I’m going to attempt to put into writing some thoughts on the divine, my personal beliefs, and this culture’s definitions of who/what God is. For months now, partially inspired by the very religious Peruvian culture, I’ve been trying to understand and explain my beliefs, but being able to capture it in a few words would be impossible. To many, “I believe in God” is all they need to say in order to portray what they believe in, but for me, that isn’t enough. To say, “I believe in God,” at least in the United States, has so many connotations attached to it, that I don’t agree with, and therefore have spent years avoiding the phrase.
Emerson referred to it as the “Oversoul” and one of my favorite religion professors called it the “Big Love,” and me, well I’ve never known. Although I do feel that religion and spirituality is a very personal thing, something that does not need to be defined for others to better understand, I’ve realized that my need to define it is not for anyone but myself. Who or what do I direct my prayers to? Can I just say “you” or “that thing” or “curtain”? Of course I could, that which I connect with does not need a proper name, and surely doesn’t care what I call it, but I do. I think I would feel a greater sense of peace if I could just figure out what to call it!
Throughout my life I have experienced a number of moments where I felt a true presence of or connection with the divine. Small things here and there, like hiking through nature and finding myself in awe of the beauty around me and with a sense of clarity I don’t often feel; or while trekking around Machu Picchu with my family and visualizing myself being reborn as instructed to walk through the Condor Temple and leave an offering of coca leaves; even the simple act of singing a song, feeling the vibrations in my chest and the magic of the music and significance of the lyrics that bring tears to my eyes. We all experience the divine in some way or another, however large or small, obvious or conspicuous. A dear friend of mine has an attachment to lucky pennies she finds on the ground, and she feels it as the presence of what she calls the Holy Spirit (as part of the Holy Trinity) in her life, often at times she really needs it.
In this country, the United States of America, there are many preconceived notions attached to the phrase “I believe in God.” I could write a whole other essay about the topic of stereotypes, extremists, and everything related to the image an American Christian might portray, but this essay is about something else. It starts in the Bible where we are constantly fed the idea of God being a Man. This is not a feminist rant of how God should be portrayed as a women, it is a rant of how I detest the personification, regardless of gender, of this divine spirit I connect with. I know the Bible, Genesis 1:27, states that God created man in His own image, but shouldn’t this, like many things in the Bible, not be taken so literally? Couldn’t this refer less to physical likeness, but spiritual, even moral likeness?
In Peru I have spent hours discussing with various people the idea of God. When my boyfriend explained to me what he believed in, without saying the word “god,” it sounded very similar to my explanation. Separating the word “god” gives one the chance to vaguely define this, and often the notion of a big, bearded man in the sky is far from what people say. To me, this divinity is some spirit, some force, all around us, within us, within all living organisms, that, more or less, is, as Emerson put it, the “Oversoul” of this world. I tell that to my friends in Peru, young and old, and they all say the same thing: Rosie, that is God.
So here is my question: is it? Why not? One does not need to prescribe to a religion or claim a specific faith to say they believe in God. God does not need to fit any image. For me, I see it not as a person (let alone a man), but as everything around me all the time. As the breeze that makes the trees dance, as the laughter that fills your body with joy, as the stars and the moon in a clear night sky, as the miracle of cheating life and giving birth, and as the songs that our hearts sing every time we feel it. Maybe I’m not ready to say “I believe in God,” but I am ready to question why I wouldn’t.