Dharma - Merit - Meditation - Nectar - Liberation - Emptiness - Process - Awakening


in Buddhadharma

On the Deity

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The Deity & Deities in the Vedânta & Classical Yoga
The Deities in the Buddhadharma
The Deities in the Ancient Egyptian Religion
The God of Monotheism
God in the "Western Tradition"
Deity Yoga in Buddhist Tantra and the God of Process.

The question can and should be posed : How do the teachings of the Buddha, the Buddhadharma, relate to the images of the Divine as found in non-Dharmic religions such as Hinduism, Kemetism, Hermetism & Abrahamism ? Is it possible, on the basis of philosophy, in particular Process Philosophy, to erect a bridge between God and the Dharma ? Is a spiritual philosophy, i.e. a view allowing the birth of the Divine in the consciousness of individual, rationally possible ?

In matters of the spirit, touching the various interactions between humans and the Divine, a crucial divide is to be identified. On the one hand, the Divine may be viewed as a process, implying dynamism & change, i.e. as "Dharmic", while on the other hand, this radical otherness ("totaliter aliter"), transcending the frontiers of the mundane, conventional, nominal world, may appear as a "substance of substances", implying statism ("causa sui") & inherent existence from its own side ("svabhâva")

The latter, "non-Dharmic" or essentialist view, prevails in the West, where it was initiated by Ancient Egyptian religion & sapience. In the theologies of the three "religions of the book" (Judaism, Christianity & Islam), based upon the Platonic & Peripatetic traditions, this substantialist view identified the Divine as an independent object-God unaffected by His creation ! Such an essentialism can also be found in Hinduism, particularly in the Vedânta (the notion of "Brahman") and Classical Yoga (with "Îśvara").

Before addressing the issue, let a few definitions bring the necessary clarity and enable us to stabilize the discourse.


supernatural, radical otherness

In general, the word "Divine" refers to "supernatural", meta-nominal phenomena. In non-Dharmic contexts, these are deemed as either part of nature (pantheism), as transcending nature (theism), or as encompassing both nature and its beyond (pan-en-theism). In Dharmic contexts, the Divine refers to unbounded wholeness (as in Buddhism & Taoism), touching pan-sacralism.

The direct experience of the "supernatural" introduces mysticism. This is a non-conceptual, non-dual, ineffable prehension (or special apprehension) of the Divine.

DEITY : Supreme Being deemed Divine
DEITIES : Supreme Beings deemed Divine

From the Latin "Deus", or "God".

In non-Dharmic contexts, this term denotes all things belonging to God, viewed as numerically one, as in monotheism, qualitatively one, as in henotheism, or numerically plural, as in polytheism. In this sense, the word "Deity" has a more personal connotation (cf. "nobiscum Deus" or "God-with-us") than the abstract word "Divine", although it remains neutral as to whether God is singular, one or plural.

In Dharmic spiritualities such as Buddhism & Taoism, "Deity" refers to ideal, non-substantial (pure) manifestations of the wisdom-mind of the Buddhas (the "Dharmakâya") or to the Divine self-determinations of the absolute Tao, the so-called "immortals" ("hsien"). It does not refer to a Supreme Being existing from its own side. This invokes the crucial difference !

GOD : the Supreme Being
GODS & GODDESSES : the Supreme Beings

A precise definition of "God" is impossible. The word points to an absolute category beyond affirmation & denial, i.e. beyond any possible conceptualization (cf. the Via Negativa of ps.-Dionysius the Areopagite). This is the apophatic view.

In all non-Dharmic contexts, a singular "Supreme Being" is denoted, and so God = the Deity. "Infinite, eternal, absolute, etc." are positive limit-concepts attributed to this Supreme Being, also deemed Good, Wise, Beautiful, Omniscient, Omnipotent etc. This Supreme Being called "God" is the Creator of the universe. This is the katapathic view.

Insofar as this Supreme Being is considered to be an eternal, self-identical "substance of substances" (either singular and/or one) it is the God of monotheism or henotheism. Insofar as a plurality of these Supreme Beings is envisaged, polytheism is at hand.

The question remains whether a Supreme Being (and by extension Supreme Beings) can be thought without any reference to substantialism ? Can the notion God (or Deities) exist independently and inherently be relinquished ? This is the core question. Process theology answers this affirmatively.

RELIGION : to unite

From the Latin verb "religare", religion.

In sensu lato, religion is the joining of the part with the larger whole. The latter may be nature viewed as a totality, or a comprehensive perception as in orgasm or religious experience (cf. "yoga" from the Sanskrit root "yug", meaning "yoke").

In sensu stricto, the word points to the "totaliter aliter", i.e. a radical otherness called "Divine". In the context of theism, this involves a Supreme Being or Beings, either transcending nature or representing, for example, a subtle, fiery, logoic "pneuma" at the head of the natural order (as the Stoics assumed). In the Dharma religions, the ultimate truth (reality) is the radical otherness with which unification is sought.

At the core of religion is the religious or mystical experience, the direct, individual prehension of the Divine.

the social organization of religious experience

Organized worship according to a "canon" established by a founder (plus a founding message and/or text) and/or his or her followers (plus a tradition or "magister"). As soon as a spiritual group is formed, a rule of order is called for (cf. the rise of Christianity or monasticism). At some point, this group-form becomes quasi independent and a goal on its own. Religions are therefore defined by two pillars : the original teachings + the traditions (the so-called "magister fidei"). To evidence the authentic core besides the dross, both need critical deconstruction.

direct, immediate experience of the Divine

From the Greek "mustikos", hidden, secret.

The "visio Dei experimentalis" is the authentic core of all religious experience and hence of all religions. It is the "secret" in the heart of faith and the living soul of human spirituality. Without it, religion is a dry and unrewarding experience. With it, a direct experience of the Divine becomes possible ... In the Buddhadharma, this refers to the nondual experience of absolute truth, the ultimate nature of phenomena.

a Divine reality exists !

From the Greek "theos", God.

The existence and continuity of creation is owed to a single, inherently existing Supreme Being or Creator (monotheism), a single unity of Supreme Beings (henotheism) or a plurality of Supreme Beings (polytheism), distinct from creation (but not necessarily transcending it, as the Stoic "pneuma" testifies). The order of the Deity or Deities is both omnipotent & omniscient. In this definition, theism exceeds monotheism to encompass polytheism and henotheism.

many Supreme Beings

There are many Supreme Beings. This manifold causes the created order to come into being, sustains it and participates in its creativity and enfoldment. These Beings, transcending and/or coinciding with the natural order, are not interconnected, do not spring from a common source, are co-eternal from the beginning, form an atomized Divine order, are mutually exclusive, while each has its own specific, irreducible domain or field of activity.

Insofar as these Divine beings are headed by an absent "Most High" Deity (a "Deus absconditus"), a mild form of polytheism is defined. Insofar the role of this "Most High" can be assumed by various Deities, monolatry is defined. Insofar as such a "Supreme of the supreme" is absent, archaic or primitive polytheism is indicated. This construction works well in mythical and pre-rational modes of cognition. It is already difficult to maintain its stability in proto-rational conceptualizations and it is in direct conflict with the principles of reason.

One Supreme Being exists, but reversibly so.

From the Greek "monos" and "latreia", service.

A "Most High" is acknowledged, but not universally or irreversibly. In Ancient Egypt, especially in the Old Kingdom, various Supreme Beings were called "the Great" ("wr" or "aA"), and worshipped as such : Atum-Re and Osiris are strong examples (but any "god of the city" was also "the Great"). Only in the New Kingdom is a New Solar Theology at work, focusing, in the Late Ramesside Era, on the Greatest God before and within all beings (Amun). Then the provisional nature of oneness and greatness looses ground (although, to the affects, it was never lost).

Monolatry is consistent with mythical & pre-rational thought. It may be seen as a stage between polytheism and henotheism.

One in all Divine Beings & all Divine Beings as One

From the Greek "hen" and "theos", The One God.

Divine Beings or Powers cause the created order to come into being. They are expressions, Self-manifestations or epiphanies of one and the same Great God. These Supreme Beings, transcending and/or coinciding with the natural order, are interconnected, spring from a common source (before or simultaneous with creation), are not co-eternal from the beginning, do form a concerted Divine order, are not necessarily mutually exclusive. Although each has its own specific, irreducible domain, cooperation, interchanges and adjustments between these remains possible, although not necessary.

Insofar as some of these Beings transcend the natural order, pan-en-theist henotheism is defined. Insofar as all of these Beings coincide with the natural order (the source of Them is simultaneous with creation), pantheist henotheism is being defined.

