Abhedânanda Swâmi.

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He sits on a throne outside the universe, hav-
ing a right hand and a left hand, and accord-
ing to the Christian belief, Jesus sits at His
right hand. Neither Christ nor Moses nor
any of the prophets had to introduce a new
God among the Jews. All of them accepted
and worshipped the same Elohim or Yahveh,
who was at first only the tribal god of the house
of Israel. Here we must not forget the original
meaning of the word "Elohim," which, al-
though translated into EngHsh in the Old
Testament as God, at first meant "that which
is feared" and was sometimes used vaguely

to describe unseen powers or "objects of

Has God any Form *?

man's fear" or superhuman beings not prop-
erly regarded as divine in their nature. It
was also applied to a disembodied soul,
which was conceived as the image of the
body in which it once dwelt, as, for example,
we read in First Samuel (ch. ^S, v. 13), the
witch of Endor saw ''Elohim ascending out
of the earth," meaning thereby some being
or disembodied spirit of an unearthly, super-
human character.

This word "Elohim" was the plural form
of "Eloah" and was also used to denote the
gods of the heathen. It was a generic name
given to supernatural characters of all kinds
having quasicorporeal forms, as well as to
the gods of different tribes. Chemosh, Dagon,
Baal, Yahveh were all known as Elohim and
each of them had a human form. But in
spite of its plural meaning the Hebrew prophets
used it especially for Yahveh the God of Israel.
The Israelites, however, believed Yahveh to
be immeasurably superior to the Elohim of

other tribes; while the inscription on the

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Moabite stone shows that King Mesa held
Chemosh to be as unquestionably the superior
of Yahveh. It is said: ''So now Yahveh
the Elohim of Israel hath dispossessed the
Amorites from before His people Israel, and
shouldst thou possess it? Wilt not thou pos-
sess that which Chemosh thy Elohim giveth
thee to possess?" (Judges xi, 23, 24.) The
Israelites of those days considered the differ-
ence between one Elohim and another to be one
of degree and not of kind. The same word
was likewise applied to Teraphim, the images
of family gods which were only deceased ances-
tors. Laban asks his son-in-law most indig-
nantly, "Wherefore hast thou stolen my

From a careful study of the Old Testa-
ment we see that, although the IsraeHtes
beheved in many kinds of Elohim and used
the word indiscriminately, Yahveh was the
God of their tribe, while other tribes had
Elohim of their own. When the house of

Israel conquered any other tribe, their tribal

Has God any Form ?

God Yahveh stood at the head of the gods of
the conquered tribe, as we know from history.
When the Babylonians and Chaldeans were
conquered by the Israehtes, Yahveh was
placed above Bel, Baal, Merodoch, Moloch,
and the other Elohim or gods of the conquered
tribes. Thus by the gradual process of evolu-
tion Elohim or Yahveh became the king or
Lord of all gods. We can now easily under-
stand what the Hebrew Psalmist meant when
he said: ''Among the gods there is none hke
unto thee, the king above all gods." But
although Yahveh became the supreme Lord
of all gods, hence of all tribes and nations, he
still did not lose his human form, human attri-
butes and human personahty. Even when
he became the creator and ruler of the universe,
he had the same human form, the same attri-
butes and personahty as were ascribed to
him by the ancient Israelites. A belief in
many gods was at the foundation of the Jud
conception of one Supreme Being, and i..

veh, the tribal god originally worshippe

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under the form of a bull, gradually evolved
into "god of gods" and finally into the one
and only God of the universe.

In like manner it can be shown that among
the ancient Greeks and other Aryan nations
the idea of a personal God with a human
form gradually developed from a beHef in
many tribal gods or nature gods. All mono-
theistic conceptions can be traced back to
polytheistic beHefs. The ancient Greeks, Hke
all other primitive peoples, worshipped many
nature gods. They perceived the forces of
nature and gave to them human powers and
attributes. We know that Zeus, Apollo, Athene
were all personified powers of nature. Zeus
originally meant sky, hence god of the sky,
the god of rain or rainer. The old prayer
of the Athenians was "Rain, rain, O dear
Zeus, on the land of the Athenians and on
the fields." Here "O dear Zeus" or dear
sky at once brings in the personal element.
"Dear sky" refers to the god of the sky,

the governor of rain. Apollo again was the

Has God any Form ?

sun god; Athene, the dawn-goddess. Each
of these mythological deities was, further-
more, originally the god of some family or
clan, and afterward when one family became
stronger than others, its family god stood at
the head of the other gods; thus in course of
time the ancient God Zeus-pitar or in Latin
Jupiter, meaning in English Father in heaven,
became the God of all gods and was supposed
to be the God of all nations.

