It’s not cool to create an image of God; the Bible tells us so. Some might interpret this to mean we shouldn’t build a statue of God, or try to draw a picture. While that may be partly correct, if we think this through a bit more, we’ll come to the conclusion that this couldn’t be all the second commandment was implying.
As always, we must look closer, go deeper, and find the link within. Ah, there it is. It’s talking about an inner image. With all our wrong conclusions and irrational ideas, we are bound to have a badly mangled inner impression of God, just like we do regarding all the other important subjects of our lives. We might call this our God-image. It stems out of early childhood experiences in which we bump headlong into conflict with authority. Note, the topic of authority is discussed at length in Pearls: A Mind-Opening Collection of 17 Fresh Spiritual Teachings.
As children, we learned that the highest authority—even higher than Mom & Dad—is God. So it’s not a surprise that we bundle up all our painful subjective experiences with the Ones-Who-Say-No, and dump them on God. Presto change-o—an image has been created. And later, whatever our adult relationship with authority turns out to be, it’s bound to further color and influence the way we see God. Spoiler alert: it won’t be good.
As kids, authority figures were forever popping up everywhere. And when they stopped us from doing whatever it was we enjoyed most, we viewed them as hostile. But when authorities such as our parents indulged us, letting us get away with proverbial murder—or whatever it was we fancied—we looked upon authority as being benign, or nonthreatening.
When one of these options was the more familiar means of authority, our unconscious reaction to that kind of authority ported over to being our unconscious reaction to God. But most likely, we received some kind of mixture of the two; our God-image then includes a combination of them both.
To whatever degree we experienced fear and frustration, to that same degree we’ll fear and be frustrated by God. It’s not hard to imagine that for many people, God is punishing and severe. We might also believe that God is unfair and unjust—a contrary force we must grapple with. In our conscious minds, we may not see that this is so. But in our emotional reactions, it’s a whole different deal. And the greater the gap, the bigger the shock when we discover the discrepancy.
As kids, practically everything we enjoyed the most was forbidden, or at least restricted. This may have been for our own good, but try to convince any child of that. Plus, parents aren’t perfect and many may put the brakes on pleasure out of their own ignorance or fear. What gets impressed in the child’s mind is that the most pleasurable things in the world are subject to God’s punishment—that guy deemed to be of the highest and harshest authority.
As we go along our merry way in life, we are bound to run into human injustice, experienced when we were young as well as when we get older. And if we witness these injustices being carried out by people we perceive to be in a position of authority—which means they drop in the same slot we associate with God—our previously created unconscious belief about a severe and unjust God will get a boost.
Such experiences make us fear God just a little more each time. Before we know it, we will have grown an inner image of God that makes him out to be a monster. This version of god, which lives and breathes in our unconscious, is really a lot more like Satan, the ruler of Hell.
Each of us must do the painstaking work of uncovering how much this holds true for us. Are we in fact filled with such untrue concepts about God? What often happens is that along the way we become aware we harbor such wrong concepts, but we don’t know they are false. Believing them to be true, we turn away from God altogether, wanting nothing to do with that monster in our minds.
This, folks, is often the real reason someone turns to atheism. But that turning away is in just as much error as our fear of a god that is cruel, self-righteous, stern and unjust. It’s simply the opposite extreme. For the one who holds onto their distorted God-image, rightly fearing the monster they have created, they will resort to cajoling the dragon deity for favors. In either case—following whichever opposite extreme we choose—we are not in truth.
Now let’s look at what happens for the one who experienced an overindulging authority in childhood. When doting parents give in to every whim, they don’t instill a sense of responsibility in the child. At first glance, the God-image cascading from a life of getting away with anything is a more true concept of God: God is loving and indulgent, forgiving and “good.”
In such a person’s eyes, God will let us get away with anything, so we can cheat life and skip out on responsibilities. Certainly, we might know less fear, but since life can’t be cheated—our own life-plan can’t be cheated if we hope to accomplish our task—our wrong concept is going to take us down a road to conflict.
