Last night during the gathering of the Monday Contemplative Community, one of the participants posed to me a question that left me silent and struck terror in my heart and in my mind, “Lauri, would you please define for us the divine?” My mind immediately went into a tail spin as I felt all eyes looking to me for the answer to the ultimate unanswerable question. An exasperated and helpless, “Oh God,” was all I could manage as a response.
This morning, after a good night’s sleep, I feel a little more focused and while I cannot begin to venture a response to that question, I can offer some observations about the Divine and how we understand this experience, state, being, in our lives. If there is anything that the contemplative path has shown me, it is that the Divine, by its very nature, defies description, definition, categorizing, etc. Even Merriam- Webster recognizes this truth in their own lame attempts to define the word divine. This is what Merriam Webster offers as their definition of divine: “of, relating to, or being God.” Quite frankly, this is not helpful. So, where do we turn in attempting to comprehend the nature of God?
Fortunately, there are many resources through which we might attempt to understand the Divine. Theologians have attempted to define the Divine. Belief systems have been constructed upon specific “understandings” of the Divine. Scripture may provide for us some clues. Then we have the creative arts which attempt to define the Divine through music, architecture, art, etc. While all of these vehicles may provide hints, what we are still left with is someone else’s understanding of the Divine.
Where this ultimately leaves us is with our own personal experience. This is the approach to the Divine that is favored by contemplatives, aescetics, gnostics and mystics. While we may begin with some of the resources listed above, we cannot begin to understand the Divine until we have been open to our own internal experiences of God. This is the ultimate goal of the contemplative path – to be open to receiving a personal experience of the Divine so that we can begin to know God and in knowing God, come to know ourselves. What mystics and contemplatives have revealed to us is that this knowing is intimate, personal, unique and vastly infinite. In other words, there is no end to the ways in which the Divine can reveal itself to us and that the revelation of the Divine is ongoing and never ending. We can never come to know God fully for God continues to reveal God’s self to us in limitless and infinite ways. So in the end, I guess my response to last nights question is this: The Divine, by its very nature cannot be defined.