This is the approach of the New Kingdom theologies of the Aten, of Amun and of Ptah.

only "1" Supreme Being

There is only a single Supreme Being, the sole, single God. This God is Alone and causes the created order to come into being, sustains it and participates in its creativity and enfoldment. This solitary, singular Being, transcending the natural order, does not share its Divine nature with anything else, has no "second" and so is Absolutely Alone. All other beings to whom some "Divine status" or "perfection" may be attributed (like prophets & saints) are essentially powerless and derive their status from this sole, unique One.

Insofar as the single God may be worshipped in multiple ways, theomonism is defined (as in Judaism). Insofar as this sole God allows for Divine mediation, mild monotheism is at hand (as in Christianity). Insofar as this unique God dictates only one way of worship (namely of that One Alone), we speak of strict monotheism (as in Islam). 

Strict monotheism proclaims a dualistic, unilateral relation between God and the world, wherein God is a Being who absolutely controls events from outside (omnipotence, predestination). Emphasis is put on the numerical "firstness" of God, or (God = {1}).

only One Supreme Natural Being

From the Greek "pan" and "theos", the universe = God.

There is only One Supreme Being, the sole, single God, a "logos" who does not transcend the natural order ; the One and the world coincide. Everything part of the natural order is therefore in essence Divine and subsummated by this God, the supreme "God of nature". There is no transcendent essence outside nature, and therefore creation is not caused by anything outside the natural order. Naturalistic auto-creation (auto-generation) is effectuated with nothing except nature or the universe is conceived as uncreated and eternal.

This view was prevalent in Stoicism.

All in The All and The All in all

From the Greek "pan en theos", all in God.

God (singular, as in monotheism or plural, as in henotheism) is truly different from the natural order, but existentially present in every element of creation as a manifold of Self-manifestations of Divine Names, Attributes, Gods & Goddesses, the abstract differentials of nature, of the world in action (creationism). There is nothing outside God, who is both transcendent (theism) and immanent (pantheism). Creation happens in, by and for The All. God encompasses creation in all directions, but transcends it. All in The All and The All in all.

This view is at work in Hermetism and in various mysticisms.

God exists indifferently !

The existence and continuance of creation is owed to One Supreme Single Being. Transcending creation, God does not interfere with the natural order of creation. The natural laws are defined from the beginning and God does not alter them (miracles are impossible). There is no "revealed" religion. God is absent, except in the laws of nature. The experience of God is only possible within these laws.

the Divine does not exist !

There is no Divine Being, nor Divine Beings. There is nothing Divine in ontology (no theo-ontology). There is nothing transcendent, supernatural nor "pneumatic" in the natural order. The latter is the only existing order. There may be a natural hierarchy, but not to accommodate a Supreme Being, nor an indifferent deist God.

the Divine exists, but not as the Deity or as Deities.
the Divine is Nameless.

There is no Supreme Being (God), nor Supreme Beings (Gods & Goddesses), but there is something Divine in ontology. There is a transcendent level (beyond the natural order) or a supernatural layer (within the natural order). There is a natural hierarchy, but it does not accommodate a Supreme Being, nor Supreme Beings.

The Divine exists and cannot be given any name. The Divine exceeds all possible categories. This view is extant in Buddhism & Taoism.

maybe the Divine exists or maybe not ...

There may be a Divine Being or Divine Beings. There may be a transcendent, supernatural or "pneumatic" natural stratum. The latter may be the only existing order. If a natural hierarchy exist, it may imply a Supreme Being, possibly omnipotent & omniscient. But, these propositions may also all be untrue.

Insofar as it can never be decided whether these propositions are true or not, radical agnosticism is defined. If a decision about them is postponed to the future, prospective agnosticism sees the light.

the Divine exists merely as an interdependent phenomenon
lacking inherent existence.

To help the reader grasp the crucial distinctions amidst these complex characterizations, the difference between "Dharmic" and "non-Dharmic" is crucial.

As soon as the Divine is (a) characterized conceptually and (b) given a substantial status, i.e. defined in terms of a self-powered, independent, non-relational, self-identical entity, the non-Dharmic view prevails. Singular, plural, transcendent, immanent, impersonal, personal etc. are merely further demarcations drawn on this substantialism.

The Dharmic view accepts the existence of the Divine, called "ultimate reality" or "absolute truth" and also approaches It conceptually. The difference here is given with the radical and consistent lack of attributing substantial status to It. Designating only process, the Divine is deemed an interdependent phenomenon existing "conventionally". Instead of a pantheism (keeping the notion of a "God" intact), a pan-sacralism ensues. There is no radical ontological distinction between "worldly" phenomena and the "otherworldly" Deity. All phenomena lack inherent existence or "substance", and so merely exist functionally in terms of an overall interdependence between all possible events, entities, happenings, occasions etc. Dharma is strictly nominalist, whereas non-Dharma imputes universals.

In the Dharmic view, the Divine points to the special nature of ultimate reality. While it lacks inherent existence and depends on determinations & conditions like all other phenomena, it is a unique kind of change or process, a perfect movement or flawless symmetry-transformation (a holomovement). Just like a swimmer performs a swimming style while in the process of changing movements, the Divine manifests as the perfect continuity of a form of perfection. Because always changing, it is impermanent, but because these changes are constantly perfectly, flawlessly and harmoniously patterned, the Divine also exhibits permanency, albeit co-emergent with process !

This is the view of Buddhism and Taoism.

The Deity & Deities in the Vedânta & Classical Yoga

revealed henotheist pan-en-theism

"This Brahman is without an earlier and without a later, without an inside and without and outside. This Self (Âtman) is Brahman, the all-perceiving."
Brhadâranyaka Upanisad, 2.5.19.

"That Self (Âtman) is not this, it is not that (neti, neti). It is unseizable, for it cannot be seized. It is indestructible, for it cannot be destroyed. It is unattached, for it does not attach itself. It is unbound. It does not tremble. It is not injured."
Brhadâranyaka Upanisad, 4.4.22.

"Îsvara is a special Purusa (Self) untouched by the causes of sorrow, karman (actions) & its fruition and the deposit in the depth-memory."
Patañjali : Yoga Sûtra, I.24.

"... Brahman does exist as a well-known entity - eternal, pure, intelligent, free by nature, and all-knowing and all-powerful. For from the very derivation of the word Brahman, the ideas of eternality, purity, etc. become obvious, this being in accord with the root brmh. Besides, the existence of Brahman is well known from the fact of Its being the Self of all ; for everyone feels that this Self exists, and he never feels, 'I do not exist'. Had there been no general recognition of the existence of the Self, everyone would have felt, 'I do not exist'. And that Self is Brahman."
Śankara : Brahma-Sûtra-Bhâsya, I.i.1, my italics.

"The realization of Brahman results from the firm conviction arising from the deliberation on the Vedic texts and their meanings, but not from other means of knowledge like inference etc."
Śankara : Brahma-Sûtra-Bhâsya, I.i.2, my italics.

"... like the effulgence of the sun, Brahman has eternal consciousness by Its very nature, so that It has no dependence on the means of knowledge."

Śankara : Brahma-Sûtra-Bhâsya, I.i.5, my italics.

"... even for a single god there is the possibility of assuming many bodies simultaneously. (...) it is understood that in the case of Prajâpati also, when He was intent on creation, the Vedic words flashed in His mind before creation and then He created the things according to these."

Śankara : Brahma-Sûtra-Bhâsya, I.iii.26.

To understand the view in Vedânta & Classical Yoga, let us first clarify a few pivotal concepts :

Brahman : is the eternal, imperishable absolute in its absoluteness, the supreme nondual One Reality of Vedânta. According to the Vedas, Being can only be attributed to Brahman ("Kham Brahm" or "All is Brahman"). Brahman (not to be confused with Brahmâ) is an abstract not accessible to the conceptual mind, and hence totally impersonal and untouched by the material world ("nirguna Brahman"). This is "the One without a second", or "satchidânanda", or "being-consciousness-bliss" ; without Brahman nothing would exist ("sat"), without consciousness ("citta") nothing would be perceived and without bliss ("ânanda") nothing would be realized. These are merely conceptual approximations. Rendering It more concrete, Brahman becomes Îśvara. Brahman is Îśvara in Its relation to the manifest world and as an object of worship. Brahman is not "one", but beyond all numbers and thus unmeasured, without form, without plan, lay out, categories or characteristics ;

Îśvara : or "Lord of the Universe" refers to the more concrete concept of a personal universal Deity, creating, sustaining and destroying the universe (cf. the "trimûrti"). This is Brahman again, but then insofar as creation goes. Here Brahman manifests.  Îśvara is the triple unity of Brahmâ (creator), Viśnu (sustainer) & Śiva (destroyer). Îśvara is therefore a personalized Brahman ("saguna Brahman") ;

