(To be read at the Service of Universal Worship)
Religious Gatheka Number 49
There are different conceptions of God existing in various periods and known to different people. The people, in all ages, seeking for the Deity have pictured Him in some form or other. It is natural with man. If he is told about someone he has never seen or known, he makes a conception of that person and he holds his conception as his knowledge of that person until he sees him. There are some who make a conception in their mind of a person they have not seen, almost as real as the person. The human heart is an accommodation which conceives the idea of God and pictures Him according to man's mentality.
The Buddha of China has Chinese features, and that of Japan has the eyes of Japan, the Buddha of India has the Indian likeness. Man cannot conceive of an angel being any different from a human being, except that he attaches two wings to the angel in order to make it a little different. If the angel were not pictured as man it would not be an attraction to a human being. Therefore it is natural that in every period people have conceived the personality of God as a human personality. And no better conception could they have given, for there is nothing in the world which is a more finished personality than the human personality.
People have called God He, recognizing the might and power of the Deity. People have called God She, recognizing in the Deity that Mother-principle and beauty. And it is the differences of conception from which have come the many gods and goddesses. And it is true, too; for as many conceptions, so many gods. And yet many gods means many conceptions of the One Only God. By ignorance of this truth many have fought over their different gods; and yet the wise man in every period of the world has understood God to be the One and Only Being. For the ordinary mind, to feel the existence of someone in the idea is not sufficient. It is too vague. One wants to feel the existence of someone with his own hands, then only he can acknowledge something to be existent.
The wise, therefore, have given different objects to such mentalities, and pointed them out to the people as gods. Some said: see God in the sun, And the person understood. He was not satisfied to think that God was in the idea; he was much more pleased to know now that God is seen by him, and God is incomparably even as the sun, and that God is not reachable. Some wise men have said: He is in the fire. Some said, to a simpleton who asked to see God: Go in the forest and find out a certain tree, and that tree is God. The search for that tree gave something for that man to do, which was the first essential thing. And the patience with which he sought the tree also did something in his soul. And they joy of finding a rare tree was also a pleasure, and in the end he found, for God is everywhere.
Some have made images of different ideas, such as love and justice and knowledge and power, and called them different goddesses, molded them into different images; and have given them to man to worship. Some wise men have said the cow is sacred. Certainly it is sacred for a farmer whose farming depends upon the cow. His life's sustenance comes, in every form, from the cow – it is sacred.
The wise have pointed out different objects to man which will attract man's attention and become objects of concentration for man to still his mind; as in the mind which is still, God manifests. Then again, the wise have presented the God-Ideal to the people in the form of symbols. To simple beings a symbol was God; and to awakened minds the same symbol of God was a revealing factor of the secret of the Deity. If one could only see how marvelously, in the diversity of the conception of the Divine Ideal, wisdom has played its part, guiding the souls of all grades of evolution towards the same goal, which in the end becomes spiritual attainment!