There are three aspects to the Divine. We could say the three aspects make a trinity. This has, of course, already been described in Christianity, so there is nothing new to it. Understanding the three aspects is an integral part to living your life’s divine purpose and forms the bedrock on which the whole method rests.
The three aspects of the Divine are called the transcendental aspect (or God transcendent), the immanent aspect (or God immanent), and the divine child aspect (or God as life). Let’s look at the God transcendent first because it’s the part that is most known and best described in sacred traditions and religion. Transcendental means beyond, i.e., that part of the Divine that is beyond sensory perception and beyond direct experience. The best psychological term we have to describe this part of the Divine is consciousness, but the term is here used to denote what is conscious rather than that what we are conscious of. Be careful here, because in modern psychology, the term consciousness is often used with the meaning of that what we are conscious of, that is, the content of the mind. But that is not the meaning in which the term is used within spiritual systems. Here the term denotes the entity within you that is conscious, that is aware.
If you meditate for a long time, you notice that this entity is completely separate from body and mind because body and mind are changing and changeable; consciousness itself, however, does not change. I experienced consciousness in meditation for the first time over 50 years ago, and when I experience it today, it feels fresh, exactly like 50 years ago. My body, in the meantime, has aged beyond doubt, and my mind has become smarter and more educated (at least, that’s what I’d like to believe). Both body and mind feel completely different than my consciousness. This is because consciousness is beyond time or, more precisely, time is a phenomenon that occurs within consciousness, whereas body and mind are phenomena that occur within time.
We could say that consciousness is the container that contains the world and all beings. That is a Buddhist terminology, and it similarly refers to the God transcendent as Krishna’s saying in the Bhagavad Gita, “I am the self in the heart of all beings” or “Who see me in all beings and all beings in me, truly sees”. Although paradoxical, these words are very accurate. In deep meditation, you see at once that consciousness appears within you (“who sees me in all beings”), yet at the same time, everything seems to be inside consciousness (“and all beings in me”). The mind cannot grasp both these views simultaneously, it can only jump back and forth between them. Consciousness can be both simultaneously. It can do that because it does not modify sensory data, i.e., it does not try to understand itself – it is itself. That means that in order to abide in consciousness, in order to have a mystical experience, you need to temporarily suspend the mind. All practices of all sacred traditions on Earth are methods to, one way or another, temporarily suspend the mind, so that a mystical state can take place.
In the Old Testament of the Bible, we find the beautiful sentence, “Be still and know that I Am God”. Also, this sentence refers to the transcendental aspect of the Divine, consciousness. It cannot be seen when the mind is active. Thoughts cover consciousness like clouds cover the blue of the sky on a rainy day. That’s why the biblical Yahweh charges us to “be still”, lest we can behold Him.
Patanjali, the author of the Yoga Sutra, says the same in Sutra I.2- I.3, “Yoga is the stilling of the mind. Then (when the mind is still) consciousness abides in itself”. Note the similarities of the descriptions. Interesting also that the biblical phrase states, “Know that I Am God”. It is an accurate wording as, strictly speaking, the transcendental aspect of the Divine is beyond perception and experience. This is reverberated halfway around the world in the writings of the Indian philosopher Shankaracharya who says in his Brahma Sutra Commentary that the consciousness (Brahman) cannot be perceived and experienced but only known.
A similar focus on the God transcendent we also find in ancient China. In the Tao Te King, sage Lao-tzu says, “What can be said about the Dao (consciousness) is not the Dao”. Notice again that consciousness is beyond perception and description. Lao-tzu also states that the transcendental is beyond being described through language. The same concept of the God transcendent is illustrated in the Indian prayer to the nagaraj, the serpent of infinity. Here, consciousness is identified with a one-thousand headed serpent, with all one-thousand heads emerging from the same trunk. The trunk itself is silent; it does not have a mouth to speak with. The trunk represents the Brahman, infinite consciousness. The one-thousand heads growing out of the same trunk all speak in different languages representing differing systems of philosophy, science and religion. But the ultimate truth is only in the trunk, which itself does not have a language, as absolute truth is beyond words. While each head may teach a system that is internally consistent and cannot be refuted when being allowed to start from its own premises, the heads are conflicting each other. Each head may offer a viable interpretation of the truth but never truth itself, which cannot be spoken.
This can be understood by resorting to the work of the important French postmodernist Jacques Derrida. Derrida stated that meaning only derives out of context. The language a person uses and the meaning they give to the words making up that language will never be congruent with the language of the next person and certainly not if the next person has as different cultural background. We all have made different experiences in life which form our context. Although dictionaries give us a vague general meaning of words, these meanings are tinged with our individual experiences. You will never find two people that will use terms like God, love, trust, truth, freedom, etc. with exactly the same meaning. We all take the deeper meaning of these words from the tapestry of our experiences and not from the dictionary. All words or symbols are ultimately conceptualizations and not deep truth. Therefore, a teaching consisting of words and symbols ultimately can only be an interpretation or representation of the truth but not truth itself.
This is one of the reasons why indigenous religions engaged in relatively little speculation about the God transcendent. In the language of the Lakota native Americans, the transcendental is called Wakan Tanka, great mystery. The anthropologist Richard Walker wrote that the old Lakota seers talked little about the Wakan Tanka. Because nothing concrete could be said about it, it was left to individual experience. As we will see later, indigenous teachings are more interested in the remaining two aspects of the Divine.
Because everything we so far have heard about the transcendental is rather non-concrete, most traditions tend to anthropomorphize it (i.e., give it human characteristics), which can be helpful up to a certain extent. For example, the God transcendent in the old Testament is called Yahweh, in the new Testament, the Father, and in India, most often either Shiva or Vishnu. Both Yahweh and Shiva were thought to reside inactive on mountaintops looking at the world from afar. This is, of course, to be understood as metaphorical. In India, for example, the mountain on which Shiva sits is called Meru. But Meru is also the term used for the human spine. The mystical meaning of the name Shiva is consciousness. According to yoga, consciousness is experienced when the life force is transported up the spine and held in the crown chakra at the top of the spine (Meru). From that vantage point, consciousness does not look like a blue-skinned, dreadlocked male, brandishing a trident while sitting on a tiger skin (such as the Lord Shiva). But that can be a helpful metaphor.
The setback of anthropomorphising is that most people today, when asked what religion teaches, seriously believe that God is a bearded male sitting on a mountaintop. That was meant to be metaphorical, and to take it literally is bizarre. unfortunately, mystics themselves sometimes became confused. So did the 16th century German mystic Jakob Böhme state that because man has two legs, God also must have two legs, and because man has a liver, God must also have a liver. The mistake here is that the statement, “Man is created in the image and likeness of the Divine” has here been switched around to mean God is created in the image and likeness of the human. That is the tragedy and misunderstanding embedded in modern spirituality and religion. We have projected and extrapolated a giant version of ourselves into the sky. No wonder that we have lost sight of what the transcendental actually is.
This is an excerpt from my book How To Find Your Life’s Divine Purpose.