Brahmâ : is the first Deity of the "trimûrti", the Hindu trinity of Brahmâ, Viśnu and Śiva. Brahmâ is the Absolute (Brahman or God) in His aspect of Creator of the universe (Viśnu is its Sustainer and Śiva is its Destroyer). Brahmâ is often depicted as having four faces, representing the four Vedas as well as the cardinal directions of space. He belongs to the realm of "mâyâ", and is therefore related to Îśvara, being the creative aspect or modality of the latter ;

Mâyâ : or "deception, illusion, appearance", but also "measurement, form, plan, lay out" is the force or "śakti" of Brahman, inseparably united with It and hence co-eternal. But Brahman is not "śakti". Mâyâ and Brahman together are named Îśvara. Mâyâ draws a veil over Brahman and so we experience the diversity of the universe rather than the One Absolute Reality, the absolute in its absoluteness, beyond all affirmation & denial. Mâyâ has two aspects : "avidyâ" (ignorance), leading to identification with the world of materiality and away from Brahman and "vidyâ" (knowledge), leading the realization of Brahman. Both are active in time & space and so relative. Both are transcended by actually realizing Brahman, the Absolute or God ;

Prajâpati : or "Lord of Creatures", a title used in the Vedas to refer to Indra, Savitri, and other Deities. Also used for Brahmâ and the "seers" ("riśis"), the spiritual sons of Brahmâ (the ten Prajâpatis) ;

Purusa : or "man, person", refers to the original, eternal person, soul, pure consciousness, Self or "âtman" (Vedânta). This Self, as a witness, observes the changes taking place in "prakrti", the material world and is itself ontologically identical with Brahman ;

Deva : or "shining one", is a name for mortal divinities inhabiting a realm higher than human beings, but also Brahman in the form of a personal God. This therefore refers to all possible heavens of the invisible world ;

Considering the Absolute in its Absoluteness, i.e. Brahman, the Vedânta is consistent with what in monotheism is called the "essence of God", or God as He Is for Himself Alone. That God is a Supreme Being can be known (by the heart and by the mind), but what this Being of God actually is cannot possibly be known in conceptual terms. His essence is ineffable and remains for ever veiled. God and Brahman are the One Alone. This is the pre-creational, pre-existent Supreme Being, creating the world "ex nihilo". The pivotal difference between Hindu henotheism and the monotheisms is the idea the innermost "soul" or "âtman" is ontologically identical with Brahman, whereas in the West no creature is able to deify to the point of total, absolute identity with God. In the West, God is ontologically different from His creatures. He is a Caesar, a king and supreme spiritual master.

Considering the Absolute in its Self-manifestations, Hindu thought makes way for henotheism, for Brahman manifests as Îśvara and the latter is grasped as a multiple variety of Deities, all epiphanies of Brahman, or aspects of "mâyâ", the force of Brahman. Brahman is a magician and involved in creation, fashioning, sustaining & destroying it. Îśvara is the personal face of Brahman, but this face is never singular, but involved with the world in terms of an endless variety of epiphanies. Although Brahman is "without a second", Its personal dimension ("saguna Brahman" or Îśvara) is, as the theology of Amun has it, "one and millions".

In Classical Yoga, Îśvara is the archetypal yogi, a special Self ("purusa") detached from "prakrti", the world-order. The yogi does not seek identification with Îśvara, but moves beyond creation. The notion of fusing or identifying with "nirguna" Brahman, the impersonal Absolute (cf. "dharma-megha-samâdhi"), is discarded, for the yogi only has to stop the fluctuations of consciousness to abide in his own, true form. Hence, not identification, but restriction is the "via Regia" to enlightenment.

These theologies are clearly non-Dharmic, and so presuppose the existence of the Supreme Being, the impersonal God called "Brahman", existing inherently, independent from anything else, Alone, singular and without connections. At some point, Brahman magically assuming the "persona" of Îśvara, a mere force-field of appearance, creates the world (Brahmâ), sustains it (Viśnu) and eventually destroys it (Śiva). As a personalized God, Îśvara can be worshipped and, generating a multitude of epiphanies, inspires "seers" to compose the sacred texts of the Vedas. These texts, in particular their sonic, magical qualities, suffice to acquire the firm conviction Brahman exists ! Indeed, it is interesting to note the Vedânta does not point to direct experience or inference (reason) as valid ways to realize Brahman, but to
"the firm conviction arising from the deliberation on the Vedic texts and their meanings", turning Brahmanism into a revealed religion. Just as in the Western monotheisms, God, both impersonal & persona, i.e. pan-en-theist, is posited on the basis of a fundamental theology based on scriptures. Not experience or reason are the preferred ways, but faith. As the latter is mediated by a multitude of epiphanies of "saguna Brahman" (the personal Brahman or Îśvara), the theism in question is a form of revealed henotheist pan-en-theism ...

Relatedness is deemed a lesser form of existence, akin to illusion or mere appearance ("mâyâ"). In the Vedânta, realization is the removal of the superimposition of the illusionary forms of "mâyâ" on Brahman. In Classical Yoga, enlightenment or "samâdhi" is the elimination ("nirodha") of the last element of flux ("vriti") from consciousness ("citta"). In both forms, the mystic returns to the original, inherently existing station-of-no-station of the Absolute in its absoluteness. It pre-existed, exists and will continue to exist. It is absolutely removed from anything except Itself, completely independent, eternal, imperishable, permanent and a "substance of substances".

The Deities in the Ancient Egyptian Religion

magical henotheist pan-en-theism

"You created the sky far away in order to ascend to it, to witness everything You created. You are alone, shining in your form of the living Aten. Risen, radiant, distant and near."
Akhenaten : Hymn to the Aten, 72 - 74.

"The One who initiated existence on the first occasion,
Amun, who developed in the beginning, whose origin is unknown.
No god came into being prior to Him.
No other god was with Him who could say what He looked like.
He had no mother who created His name.
He had no father to beget Him or to say : "This belongs to me."
Who formed His own egg.
Power of secret birth, who created His (own) beauty.
Most Divine God, who came into being Alone.
Every god came into being since He began Himself."

Hymns to Amun, 100th Chapter, my italics.

"Lo, every word of the god (Ptah) came into being through the thoughts of the heart & the command by the tongue."
Memphis Theology, 53.

The use of capitals in words as "God", "Deity", "Deities" or "Divine", points to a rational context, i.e. how these appear in a theology conducted in the rational mode of thought. Hence, when these words are used in the context of Ancient Egyptian ante-rational thought (which, as a cultural form, was mythical, pre-rational & proto-rational), this restriction is lifted. Hence, words such as "god", "the god", "gods", "goddesses", "pantheon" or "divine" are not capitalized.

spoken word

written word

Predynastic - Prehistorical dynastic - historical
realm of sacred myth realm of divine rule
primeval mother goddess
Great Sorceress
Great Magician
mind (Sia), speech (Hu)
and effect (Heka)
image-words as
offerings to Maat

In the Predynastic age of Ancient Egypt (ca. 4000 - 3000 BCE), the Great Sorceress ruled. This primeval goddess was the guardian of the sacred, the hidden, namely fertility, birth, creation, death and resurrection. The Great Sorceress was at work during the night. She was Lunar. Her craft belonged to the Earth, to the dreamworld, to the underworld ("duat"), to hypnosis, trance, divination and the feminine. Sorcery is always "Lunar" and accompanies ancestor worship, family ties, local traditions, dark secrets and love stories. The hurt & pain caused by one's personal past will often become the object of these witchcrafts & sorceries. Needless to say destruction, hate, suffering & annihilation also belong to the initiations of the night, the knowledge & practice of the "lower" mysteries.  

In those Predynastic, mythical times, the Great Sorceress guaranteed, due to affiliation, the cosmic legitimacy of the kings & rulers of a divided Egypt. This would continue to be the case after Egypt got united under Menes. The sacred magic she represented was related with the processes of nature and required no writing to be effective. It was the sorcery of the lasting, antagonistic continuity of the Moon, the night and the feminine. The latter keeps the sacred hidden, for the essence of the processes behind fertility, gestation, growth, healing, death & resurrection are invisible.

With the rise of Pharaonic Egypt (ca. 3000 BCE), the situation dramatically altered. The sacred male ruler placed his throne & feet on the body of the feminine Earth of the Great Mother Goddess, the Great Sorceress, while his supernatural powers also depended on his affiliation with her. Without her sacred power he was unable to hunt in safety and keep the "good" order of his domain.