So it was in ancient India during the Vedic
period. The Vedic poets at first personified
the forces of nature and gave them human
attributes and intelHgence. They were called
in Sanskrit *'Devas" or ''Bright Ones,"
such as Indra the rainer or thunderer, Agni
the god of fire, Vayu the god of storm or
wind, Varuna the god of the sky, and so on.
Eventually Varuna, lord of the sky, became
Deva Deva, the God of all gods, and thus
gradually arose in India the monotheistic
conception of the Supreme personal God

with human attributes. It can in the same

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way be shown that the tribal gods among the
Semitic tribes were at first nothing but nature

It may be asked here : Why were the forces
of nature personified? Because primitive
man could not help it. Wherever he saw
any activity or motion, he compared it to
the conscious activity of his own body or to
the voluntary movements of his Umbs, and
explained this natural activity by imagining
it to be the conscious act of some superhuman
being, possessing will-power and intelligence,
and who was called the mover. From this
we can easily understand the reason for the
ancient beHef that all material objects like
the sun, moon and stars, were moved by
angels. Now we say "it rains" or "it thun-
ders," but the primitive man used to say "he
rains," "he thunders." In this manner the
unscientific minds of ancient times came to
a belief in natural agencies. These agents
were like human beings, only more powerful

than any mortal agent. Hence was developed


Has God any Form ?

the idea of superhuman beings who became
tribal gods, who were invoked in time of need.
The Lord of the universe and the king above
all gods w^as necessarily infinitely more power-
ful than these superhuman agents of nature,
but still he had a human form infinitely mag-
nified in size, because it is extremely difficult
for the human mind to go beyond the idea
of a human God.

From ancient times, however, strong pro-
tests have been made by great thinkers against
this human idea of God with human form
and human attributes; but again and again
these objections have been brushed aside by
the vast majority of people. Xenophanes,
the Greek philosopher, about the sixth cen-
tury before Christ tried to overthrow this
anthropomorphic conception of God. He
said: ''The Godhead is all eyes, all ears, all
understanding, unmoved, undi\dded, calmly
ruling everything by his thought, Hke men
neither in form nor in understanding." The

early Christians who were brought up in the

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schools of Plato and Aristotle also deprecated

the idea of a human God. To them the

Supreme Being was no longer simply Elohim

or Yahveh, the Lord of the house of Israel;

not merely the God of Abraham, Isaac and

Jacob, the God who walked in the garden of

Eden in the cool of the day and ate and drank;

He was no longer even the God "who maketh

the clouds His chariot, who walketh upon the

wings of the wind," but a Supreme Being who

was infinite, indescribable, unutterable, and

whose form could not be seen with fleshly

eyes, whose voice could not be heard with

mortal ear, whose size was incomprehensible.

Clement of Alexandria says: "There is no

name that can properly be named of Him;

neither the one, nor the good, nor mind, nor

absolute being, nor Father, nor creator, nor

Lord can be the appropriate name for Him."

And Cardinal Newman declares: "God is

incommunicable in all His attributes.'*

Not very long ago the Bishop of London

also protested against the human God, say-

Has God any Form ?

ing: "There is a sense in which we cannot
ascribe personality to the unknown, absolute
Being; for our sense of personahty is of neces-
sity compassed with limitations, and from
these limitations we find it impossible to
separate our conception of a person." When,
indeed, we speak of human personaHty, we
include not only age, but sex, character,
outward appearance, the expression of the
face and so on.

Those who believe in a personal God with
a human form and human attributes do not
consider these limitations. They do not think
for a moment: How is it possible for the
infinite eternal Being to be confined within
the limits of a human form, however magnified
it may be? How is it possible for the Abso-
lute Being to come under the hmitations of
time and space? Physical form is nothing
but limitation in space and time and if the
eternal and infinite God be above time and
space, how can He have a physical form?

