Excuse Me, Divine Being, What is Your Name?

Humans have a deep need to label their world and the things in it.  The first thing we do when confronted by a new person is to exchange our labels, the words by which we identify ourselves—words that we think are unique and it’s always a little odd to discover that there is another person in the world who shares our name.  Adam wasn’t yet a week old when he started naming all the animals—and he didn’t even give Eve a chance to pick her own identifying sounds.  Most people believe that to know the name of something is to have power over it—even if it’s just the power of recognition.  Our children’s first lessons involve the learning of the accepted labels for the things in their current surroundings.  The names are so vital to human dealings that those who cannot (or will not) learn these commonly understood labels are considered mentally deficient, not normal, not really “human”.

“For what is in a name?  A rose by another name would smell as sweet.”  Hmmm, or would it?  The words we use to identify things create a whole string of associations with that word.  Psychology uses this very connection as a tool to identify mental illness, teaching their patients to change the words to change their life.  From the book, Foundation’s Friends, the main character in the story “The Originist” is talking to his wife with these words: “It’s gone.  Whatever I saw for a moment there, it’s gone.  But I can find it again.  It’s there in your work, and Hari’s Foundation, and the fall of the empire, and the damned pear tree.”  She replies: “I never said it was a pear tree.”  And his answer is revealing: “I used to play in the pear orchard on the grounds of the estate in Holdwater.  To me the word ‘tree’ always means a pear tree.  One of the deep-worn ruts in my brain.”  Word association from his youth, still influencing his thoughts and life years later.

1.  What words do you have childhood associations with?  Happy words?  Sad or fearful words?

2.  Are there words that cause automatic responses for you, even if those responses are no longer valid or appropriate?

The first time I read the story, that excerpt caused an “aha” moment, starting a path of thoughts for me that I still explore frequently.  When I say tree, I am naming something that we are all familiar with—but I KNOW that it creates very different holographic images within each of our minds.  If we could share the actual picture we get when someone says ‘tree’, we would have as many pictures as people—and probably more, as our picture would probably be influenced by where we were and our most recent experiences just as the word was said.  What you see in your mind when I say ‘tree’ this time may not be the same tree image that you would see if I said it tomorrow.  It will be a completely difference picture if you’ve just come home from a wonderful skiing trip than if you just narrowly escaped dying in the desert.  Or vice versa, if you hit a pine tree and broke your leg skiing as opposed to a caravan adventure through the Sahara.  It’s not the named items so much as the events that occur within the context of those named items.

This also brings up the next natural correlation between labels and the images they produce in our minds—they definitely have the power to create emotions.  The names we use will cause chemical changes in our bodies that we then experience as feelings.  “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me.”  That’s a lie.  Ask any child who has been on the receiving end of name-calling and they will tell you that it does hurt.  When you choose to label things in a negative way (“dummy”), you are identifying that thing as inferior, not worthy.  By making that naming, you claim the power to declare precedence over what is being named.

Conversely, positive word association, “good” labels if you will, can create emotions that are positive and life-giving.  Names and the naming of what is around is becomes a method of giving (or taking) energy.  If life is like being in a river, flowing with the current (or struggling against it), the words we choose and the words we use create the water we are swimming in.  The labels themselves lock in the reality we call life.  We all know people who are living lives of poverty and hardship—but they are happy and always manage to have an upbeat attitude—or the people who have it all and are the most miserable SOBs on the planet.  The truth of these lives is not about income, the house they live in, or a state of health—it’s about the words, the labels that are used to describe it.

3.  Describe your feelings when you hear these words.  Some of them are guaranteed to provoke a reaction; others seem innocuous until we think about them—or if they have particular significance to us





































































































Our lives are a circle and we dance around the center of that life, regardless of what the point is.  It’s what gives us purpose, defines our world and makes us who we are.  Ideally, it is Divinity and the Universe.  It can be money, status, or another person, almost anything we choose to put in the center of our life.  The idea is simply that whatever is the focal point of our life (or the center of our circle) becomes sacred to us and is our god.  That’s what we worship with our actions and our lives.  Our actions, what we DO, that is our truth, regardless of what our mouths may say.  The center of our lives is manifest, whether acknowledged as our god or not.

So what happens we identify that center point as the Divine, Something Far Beyond Us?  First thing we do is to label it; give it a name, use words to describe it.  There are quite literally THOUSANDS of names for the Divine because each and every one of those names is inadequate.  There is no single word that can describe the Divine in such a way that we would all agree that this IS the Divine.  If we have such incredibly different mind images for the word ‘tree’, a solid and tangible item, easily seen and touched, it would seem impossible to find a common meeting ground when talking about something as intangible and abstract as the concept of the Ultimate Sacred Being.  No wonder we talk, argue, fight, go to war over our various distinctions of personal interaction with Deity.

What words do we use to describe what we hold sacred?  Omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent.  King of Kings, Loving Father.  Holy Mother, Blessed Virgin.  The Lord, The Lady, God or Goddess.  Supreme Being, The Divine, Deity.  Allah, Jehovah, Buddha, Osiris, Quetzalcoatl, Odin, Cerridwen, Aphrodite, Pele, Gozar, or the Almighty Dollar.  Each of those names, every words that we can come up with is correct—and each and every one of them are wrong.  We use names to identify, to make something stand out—to isolate it from everything else around us.  Necessary, of course, so that we can try to make some sense out of the Universe around us—but also very limiting, even as we ourselves are limited.