The origin of his magic was totally different and developed in two stages :

• as a "Follower of Horus" he was the incarnation of the overseeing plane witnessed by the piercing eyes of the Horus ("Heru") Hawk high up in the sky, the height of heaven ("pet"). "Heru-ur", "Horus the Elder", was the son of Re and Hathor (of Qesqeset), indicative of the first phase of the assimilation of the sacred by Pharaoh : Horus is the outcome of a merge between the (rising) Solar religion and the sacred, Lunar powers of the Great Sorceress ;
• as the "son of Re", Pharaoh finalized the assimilation by causing his own birth, life, death and resurrection as a god among the deities of the sky. Pharaoh creates himself and everything through the command on his tongue and out of his mouth. His magic lets divine presence shine so bright so all darkness is transformed into luminous matter. He himself goes through the cycle of birth, growth, decay, death & resurrection (rejuvenation) as do all deities, but Pharaoh is nevertheless different. He is the only god on Earth and his divinity implies a magic which is all-encompassing, perceiving both night & day, extending from the pre-creational to the first time ("zep tepy") and its eternal recreation in the future. Pharaoh is actual divine presence moving ahead and embracing the future. A light bringing order, peace & justice in a chaotic, unpredictable world with "blows" coming from the everpresent chaos ("isefet").

The presence of Re and his son Pharaoh were the foundation of the vertical obelisk or petrified light-beam resting on the horizontal, continuous and imperfect movement of the sacred feminine and its sorcery (the shamans and their Earth). Pharaoh brings perfection and what he does is discontinuous, unique, always new, forever rejuvenating. This is Solar magic. The feminine (the Earth) is conquered with the spirit of heaven and light. The magic of Pharaoh is just, pure, true, white. This inner necessity is not present in sorcery. This dual soteriology will remain active throughout the entire period of Ancient Egyptian Pharaonic civilization (ca. 3000 - 30 BCE) :

  1. VIA THE MOON : the (lower) sky of Osiris : the ultimate state of human blessedness is to live the life of an "Osiris NN", with a court, humbling servants and a kingdom situated in the vast darkness of the Duat (like creation is a bubble of moist air suspended in chaos). Even the smallest offer made with a sincere heart during earthly life might be enough to be helped by Isis or Osiris, and so the commoners made sure the holy family would notice them. This economy is inclusive of everyman, but conditional, except for Pharaoh - the Eye of Horus ;

  2. ENDING IN THE SUN : the (upper) sky of Re : the sky of Osiris and the sky of Re are proximate, and after the highest spirituality of servitude has been fulfilled, the "Ba" of the deceased is transformed, in the horizon, into an "Akh" of Re, sailing, among the other pure beings of light, on the Bark of Re, illuminating the beings of day and night, including the deities and the justified blessed dead of Osiris (who otherwise sleep). The sacred knowledge regarding this spiritual evolution was for the very few and, when first written down, portrayed in the tomb of kings only. This economy is exclusive of everyman, reserved to the deities (as the king and his high priests) and unconditional - the Eye of Re.

Moreover, the divine king was the unity of the Two Lands. He prepares himself in isolation (self-creation and absolute self-steering) and this to unify the antagonistic divisions left untouched by the passive feminine (magnetic) force-field. To do this, he creates in himself an active, masculine action ahead (cf. like a free electron), fed by the continuous rejuvenation caused by the daily Solar transformations, navigating with Re and joining him in this self-eternalizing light-feast of beings of light, all in perfect peace, justice, unity & truth, the eternal concert of the immortal ones praising the Great One (cf. the Amduat).

As a Magician, Pharaoh was stronger than Khepri (the self-creative aspect of Re) ! To him belonged everything before any deity had come into being. This can only mean Pharaoh was before Atum. He is the son of Her who bore Atum, namely the Sky-goddess (or "Nut", the feminine consort of Nun). Pharaoh is the son of the Great Sorceress herself ! So how could his magic fail ? Her sacred powers were incorporated in Pharaoh, for he is the son of both Re and the sky-goddess (Hathor). He is Horus and he is the son of Re.

Nevertheless, Pharaoh's magic remained "Solar" and its strongest implication is a perfect protection in all action. The higher "mysteries" teach the aspirant to be silent and to bow (for the deities). Through silence, magical speech is acquired. Then the just Great Word can be spoken and this magical speech conferred. Through service, mastership is continuously perfected and refined. But there is much more. The Pyramid Texts teach the possibility of deification. Pharaoh's magic is ascending, transformative, dynamical. The healing powers of his light & presence make Pharaoh's magic stand firm against destructive sorcery. In principle, Pharaoh rebuilds what he destroys. His magic is boundless and no god, spirit, demon or fiend could resist the power of the sacred words spoken with authority and written down in the divine script.

This brings us to the fact of magic in Ancient Egypt. The magician is a scholar and a priest. He knows how to read and write hieroglyphs, knows the ancient books and their powerful formula. He is a magician because he knows. Hence, his official function is symbolized by a papyrus scroll, determinative of writing, abstraction and esoterical knowledge. He is able to travel in the realm of the dead protected by Horus (cf. Coffin Texts, spell 572). In this magic the mouth is essential, for it is with it the Great Word is spoken.

"My lips are the Two Enneads. I am the Great Word."
Pyramid Texts, utterance 506 (§ 1100).

If his mouth is closed, nothing can be said and no magic ensue. The magician knows the names and knows what exists in his heart (mind) and so is able to utter whatever he likes. However, the way the Great Word is pronounced, its intonation, rhythm and psalmody are also very important. To repeat a formula four times made it powerful in all quarters of creation. Magic is a powerful tool to realize spiritual & material ends.

"My tongue is the pilot in charge of the Bark of Righteousness (Maat). (...) The soles of my feet are the two Barks of Righteousness."
Pyramid Texts, utterance 539 (§§ 1306 & 1315).

The Masters Magicians (the Bulls of the Sky) judge the aspirant on the basis of his esoterical knowledge, more important than practical aptitudes to be developed later. They judge him using what they know of him. The magician speaks and the divine speaks through him. He is before Atum, before the Ennead, before all other deities. His knowledge extends to the pre-creational realm and so the Great Magician is the father of the gods ! 

Although the distinction between Pharaonic magic and popular sorcery stands, in practice the division was less pronounced. Egyptian Solar Magic was founded on the principle of the assimilation of the power of the sacred feminine, and the greatest magician was he who was able to extend his power beyond creation and the pantheon. He was the child of the Great Sorceress and only through Her was he all-encompassing.

"O you who are content with what you have done -four times- and who send Maat to Re daily, the liver of Re is flourishing daily because of Maat, and he partakes of the meal of the Great Goddess."
Coffin Texts, spell 165, III 6.

 So all Solar Magic was rooted in the Lunar approach but transcended this through the medium of light. Because of the pure clarity established by the panorama of Horus & Re (their "height of heaven"), Pharaoh's magic was at work day & night. Furthermore, his magic was mental, verbal and scriptural.

In Heliopolitanism, the Great Word had four aspects :

Heliopolitan schema


Sia : thought thought in the heart
Hu : speech Hu : word on the tongue
Heka : protection inherent in Hu
Maat : truth inherent in Hu

In the New Kingdom Memphite view, the original Heliopolitan fourfold characterizing the Great Word in the Old Kingdom, namely born in thought, expressed with authority, manifesting without any resistance and restoring the balance, is reduced to what is formed in the heart (on the mind) and what is said by the tongue (spoken out).

Shabaka Stone : LINE 53
(hieroglyphs in red are reconstructed)

(53) There comes into being in the heart. There comes into being by the tongue. (It is) as the image of Atum.  Ptah is the very great, who gives life to all the gods and their Kas. It all in this heart and by this tongue."

"Heart" is "mind" and "tongue" equals "speech". The simultaneity of the mental (subjective) and material (objective) sides of the cognitive process is indicated by the use of symmetrical writing. 

The "heart" of Ptah is not a "nous" devoid of context, i.e. an abstract, rational Divine (Platonic) Mind. It is too early for that. Rather, the contents of mind (the divine words) simultaneously move Ptah's tongue. Formal and material poles come together in Ptah's continuous actions.

The mental process suggested is proto-rational, and aims at establishing a solid case for ongoing creative speech and the ontic supremacy of Ptah as "very great" (while allowing, consistent with henotheism, other deities to exist as such "in" Ptah).

"His Ennead (Ptah's) is before him as heart, authoritative utterance, teeth and lips. They are the semen and hands of Atum."
Memphis Theology, line 55.

So although, in pre-dynastic times, Ancient Egyptian religion probably began as a polytheism, Pharaonism displayed an increasing tendency to find means to transcend divisions and bring about greater organization. Although strict monotheism never saw the light (Atenism is a mild form of monotheism), from the start henotheism was clearly intended. As the supreme magician and high priest of the five major divine families (Re, Ptah, Thoth, Osiris & Amun), the divine king played a pivotal, unifying role. In the Old Kingdom, the deities were indeed organized in constellations, but in the New Kingdom, in its New Solar Theology, they were deemed as epiphanies of the Great One. The theology of Amun is the clearest example of this tendency to introduce this One God, hidden & millions.

