“God” or “Reason” — Is There Really Any Difference?

Godly skySome of the ancient Yoga sages believed in a very personal God and others believed in an impersonal God, or God as simply the life-force of the universe.

Many religious thinkers define God as “that which is unknowable, but which drives us towards love and goodness”. 

Given this commonly accepted definition, almost everyone believes in God.   In the end what matters most is that we all agree there IS some universal drive toward making the world a better place, not where that drive comes from. 

The result is the same, whether one believes it comes from an unfathomable life-force  or a personal divine being.  Both are equally mysterious, both can legitimately be called “God”, and both lead us to love, goodness and morality. 

The sages who wrote the ancient Yoga texts were themselves in disagreement about God.  Their debates are evident in the three major Yoga texts, the Bhagavad Gita, the Yoga Sutra, and the Upanishads. 

In the end the texts themselves allow for the entire spectrum from secularism to traditional religion.  That’s one of the things that makes them so amazing and enduring.

In the time of the Yoga Sutra (about 2400 years ago) the sages couldn’t agree on whether or not there was a God, and if there was a God, was it a personal God or an impersonal God.  So Patanjali cleverly wrote the Yoga Sutra to appeal to all these sides. 

Yoga was itself a comparatively rational attempt to deal with all the irrational Gods and rituals of the Indian religious culture of the time.  It was quite rebellious in that it wanted to learn about consciousness from direct experience rather than the ancient Vedic hymns and priests. 

The more scientifically-minded sages simply made everything they couldn’t accept as reality into a metaphor and moved on accordingly.   That’s what they did with the entire pantheon of ancient Gods — they made them into powerful metaphors of our inner struggles.

And that’s what each of us individually should do today when the texts challenge us with concepts we can’t accept as literally true — turn them into powerful metaphors.  The essential message will remain the same.


4 Responses to ““God” or “Reason” — Is There Really Any Difference?”

  1. It is a simple matter of faith.

  2. lighthasmass,

    Yes, for some it is. Others, like me, are only comfortable with a more rationalistic, impersonal “unknowable life-force” approach to God.

    I guess that could still be called “faith”, although when most people use that term they usually mean a highly personal God you can pray to directly and who is sort of like them only grander and more powerful.

    My point above is that they both lead the to the same place in terms of how we act and treat each other.

    Thanks for commenting.

  3. Yes your point is well said, and I left my previous comment late in the night with a sleep stupor upon me. And I used the word Faith …which is a bad word to use it is misplaced and incorrect. I did get your meaning but my response was an ill thought out a quick quip.

    No matter our personal big G or spirit that moves in and through all things there is the unknowable and knowable, the message of acting according will seep out. I recently have been enjoying a cartoon for kids and grown ups call Avatar – The Last Airbender. I have seen a lot of great truths and simple stories taught in this show that are multi cultural and lessons that come from old texts. Thanks for the blog it is a very important point to make.

  4. Thanks for the clarification, lighthasmass.

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