Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The God Who Created the God Who Created the God

Religious philosophers tend to argue in favor of an original, intelligent cause as an answer for the question of our origins. It stands to reason, they argue, that an original cause be accepted to avoid the paradox of beginninglessness. The original cause being of course a monotheistic god, who is assumed perfect and benevolent.

From these roots come the marked difference in the linear and finite versus cyclic and infinite models of the Occident and the Orient, along with some wildly varying concepts of god or its equivalent. When it comes to god and gods, much is assumed and little is certain.

The pursuit for an original cause is much like a walk in Escher's paradox.

Original Cause as a Non-Solution

Proposing that there is an original cause is philosophically unsatisfactory, inasmuch as the original cause always remains incomprehensible to us smaller units, its originality unproven in the face of the possibility that our original cause is but the a link in a chain of causation. The concept of a greater creator merely begs the question whether there might be more creators at work somewhere up the pyramid of creations.

If there is one creator god for the existence we know, it is in fact entirely plausible that there may be any number of other, more compassive gods further up the line of creations, the extent of which we'd never be able to decipher as either infinite or finite. The seemingly definitive solution of an original cause now effectively returns to square one, once again face to face with the paradox of infinity and beginninglessness.

Brahma, the Hindu demiurge, is born from a lotus growing from Vishnu's navel.

Hierarchy of Creator Gods in Indic Lore

The Vaishnavite mythology, found throughout the Puranic lore, posits the existence of a single eternal transcendent deity, Vishnu, who dwells beyond the world of creations, and also permeates the creation as its supporting substratum. At the dawn of creation Vishnu, lying at the bottom of each of the universes he created, let a lotus sprout from his navel, atop which awoke Brahma, the creator god of the Hindu trinity, set to organize the elements of the cosmos provided by Vishnu.

This prime creator, in turn, set forth a number of Prajapatis, progenitors of mankind and diverse species, along with a number of sages to impart wisdom to the creation. In a fair number of epics the lesser gods, created by Brahma, mistake their immediate creator to be the supreme creating deity and the original cause, and in fact he is found to be so deluded on a number of occasions himself.

The god Brahma also features in early Buddhist lore as one among a number of Brahmas, each presiding over their own Brahma-worlds, fancying themselves as creator gods, frequently original causes in their own right. These Brahmas feature in a number of legends from the Buddha's cosmic adventures, and it was in fact Brahma Sahampati who urged the Buddha to go forth and preach the dharma in the wake of his enlightenment.

The theology of some Vaishnavas, most notably the Gaudiya tradition and the Hare Krishnas, further posits that Krishna is, rather than an avatar of Vishnu, in fact the original source god, of whom Vishnu is an extension for purposes of creation. Yet they are in some respects identical, one deity and one mind, and yet again different in some minute manners. Overall, I get the effect of calling to an office for the person responsible, only to be routed around in circles until the line breaks. No wonder some prefer speaking face to face, whether it's gods or service personnel.

Not surprisingly, adherents of the Shaiva school likewise claim Shiva to be the supreme god, as again the Shaktas insist that Shakti is the ultimate mother-godhead, of which Shiva, Vishnu and the rest spring forth. Faced with the immense plurality and conflicting opinions of the Indic gods, good old Christian monotheism might begin to seem like a welcome breeze of fresh air. If so, please breathe to your liking before starting the following section.

David Tarleton: The Aeon Sophia at the Birth of the Demiurge

Gnostic Demiurge and Judeo-Christian Creator God

I recall a lively conversation I once had with an elderly Jehovah's Witness. He was adamant that the mainstream Christian Church was wrong in claiming that Jesus was God, while he was in fact the first creation, as also god's instrument for the making of the creation that sprang forth — all standard Jehovah's Witness theology.

Incidentally I was also once filled in into the higher secret of the Church of the Latter Day Saints, again by an elderly gentleman somewhere in northern Finland. All was fine with my theology, but the fact that I was a monk at the time. Skipping the preliminaries, he related how we, as married couples, are to evolve and one day become creator gods and goddesses of our own universes.

To make things even more confusing on the Judeo-Christian front, we are confronted with the question of their god being perhaps a legion of gods, as the plural address Elohim and covenants to "not have any other gods" indicate. How much do the Elohim have in common with the gods of the Olympos mountain, the Egyptian Pantheon and the Hindu gods of Himalaya?

It was the Gnostic tradition that first identified the Judean God as a so-called Demiurge, an inferior and imperfect deity responsible for the creation of an imperfect world. Gnostic estimates of the lesser deity span from an embodiment of evil to merely an imperfect yet benevolent being. The Gnostics view the birth of the Demiurge as an accident that was never meant to happen, in effect describing an unplanned pregnancy leading to the birth of a defective god.