Amun is not singular (in a quantitative sense, as in monotheism), but unified and of one spirit (in a qualitative sense). He was deemed both transcendent (before creation and above all deities), but also immanent (present in the "holy of holies" of every temple of Egypt), hearing the pleas of both high priests and the most humble of commoners. This pan-en-theism was not based on revelations, for the "holy" books of Kemet were magical formulae enabling one to satisfy the deities and safeguard one's passage in the afterlife.

This magic was wholly "natural", based on an organic worldview integrating both order & chaos, both light & darkness. The supernatural was the manifestation of the heavenly divine on Earth. And while the spirits ("akhu") of the deities remained in heaven ("pet"), descending on Earth by way of their dynamic souls ("ba") and vital energies ("kas"), the divine king was the only deity incarnate on Earth (i.e. his spirit was the only one living in Egypt, "ta meri", the "land of love").

Indeed, at the head of this complex spiritual hierarchy of divine constellations stood Pharaoh, the "great house", the Great Magician able to pronounce the Great Word causing the "good Nile" keeping Egypt prosperous and therefore unified !

The essence or spirit ("akh") of the deities ("netjeru") were imperishable and abided for ever in heaven ("pet"). They manifested in spatiotemporal forms ("bas" & "kas") resembling the differential states of nature.
Creation cannot exist without the quasi-permanent, eternally recurrent Ennead and so in Heliopolitan thought, the forces of nature (starting with Atum creating Atum) and their harmonious concert (represented by Maat and the balance) represent the first stirring of the substantialist intention to fixate objects from their own side. The deities are projected "outside" and represent the luminous constants of creation. To return to these Polar "Imperishables" is the goal of Pharaoh's transformation, who tries to escape the Lunar vicissitudes of the Osirian realm, the Duat. Although truly African, and rooted in Shamanism and its awareness of the ongoing processes of nature, Egyptian spirituality tries to isolate and exalt the "fixed stars" in the various constellations of nature, while remaining aware of the constant unpredictable change undergone by the latter (cf. the strange attractor ruling the flood of the Nile).

The Deities in the Buddhadharma

non-theist & trans-theist dharmism

"All beings in the world,
Will finally lay the body down,
Since such a one as the Teacher,
The peerless person in the world,
The Tathâgata endowed with the powers,
The Buddha, has attained final Nirvâna."
spoken by Brahmâ Sahampatti in the Brahmasamjutta, 608.

The pervasiveness of impermanence is the core Buddhist argument raised against any conception of an inherently existing Absolute (Brahman), a Creator-God (Brahmâ") or His epiphanies. A firm conviction regarding this is not reached by way of the Vedas, but by reasoning (listening & studying), contemplation (reflection) and meditation.

"As the wise test gold by burning, cutting and rubbing it (on a piece of touchstone), so are You to accept my words after examining them and not merely out of regard for me."
- Jñânasara-samuccaya, 31.

The Buddhadharma is not a faith in the sense of an unexamined acceptance of certain dogmas. The "axioms" of its system are the result of a close investigation of the nature of mind and the nature of phenomena. Nothing is taken for granted, and the three marks of existence are found everywhere : impermanence, suffering & emptiness (or selflessness, absence of own form, Self or "svabhâva"). Insofar as spiritual people (those seeking to generate the Divine in their own consciousness) do not wish to blindly follow a path based on genuine renunciation of the world, but want to bring all their faculties, reason included, into this path, they are bound to discover nothing inherently existing can be found anywhere. This means one cannot point to a single object without also finding the facts of arising, abiding & ceasing.

The Selflessness of persons implies the "I" is merely imputed on the body, on one's volitions, feelings, thoughts & conscious reflections. Without these, the "I" would not manifest. The "I" is not equal to the body or the mind, nor is it different from them. It cannot be found to exist as a solid, permanent, inherently existing, independent entity forcefully identified as possessing an essence or "own form" ("svabhâva"). While it has no substantial existence, it has a function and exists to perform certain conventional tasks. But besides this pragmatical use of the first person, this perspective is void of substance. The "I" is not a universal. The Selflessness of phenomena implies there is not a single object "out there" that is not merely imputed on a sensoric or mental base of designation and a conceptual designation or imputation. Objects do exist functionally, and the sensoric base of designation is valid but mistaken. It is valid because sense objects do have a conventional functionality and exist as extra-mental determinations & conditions, but they are mistaken because they appear as inherently existing while they are merely transient functional states. Hence, Brahman cannot be found, nor can any other absolute principle, Deity or Deities deemed permanent and self-subsisting (self-powered and not other-powered). Brahman exists, but cannot be found as He would like ...

Even "nirvâna" and the wisdom-mind of the Buddhas do not escape this fundamental feature of the Dharma : emptiness. Buddhas arise, abide and cease insofar as they are holomovements, i.e. the continuity of perfect forms manifesting in countless perfect moments of consciousness. Each Buddha-continuum is a garland of such moments, a bead held together by the form of the Divine dynamism itself. Their "permanence" being the consistency of the perfect form-in-movement, not the self-identity presupposed in a substance existing from its own side, independent from anything else. Like a differential equation, a Buddha is merely a "form" of perfect continuity of sublime change interconnected with all other phenomena. So while also Buddhas are dependent-arisings, they are special insofar as their arising, abiding and ceasing is the perfect expression of a perfect form, each moment being a different solution of an identical differential equation or set of equations. Buddhas are therefore comparable to quantum states or strange attractors operating chaotic phase-spaces. They are like verbs, not nouns.

In the Buddhist classification of "samsâra", there are six types of Deities ("devas") of the Desire Realm. They are the Four Great Royal Lineages, The Thirty-Three, the Joyous (where Maitreya lives), Without Combat, Enjoying Emanation & Controlling Others' Emanation. Above these six are the seventeen divisions within the Form Realm. These Devas are free from the type of desire ruling the Desire Realm, but they still have desire for visible form (color, shape), sounds and objects of touch. There are no odors or tastes. The four main areas of the Form Realm correspond to the four concentrations or absorptions causing rebirth there. Above the Form Realm is the Formless Realm, separated from attachment to both Desire & Form. There are also four levels in the Formless Realm. In this realm there is no case of one being seeing another being or conversing with another. Here Divine aloneness is complete.

However, the heavens of the Devas represent a temporal realm of bliss achieved by good deeds. These Divine beings constantly enjoy inexpressible joy and much indulge in this. Being distracted by the result of their good actions, they create for themselves the illusion of the eternity of their paradisiacal state. It is this illusion of grandeur making them believe their are creators, sustainers & destroyers ! In fact, the cosmic continuum of all universes has been there since beginningless time, and not unlike cosmic breathing, this universe is followed by another and so forth (the Big Bang being merely a single out-breath).

Because of their strong & extremely pleasurable condition, there is little to no reason for the Devas to look beyond their comfortable and carefree existence and undertake spiritual training. Intoxicated by pleasure, they ignore harsh realities. Considering themselves imperishable, they develop vanity, haughtiness & pride. However, when their good karma is exhausted, which is inevitable, they too are forced out of this state of heavenly joy to be reborn again, and this per definition in less favorable circumstances. Hence, the Devas die a terrible death.

Their suffering resides in eventually realizing this situation, i.e. understanding their error in thinking their condition as permanent. Seeing their own demise, they are left behind by the others and suffer terribly.

Because theism is the view of an inherently existing Supreme Being (or Beings), the Buddhadharma is non-theist and not atheist, for although such a substantial (inherently existing) Being or Beings do not exist, there are Divine entities with incredible storehouses of power resulting from good past actions. Because the state of Buddhahood is altogether beyond cyclic existence, ineffable & nameless (nonconceptual & nondual), it exceeds the condition of the Devas. Hence, the Buddhadharma is transtheist.

The God of Monotheism

revealed monotheism

The three Mediterranean religions "of the book" (Judaism, Christianity & Islam), all three rooted in Abraham, inspired -in various meandering courses- by Heliopolitanism and the Ancient Egyptian heritage, worked out an onto-theology, i.e. an ontology of an objective, self-subsisting, substantial Supreme Being, conceptualizing it (a) in terms of the (neo)Platonic tradition, i.e. as a "summum bonum" (cf. Philo of Alexandria, Al-Kindi, Augustine) or (b) in tune with the Peripatetic emphasis on empirical reality (cf. Maimonides, Averroes, Thomas Aquinas).