Yet most of the dualistic religions teach that

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God has a form, and ask us to believe in it
and to worship Him as one with form. How
are we going to reconcile this self- contradic-
tory statement that God is the infinite, eternal
Being with a finite form? We do not find
any solution of the difficulty in any of the
Scriptures of the three great Semitic religions —
Judaism, Christianity and Mahometanism.
Of these Christianity conceives God under a
triune form, while Judaism and Mahometan-
ism insist on the absolute unity of the Supreme
Being. Where is then the solution of the
problem? If God be infinite and all-pervad-
ing, how can He have form?

The duaUsts or monotheists beheve in the
Supreme Being with a human form, but
they say that that form is not material or
physical but spiritual. It cannot be seen
by the physical eye, but it can be seen by
the spiritual eye of an enhghtened soul.
According to the dualistic system of religion
in India, the infinite, eternal, unknowable

Being or substance of the universe, which is

Has God any Form?

called in Sanskrit Brahman^ is the source of

all powers and all forms. Although it is

formless Hke the infinite ocean of reality or

of absolute existence, intelhgence and bhss,

it nevertheless contains in a potential state

all the forms of the waves that can arise in

that eternal ocean. The water of the ocean

has no particular form or shape; we can say

that it is formless in one sense, but at the

same time it can take any form when frozen

into ice. A block of ice, for instance, can

appear in the form of a triangle, a sphere, a

circle, an animal or a human being. The

same water without losing its nature can

appear in a sohdified form; and as in this

case we are justified in saying that water,

although formless, contains in a potential

state all imaginable forms within itself, so

the water of the ocean of that absolute ReaHty

possesses in a potential state all the physical,

material, mental and spiritual forms that ever

existed, or ever will exist in future.

The infinite, eternal Brahman does, indeed;

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appear and manifest itself with a spiritual
form, in order to satisfy the desire of the
devotee or worshipper. Wherever there is
intense longing to see God, wherever there is
unflinching devotion and unselfish love with
the whole heart and soul, there is the mani-
festation of the formless One to fulfil the
desire of the devotee. It is then that the
invisible Brahman, or the Supreme Being,
or the ReaUty, manifests itself and becomes
visible to the spiritual eye of the worshipper.
Intense longing, unswerving devotion and
whole-hearted love of the soul draw out from
the infinite source any particular form which
the devotee wishes to see and worship; they
have the power, as it were, to condense and
soHdify the water of the ocean of Reality
into the various forms. The spiritual form
of the Divinity rises in the ocean of formless
Brahman or of the absolute Godhead, floats
there for some time, and after satisfying the
desires of the true Bhakta or worshipper,

merges into that ocean again.

Has God any Form ?

These forms vary in accordance with the ideal
of the worshipper. If a worshipper has a long-
ing to see God in the form to which he is de-
voted, of Jehovah or of Christ for instance, he
must draw that out of the infinite ocean. The
Divinity will appear in that form to satisfy
the desire of that devotee. If he be devoted
to the form of Buddha, or Krishna, or R^ma-
krishna, or any other human or imaginary form,
he will see such an one with his spiritual eye
through intense longing and love. The per-
sonal God with a spiritual form is the objecti-
fication, projection, manifestation of the im-
personal ocean of Divinity. The highest of all
such manifestations is the Iswara of Vedanta.
He is worshipped under various names as
Vishnu, Jehovah, Shiva, Father in heaven, or
Allah. As all-pervading heat is imperceptible
but becomes perceptible through friction, so
wherever there is the intense friction of devo-
tion and love in the soul of the worshipper,
there is the manifestation of that infinite

Being either in human or superhuman form.

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There have been many such instances where
the absolute omnipresent Being manifested
itself in various forms among all nations and
in all countries.

