God as Verb

Where In God’s Name Did We Go Wrong?
B Y   J E A N   C L A U D E   K O V E N

WHEN PEOPLE ASK ME if I am religious, I tell them I love God far too
much to be religious. “Oh, then you must believe in God?” they
inevitably ask. “Of course not,” I reply with a smile, “does a fish
believe in water?” For me, God is all there is. What’s to believe?

Although the world’s major religions all agree that God (however
they define the term) is omnipresent, it seems that very few of
their followers – including their clerical hierarchy – actually
understand what omnipresence really means. And therein lies the
source of the world’s ills.

For a start, we take our relationship to God far too seriously. We
bring so much solemnity to the way we view God – awe, veneration,
obedience, and the like – that we end up creating distance between
us and the object of our worship. Expressions such as “God is my
judge”, “God forbid”, and “God bless you” creep into our language,
and consequently our thoughts. People are actually proud to call
themselves “God-fearing folk”. For too many of us, God is somewhere
out there, watching and judging us as we struggle through our
imperfect lives.

Consider this: Some religions consider the name of God so holy that
it is never pronounced. Instead they create a litany of substitute
terms so they can talk about God without having to commit the
blasphemy of actually using his name – much as many of the
characters in the Harry Potter novels avoid pronouncing the name of
Lord Voldemort lest they unleash some fearsome effect. When
practitioners of these religions write about their deity, they are
instructed to omit the vowel: G-d. Other religions take the opposite
tack. They encourage their devotees to chant or meditate on the name
of God for hours at a time. To their way of believing, focusing on
God leads to a state of bliss that opens the door to transcendence
and enlightenment. But if God is truly all that is, what can
possibly make one of his names more powerful than any other?

For that matter, what is the purpose of naming him (or her or it) in
the first place? Naming anything creates a subject/object
relationship between you and the thing named, and that in and of
itself means a separation. Every name of God, no matter how holy,
drives a wedge between the creator and the created – which includes
you and me. This separation is the primal breeding ground for fear,
for we then see ourselves as tiny beings, abandoned (or evicted from
Paradise) and living on the fringe of an incomprehensibly huge
cosmos. It’s no wonder most of humanity takes this whole God
business so seriously – it appears to be no less than a matter of
life and death.

What if the phrase “God is all that is” were literally true? This is
what R. Buckminster Fuller must have understood when he said, “God,
to me, it seems, is a verb not a noun.” His words, when I first read
them, lodged in my mind. But I didn’t get their full import until
many years later, during my first visit to Findhorn, the renowned
spiritual community in northeast Scotland. It was there, sitting in
a circle with my fellow newbies, that the penny dropped. One young
man in our group, Peter, suddenly exclaimed, “Oh, wow, I finally see
it. It’s not that God is in all things; it’s that God IS all things.”

His exclamation triggered two remarkable realizations for me. First,
the obvious is obvious only to those who are sufficiently present to
see it. The delivery of Peter’s life-changing epiphany had virtually
no effect on the rest of the group. Our facilitator was so consumed
by his orientation agenda that he missed the moment completely.
Thanking Peter for his contribution, he simply asked the group if
anyone else had anything to share.

Second, what Peter said is literally true. In an instant, Bucky’s
words became crystal clear. God is indeed a verb. He is not the
creator. He is the ongoing unfoldment of creation itself. There is
nothing that is not a part of this unfolding. Thus there can be
nothing separate from God. God is infinite and infinity is One.

From that moment, everything in my life began to change. It wasn’t
immediate; it was rather like a giant oil tanker slowly making a U-
turn. As if I were facing in a new direction, I looked at the world
in a new way “How,” I asked myself, “do we dupe ourselves so
completely? How come so few people see what Bucky and Peter see? How
could I myself have been so blind?”

When we perceive God as a noun, we envision him as the creator, the
architect of, and therefore separate from, his creation. Identifying
ourselves as part of that creation, we see ourselves not only
separate from our source but also separate from each other and all
other manifest things as well. This is the fatally flawed axiom
underlying virtually all of the world’s faiths. They may
collectively call for love and peace, but the rampant divisiveness,
greed, and competition that currently pervade human culture are the
only inevitable outcomes of their separative philosophies.

Once I viewed God as a verb instead of a noun, my perception of life
shifted. Everything around me, manifest or no, became God. There was
only God. When someone spoke to me, it was with God’s voice; when I
listened, it was with God’s heart. I invite you to try it. The small
shift from noun to verb may well be the antidote to the forbidden
fruit that banished us from Eden. As you begin to view God not as
the creator but as the constantly changing dance of creation itself,
you’ll discover him in everything you see – including yourself. The
old you – that fish swimming blindly in search of water – fades away
as you dissolve into the simple meaning of it all. Perhaps, when
your vision finally clears, you will find yourself living in the
Promised Land that so many others are still praying for.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jean-Claude Koven is a writer and speaker based in Rancho Mirage,
CA. He is the author of Going Deeper: How to Make Sense of Your Life
When Your Life Makes No Sense, the Allbooks Reviews editor’s choice
for the best metaphysical book of 2004. Recipient of USABookNews.com
best metaphysical book award. For more information, please visit
www.goingdeeper.org.

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