God or Principle?

When I pray with people, I usually ask whom or what do they pray to; is It God, the Universe, Higher Power, Principle, Spirit or whatever? Actually the Prayer Chaplaincy training says to use your own terms, not the other’s. I prefer to use the terms of the person I am praying with, thinking doing so makes it more accessible for them. In a broader sense however, this raises the question, to whom or what are we directing our prayers?

Modern Unity teachers seem to be moving from their original teachings which included recognition of a God head or God the Father. While the emphasis has always been on God within and developing our own consciousness of spiritual laws, modern Unity metaphysics seem to be taking this further. Recently I heard Paul Hasselbeck (perhaps the most prominent contemporary metaphysician in Unity) say he is moving from using the term God altogether; he prefers to just say Principle. He expressed concern that referencing God confuses people since most of us were raised with an understanding of God as this external supreme being rather than a universal Principle internally available to us.

Ironically it was regaining God that drew me more deeply into Unity. At first it helped me give voice to something I had experienced irregularly over my lifetime; an inner place where I became something more than my ordinary self. I do not always ‘hear’ It clearly, but there is a sense of knowing. Seeing It as a scientific rule or principle feels too limited.

In embracing Buddhist practice and thought in my mid-twenties, I thought of It as Buddha Nature. Buddha Nature is similar to Principle, something central to all beings needing only to be awakened to consciousness. Principles and science are neutral tools that can help us understand and navigate through life. Buddha Nature describes our highest nature that is not only truthful as in scientific principals, but also compassionate. To call this inner expression God, adds something that is more alive and active than either Principle or Buddha Nature.

Unlike the written God of ‘thou shall’ and ‘thou shall not,’ It is more flexible and compassionate, at times directive yet never threatening. All choices have consequences, whether or not I follow the impulses I feel when in touch with God or God Consciousness. Paying attention (and meditation) helps me better differentiate what is generated from ego states and what from the state of the highest good.

There actually is no need for a supreme being or God in order for one to understand fundamental good in the world. A true spiritual path involves learning how to direct our own life’s course toward greater good in the world, easing suffering and growing compassion for ourselves as well as others. Spiritually speaking, the rest is details. So why then God?

I can only speak from where I am now along my journey. My sense is that It is more than a guiding Principle. Yes, It is an internal connection, sometimes referred to as the “heart space.” Yet I have a growing sense that It is more than my highest good even as it directs me toward the highest good. And It also is a point where all beings are one.

Long before I was conscious of Unity, I had observed that unless I was holding back in some way, the Universe tended to cooperate with my intentional choices and actions. Often not at once, nor necessarily in ways I might expect, something more was engaged. I have also found being in touch with that space called God or Spirit or Principle at times would provide direction in ways that no neutral or scientific law of nature could do.

Just as I myself remain a work in progress, so too will my understanding of God. Consciousness of God gives me more room to choose faith and love over fear particularly in times of stress. This also helps me understand spiritual principles better. Ultimately it may affirm how we all are God. Or I may find Principle or Buddha Nature clearer and more useful. Nevertheless I find this exploration as something that expands my consciousness, compassion, appreciation and understanding of existence.








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3 Responses to God or Principle?

  1. Before more of you respond to this, someone kindly informed me that I spelled “principle,” for the most part as “principal.” An unconscious transforming of a concept or higher spiritual law to the authority who runs a school? I was NOT consciously at least referring to that authority 😉

  2. David Pittle says:

    Dave, I do appreciate your pondering this. For me, it seems less relevant to find a referent for the word “God”. . I live my life on the principle of gratefulness which does not need an object. I simply can’t find evidence in my life or in the world for the presence of a literal God. Every person who encounters the heart of spirituality finds a unique reality that cannot but be expressed only as metaphor. Gratefulness is the heart of my spiritual encounter. When I read the stories of Jesus’ actions and instruction, they combine with many of the words of Micah, Amos, Hosea, Isaiah, etc. and form a guide for my life. The stories of Gautama as well. It is not so much, for me, a tale of belief, but a tale of life and living. When I visit the Jewish Community Center in Marin, I see hanging banners with the words, Tzedakah, Chesed, Tikkun Ha’Olam and I find my spiritual center there as well.

    I guess my point is that when someone tells me about their emotions, I do not understand what they are feeling until I see the behaviors those emotions engender. It is the same with spirituality.

    • David Pittle says:

      Like you, I wish I could edit 😉 The comments in the last sentence of the first paragraph demand something more. I wish I had added something like the following:. Tzedakah, Chesed, etc. are references to action, and are not just empty words.. They become real only in living behavior. Spirituality is living behavior.

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