Because God is unlike ordinary objects such as cows, clouds, or chimeras, all thoughtful people understand that, if the divine is real, it is hidden.
It’s impossible to find something if you don’t understand what you are looking for.
Who or what is it?
After mentioning how I’m using the word, I’ll state my thesis and try to render it at least initially plausible.
The word ‘God’ has so many meanings that it should probably be retired. Since thought and language are always inadequate about this topic [see below], though, if it is only taken as a pointer or signpost, it may still work. If you prefer, just substitute ‘The Divine,’ ‘Being,’ ‘Emptiness,’ ‘The Unconditioned,’ ‘The Over-Soul,’ ‘The One,’ ‘The Formless,’ ‘The Deathless,’ ‘Void,’ ‘The Uncreated,’ or even ‘Mind’ (with a capital ‘M’!). There are, of course, others.
It is critical to note that I am not using the word to refer to anything like a super person. As I have discussed elsewhere [see The Fundamental Ideas, pp. 143-4], I find the idea of a personal God, which is one with either a person’s qualities (such as being powerful) or a super person’s qualities (such as being all-powerful) incoherent (self-contradictory, unintelligible).
Here’s the thesis: like me and everyone else, you are God in disguise.
That may seem mad! It’s not. Truly, you really are Divine.
If this thesis strikes you as mad, it’s only because you have identified yourself with your form. Let’s use the word “form” to refer to any object that can be singled out, whether in perception or imagination or conception, whether or not it is real, and whether or not it is even taken to be real.
Since thoughts (judgments) are mental objects, they are forms. Since bodies are physical objects, they, too, are forms. Even dream objects are forms.
Who are you?
That’s not an easy question to answer. If you don’t think it’s difficult to know yourself, that can only be because you have never seriously tried. Surely you are not nothing. Nor are you everything. You are, you say, your self. What is that?
You may describe yourself in terms of your qualities. However, if those qualities can change from time to time, then, instead of being you, they are only qualities that you accidentally have. Which of your qualities haven’t changed since you were, say, six seconds old? What is your separate, unchanging self that has your qualities?
When he seriously examined himself, the Buddha couldn’t find any satisfactory answer. He decided that his being a person was nothing but his being a cluster of qualities [see my The 7 Steps to Mastery, Chapter 6.].
If you are a form (or set or series of forms), which form are you?
It wouldn’t seem to be your body. After all, you can lose parts of your body without any change in yourself, right?
So perhaps your self is a mental form. In fact, most men seem to identify with their stories, their personal narratives or histories. Most women seem to identify with their emotional histories, especially their emotional suffering. Yet these stories are always incomplete and unsatisfactory. Furthermore, what exactly is the form that is the protagonist of the stories?
Would you still be yourself if you lost your memories? Who remembers?
Who perceives? Who imagines? Who thinks?
Philosophers debate about what constitutes personal identity. Ordinary people suffer through identity crises.
What if all your physical and mental forms were nothing but disguises? What do you find when you peel away all the layers? Isn’t, as the etymology of the word suggests, your being a person just a mask? What is your essence, your essential nature?
Are you really sure that you are not God in disguise?
The root of the problem here is this: we are trying to think (conceptualize) what cannot be thought. We are trying to use language to discuss what is beyond language.
The reason is that concepts and words are inherently dualistic whereas God is unitary. Think of the words as like signposts: look where they are pointing instead of looking at the pointers.
Can I prove that you are God in disguise? No. However, at least if you are ready, you can prove it to yourself. (If you are not ready, you probably wouldn’t still be reading this.)
However much arguments may weaken your attachment to your self, suffering works much better. The more you suffer, the more ready you are. You’ll be ripe when you finally decide that you are sick unto death of suffering. (However, you don’t have to wait until then to awaken.)
Critical question: how could you be attached (or not attached) to yourself? That would require you to be two: (1) the you who is (or isn’t) doing the attaching and (2) the self that is the object of the attachment!
My claim is that you are only the one who is doing the attaching.
You won’t find God until you let go of your attachment to your self (self-concept, ego, ego/I). You won’t find God until you lose yourself. Spiritual teachers like The Buddha and Jesus can tell us that, but you and I have to do the letting go to determine for ourselves the truth of their words.
Uncovering the hidden God is not a matter of believing or thinking anything. It occurs only when one loosens one’s grip on one’s self, when one detaches from all forms. Whatever forms you currently identify with, you will not find God until you let them go.
Your self is whatever you identify with, typically, your story of your life. It’s whatever separates you from everything else.
So letting go of self is letting go of separation. It is automatically uncovering God or Unity. Letting go of your self is realizing your True Self. Your True Self is divine. You really are God in disguise.
If you disagree, that’s because you are hidden from yourself. Words and thoughts are clouding your judgment. The fog of duality is preventing you from experiencing unity. Since suffering requires separation, the initial experience of unity is the beginning of the end of suffering. It’s simply a matter of letting go of all the words and thoughts.
All the peace, love, and joy you could ever want await your realization that you are God in disguise.
It makes no real difference to you what I or anyone else has thought, argued for, believed, or experienced. It’s your letting go of self that is critical. You can remain as yourself until you die, or you can die to yourself as soon as possible and awaken to your True Self.
Could you be God in disguise? If so, are you willing to let go of your attachment to all forms to find out for yourself?
Here’s an additional, related important question: what if you treated everyone you meet as if that person were also God in disguise? That’s exactly what sages do, which is why they are the greatest lovers. Sages identify with the divine, which is the same in themselves as it is in others.
This leads to another excellent question: could all love be Self love? [It is critical here to distinguish self love from Self love.]
Here’s the answer: it is!