Give a definite name to Deity, He would be no more than what the name implies. To [name] the Deity is to give him tradition, nationality, limitation, and fixity, and it never brings us nearer to Him. –Kaiten Nukariya in The Religion of the Samurai
An unfortunate side-effect of critical thought – one more prevalent in the Western world than elsewhere – is the tendency to “tidy up” the unknown by categorizing and labeling it. Though this has helped us gain an understanding of our physical reality – plants, animals, our bodies, the solar system, etc. – it has little value when applied to something intangible, like spirituality.
I’ve always struggled with how to refer to God. Creator, God, Father-Mother God, the Divine, the Goddess, the Source, the Great Central Sun…none of these have ever completely fit. Though it’s the most common and accepted label, “God” feels too patriarchal and has too many negative associations (Pat Robertson, Fred Phelps, et. al.). Of the other options, I find “Creator” too nebulous, “Goddess” too matriarchal, “the Source” too impersonal, and so on. It wasn’t until I read the passage by Dr. Nukariya above that it became clear why I feel this way. How can limitless Love be confined to a name?
Labels applied to things that can be observed and measured typically stick. Though I see bits of God everywhere, I can’t measure those bits. So where does that leave me? Without control – which is precisely the fear that drives us to label everything to begin with. Pagan and Christian, black and white, gay and straight – we fool ourselves into thinking that by assigning a name to something, we gain a measure of control over it. Perhaps this perceived control helps diminish our fear of the unknown?