This ultimate God-as-substance created the world "ex nihilo", and is believed to be the ontological "imperial" root of all possible existence. Only in the more mystical traditions of these faiths do we find another, less positive affirmation of this substance-God's necessary supremacy : the negative veils "Ain", "Ain Soph" and "Ain Soph Aur" in Qabalah (Luria), the ineffable hyper-existence of God in negative theology (ps.-Dionysius the Areopagite, Marguerite Porete) and the unknowability of the Divine essence in Sufism (Ibn Arabi). But these refined mystical "apophatic" speculations were muted by the overall "katapathic" noise produced by the theologians, as always preoccupied by apologetic concerns and manipulative, power-based mass-indoctrination.

In their view, God is a Caesar ! This singular omnipotent Dictator is the sole Supreme Being, the substantial absolute of absoluteness creating a plural creation ex nihilo. As the "summum bonum", God does not tolerate evil, considered as the mere absence of goodness ("privatio boni"). In these religions, the focus is not on truth & ontology, but on salvation, the restoration of the link with this sole God. But in the process of erecting the salvic model, a theology was invented build upon Greek concept-realism. This superstructuring of religious experience using "heathen" intellectual constructs would prove to be detrimental to the survival of their fundamental theologies.

Vainly these religious philosophies tried to bring faith and reason together. By identifying the mind of God with Plato's world of ideas, the Platonists had to exchange Divine grace for intuitive reason. The Peripatetics introduced perception as a valid source of knowledge and so prepared the end of Christian theology, the rational explanation of the "facts" of revelation. There seemed to be little or no facts after all !

When Peripatetic metaphysics got integrated in monotheist theology, the end of fundamental theology could not be far off. Indeed, how to assimilate the more empirical approach of Aristotle without harming the God of revelation ? As soon as the natural world became focus of attention, the "facts" of revelation could no longer be believed at their face value. The most clear example of this is geocentrism. All three faiths claimed the Earth to be at the center of the universe. Embracing Copernicanism threw humanity off its self-proclaimed pedestal and paved the way to prove most "facts" of scripture were manmade literary fictions. Not only were the so-called "scientific miracles" found in the holy books explained in a secular way, but literary criticism proved how these texts themselves are merely historical compositions adapted to the circumstances of their time. Moreover, only few authentic (original) texts could be identified ! How to erect a strong conviction or faith on nothing more than stories and remain a sane, rational human being ? A good example is the book Q.

Moreover, Aristotle's concept of the "Unmoved Mover" reaffirmed the general Greek prejudice against relationality, identifying objects entertaining relationships with other objects as of "lower rank" compared to objects removed from empirical actuality, looking down at the world from their unmoved Olympic heights.

Indeed, for Thomas Aquinas
(1225 - 1274), the relation between God and the world is a "relatio rationis", not a real or mutual bond. This scholastic notion can be explained by taking the example of a subject apprehending an object. From the side of the object only a logical, rational relationship persists. The object is not affected by the subject apprehending it. From the side of the subject however, a real relationship is at hand, for the subject is really affected by the perception of the object. According to Thomism, God is not affected by the world, and so God is like an object, not a subject ! The world however is affected by this object-God, clearly not "Emmanuel", God-with-us. Hence, the relationship between God and the world cannot be reciprocal. If so, the world only contributes to the glory of God ("gloria externa Dei"). The finite is nothing more than a necessary "explicatio Dei". This is the only way the world can contribute to God.

In the line of this reasoning, the monotheist God, like a Caesar of sorts, is omnipotent and omniscient. This means God knows what is possible as possible, what is presently real as real and also the future of what is real (predestination). Moreover, God can do what He likes and so is directly responsible for all events (cf. "insh'Allah"). These views make it however impossible not to attribute all possible evil, like the slaying of the innocent, to God ! Such a theology turns the good God into a brutal monster or proves the point He cannot exist (cf. Sartre). Finally, free will cannot be combined with this view of God as the sufficient condition of all things, for freedom only harmonizes with a view of God as merely the necessary condition.

In a philosophical discourse on the Divine influenced by the data of science, no longer a priori -as a handmaiden- forced to take sides with the dogma's of revelation, these inconsistencies in monotheist theology can no longer be maintained. Fundamental theology is shipwrecked, and the distinction between the discourse of faith and -since the Renaissance- the reasons of metaphysics became more pertinent (cf. deism). The Age of Enlightenment would eliminate the more "scientific" pretensions of the revelations (like the story of creation, geocentrism, the position of woman, slavery and other contra-factual & immoral views), and by the beginning of the XXth century, relativity & quantum mechanics introduced a new, post-Newtonian view on spatio-temporality and the physical categories of determination (replacing efficient causality with neo-causality, interaction, statistical probabilism, teleological determination, etc.). The Judeo-Christian socio-political grip on humanity was incapacitated. In Islam, the revolution of "an age of enlightened reason" is still on its way and its first stirrings can today be felt in the so-called "European Islam".

God in the "Western Tradition"

occult henotheist pan-en-theism

Because of the dictatorial views of Roman Catholicism embracing, from the IVth century onward, imperial tenets, "Paganism" was removed from the public domain and became occult, i.e. concealed or hidden from view. So the successors of Alexandrian Hermetism developed a Western form of spirituality at the fringes of mainstream religious activity.

Let it suffice to say this movement embraced Late Hellenistic Paganism, Hermetism, the Jewish Qabalah, outlawed Christian Gnosticism and a wrong allegorical interpretation of Ancient Egyptian lore. The result was a strange mix of astrology, sorcery, magic, alchemy, eschatological mysticism and the like. The ontology underlining these practices embraced henotheism (the One God manifest in various sublime natural states or Deities) and although some occultists developed pantheist views, their onto-theology was overall pan-en-theist ; their One God was present in Nature but simultaneously absolutely removed from His Creation (cf. the negative veils in Qabalah). Eventually, by assimilating Hermetism from the Moon Deity of Harran and other Arab occult tenets, the Crusaders would remix this early occultism with their Christianity, leading to Templar spirituality, Grail mysteries and over time to Rosicrucianism, Enochianism, Freemasonry, Theosophy, Witchcraft, Satanism and the various magical societies of the late XIXth (Golden Dawn), early XXth century (OTO, AMORC). Finally, in the 1970s, these various currents were brought together in the Los Angeles based "New Age" movement.

Although strict monotheism is not present here, theism is never abolished. The Supreme Being is "one, hidden & millions", and when moving through the various occult terminologies, one grasps the tenets of Late Paganism are not superseded, quite on the contrary. The occult view on Ancient Egypt is Late Hellenistic, and the various founding histories (for example of Freemasonry) are fictitious. As the Egyptian language has only been recently deciphered, the view on the religion of Kemet merely serves the purpose of creating an illusion of antiquity. Indeed, the tenets of the Western Tradition probe no deeper than Late Hellenistic lore. Even their views on Greek philosophy are outdated and in conflict with recent textual criticism. As formal rationality has been integrated, the Western Tradition does little more than rationalize ante-rational Paganism, turning the mysteries into an activity mystifying the mysterious, feeding an ever-present anti-Catholic sentiment. Precisely because of rationalizing mixed views conjunct with being forced, for more than 15 centuries, into the shadow realm of Western civilization, this so-called "Western Tradition" is an outstanding example of irrationalism.

Its amalgam of various views turns the Western Tradition into a
miscellaneous collection of articles of sentimental value, a bric-a-brac of Western flirtations with unwholesome mysteries, turning spiritual mastery into knowing the highest secret is an empty box, a misinterpreted spirituality. Alas !

Deity Yoga in Buddhist Tantra and the God of Process

rational pansacralism

To the Buddhadharma, the absence of inherent existence, or strict nominalism, is fundamental. All phenomena are other-powered and none is substantial. Absence of inherent existence is the mode in which wisdom-mind experiences all possible realities, Buddhahood included. Space is the common metaphor used to clarify this experience, for "space" is uninterrupted. This experience of space-like emptiness is simultaneous with illusion-like dependent arising. Ultimate existence exists conventionally, for every phenomenon has two isolates : viewed from the angle of wisdom-mind is lacks substance or essence and viewed from the perspective of the conventional mind it depends on outer determinations and conditions. The illusion-like aspect of every phenomenon means it is valid to logically identify and functionally describe its conventional nature, but mistaken insofar as it appears as self-powered, independent and inherently existing, while ultimate analysis shows it is not. That's why it is called "illusion-like".

Contrary to its ultimate, genuine nature, its conventional, apparent nature appears differently than it truly is, i.e. conceals its ultimate truth : non-substantiality. This illusion-like, non-essentiality of the apparent, conventional nature of things has been approached by several similes :

a dream : in this state the five senses seem active but are not ;
a magic show : things are made to appear using circumstances and hidden connections, but are merely tricks ;
an optical aberration : there appear to be relationships between phenomena, but this is not the case ;
a mirage : complete visual entities like cities or oceans appear when there is nothing ;
an echo : what is heard is merely a repetition of a previous sound, but seems to be generated anew ;
a hallucination : voices and images are seen, but they are not there ;
as a reflection : appearances are there, but not really so ;
as a magical city : appearances are conjured, but exist dependent of specific states of mind, etc.

