I wanted to let a couple of poems illustrate the way in which a subjective (personally accepted) concept of God can be so easily universalized and made applicable to all.
First [last night] we looked at Yeats’s An Indian upon God, a poem in which it is overheard that a moorfowl, a lotus, a roebuck, and a peacock all are convinced that God is the embodiment of all that is most worthy of worship within their own species. An observer might note that they are each creating “God” in their own image.
Tonight I want to look at how another of my favorite poets approaches the same subject matter.
The poet is Rupert Brooke (1887-1915) and his poem is entitled Heaven.
In my opinion, the subtext of both of these poems (Yeats’s and Brooke’s) concerns itself with the ineffable nature of God. As soon as we try to describe God, and specifically, to define him, our words show themselves up as being inadequate.
Even the above sentence itself betrays the type of problems incurred in such a task as defining God, for I used the word “him” in it.
Someone may sense that this commonly accepted pronoun is evidence of a patriarchal favoritism.... in other words “Who said that God is a male?
And furthermore, there actually is an answer to the question.
The answer is: “MEN did!”
It can be very successfully argued that the fact that “He” has won out in the great Pronoun War is evidence of patriarchal influence and/or dominance and/or bias.
And yet, if we are to believe that God exists at all, surely we must realize that the heavenly nature transcends our own mutually exclusive aspects of maleness and femaleness.
He is no more a he, than she is a she!
In other words, it would be just as incorrect to call God “She”, would it not? Yet our language does not allow us an adequate trans-gender pronoun to ascribe to such a Being, other than the word “It” and we reject “It” because we want God to have relative (personal, communicative) attributes, and to call “Him” an “It” makes “Him” seem to be too much of a “Thing.” Something about “It” jangles our sensibilities.
The ineffable (“too great or extreme to be expressed in words”) nature of God is a topic that greatly, and I mean GREATLY interests me.
Because there are so many definitions!
Too much of me. Not enough of Rupert Brooke.
I am just about to shut my yapper!
But first, in my opinion, the really interesting thing about ineffability, (in reference to God) is not so much that we cannot adequately define this Being. It is that we so badly, and so often, WANT to. And feel that we can.
I sense that we, as humans, are not really all that much different than the anthropomorphized aquatic life here in Brooke's poem, as they themselves muse upon....
Fish (fly-replete, in depth of June,
Dawdling away their wat’ry noon)
Ponder deep wisdom, dark or clear,
Each secret fishy hope or fear.
Fish say, they have their Stream and Pond;
But is there anything Beyond?
This life cannot be All, they swear,
For how unpleasant, if it were!
One may not doubt that, somehow, Good
Shall come of Water and of Mud;
And, sure, the reverent eye must see
A Purpose in Liquidity.
We darkly know, by Faith we cry,
The future is not Wholly Dry.
Mud unto mud! – Death eddies near –
Not here the appointed End, not here!
But somewhere, beyond Space and Time.
Is wetter water, slimier slime!
And there (they trust) there swimmeth One
Who swam ere rivers were begun,
Immense, of fishy form and mind,
Squamous, omnipotent, and kind;
And under that Almighty Fin,
The littlest fish may enter in.
Oh! never fly conceals a hook,
Fish say, in the Eternal Brook,
But more than mundane weeds are there,
And mud, celestially fair;
Fat caterpillars drift around,
And Paradisal grubs are found;
Unfading moths, immortal flies,
And the worm that never dies.
And in that Heaven of all their wish,
There shall be no more land, say fish.
-- Rupert Brooke –