The early Greek Philosopher Democritus said,
“The name of Zeus is a symbol and image in sound of the creative reality.”
Could it be that “God,” as well as Allah, Brahma, Adonai/Yahweh, Jesus, Buddha, Goddess, Kali, Shiva, Tao and all the rest are not only symbols of something humans long for, but are “images in sound” that soothe us and assure us there is a “creative reality?”
For some of us the sound of “Nature”–the word itself and the meaning of the word– in its myriad ways, from waterfalls to ocean, from the call of a wolf or hawk, from the wind in the trees, is the assurance, the constant reminder, that there is a universal creativity that interrelates all things, eternal evolution, at each moment making, shaping, animating it all in a wonderful reality of the Cosmos.
As Confucius taught, names should reflect the reality of what they do. A “leader” should really lead, a “teacher” should really teach, a “builder” should build, etc. So, whatever name we give to the universal creativity ought to reflect, symbolize and image that creative reality. The sound of that name should evoke wider thought–sound the heights and depths of our knowledge and experience. Not that we could ever fully sound those ever-expanding edges.
If a particular chosen name of something called “God” makes that connection, sounds the universe and offers the “image in sound” that breathes life into the creative reality, perhaps it is useful, meaningful, even “good.” But, as another Greek, Thales, reasoned, maybe the fundamental element is water and we no longer have to divide the world into names like River, Ocean, Lake, Pond, Drop.
“Zeus” is an interesting name from the ancient world, just as good as the rest. Each a provocative image of us illumined on the screen of the universe. At some point (and that point may be in the present moment) we can choose to close the laptop of our imaginations and pay more attention to the image in sound in the sounds all around us. Instead of populating Nature with gods and goddesses, putting faces on the creative reality, putting words in the mouth of the universe to hear our own echo, wouldn’t we do better to pause and listen more? And if that sound is primarily silence, would that be a more potent and creative symbol to respect and reverence?
Religions not only create the gods and give them names but give them words upon words that become sacred scriptures to endlessly repeat. Are we not better than that? Can we not see that these images, these sounds, are what we want reality to be and are obstacles to creativity? With a nod to wise Democritus, let’s not be afraid to hear more and speak less. As he once said, “Speak true, not much.”