While phenomena appear full & solid, they are truly empty, i.e. lack inherent, self-powered existence. But while all phenomena are truly empty, they nevertheless apparently appear ! The ultimate truth of this appearances is the fact they lack substance while concealing this, for they occur as self-powered (independent, substantial, inherently existing, etc). Insofar as they appear they are not non-existent, but merely logically & functionally instantiated, i.e. examples of logical designation & functional operation (cf. ultimate logic). This last fact is crucial to apprehend. Although all sensoric & mental objects are conceptually designated, sensoric objects do possess a base of designation and this, so must we assume, is extra-mental. Suppose we negate this, then the whole universe is merely a projection of mind and apparent objects are invalid and mistaken. This position is idealist and can be refuted by epistemological inquiry (cf. Criticosynthesis, 2008). Likewise, the Mind Only school is in error, reducing the Two Truths to the single truth of genuine existence. As Je Tsongkhapa (1357 - 1419) has shown, apparent objects are valid insofar as conventionality in at hand, while at the same time mistaken insofar as their appearance goes (cf. emptiness).

The question before us is this : how to conceive the appearance of a Buddha ? In other words : how to apprehend the emergence of a Buddha out of emptiness ? If we can answer this question adequately, then perhaps we may address the question of how to think the "God of process", i.e. an other-powered Supreme Being apprehending the Harmony and Unity of All Possibilities, untainted by the metaphysical compliment of omnipotence ?

In Sûtra meditations on emptiness, a direct realization of emptiness is deemed possible. Non-conceptual and nondual, it nevertheless involves a direct intuitive cognition of genuine reality. The meditator remains with this vacuity or non-affirming negation, appreciating its implications and allowing the ramifications of the analytical unfindability of inherent existence to affect the mind. This immersion may, in the stage of seeing, lead to a direct experience of emptiness or genuine reality. When this meditation ends, the meditator returns to the world of appearances, and at this point all objects dawn as a magician's illusions ; seeming to exist in their own right but known to be empty of inherent, self-powered existence. From what this apparent reality appears from is not addressed.

Although the view of emptiness is the same as in Sûtra, Tantra proceeds, after having meditated on the lack of inherent existence, to reflect on the sameness of the meditator and the ideal being, Deity or Form Body ("Rûpakâya") of a Buddha, both mixing like "water and milk". Where Sûtra causes the effect (Buddhahood), Tantra brings this result into the path. It deliberately reflects on the final result of the spiritual path as being the stuff of which the meditator will appear. It develops ways to actually bring this final result into the path. Instead of exclusively concentrating on the exclusive, non-affirmative negation (resulting in a direct realization of wisdom-mind or "Dharmakâya", the Truth Body of a Buddha), the tantric yogi uses this direct realization as a basis of imaginative appearance, imitating a Buddha's ability to do this in fact. The Deity is therefore an affirming, choice negation, eliminating everything except the anticipated form-aspect of the final result (the Form Body of a Buddha, constituted by an Enjoyment Body or "Sambhogakâya" and a Emanation Body or "Nirmânakâya"). Instead of a Sûtra practitioner, who merely lets objects re-appear after reflecting on emptiness, the Secret Mantra practitioner allows the mind of wisdom to appear in an ideal compassionately active form. In this way, the meditator learns to bridge emptiness and appearances, and the Deity is a binding phenomenon, allowing the "truth" aspect of genuine reality to connect with the "form" aspect, allowing one to apprehend how appearances emerge from emptiness (how the Truth Body and the appearing Form Body connect). Because all appearances are made part of the Form Body, all phenomena are "pure".

The link made is one between the (Sûtric) realization of emptiness (the direct cognition of genuine reality by merely affirming the absence of self-powered phenomena) and the as yet unrealized potentiality of Buddhahood. As this contains the possibility for genuine reality to appear in an ideal form, a cross-over is made between emptiness (genuine reality) and ideal appearances. Hence, not all appearances are merely apparent, i.e. valid but mistaken. There is a class of valid and unmistaken appearing phenomena ! With the identification of this class, the possibility of ideal appearances is affirmed.

This ideal is represented by the Truth Body and Form Body of a Buddha. Of these Bodies, the Truth Body or "Dharmakâya" is the suchness aspect. Traditionally, the Truth Body of a Buddha is divided in a Nature Body and a Wisdom Body, or the ultimate true cessation and the ultimate true path.

The Nature Body is of two types. On the one hand, there is a naturally pure Nature Body, or the absence of inherent existence since beginningless time in the sphere of Buddhahood. It is called a "non-product" because it lacks production, duration, disintegration, beginning, middle and end. On the other hand, there is the adventitiously pure Nature Body, or the absence of adventitious stains. It is called "spontaneous" because -having utterly eliminated the subtle motivational efforts initiating deeds of body & speech- it allows for the spontaneity of the Enjoyment and Emanation Bodies. The Nature Body is not knowable as being limited to any measure and so vast. It is innumerable, non-conceptual, unequal and completely pure. It has five qualities : non-production, non-difference, non-perversity (free from all extremes), purity and Clear Light.

The Wisdom Body is the final, perfect mind of wisdom, cognizing the genuine mode of existence of all phenomena. It also cognizes the varieties of phenomena insofar as they are conventional, apparent realities. This is a Buddha's omniscient consciousness, with omniscient eye, ear, nose, tongue, body & mental consciousnesses. In a single moment, any of these cognize all phenomena. This Wisdom Body is omnipresent, cognizing the emptiness of everything in a nondual way.

Can the class of ideal phenomena, the class containing individual Buddhas, be extended to integrate all ideals under one single ideal ? Insofar as each ideal phenomenon defines the Form Body of a single Buddha, an extension would imply the Truth & Form Bodies of all possible Buddhas. In fact, Buddhist Tantra has already made this extension. In the Vajrayâna, the experiential content of the "Dharmakâya" is called the primordial Buddha or "Âdi-Buddha", also called "Samantabhadra", "He Who Is All-Pervadingly Good" or "He Whose Beneficence is Everywhere" or "Vajradhara", "the Dharma-Holder". This ultimate Buddha of Buddhas represents the wisdom of suchness taught by all Buddhas, i.e. the universal insight into the unity of sameness & difference, the unity of ultimate (genuine) truth (reality) and conventional (apparent) truth (reality).

The Âdi-Buddha represents the "Dharmakâya" as such.

The differences between this Âdi-Buddha and the abstract concept of a "God of process" are merely terminological & cultural. This concept of God is part of "Process Philosophy", a system developed by Alfred North Whitehead (1861 - 1947). He is often associated with Charles Hartshorne (1987 - 2003), who, during one semester, was his assistant, and who focused on God. Process Philosophy is the culmination of a speculative movement concerning God starting in the Renaissance. The "God of the philosophers" does not satisfy the conditions of faith (strong conviction on the basis of a revealed text), but seeks to rationally understand the Supreme Being and find forms of worship avoiding, as much as possible, mystification and paradox. Process Philosophy optimalizes this search precisely because it seeks to integrate the post-Newtonian sciences of non-Euclidian geometry, relativity, cosmology, and quantum mechanics. In doing so, the concept of God becomes far more transparant than anything realized before by the religions.

Its basic intuitions are :

• we live in a universe, not a pluriverse : it is a philosophy of organicism, thinking the unity of all what happens ;
• part of this unity evidenced by the universe can be grasped by reason, allowing for science. Not a single generalization would be possible if the universe were totally random & chaotic ;
• the universe appears to be a dynamic whole, and so growth and becoming are fundamental to it ;
• the displayed dynamism implies novelty and this means an event is never completely determined by what happened before it, for otherwise nothing would truly "happen". The universe is always an incomplete abiding synthesis and must be "remade" every time. This is "creative synthesis" or "creative advance" ;
• this creative becoming is from the inside aimed at the realization of esthetic value or harmony. This beauty is the result of multiple adaptations of multiple elements to each other. Harmony is the result of this multiplicity brought under unity.

For Whitehead, actual entities are the basic category of his system. Events are a nexus of actual entities. Everything existing is an actual entity. When something is real, it is a happening, and occasion. Hence, there is a plurality of nodes of activity. Actual entities are like Leibniz' monads, with the exception they do have "windows", i.e. they enter each other's selfbecoming or "concrescence".

This idea is merely another way to articulate the fact of dependent arising ("pratîtya-samutpâda") : all events are linked with all other events, or, in other words, there is not a single event isolated, independent or self-powered. Thinking interdependence is thinking emptiness or lack of inherent existence. While apparent, interconnected reality appears, it lacks self-power, own-nature or a "self" ("svabhava"). While it lacks a substantial essence ("eidos"), it appears interrelated.

