I've been reading a lot of "religious" texts lately, including the Koran, the Torah, The Gnostic Gospels, The New Testament and a number of Hindi texts and Scriptures. In all of these texts, there is reference to God as the Almighty, All powerful, Creator of everything, All knowing, All merciful, All love. And yet, when reading the texts which purport to describe and proscribe the purpose of human life, these aspects are frequently replaced by a petty minded, vengeful, mean and sexist God. These two aspects cannot exist together. And don't come with "God moves in mysterious ways" as an explanation. That is not an explanation for a completely contradictory description.
So why is there that contradiction? In the Upanishads of ancient Hinduism, I found the best explanation of God, and it's what I've used as the title of this article: "Neti, Neti", which translates as "Not this, Not this" or alternatively, "Not this, Not that".
Our brains are just too small to comprehend infinity and and an infinite Being, which possesses the characteristics starting with "All" as listed above and that is why "Neti, Neti" is so appropriate, because whatever we can conceive of, it's not that. Perhaps to be more accurate, it's that, but so much more that - any description will ultimately fail. We have a powerful imagination, as artists of every kind demonstrate, but we can't go outside our limits and our experiences. We may juxtapose a variety of thinks to create something new, but it stems from what is known. For example, H.R. Giger, the creator of the monsters in the film "Alien". based it on things we know: fast, slimy, venomous, lots of teeth, scaly skin, etc. It's great as art and certainly works in the films, but it's not outside our experiences.
So how much more difficult is it to try and grasp what the infinite Creator is? We just don't have the equipment for it. For example, when I was reading both the Koran and the Torah, I was left with the impression that God is a lawyer laying down the Law. This Being has favourites and enemies; he has no problem with slavery (servants in the Torah) which can be freed or kept as required; Women are certainly not created as equals to men, etc. To me that makes no sense: why would the almighty Creator of everything in the Universe have a need for favourites and at the cost of others in the Creation. It's absurd to me.
I am suspicious of anyone who tries to define the infinite and make it a religion. Either we are all createes or we are not. When I look in the mirror, it's clear to me that I didn't create me and certainly I do not keep me alive. My parents provided the body and it's quirks, but that's not me. I've always seen myself as sitting 5 centimetres from the top and 10 centimetres from the front, moving this body around. Like an Astronaut in his space suit. When the suit wears out, I have to go, until then, I exist and am able to be filled with wonder that that is so and to be grateful for the opportunity to experience what is possible here on this planet with this outfit on. If it was up to me to stay alive, I wouldn't have made it through the first few minutes. I have to be breathed to keep going. It's not me doing the breathing except on the few minutes when I have to "catch my breath". It's the most essential activity to maintain life and I am almost always entirely unaware of it! How crazy is that?
So the only equipment I have to have some kind of inkling of that infinite Creator, is to realise that I am constantly being kept alive and that it's not because of my efforts, it^s almost despite my efforts. And the only awareness I can bring, is my ability to feel. My ability to think doesn't help, but I can feel. And I do feel that power coursing through me when I make the effort to shut up and feel, not think.
The holy scriptures (what does "holy" mean anyway?) cannot do justice to this eternal magnificence; "Not this, Not this": a great definition.