The Glory of God is Consciousness

A reinterpretation of a revelation to Joseph Smith on the glory of God.

The glory of God is intelligence…

—D&C 93:36, revelation of the prophet-mystic Joseph Smith in 1833

I think too often we’ve interpreted this “intelligence” to mean a great accumulation of knowledge, of degrees, certificates, many letters to append to our name, book knowledge, philosophy, theology, science, etc. But I don’t think he meant “human knowledge.”

God doesn’t glory in human knowledge, it seems to me, most of all because human knowledge is not really what we think it is. We think our knowledge is absolute (which would be God if that were true), but it is all relative, and never final or certain. It is symbolic and referential. What we think we know is not God. It may point towards God, but is not as God is, it is not Realty as-it-is.

I think what Smith meant by “intelligence” is consciousness. The rest of the verse qualifies the statement, “or, in other words, light and truth.” Where is light ever experienced or known as such (illumination or luminescence)? In consciousness. Where is truth ever known, or reality ever experienced? In consciousness.

I think another statement from Joseph shows this interpretation of “intelligence.” In the King Follett Discourse of 1844, some 81 days before his death, he said, “The mind of man—the intelligent part—is as immortal as, and is coequal with, God Himself.” If that “intelligent part” of man is immortal and coequal with God, then it can’t be human knowledge that we accumulate in our life. The moment we were born we had this “intelligent part.” So that part must be something else than what we typically think of as “knowledge.” I think he was trying to point to consciousness, that which is deepest in the “mind of man.”

Many people, including myself, have noted that consciousness itself seems to be synonymous with God. But how could God be Consciousness? Doesn’t consciousness only arise in living beings? What about everything else in creation? Isn’t God in that too? How did God create that, if God is Consciousness?

Well, one way to look at it is that everything else in creation is only known in one who is conscious. It would have no known existence if not for a mind that knows it. Everything that we know “out there” is a simulation taking place within our mind, in the contents of consciousness. It is being “created” or given a knowable form within the mind.

And in another way, the same elements that make up the rocks and plants and stars are the same elements that make up these finite body-minds wherein consciousness arises. So those same “non-living” elements that appear to be “out there” and dead may also be “in here” and contributing to every living mind that is conscious. We may say that universally the elements are conscious, or perhaps, Consciousness.

This is often known as panpsychism, the idea that the elements, everything material, no matter how small, has some degree of consciousness. But that gets many people frustrated, considering that what we usually think of as consciousness is usually correlated with some kind of nervous system, some neuronal activity, some kind of living electro-chemical reactions in an organism. How could an single atom or a quark have consciousness? It doesn’t seem to make sense.

But, if we think of consciousness as an emergent property of the elements, something which arises when the elements combine in a hierarchy of nested systems, nested holarchies, growing to greater and greater consciousness as those systems become more complex, nesting greater and greater emergent complexity, then we might be able to say that the elements are the constituents of consciousness, parts of consciousness, holons within greater conscious holons, or that which facilitates consciousness. Consciousness would not be without the “stuff” of the cosmos.

So does that mean that God would not be without the cosmos? Possibly. If the cosmos is God’s manifestation, God’s incarnation, the unfolding of God into form, then without this materialization of God we can’t say that God would have being in any real sense of the term. God would have no ontological palpable existence without this cosmos. And furthermore, God could not be palped without living beings in that cosmos to palp it, to know it. God knows its Self through us, through the consciousness that arises in us, as manifestations of God. Perhaps this is what the 13th century Christian mystic Meister Eckhart had in mind when he wrote, “And if I did not exist, ‘God’ would also not exist. That God is ‘God,’ of that I am a cause; if I did not exist, God too would not be ‘God.'” Or the 17th century mystic Angelus Silesius when he said, “God does not live without me.”

Does that mean that God ceased to exist when Eckhart or Silesius died? No. I think these mystics were referring to a deeper aspect within themselves than the superficial body, or even their particular mind. I think they too were referring to consciousness, that which “knows,” which is aware, which experiences being. God doesn’t live without “me” (Consciousness), this deeper “I AM” that perhaps Moses came to know also within himself (Exodus 3:14). There is no life without Consciousness, and nothing can be said to have any kind of known being without Consciousness. Or in other words, God doesn’t live without God, and God is only known by God, and the way that God expresses itself is as all of Life itself, which is made up of all the “non-living” elements of the cosmos.

So I think Joseph Smith’s revelation could perhaps be interpreted better as “The glory of God is consciousness.” That which increases in consciousness, in awareness, increases in awareness of that glory, and increases in awareness of God. When we become fully conscious of our consciousness, we become fully aware of God in us, as us, as the foundation of our being, as the One which is at-one with all being, with all the cosmos, which is in all the cosmos, the One which has become us, the Consciousness which exists within you and I.

What do you think about this? Is God synonymous with Consciousness? Is this “Mystery” that sits deepest within us the same as that being we’ve traditionally called “God”? Please share the thoughts that are presently in your consciousness with us in the comments.


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2 thoughts on “The Glory of God is Consciousness

  1. I really love how you restated that scripture and explained it. I love how you stated that all the elements are combined in a hierarchy of nested systems that grow in complexity in greater consciousness…that the non-living elements are constituents of consciousness. That is just brilliant and beautiful! Richard Rohr’s meditation that included a quote from Howard Thurman goes along with this theme: “‘The source of life is God. The mystic applies this to human life when he says that there is in man an uncreated element; or in the Book of Job where it is written that his mark is in their foreheads. . . . To deal with men on any other basis, to treat them as if there were not vibrant and vital in each one the very life of the very God, is the great blasphemy.'” Would you say that the uncreated element is consciousness that can only arise through creation?

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