There are stories, legends, mythologies, folklore, traditions, histories, scriptures, and texts from all around the world which tell us of humans who have reached the stature of the gods. They have, in essence, become “a god.” Some recognizable examples are people such as Jesus, Siddhartha Gautama (Buddha), and Muhammad. The process that these went through has been called theosis, deification, divinization, realization, awakening, and enlightenment. What does it mean to become or be “a god”?
The reason I use a lower case g in god is because these humans were not necessarily the fullness of God, the totality of God, the absolute or highest God, all that God is in its most comprehensive being. All of God was not contained within their individual person. Rather, they were an avatar of God, a manifestation of God, an incarnation of God, a child of God, an emanation of God, an offspring of God, a reflection of God. Still, some became a manifestation to such a full degree, a reflection of the Divine to such a profound extent, that their words and deeds may have been considered the fullness of God, the truest Reality, the Truth itself. Just as a part of a hologram reflects the whole image, so too many of these people came to embody the entirety of the Absolute, the Ultimate, the Real.
However, sometimes we think that being “a god” means something like being the ultimate ego, having these qualities:
- all intelligence (omniscient)
- all power (omnipotent)
- all pleasure
- total control
- invincible to death
The ego often likes to imitate the Divine, creating false impressions of what it would be like to be God. It often subtly changes true qualities of God into false substitutions, imitations, which it convinces itself are really of God.
Did these people who became “gods” have all intelligence, all power, all joy, control over everything, and never died? No. They didn’t know everything (certainly not things like quantum mechanics or computer science), they were not kings or rulers in the traditional sense, they were not always joyful, they did not wield ultimate cosmic power over the elements, and they all died. This has led some people to think that they really did not become “gods” in any truly God-like way, but were merely extraordinary teachers, persuasive guides, charismatic leaders, who were elevated to the status of “god” posthumously in order to honor and memorialize them and their teachings.
But I think our understanding of being “a god” is skewed, perhaps because our perspectives of God are also. I think that these people did, in fact, come to reflect true qualities of God, the Divine, Ultimate Reality, the Ground of Being, the absolute Truth. But those qualities are not what we usually think they are. They have nothing to do with ego, and almost everything to do with losing ego, transcending self, and actualizing a deeper identity of life and being, bringing to life the most fundamental essence of what we are.
- God has all intelligence because God encompasses all intelligent beings, and is Intelligence itself, the ability to acquire and apply knowledge with understanding. The “gods” have great wisdom, or the ability to apply experience, knowledge, and judgment in a way that is most beneficial to all beings, and all forms of life. Without ego involved, they are able to judge wisely and act justly in all situations. They do not have all knowledge, and in some ways they have let go of all human knowledge, realizing that it is all relative and not absolute, and in this have paradoxically come to a higher knowledge of truth that knows the limits of the human intellect.
- God has all power because God encompasses all things that have power. God is Power itself in the forms of light, energy, movement, progression, creativity, evolution. The “gods” are powerful because they know how to inspire and harness energy for effective activity, to create new structures, situations, experiences, symbols, organizations, practices which cultivate and promote love and justice for all beings.
- God is joyful, because God alleviates the suffering of all beings, thus helping to bring them joy, and in that finds joy for itself. God is Joy itself, the bliss that comes from experiencing absolute oneness with all beings, all life, all of reality. The “gods” are often joyful, but that means suffering with those who are suffering so as to help lift them from their misery, to rescue them from their darkness, to save them from the prison of their separate egoic selves so as to realize the joy of oneness too. They seek to bring them into God as well.
- God does not have total control, but rather as Richard Rohr has said, is the great Allower. God allows all things. Everything is free to happen, to exist, even those things that are evil and that bring sorrow. There is an opposition in all things, and often God can be found in the unity underlying those opposites, a coincidentia oppositorum, which shows how all things are interdependent and interconnected. The “gods” understand that these opposites must be allowed to exist for there to be life and existence, or else all things would be one without differentiation. They are liberators, giving freedom to all, and pointing all to those ways of living that bring the most joy.
- God is eternal life, because all things live and die within God, and this process is everlasting. God is Life itself, the awareness and consciousness that continually arises in all living things, that allows reality to become conscious of itself, to know itself, and that is the way God knows God. The “gods” know that their bodies and minds are mortal and will die, but they also know by experience that they are the way God manifests and knows and loves the world, through them. They know their deepest being resides in God, and is God, not in their finite body or mind. They know their life is the Life of God, the only way God lives.
Humans who become “a god” do not become a separate god from God, but realize their godhood in God, the only God there is, since there is only one Ultimate Reality, one absolute Truth. They come to know who they are at the deepest level, the ground of their existence, and this is God. They therefore come to identify with God as a manifestation of God, “a god” in duality. At times, when this identification and communion becomes especially strong in their lives, in their consciousness and being, they speak and act with the grace of Truth and Love itself. They act as God. The Wisdom, and Power, and Joy, and Freedom, and Life of God flows through them unimpeded, unobscured by the ego self.
When the “I” of the personal ego is perceived in truth and let go, then the “I” of God fills the vacuum and flourishes. As the Apostle Paul noted, even though Jesus knew that he was in God, a manifestation of God, “equal” to God, this did not mean it was something that inflated his ego to extreme heights of grandiosity of power, control, invincibility, etc. On the contrary, Jesus could only realize the truth of that manifestation by emptying himself (kenosis) completely of ego, of his personal self, of his individual will, and becoming a servant to all other beings through love (Phil. 2:6-7; John 13:35). He humbled himself to the depths, realizing that all other beings were also a manifestation of the Self of God, for the rest of his life (Phil. 2:8; Matthew 25:40). It was through this humility, this surrender of ego-self, this condescension below all (not above), that he was exalted to be “a god” in God “the Father” (Phil. 2:9-11). His life became a mirror of true Reality, of the Being that is this Cosmos, the Source of us all.