And where there’s conflict, there’s always a chain reaction involving bent feelings, wrong thinking, bad actions, and yes, fear. As such, a confusion rises up that essentially asks, ‘Why isn’t reality matching my belief (albeit unconscious) in an indulgent God?’
As is so often the case, our personal God-image will have subdivisions and nuances, but it will in some way be a combination of these two main categories. For example, let’s say there was a hostile, domineering authority in our house growing up. The atmosphere of our home, then, may have been filled with fear. At the same time, the other parent may have been a pushover. Although outwardly weaker, the permissive parent might have made a stronger impression on our soul substance. Or this could flip around and a weaker but harsher parent could have left a bigger mark. However it was, our God-image will somehow reflect all of this.
The more our soul has developed in this area during previous incarnations, the less will our childhood put a dent in our current unconscious thinking. But to whatever extent we have been affected, and correspondingly our image of God has been shaped, we want to fully investigate our souls. We must look for both alternatives, even if one appears to overshadow the other.
Because none of us gets only one flavor of authority, no matter how much one may have outpaced the other. Even if both parents were indulgent, we may have then had a taskmaster of a teacher who instilled fear in us, and that’s what could have tipped the scales. Or maybe it was a relative or a sibling. No, it’s never just one kind of authority.
Consider too that we don’t simply add the notion of a pampering God on top of a monster-image. Rather, these two concepts will have to duke it out inside us, as we try to ascertain which one is right. But we’ll never win this inner battle because both options are untrue.
Once we’ve examined our emotional reaction to authority and therefore found our hidden God-image—which requires us to delve below what we think we think and discover what we really feel deep down—we must figure out how to dissolve our mistaken convictions. Because our God-image is so basic it taints all our other attitudes about life. It pushes us into hopelessness and despair, believing we live in an unfair and unjust universe, and also launches us into self-indulgent behavior where we reject self-responsibility because we expect God to pamper us.
Once again, we are reminded that the first step in addressing any distortion is becoming aware of it. This may not be as easy as it might sound. Even if we have a sense of our God-image, we may not realize just how far-reaching its tentacles are. Or we might be aware of it but aren’t yet fully aware that it is false. Some part of our mind hangs onto the conviction that it’s partly correct. For as long as this is the case, we won’t be able to let our false God-image go.
So Step Two is to set our intellectual ideas in order. But to do this, we can’t just Super Glue a right idea over the top of a still-lingering wrong one. That’s the textbook definition of suppression. On the other hand, we don’t want to allow our wrong conclusions to rise up and take over our psyche. In a subtle way, this is often what happens.
So the submerged ideas must get pried up from the muck of our unconscious thinking; we must nurse their awareness as they come fully into our conscious mind. But at the same time, we must keep in mind that these thoughts are false, instead of saying ‘Hey, yeah, that’s exactly what I think is true.’ At this juncture, we must formulate a right concept and compare the two beliefs. If we check in with our emotions, we will be able to gauge to what extent we still deviate—in our gut-level emotions—from what we now know to be true.
This is not a quick-fix process. We need to go slow, working quietly and without inner urgency, remembering that our emotions don’t always follow a shift in thinking as quickly as we might like. We can give ourselves time to adjust, while we keep holding our own feet to the fire of truth. Given the opportunity, our emotions will gradually grow up and out of previously erroneous reactions. We can also watch ourselves resisting the processing of growing, keeping in mind just how cunning the Lower Self can be in its quest to keep us in the dark. We must become wise to it.
Sometimes new concepts are easy to formulate. They become clear as a bell with just a little thinking through. But while some correct concepts will be obvious, others will not come quite so readily. Those will require development from the inside if we want to gain inner enlightenment; this we must earn in order to formulate the proper concepts in our intellect.
But our underlying emotions really don’t care whether the proper concept was easy to come by or not. Emboldened by our Lower Self, our emotions will resist changing because avoidance is right in their current wheelhouse. So prayers will be important. We must pray for the recognition of the right concept, as well as for help in removing the blocks of our inner resistance.
