and content. Love is the driving force behind all the acts of goodness taking place each moment throughout the world. As Maharaj Charan Singh said, without love, the world would cease to exist. In Spiritual Perspectives, Vol. III he also reminds us that, “He is the one who gives us his love … love is a gift given to us by him, and the more we love, the more it grows.”
The greatest expression of God’s love for us is that, despite his incomprehensibility, he makes it possible for us know him – as explained in the last line of the Mool Mantra – by following the instructions of a true Master. Influencing us with his love, it is the Master who teaches and helps us realize that within the depths of our being resides love, wisdom and peace – in short, the divine Word of God. If the many beautiful shabds are anything to go by, it is clear that seekers throughout the ages have been rendered helpless by the love and magnetism of the Masters. Our own personal experience testifies to this too. Yet the end point of spirituality is not the physical form of the Master. Our love for him, to paraphrase Maharaj Charan Singh, should foster love for the Divine. The following excerpts remind us of his existence.
In the beginning was the Word
and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
The same was in the beginning with God.
All things were made by Him;
and without Him
was not anything made that was made.
In him was life; and the life was the light of men.
Bible, John 1:1-4
There is but one God;
true is his Name.
He is the Creator,
without fear, without enmity
and of timeless form.
Unborn and self-existent,
he is realized through the Guru’s grace.
The first principle of faith is that God exists.
He was first, and he created all things, above and below –
His creations are without end.
All began with a single point – the point of Supernal Wisdom.…
Believe with complete faith that God fills and surrounds all worlds,
He is both within and beyond them all.
Rabbi Menahem Nahum of Chernobyl, “Hanhagot Yesharot,” in God in All Moments