There is no paradox in having all these names for the Divine.

4.   How many names or roles does each of us present to the world?  (Name some of these)

So let’s talk about the circle of our lives.  Webster’s dictionary defines a circle as a plane figure that is marked by a single curved line where every point on that line is equidistant from the point in the center.  That point has neither dimension nor place and exists outside of our known and describable reality because it does not have a form that we can measure.  In fact, not only can we not measure it, we can’t pinpoint its real location, we can’t describe it without giving it dimension and then it is no longer the point but merely a concept of that point.

We are trying with our names and labels to name this point, to discover our connection with this higher Being.  We want to communicate information about our center point to others, but the minute we slap a tag on it, we have just eradicated the actual Being and are only talking about a concept or aspect of that Being.  No matter what words we use, no matter how erudite we are, how large a vocabulary we posses, the names we choose can only cloud the reality of the Divine.

Even saying what I just did is only walking around the outside of the concept.  Our human brains are simply not capable of understanding the entire concept—not in words, not in pictures, not in emotions.  We can only manage a miniscule taste, just an atom of the molecule of the particle of a tiny piece of the whole element is all that any of us can manage—and when that taste comes, it frequently brings life-altering change or the deepest validation of what had previously been only a guess on our part.

I would suggest the idea that those moments when we are able to comprehend the Sacred the most completely are those moments that are totally without words, with images so intense and complex that we lack the vocabulary to describe even that.  The Suni mystics call it ‘satori’—the knowing, deep in our bones, without words, the truth of the moment’s experience.  Like a giant bell, resonating in our very soul, profoundly touching us in the most central core of our own being.  And again I use words that are so insufficient, so pale a reflection of the truth of what happens, that it is almost not worth the effort to try to talk about it.

But we are human beings.  We need the words, as inadequate as they are, to make contact with each other, to try to communicate our thoughts to each other.  We need the labels, the names of what we see and touch and know so that we can find the common ground of interaction.  So we agree that the word sound ‘tree’ means a tall plant thing, out in Nature—and not this thing we sit on…and we try to agree on the word sounds for the Universal connection.

As a Christian, I had the words given to me by the church or the minister to use to describe the Big Guy.  God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Ghost.  The eternal I AM.  Merely sound waves landing on the eardrum, inducing a physical and mechanical response within the ear, translated to … limited and unacceptable images in my brain.  For years I had a gnawing sense of the lack of connection to this Higher Being because I could not understand it with the labels I had.  I wanted more than these word sounds could give me but felt guilty for not being satisfied with the faith that the church said I should have within these limits.  I was a sinner, unrepentant and unbelieving, doomed to Hell because I felt—no, KNEW—that there must be something else that would show me the sacredness preached from the pulpit every week.

Being shown the Pagan path was like having someone turn the lights on in a dark room.  I had always been in this room, but had been unable to name it because I could not see what was around me and indeed, I had lacked the labels for those things. Once the lights came on, I not only found the words for the sacred, I went from having nothing that was sacred to the knowledge that EVERYTHING was sacred.  What joy, what a wonderful feeling, to have a word association of sacred with every other label I have ever had.

5.  What words do you use to describe your concept of the Divine? 

6.  What do those words say about you? 

7.  Do the words we use to describe our concept of the Divine describe our own being?  Why or why not? 

8.  How do we relate to the Divine in ways that mimics our human relationships—parent/child, husband/wife, boss/subordinate? 

9.  Do we relate to the Divine in ways that are not beneficial because we have old associations (religious, childhood, familial) that are habits we cannot shake?

What about not using names?  I have moved from using Wicca as the primary way to express my beliefs to Zen Buddhism.  Zen is about the “no-thing” mind, letting go of things and being open to the Universe at all times.  Labels, my dears, are things.  What a feeling of liberation when I realized that I can give up the labels while still maintaining the connection.  I can acknowledge Isis and Ra, bow to the Lord and Lady—but I am finding that I can make the connection to the Divine with action (or a lack of action) instead of using a name.

Where once I might have said something to the effect of “I am in the presence of the Lady and She is in perfect alignment with me”, now I find that I can sit still, clearing my mind of words and thought to feel the connection.  For me, using a name seems to limit what I am trying to experience.  I prefer to try, in my small human way, to only experience, without words, the Universal energy flow, the satori of the Divine.  I’m not saying I have the Only Way, just that This Way expands my experience of the sacred Universe for me.  I offer this like I would give you a taste of a dish you might never have tasted otherwise.  You may decide that you like it and want to learn how to make it for yourself, or you may decide that you just prefer your own cooking after all.  Neither of us should stop cooking!

10.  Personal exercise: Explore new and different names for your concept of the Divine.  Possible ways of doing this include: research a new pantheon; try your usual meditations or rituals with different labels—or no labels at all.  Acknowledge a personal strength or weakness and find a matching label for the Divine that manifests this trait—then use this to increase the strength or overcome/learn to live with that weakness.

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