In ancient times there lived a boy saint
who was the son of a ruling monarch. His
name was Prahlada. His father was abso-
lutely materialistic and atheistic in his belief,
and could not bear the idea of a ruler greater
and more powerful than himself. He be-
lieved in no other ruler of the world and through
vanity and egotism thought that he was the lord
of all. His son Prahlada, however, was a
born saint. From his childhood his heart
and soul were filled with extreme faith, devo-
tion and love for the almighty Ruler and Lord
of the universe. He cared nothing for the
world and found no pleasure in the luxuries
and comforts of a princely life. They did not
attract his mind. He always preferred to
stay alone and had a tendency to renounce
everything. So deeply absorbed was his

mind in his Divine Ideal that he could not

Has God any Form ?

listen to other things, and it was impossible
for him to obey the commands of his godless
father. The king grew angr}^ at his behavior,
and one day, caUing the prince to him, he asked
him the reason of his disobedience. He
inquired under whose instigation he was
behaving in that way and acting rebeUiously
against him who was the lord of all. The boy
saint repHed: ''The ruler of the universe,
the lord of all nations, who is greater and
more powerful than your majesty, has cap-
tured my heart and soul and has inspired me
to behave in this way." At this reply the
king, furious with rage and anger, w^as ready
to punish his son by killing him instantly.
Drawing his sword, he cried: "How dost thou
dare to say that thou hast a lord more powerful
or stronger than I ? Where is thy lord ? Show
him to me!" The boy answered: "He is
everywhere." The king demanded, "Is he
in that pillar?" Prahlada, praying to his
Divine Ideal from the bottom of his heart and

soul and with firm faith, rejoined: "Yes, He

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is there in that pillar." The king answered:
''Now ask thy lord to save thee from being
beheaded." Thus saying, he struck the pillar
with a giant's might and knocked it down.
In the midst of the thundering noise of the
crash appeared the divine figure, radiant
with celestial glory, to protect the devotee
of the Almighty Lord. The eyes of the
wicked monarch were dazzled by the extraor-
dinary brightness and celestial lustre of
the divine form, but he could not bear the
sight of another lord beside himself. He
attacked the Divine manifestation and in his
attempt to conquer the Supreme Ruler he
fell breathless on the spot. Such was the
power of true faith. Can any one question
the power of true faith when Jesus said: ''for
verily I say unto you, if ye have faith as a grain
of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain
* remove hence from yonder place,' it shall
remove; and nothing shall be impossible to
you." (Matt, xvii, 20.) That faith brought

out the manifestation of the omnipresent Lord

Has God any Form ?

from the pillar. At the sight of this wonderful
Divine power and glory of the Almighty the
soul of the boy saint was filled with unbounded
joy and ecstatic happiness. He approached
the mighty figure with awe, reverence and de-
votion, and prostrating himself at His feet, he
poured forth all prayers before Him to his
heart's content, saying: "O Lord, the Al-
mighty Ruler of the universe. Thou art indeed
all-pervading and almighty. Thy power is
inscrutable. To save Thy child from immi-
nent death, to fulfil the desire of Thy true
devotee and to punish this vain and egotistical
earthly monarch. Thou hast shown Thy
power and glory to all by making this Thy
superhuman manifestation. What words are
adequate to describe Thy majesty and Thy
loving-kindness ? All words that we can utter
are Thine! I am Thy child and Thy servant;
keep me in Thy service forever and ever,
O Lord and Father of all animate and inani-
mate beings of the universe."

*' O Lord, Thou art the goal of all religions,

Vedanta Philosophy.

and the sustainer, the master, the witness, the
habitation, the refuge and the friend of all
living creatures; Thou art the origin, disso-
lution, support, end and the inexhaustible seed
of the whole manifested universe. Thou art
one, yet Thou takest many forms through
Thy unspeakable power of Maya. I bow
down and salute Thee. Whosoever knows
Thee as formless and with form knows the

eternal Truth."


Fatherhood and Motherhood
of God.

*'/ am the Father and Mother of the universe." — Bha-
gavad Gita, ix, 17.

" Why does the God-lover find such pleasure in address-
ing the Deity as Mother? Because the child is more free
with its Mother, and consequently she is dearer to the
child than any one else." — Life and Sajdngs of R^ma-
krishna, by F. Max MuUer, p. 118.

Fatherhood and Motherhood
of God.

The religious history of the world shows
that the conception of God as the Father
of the universe first arose among the Aryan
nations, and not among any of the Semitic
tribes. It was in ancient India that the
Aryans first worshipped the Supreme Being
by addressing Him as the Father in Heaven.
The origin of the English word ''father"
can be traced back through Latin "Pater"
and Greek *'Pitar" to Sanskrit "Pitar"
meaning father. The Christians, however,
beheve that before the advent of Jesus the
Christ, the fatherhood of the Almighty Being
was unknown to the world.