In Process Philosophy, God is not self-powered and so not omnipotent. God is not an impassible super-object, a Caesar disconnected from and looking down on the world, but, on the contrary, changed and touched by what happens.

Besides spatiotemporal actual entities, reality is also characterized by three formative abstract elements escaping space & time : creativity, eternal objects & God. Creativity is formless and eternal objects are pure possibilities. These two formative elements are not actual, mere potential. God however, is actual but nevertheless escapes the spatio-temporal order.

Basic Categories of Process Ontology


the Real
actual world real actual
God abstract actual
eternal objects pure possibilities

This scheme makes clear God is a non-temporal & non-spatial actual entity giving relevance to the realm of pure possibility in the becoming of the actual world, encompassing non-temporal eternity & temporal everlastingness. God, both potential & actual, is the meeting ground of the actual world & pure possibilities. Together, the realm of abstract possibilities and the actual world form reality or the Real.

Among the formative elements, God is an actual entity, while the eternal objects are not. The latter are therefore not part of the real, actual world, but merely elements contributing to the form of definiteness of the former. God is the anterior ground guaranteeing a fraction of all possibilities may enter into the factual becoming of the spatiotemporal world. Without God, nothing of what is possible, can become some thing, change and create. The universe, its order and creativity are the result of a certain valuation of possibilities. However, God is not the universe, nor its order (derived from eternal objects) or the creativity at work in actual entities. The latter are concrete actual entities, while God is an abstract actual entity, while creativity & eternal objects are non-actual formative elements. This bring in the following subtle nuances :

  1. concrete actual entities (the actual world) : all what exists in the world of facts and events. This is the only world there is. There is no realm of other-worldly events (the supernatural is necessarily part of the world - cf. hylic pluralism) ;

  2. abstract actual entity (the abstract) : God "the organ of novelty, aiming at intensification" is the Artist who makes a beautiful world more likely. Out of the formless possibilities, God makes the choice of harmony and brings it about by arranging propensities ;

  3. potential eternal objects (the potential Realm of Possibilities) : selfsame, "pure" forms outside the stream of actual entities, organizing them ;

  4. creativity : the formless "matrix" of all things, the principle of the continuous becoming of novel unity and creative advance out of multiplicity.

God is the instance grounding the permanence and continuous novelty characterizing the universe. This primordial nature of God is completely separated from the actual world. For although an actual entity, God's activity is "abstract", namely in the esthetic (artistic) process of valuating possibilities, which are no fictions. But God is engaged in the factual becoming of the actual entities, but cannot be conceived as a concrete actual entity, a fact among the facts. God is the only "abstract" actual entity possible. Besides being an abstract Godhead, God is also a Divine consciousness prehending all events. This is his consequent nature. In these two ways, God is related to the realm of actualities. Let us look at these two ways in more detail.

"Viewed as primordial, he is the unlimited conceptual realization of the absolute wealth of potentiality. In this aspect, he is not before all creation, but with all creation. But, as primordial, so far is he from 'eminent reality', that in this abstraction he is 'deficiently actual' - and this in two ways. His feelings are only conceptual and so lack the fullness of actuality. Secondly, conceptual feelings, apart from complex integration with physical feelings, are devoid of consciousness in their subjective forms."
Whitehead, A.N. : PR, §§ 521.

God's primordial nature is transcendent and does not touch the universe, the actual world. This aspect of Deity is God as the "Lord of All Possibilities". It offers all events the possibility to constitute themselves. If not, nothing would happen. Possibilities, although highly abstract, are no fictions, and enter concrete entities (cf. Popper's propensity-interpretation of the Schrödinger equation). Although there is no imaginary heavenly (Platonic) museum displaying the statue of David before Michelangelo fashioned it, the latter did not invent the material, the possibility allowing him to do so. So the fact formless creativity received definite form is attributed to God as Principle of Definiteness. By way of conceptual valuation, God imposes harmony on all possibilities, for actuality implies choice & limitation. But as all order is contingent, lots of things always remain possible. Whitehead never speaks of God as the "Creator of the Universe" (too suggestive of the total dependence of the world). The "ideal harmony" is only realized as an abstract virtually, and God is the actual entity bringing this beauty into actuality, turning potential harmony into actual esthetic value.

Taking into account everything given in the field of existence of all actual events, God's highest purpose for each is for it to contribute to the realization of the purpose of the whole, namely the unity of harmony in diversity.

God does not decide, but lures, i.e. makes beauty more likely. There is no efficient causality at work here, but a teleological pull inviting creative advance. Given the circumstances, a tender pressure is present to achieve the highest possible harmony. God is the necessary condition, but not the sufficient condition for events. Classical omnipotence & omniscience are thus eliminated. God knows all actual events as actual and all possible (future) events as possible. He does not know all future events as actual. This is a category mistake. He cannot hamper creativity. Giving metaphysical complements to God is relinquished.

God's purpose for each and every event, given all determining conditions determining, is it contributing to the realization of the purpose of the whole universe, the unity of harmony in diversity. God is the unique abstract actual entity making it possible for the multiplicity of events to end up in harmony. This aspect of God is permanent, eternal and not linked to time & space. It is a permanent property of reality, resulting in a uni-verse. Call this aspect of Deity "Godhead".

"Love neither rules, nor is it unmoved ; also it is a little oblivious as to morals. It does not look to the future, for it finds its own reward in the immediate present."
Whitehead, A.N. : PR, §§ 520 - 521.

God's consequent nature is God's concrete, super-conscious presence in the universe, actually being near all possible events and valorizing them to bring out harmony and the purpose of the whole. God, with infinite care, is a tenderness loosing nothing that can and wants to  be saved. Hence, God's experience of the world changes. It always grows and can never be given as a whole. God is loyal and will never forsake any event.

The two natures of God are not two parts or elements, but two ways of dealing with the world. Primordially, God is always offering possibilities and realizing unity and order, and this in all possible worlds. Consequentially, God takes the self-creation of all actual events in this concrete universe into account, considering what they realize of what is made possible. These two ways, initiating & responding, permanent & alternating are God's bi-polar, pan-en-theist approaches of the actual world.

Process Theology is another way to present the three Bodies of the Âdi-Buddha, the primordial Buddha representing the class of all awakened events or phenomena.

The Truth Body of the Âdi-Buddha, the "Dharmakâya" is a formless, undifferentiated, nondual field of creativity, out of which all possibilities may arise. But in itself this Body has no motivational factors to allow the Form Bodies to arise. The latter are "spontaneous" emergences. Likewise, the creative field and God are not causally related. God does not create this field, nor is this field defined by what God wants. Since beginningless time, the Truth Body is given, just as the unlimited field of creativity.

The Form Body, in particular the Enjoyment Body ("Sambhogakâya") is an ideal form emerging out of the Truth Body for the sake of compassionate activity. God makes certain definite forms possible by valuating the endless field of creativity using the key of unity & beauty. In Process Philosophy, compassion is subsumed under beauty, for how can ugliness and disorder be compassionate ? The Form Bodies are the two ways the Âdi-Buddha relates to ordinary, apparent events ("samsâra") : the Enjoyment Body is the ideal "form" with which the endless possibilities are given definiteness (God as primordial), while the Emanation Body is the ideal "event" bringing this form down to the plane of physicality and concrete "luring" Divine consciousness (God as consequent).

Many more very subtle correspondences between Process Theology and Buddhist Tantra can be identified, but from what has been pointed out, it follows the core of the Dharmic approach and the heart of Process Philosophy, namely overall non-substantiality gave rise to very similar views on how process and ideal form can be understood. Ideal form rises out of the genuine reality of continuous process (creativity) to allow apparent reality to emerge with characteristic definiteness. Without these ideal forms, formless creativity would never receive shape and not a single actual (apparent) event would happen.

Insofar as apparent reality is grasped as a gigantic interdependent, organic world, both Buddhism and Process Philosophy agree with the best of science. Insofar as the presence of ideal phenomena is recognized by those wishing to bring the Divine in their consciousness, the best religious view is laid bare. These ideal phenomena represent the ultimate truth of non-substantiality and the way forms emerge to give definiteness to this undifferentiated field by way of the ultimate keys by which the universe functions : unity, beauty and compassion.


© Wim van den Dungen
philo@sofiatopia.org l Acknowledgments l SiteMap l Bibliography

Mistakes are due to my own ignorance and not to the Buddhadharma.
May all who encounter the Dharma accumulate compassion & wisdom.
May sentient beings recognize their Buddha-nature and find true peace.




initiated : 29 XI 2008 - last update : 28 XI 2011 - version n°1