Thursday, October 8, 2015

Deity as a Function

"In the poetic mythological systems, the power that one is addressing out there is a magnifying image of the power that's operating in oneself. One's deity is a function of one's own ability to experience and conceive of the divine. It is the reflex of one's own position in the spiritual hierarchy.
As the Chāndogya Upanishad puts it; "Tat tvam asi" (Thou art that").
The mystery of your being is that mystery which you cannot conceive of, which lies beyond the touch of the tongue, and which is metaphorically referred to by the images of your pantheon.
.......................... "Joseph Campbell, "Goddesses: Mysteries of the Feminine Divine," p. 101

It is most common that the Deity or God is seen as an object of great external universal power and hence there arises in humans a need to worship, venerate and appease this object from a need for self preservation and well being with all its associated worldly assets with a bit of spiritual reward or punishment thrown in as an additional motive.
It is in Advaida philosophy that the concept of non duality is clearly brought out and in clear terms Swami Vivekananda writes:
“There is no God separate from you, no God higher than you, the real 'you'. All the gods are little beings to you, all the ideas of God and Father in heaven are but your own reflection. God Himself is your image. 'God created man after His own image.' That is wrong. Man creates God after his own image. That is right. Throughout the universe we are creating gods after our own image. We create the god and fall down at his feet and worship him; and when this dream comes, we love it!”
.....................Swami Vivekananda, The Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda: v. 3

While the words of Swami Vivekananda is powerful, how does a common devotee relate to this esoteric concept. This is where we have powerful iconic representations with associated mythologies that can form a continuous bridge between the four domains of one's consciousness, namely;
  •          The lower curve represents the Gross, Conscious, Waking state level, called Vaishvanara.
  •          The centre curve represents the Subtle, Unconscious, and Dreaming level, called Taijasa.
  • ·        The upper curve represents the Causal, Subconscious, and Deep Sleep level, called Prajna.
  •          The fourth state, the absolute consciousness, which encompasses, permeates, the other three, and is called Turiya

Joseph Campbell, who researched and wrote extensively on world mythologies including Vedic, Sumerian and other Occidental and Oriental mythologies, defines deity as a function. This function is creation of an image within a mythological narrative and as Swami Vivekananda says: "............. Man creates God after his own image. That is right. Throughout the universe we are creating gods after our own image. We create the god and fall down at his feet and worship him; and when this dream comes, we love it!”

This Anthropomorphic, objective image creation has so dominated the monotheistic religions and traditions of humanity that we have increasingly moved away from the ancient and pagan traditions where iconic images of deities, though created with anthropomorphic forms had superhuman attributes (such as possessing many arms signifying cosmic level comprehension and functioning, disproportionate breasts and hips of Goddesses of fertility signifying continuous creation, wings for messenger Gods, etc.,) to evoke the stirrings in the innermost reaches of human consciousness to connect to the supreme spirit.

This is the function that Joseph Campbell talks of in his book. The pantheon of Gods and Goddesses we create are the functions of our inner longing from the state of Turiya or absolute consciousness and given expression to provide a tangible validity for instant future evocation.
Whenever we read mythological narratives or look at images of Gods and Goddesses, it is obligatory on our part to move to the inner realms of our consciousness and find that all important functional connectivity.

Let me conclude this short article with an apt quote:
“You do not need any preacher or prophet to learn about God. The teaching is spread on the trees and the mountains, on the stars and the river, on the Sun and the moon. The ultimate teaching is written in your heart. You just need to wake up and see.” .........Banani Ray


Love to you all.

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