Not very long ago the famous Rt. Rev.

Bishop Potter of New York said in one of his

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lectures: "Go to India, to Burma, to China,
to Greece; or to Egypt or Rome and see if
anywhere among them all you will find a
religion with any other idea of man than
that he is the mere creature of his governor,
his Pharaoh, his Sultan, his Rajah, his pro-
consul, or by whatever name you choose to
call it." He also said: "It was Christ who
brought an entirely new conception of the
relation of God to men." Such statements,
however, are neither founded upon truth nor
supported by any historical evidence. On
the contrary, it is a well-known fact that in
India, from prehistoric times, the Hindu
rehgion has given to man a position much
higher than the Christian conception of his
relation to his Maker. The ancient Vedic
sages were the first to declare before the
world that the human soul is not only the
child of God but that it is essentially divine
and in its true nature is one with the Supreme

According to the Hebrew religion the

Fatherhood and Motherhood of God.

relation of God to man was like that of an
absolute monarch to his subject, or like that
of a master to his slave; while the reHgious
history of the ancient Arysm nations testifies
that they had risen to a much higher con-
ception of God than as a despotic Ruler
long before the Christian era. The Chris-
tian missionaries and preachers have been
trumpeting before the world for several cen-
turies that no rehgion outside of Christianity
has ever inculcated the idea of the Fatherhood
of God and that it was Christ alone who
brought it to men from his celestial abode.
Moreover, they are especially eager to impress
upon the minds of their co-religionists that
the Hindus in particular had no conception
of a Heavenly Father, that they never knew
the fatherly relation of God to man. But
those who have studied carefully the history
of the growth of Christianity are familiar with
the fact that the idea of the Fatherhood of
God did not originate with Jesus the Christ

as modern Christians beheve, but existed in

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the religious atmosphere of northern Pales-
tine from the second century B.C. as a result
of the Hellenic influence upon Judaism of
the worship of Jupiter. Jesus took up this
grand Aryan idea of the Fatherhood of God
and emphasized it in his teachings more strongly
than any of his predecessors had done in Pal-
estine.* It was Yahveh that Christ worshipped
as his Heavenly Father, it was Yahveh to
whom he prayed as the Father of the universe ;
consequently, those who follow Christ and
his teachings, worship their God through the
same relation as was established by their
Master. The worship of God is impossible
without having some kind of relation between
the worshipper and the object of worship.

The relation between father and son is
much higher than that between the creator
and his creatures as it had existed in Judaism.
The transition from the Judaic relation be-
tween God and man to that of father and
son was therefore a great step toward the

*Seep. 173: Son of God,

Fatherhood and Motherhood of God.

realization of the spiritual unity of the indi-
vidual soul and the universal Spirit. It was
no longer an external relation to power and
strength, but had become a kind of kinship,
of internal blood relation such as exists between
an earthly father and his son. There is a tie
of love that binds a son to his father, and
such a tie brings the individual soul nearer to
the Creator of the universe. As the earthly
father of an individual is ordinarily considered
to be his creator because of his begetting him
and bringing him into existence out of an
invisible germ, so when the undeveloped mind
began to think of the creation of the universe,
it imagined that the creator was one who
brought the world into existence and produced
it out of nothing. Gradually the conception
of the creator evolved into that of the father
of the universe.

All our conceptions of God begin with
anthropomorphism, that is, with giving to
God human attributes in a greatly magnified

degree, and end in de-anthropomorphism, or


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making Him free from human attributes. At
the first stage the human mind conceives
of the creator as a great Being who dwells
outside of the world which he creates, just as
the father is separate from the son whom he
begets. The Hebrew conception of Yahveh
was purely anthropomorphic. Yahveh pos-
sessed all human attributes and, dwelling in a
heaven outside of the universe, created the
world out of nothing, fashioned it, and after-
ward became its governor. The same Yahveh,
when addressed by Jesus the Christ as the
Father in heaven, did not lose his Yahvehic
nature; but was simply endowed with the
fatherly aspect of Jupiter or the Greek Zeus-
pitar. The sweet, loving and fatherly attri-
butes of Jupiter were superadded to the stern,
extra- cosmic Yahveh, the despotic ruler of
the world.

The word Jupiter, or Zeus-pitar, has a
long history behind it, with which ordinary

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