We can observe how sincerely we desire the things we ask for. If we want to know the truth but aren’t all that committed to overcoming our resistance to it, then at least we should realize that we’re the ones obstructing the light and our own freedom, not God. Then we can come into relationship with the part of ourselves that desires to remain childish and unreasonable. We can dialogue with this aspect and learn more about the beliefs it’s holding onto.
Gaining a proper concept of God is one of hardest awarenesses we can come by. Why is this so? Because it’s by far the most precious. The path to getting there begins by recognizing whatever our image of God is at this very moment. If we look around and only see injustice, such that we can’t even see that theoretically this conviction must be wrong, we’ll find the remedy by looking at our own life. How are we causing the happenings we deem to be so unjust?
If we understand the way images work, magnetically attracting to us experiences that seem to validate their wrong supposition, we will be better able to understand the truth in these teachings. And once we find the cause and effect in our actions—both the inner and the outer—we’ll sooner or later become deeply convinced that, right as rain, there is no injustice.
Humans are funny in the way we rather enjoy overly dramatizing the apparent injustices that have happened to us. This let’s us focus on how wrong others are. But really, that’s child’s play. What we often fail to do is find our part. With half an effort we could uncover the connections of our own law of cause and effect, and that alone can set us free.
Once we see that there is no injustice, we will be able to realize that it’s not God or the fates that force us to suffer at the hands of others shortcomings. It’s our own ignorance, our own fear and the pride of our own weak ego that makes difficulties come our way without our seeming to have been the one who attracted them.
If we find this hidden link we will come to know the truth: we’re never a prey to circumstances or other people’s imperfections; we really are the masters of our own destiny. Our thoughts and emotions are powerful creators, and this we constantly overlook. It’s what’s in our unconscious that strongly affects the unconscious of the other guy, and once we realize this, we’ll see how we call forth everything that happens in our lives, for better or for worse.
This awareness is what will help us dissolve our God-image, whether we’re afraid of being held hostage to circumstances over which we have no control, or whether we hope to duck self-responsibility thinking God will swoop in and fix everything. The realization that cause and effect is on us, not an angry or indulgent God, is one of life’s main breaking points.
We are often handicapped by our own guilt—or more aptly, by a wrong attitude toward our guilt. We also get sideways in our attitude about our own shortcomings, or faults. Having such a wrong attitude that we become so depressed we can’t face ourselves is a vicious circle that must be worked on before we can make further progress. Because if we feel guilty about the possible wrongs we must uncover, we will dodge reality and cause ourselves more harm. Coming, please meet going.
With the proper attitude though, we will realize that we don’t commit our faults out of malice or because we wish evil things for others. Every fault—every act of selfishness—is nothing but a big old misunderstanding. It’s a wrong conclusion. Our fear paralyzed us into not functioning properly, and as a result, we made errors in our judgment. The resultant actions and reactions set forth effects in our life that we no longer connect to the dots of our original fear.
If we shy away from unraveling all this out of a misguided attitude that says we’re better off not facing this, we’ll never find that breaking point. And it’s that breaking point alone that could release us from this notion that we’re a victim. It could give us back our power over our life through an understanding that God’s laws are truly good and just and loving and safe. The laws of God don’t turn us into puppets—quite the opposite, they make us whole and set us free.
In an effort to help us find a proper concept of God, here is a small attempt to speak about God. Of course such words can never do God justice, for God is unexplainable. And yet, God is all things. So perhaps we can create a starting point from which to cultivate a deeper inner knowing. And yet, all our inner deviations work to limit our perception. So how can our capacity for understanding ever be enough to sense the greatness of God? Still, step by step, stone by stone, as we eliminate everything within that hinders us, we’ll more and more glimpse the light that is infinite bliss.
