Last week I gave a presentation on the Pagan/Wiccan holiday of Imbolg to a small interfaith group whose members are mostly Christian and Jewish. It wasn’t the first time I’ve shared aspects of my faith with this loving group of people. My views are always accepted with open hearts and not a little curiosity. Though most of them have heard enough about my faith to have a surface understanding, there is one thing that is almost certain to stump members new to my presentations—my reference to God as The Divine.
I can’t count how many times people have stopped short at this honorific, though I never really understand why. Usually I am asked to describe what I mean by that term—which seems self-explanatory to me—so I tell the querent that the term “God” can mean very different things to a Christian and a Hindu and a Buddhist and a Pagan. It evokes wildly variant images and emotions and expectations. The term “The Divine” has more distance, less emotional coloration. For me, that better suits a creative energy that I feel certain is limitless, boundless, so far beyond our ken that we can’t even know what we don’t know about that Presence. It feels less limiting than the word “God” or “Goddess” or any other specific name we might pin on its Universal Lapel.
People usually nod, and smile at my explanation. It seems to satisfy them, but I don’t usually go into any greater detail because I don’t want to confuse the issue. And my complex feelings about divinity/The Great Mind/The All/The Universe/God/The Divine would prompt conversations longer than the twenty or so minutes I have to speak before this group.
I am a deeply spiritual person. If pressed, I will say I am Wiccan, but it’s not really that simple. I have yet to find the box that completely encompasses my beliefs while leaving room for them to evolve as I do. In my novel series, the Umani race calls The Divine Na’Staanni, which means “Honored All”. That concept is so close to how I see that Presence, I have taken to using the Umani’s name for It. As far as I’m concerned, Na’Staani is All, as Its (admittedly fictional—but then which human-labeled God isn’t?) name implies. It encompasses you, me, the neighbor next door and those noisy ones down the street. Nature and technology and knowledge and everything we make or build or grow or know is part and parcel with It. Na’Staani isn’t part of the Universe; the Universe is part of Na’Staani, as are we all. Therefore, we – you, me, the noisy neighbor—are all part of God. That means that there is a seed, a speck, a particle of the Divine in every one of us. In everything around us. Good, bad, and indifferent, there isn’t anything or anyone or anywhere that is apart from It. You are God. I am God. God is you and me and a whole lot more.
But it goes even beyond that. If we are all part of Na’Staani, and Na’Staani is Everything, then you and I and the noisy neighbor are all also Everything. The separations between us are illusions. We are all One.
Given this attitude, it’s perhaps no surprise that I am motivated to be kind—to people, to animals, to Nature—and to extend to others the same authentic curiosity about how they seek connection with The Divine as I want them to offer me. If that Presence is as vast and all-encompassing as I believe, there is no hope of full understanding as long as we remain separated from It in this existence; but—and here’s the important thing—as long as we strive toward that goal, even knowing we cannot reach it, growth and enlightenment can follow. For such a deep and personal journey, no one route could possibly serve all of us with equal effectiveness. The commitment to seek God, by whatever name we use or face we see, is made in one’s heart and soul. That is where the sacred path lies, in that internal, intensely intimate space. Only the individual seeker can recognize its signposts or say whether Christian traditions and teachings will resonate more than Jewish ones, Hindu pantheons more than Greek, Buddhist dharma more than Wiccan mysteries.
There is beauty in our differences which, brought together and explored as a greater whole, have the power to widen our perception if we can learn to listen and truly hear one another.