“The word God has become empty of meaning through thousands of years of misuse. I use it sometimes, but I do so sparingly. By misuse, I mean that people who have never even glimpsed at the realm of the sacred, the infinite vastness behind that word, use it with great conviction, as if they knew what they are talking about. Or, they argue against it, as if they knew what it is that they are denying. This misuse gives rise to absurd beliefs, assertions, and egoic delusions, such as ‘My or our God is the only true God, and your God is false.’” ~ Eckhart Tolle
Everything starts and ends with the Sole Reality – the Supreme Being. There are two aspects of the Supreme Being – one that exists beyond creation and one that exists within creation.
Perhaps it is best to start with terminology. The Supreme Being is usually referred to as God. But to many, instead of being an awe-inspiring image of a supposedly all-loving and compassionate being, the word God is associated with a being who somehow allows the incredible evils and suffering that we see in our world today. Juxtaposition of these two images of God can be difficult. We live in a world of instant communication, so anything that happens anywhere on the planet is instantly made aware to us all. By coincidence, these words are being written the day after a horrific terrorist attack in Paris left over 200 people dead and dying (November 2015). Not many days prior, suicide bombings in Lebanon killed or injured 280 people; suicide bombings in Turkey killed more than 100; and a suspected bomb on a Russian civilian aircraft left 224 passengers and crew dead. The perpetrators of these attacks did so in the name of their God. It is easy to understand the cynicism that the name God arouses.
There are other issues associated with referring to the Supreme Being as God, as outlined in the words of Eckhart Tolle above. In spite of the above, one cannot avoid the use of the term. Many of the quotations included herein refer to God. Hopefully, some of the answers to why God “allows” evil can be found herein, and the term can regain its awe-inspiring nature. However, other names will also be used in reference to the Supreme Being, as outlined below.
This section is divided into four sub-sections, as follows;
1. Plato’s Cave
The Supreme Being is so far beyond normal human comprehension, that It is very difficult to describe. Plato’s “Allegory of the Cave” clearly illustrates why this is so, so it is a good place to start.
2. Spirit – God beyond Creation
This is the first aspect of God – the Sole Reality, formless, beyond time and space. Spirit is the most difficult to understand, as mankind’s normal consciousness has no reference point or language to describe anything that exists beyond creation.
3. Ishvara – God within Creation
Ishvara, or Isvara, is the mirror image of Spirit but is active within creation. As such, this aspect of God is somewhat easier to comprehend.
4. The Mystic Vision – the direct experience of Spirit
In an effort to help explain, describe and understand the Supreme Being, we have the words of the mystics who have, throughout history and in all lands, directly experienced the Supreme Being. As the freed man from Plato’s Cave, they have found describing God almost impossible. In fact, Eastern mystics have used the phrase “neti, neti”, a Sanskrit expression meaning "not this, not this" or "neither this, nor that", to illustrate that no matter what words are used, they do not come close to accurately describing their vision of the Ultimate Reality. However, as you read herein, the mystics still try as best they can to convey the sublime nature of their exquisite experience. To the extent that they can describe different aspects of the Supreme Being, their words are remarkably consistent. This sub-section is a collection of quotations from the mystics.