So too may each of us become “a god.” As I’ve written before, this is not a change from what we are, but a realization of what we truly are, and it is this realization that effects a great change in our lives. We may realize our oneness in the highest Truth, the Ultimate Reality, and embody this Love. This is, it seems, what all the “gods” have taught to others so that they may be “gods” as well.
8 thoughts on “What does it mean to be “a god”?”
Bryce, I guess those who have become “gods” stand out because they are so few – because this understanding is so esoteric. We all hope intuitively that the day will come when this is NOT so rare, that “All men should be prophets”.
Another observation. This understanding removes the “magic” from our religion. I’ve been trying also – though less eloquently than you – to remove the magic from the mysteries. Removing the magic will almost always be met with resistance, perhaps because it puts the accountability in our hands – not the hands of the cosmos. it’s up to us to seek that harmony (the knowledge of God) and live in that harmony (become one with God).
Thank you for your thoughts. Yes, they are “few” who realize this godhood, or as Jesus said, “few there be that find it (Life).” I think understanding these things is esoteric because they cannot be expressed perfectly in words. In their fullness they can only be experienced. So anything we say about it is likely to fall far short, and even sound contradictory, paradoxical, and incredible. I do believe all people can be prophets/gods, but not all will do what it takes, to live in the way that reveals it. Ego gets in the way, traps us.
I agree that in many ways this removes the “magic” from religion, at least in terms of much of the supernaturalism. In my view, God is not supernatural, but rather radically natural, and nothing breaks natural law. God is in perfect harmony with Nature. However, because we cannot know all things intellectually, and because there are limits to our thoughts, concepts, ideas, there is still ample room for things that surpass our intellect, that go beyond the ability of the human mind to comprehend, and this then becomes the new “magic.” What’s perhaps even more remarkable is that at some point in the process of relinquishing ego, “we” aren’t doing it anymore. Grace is still manifest. The Mysteries remain mysterious to the intellectual mind.
Yes – God is radically natural. I love that. Of course – that is totally logical. And God is totally logical – or the Holy Spirit is totally logical. The only thing is, the underlying assumptions to our logic are flawed / incomplete, whereas the underlying assumptions to His logic are perfectly complete.
Yes, our logic and assumptions are all part of the human ego, the analytical mind, and are flawed and imperfect. But God is Perfect, Whole, and Complete, nothing lacking, nothing wanting, at peace within itself. (Sometimes I use gender neutral pronouns for God, because I don’t think God is either male or female, but both and none (Gal. 3:28; 1 Cor. 11:11).)
Would be interested in your thoughts on the two posts I put up this week in “The Gospel According to Scoot” – Loving Jesus, and “Being Love by Jesus”.
I enjoyed reading your posts. The thought that kept coming to mind is this: as long as we think that God (Jesus/Christ) is separate from us, He will be. As long as we talk dualistically about them, we here and He there, the separation remains. We can only know God by becoming a god. We can only know Christ by becoming Christ. That is how we know the Divine.
How do we become Christ? By surrendering ego, and loving. I like this quote by a 16th century Italian monk: “Lord, Thou art the love with which I love Thee.” By loving we may at some point come to realize that we do not truly love from our own selves (ego), but through and by God’s Love. And we know God by that Love in us (1 John 4).
Bryce, so, it is coming to me that, indeed, we cannot truly “know” God until we become Him. Now, I need to tell you a story. In 1997, I jogged most mornings. It was November in SLC, and I was jogging in the dark. I was also experimenting with prayer. Talking to God, really. One morning, after finishing my “prayer”, I saw a falling star. Likewise the next morning. Repeat the 3rd. On the fourth, as part of my prayer, I said, “So – this is pretty weird – are you trying to get my attention”. Boom – a falling star. But wait – it gets better. On day 5, I said, “OK – you’ve got my attention. If you show me a falling star right now, I PROMISE I will “Seek to know you”. Immediately, a falling star went shooting across the Wasatch Mtns. I stopped in my tracks, knowing that my life had changed forever. I had made a promise to God, and He said, “Game on”. I know this all sounds pretty fantastic, and I have no idea how the mechanics of all this might have worked. I’m also quite aware that November is often the time of the Leonids meteor showers – but still, 5 DAYS IN A ROW – at the exact time? Pretty hard to dismiss. So, the point is – for the past 21 years I have continued seeking to know Him. I have confirmed this covenant – this desire – repeatedly in prayer. It keeps evolving, and progressing, as I keep learning. So, how can I truly KNOW God? By BECOMING the love that He is. And Yes – I saw that quote about “Thou art the love with which I love thee”. I saw that you posted it last week, and I love it. Most people just aren’t ready to accept this yet, though. It’s too New Age, with not enough magic. Although, somehow, I was a first-hand, intimate witness, to that magical sequence of events that triggered this walk in life. My efforts are to explain this “magic” that we all cling to in words that are meaningful to me – and hopefully to everyone. First to understand, and then to share. I call this effort, “Love”. 🙂
Yes, and “become” is also a tricky word. I think we already are Christ, this already is our Divine nature, we are Love, but it has simply been covered over by our ego, obscured. We’ve been blinded by our own “self” as to who/what we really are. Our ego “self” is the veil that hides our true nature as One in God. If we knew our Self, truly, I think we would be in awe at the glory, the profundity, the majesty of our Being. This is what we can know, when we transcend ego, the self, the “natural man.”
This is the Good News of the gospel, the “magic” that all the mystics try to convey in words but which can only be known through direct personal experience.