El-Branden Brazil

Photographer, Writer & Mystic Traveller

The Semantics Of God

“Before we understood science, it was natural to believe that God created the universe, but now science offers a more convincing explanation. What I meant by ‘we would know the mind of God’ is we would know everything that God would know if there was a God, but there isn’t. I’m an atheist” – Stephen Hawking

This word “God” is a semantic hurdle. The word can mean many things to many people, including simply or complexly, the universe itself in abstraction. It is just a label applied to the great mysteries that abound, just as the phrase “the Big Bang” is. Words try to find meaning in the darkness. They are conveniences.

I do agree that science can discover great, underlying truths, and perhaps the mind of “God”. We may even discover if the universe is a hologram, and that we are the universe itself, enfolded infinitely. We may even discover, as some maverick scientists postulate now, that the universe is a simulation. We may discover then, that in the beginning was, indeed, the word.

What the mathematics of science brings to Truth is accuracy over the flowery flourishes of metaphor used by mystics. Yet, we must not be mistaken in thinking that the insights of mystics are any less valid and valuable for understanding Truth. I see no difference between the Big Bang and the Aborigines’ Rainbow Serpent dreaming the world into existence. No difference at all, except the words used.

I have always believed that mathematics may well be the language of God. However, the words of great mystics should not be diminished any less in their value for understanding Truth. There is much wisdom, poetry and insight to be found in the metaphors of mystics. Even the mystics themselves though have repeatedly pointed out the inadequacy of words to express the insights they have gained from their experiences of the divine. The Buddha was himself reluctant to try and explain what he had gained, because he doubted that his awakening could be adequately expressed through words. The Sufi mystic, Rumi said, “If I could repeat it, people passing by would be enlightened and go free.”

Arthur C. Clark once wrote, “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” In defining something, we often fail to see things as they truly are. Indeed, if I must choose labels, I much prefer the poeticness of magic, over the coolness of technology, regardless of if they are an indistinguishable thing. Perhaps it is the poetry of the term God that makes it such an appealing label for the great unknown.

Dawn In Borom
Dawn In Borom, Indonesia
Photography by El-Branden Brazil

5 Responses to “The Semantics Of God”

  1. magnocrat

    Nice as poetry and mystics feels, wonderful as speculation about the universe is it won’t solve the urgent practical issues looming around us.
    We need to apply our knowledge to the relavent. Climate change, antibiotic failure, political stability, wealth distribution.

    Reply
    • El-Branden Brazil

      You are correct, and I would be the last to disagree, that there are many urgent pressing matters. I certainly do not approve of burying one’s head in the sand.

      As a very active activist for human rights, Burma and the environment, I still have time to contemplate the big questions, which allow me a perspective on the causes I care about. Indeed, my practice as a Buddhist informs many of my activities.

      Reply
      • magnocrat

        I’m agnostic but I try to be open minded. Some of the modern scientific stuff is beyond my mental capabilities.

  2. El-Branden Brazil

    Unless we know something to be 100% true or 100% untrue, it is good to be open-minded, neither believing nor non-believing, but always curious and asking questions. It makes for a much more interesting life.

    Let me also add, that I have no interest or business trying to convert anyone to my way of thinking. I certainly am not arrogant enough to think that my thoughts are any more right than someone else’s. We are all on our individual journeys, trying to get through life, as well as understand it. The conclusions we reach are ours alone.

    Reply

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