In contrast to demiurge are the eternal Pleroma, self-manifest beings transcending our dimension, ascension among whom is the final destination of the humans. As fascinating as it is, one can't help but wonder whether there might be yet another layer of causation beyond the supposedly eternal Pleroma, who as a matter of fact sound remarkably similar to the residents of the Immaterial Realms of the Buddhist cosmology, who are again superceded by the cryptic nirvana.

The Judeo-Christian God's wrath in the Genesis incident over Adam's acquisition of classified knowledge is interesting in its own right. We even find the following admission in God's own words (3.21): "The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever." Interestingly, the serpent was right over the fruit's effects, while God was in fact trying to prevent access with threats of death upon eating. Now that ought to get the conspiracy theorists running!

Left: Intimidating Jaffa servant of an Egyptian Goa'uld. Right: The Ori grant supernatural powers to their Priors.

Evil Gods of Science Fiction

The well-documented traits of the God Institution have also found their way into popular entertainment. For an example, the popular TV-series Stargate features two separate races of malevolent beings posing and worshiped as gods, only to be overthrown by their subjects in due course.

The Goa'uld, evil and technologically advanced power-hungry parasites, used humans for slavery for millennia in the guise of various Egyptian, Greek and Oriental gods, posing as immortal lords and the creators. The Goa'uld were snake-like creatures who bonded with human hosts, integrating themselves with the hosts' spinal cord and the brain. (Incidentally the often-controversial kundalini-energy of Hindu Tantrics literally means "female serpent" and, when activated, rises up the spinal cord and yields psychic powers.)

Again the Ori, an ascendend incorporeal species, inspired massive crusades to have everyone worship them, for they gained power through the energy sapped from lower sentient beings. For them, the religion is a conduit for transferring upwards the energy expended by the worshipers. In return for worship and absolute dedication, they offered their followers a false promise of ascension, unwilling as they were to share of their power. Really, exactly how many of the available promises of afterlife are guaranteed real deals? It's a pity religions don't come bundled with a money-back guarantee.

While there would be a number of other juicy examples to illustrate the concept, let's focus on the gist of the idea, namely the assumed integrity and benevolence of the said god or gods. There is no reason to assume that a more powerful being would have also evolved in benevolence, even if the religions of the world do tend to take the goodness of their gods for granted. Hey, the gods of the Zoroastrians being the demons of the Brahmanas and vice versa, one or other of the gods out there has got to be evil! And evil or not, faithfully worshiped by devout followers.

Something is fundamentally wrong with the above scenario.

Final Thoughts

The final day of reckoning pending and yet to be proven, there are few compelling reasons for worshiping one authoritarian god or the other. Given the insubstantiability of the said claims of absolute originality, omnipotence and omniscience, there is little reason to accept demands of allegiance. Neither claims of rightful ownership of our souls or threats of damnation or annihilation can serve as a basis for a healthy, working relationship. If there's one thing that puts me off on so many levels, it is intimidation.

If some choose to voluntarily pursue the worship of a god or several gods or goddesses, whether it be for solace, pleasure, profit or wisdom, I don't see it as objectionable as long as the relationship remains non-abusive. If a god or the gods are real, existing and sentient beings, it stands to reason that our free will ought to be respected, and all forms of life, regardless of evolutionary level, ought to have certain rights. Just like we also treat nature and animals, eh? Do unto them as he did unto us...

Coming from a god who created hell, a promise that he can save me from going to hell isn't exactly playing it fair. You cannot create a threat and then play the good guy for alleviating the threat! When a threat is produced to gain advantage from the object of threat, it is called coercion. Use of coercion with self-produced ultimatums spanning infinity cannot be the work of a a truthful, loving and benevolent being.

Not that I'm an atheist. Atheism as a concept is far too limited, as is theism along with its bretheren ideologies. Pantheism and monistic nondualism are high on my chart of working elements for a coherent overall picture of existence. No single theory in itself seems to be adequate for capturing the essence of existence, and a comprehensive Theory of Everything is yet to be written. Be that as it may, it seems evident that the era of authoritarian creator gods is nearing its inevitable end.

Further Reading

Brahma (Buddhism): A fascinating gloss on the role of the god Brahma in Buddhist lore, little known to many Hindu adherents who fancy Brahma as a Hindu deity. Ironic as it is, the god of the Brahmanas was identified as one of the Brahmas known to the Buddha long before the Puranas began to grow into their current renditions!

Brahma (Hinduism): A good overview of the Hindu lore of creation, the birth of Brahma, who was to become one of the popular Hindu trinity, and the subsequent gods he created for the sake of expanding his domain. Path to Deification: How we evolve into gods, as understood in the theology of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Gnosticism: Pleroma and the Demiurge. Goa'uld and Ori: Two fictive races of false gods in the Stargate universe.


  1. Excellent, mindbogglingly accurate language and a good overview of pretty much all that can be said in the context and that ever will be said. At least so far it has seemed thus.

  2. You know there's also Brahman. He would be the Indian version of the Gnostic sophia.. Higher than brahma