Clearly, talking about God is not easy. And yet, we must try. One major stumbling block for all of us, despite all the wonderful spiritual teachings we may have taken in from various places, is that we think about God as a person. He’s someone who makes choices, seemingly willy-nilly, acting at will in an arbitrary sort of way. Heaped onto this is the idea that all this must be just. Consider for a moment that even this notion of a just God is false. For God is; he (she, it, they) just is. His laws run on autopilot.
But our wrong concept about all this stands in our way of being filled with the truth about God, which is that among other things, God is life. And God is also the force that enlivens life. This life force can be likened to electricity that’s endowed with the most supreme intelligence ever. Through us and all around us flows this powerful “electric current;” it’s up to us how we want to use it.
We can use this electricity for healing and improving life, or we can just as readily use it to quash life. That makes the current itself neither good nor bad; we’re the ones who make it good or bad. This perspective, though, can lead us to believe that God doesn’t care about us. And we are apt to be even more fearful of a totally impersonal God, which by the way, is not in truth.
His infinite love for us is totally personal, while at the same time it is impersonal, as evidenced in the 100% objective laws that always, always, always lead us eventually back to the light, regardless of how who we are or how much we may have strayed. How can we think God doesn’t care about us personally when he created such an elegant plan designed to guide us back to him?
The way spiritual laws work, the more we deviate from them, the more we live in a misery that causes us, at some point, to turn around and realize that we ourselves are the source of our misery, not God and his laws. We can see the love that is built right into the laws, given the way that deviation is the very medicine we need to cure us of our pain, which we cause ourselves through our own deviation. So it’s like this: self-initiated deviation causes pain which leads to a course correction that brings us closer to God.
To love the laws is to love God. Further, nestled in these loving laws is God’s willingness to let us deviate from divine laws, if we wish. We are made in his likeness, which means we’re completely welcome to exercise our free will. No one is forcing us to live in light and bliss. But we can if we wish. All this is a reflection of God’s love for us. If this seems hard to comprehend, know that one day we’ll all see the truth in these words.
It might aid our understanding if we would stop referring to God as “he.” Of course, since God can do anything, God can appear as a person. But the point is, we might be better served to think of God as a great creative power that is perpetually at our disposal. So it’s not that God is unjust, as our unconscious might have us believing, but rather that we aren’t doing such a hot job managing the power available to us.
If we build on this premise, meditating on the truth about who or what God really is and asking God to help us see where we ignorantly abuse the power current coursing through our being, we’ll get an answer. This is a promise from the Guide as well as from God.
If we have the courage to search for answers and sincerely desire to know them, without becoming undone by our own guilt for realizing where we’ve been in error, we’ll become aware of what’s causing the effects in our lives. We’ll see how we have come to believe that the world of God is a cruel and unfair one, where we have no chance, where we should be scared and hopeless, where grace is meted out in small doses to only a select few and we didn’t get tapped. But with our newfound realization that the law of cause and effect is alive and well, our fallacious views of God will fall away.
One easy test to know if we are carrying an image of God is to ask ourselves: Do I fear God more or love God more? Obviously, if we have more fear than love, we’re under the distorted illusion of an image. Or for those of us who are deeply convinced of the absolute futility of life, who believe the life force only works in a negative way, we will find ourselves coming to life only in negative situations. Then we need a fight, a quarrel or some kind of disharmony or unrest to feel fully alive. By contrast, smooth waters make us go flat. Whenever we feel more alive in a negative situation and more dead in a quiet one, we can be sure we have a God-image going on.
Wow, what a marvel, these laws that let us do as we please. And what confidence will infiltrate our souls when we land in the absolute knowledge we have nothing at all to fear. One thing’s for sure, we won’t find our images by looking at the distortions in others. We must enumerate the injustices we feel in our own life, scouring the soil around our various complaints. The more resistance we have to doing this, the bigger will be the victory party when we break through. One can hardly imagine how free this will make us feel—how safe and secure. As one mighty man put it, we’ll be ‘free at last, free at least; thank God almighty, I am free at last.’
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