A History of God

In the Beginning

Monotheism was actually the original idea of God, but the absence of a singular supreme deity in everyday life lead to the rise of paganism (3).

Reasons for the Divine

The central reason for this development was to allow people to gain access to the unseen, holy, or spiritual realm (4). All religions are connected by this idea of the numinous (5).

When people began to devise their myths and worship their gods, they were not seeking to find a literal explanation for natural phenomena. The symbolic stories, cave paintings and carvings were an attempt to express their wonder and to link this pervasive mystery with their own lives; indeed, poets, artists and musicians are often impelled by a similar desire today (5).

These myths were not literal accounts, but metaphorical. They were designed to describe a reality that was too complex to express in any other way. It represented an ideal to work towards (5).


The Babylonians developed their own mythology (6).

In the Enuma Elish, several Gods emerge from a divine substance (8). Ea overpowers Apsu and Mumuu, but not Tiamat. Marduk slays Tiamat and becomes ruler. Tiamat’s body is split to create the sky and the world of men (7).

Central to the mythology is Bayblon, the holy city which was built in the image of the heavens (6).

The idea of a holy city, where men and women felt that they were closely in touch with sacred power, the source of all being and efficacy, would be important in all three of the monotheistic religions of our own God (9).

Marduk creates humanity out of Kingu almost as an after-thought. This means men share in the divine nature of gods (9).


The myths of Canaan are influenced by those of Babylonia. El is the Canaanite high god. Baal defeats Yam. Baal slays Lotan (10).

Baal has thus halted the slide back to primal formlessness in a truly creative act and is rewarded by a beautiful palace built by the gods in his honour. In very early religion, therefore, creativity was seen as divine: we still use religious language to speak of creative ’inspiration’ which shapes reality anew and brings fresh meaning to the world. (10)

Baal dies and goes to Mot, but is brought back by his lover Anat (11).

This apotheosis of wholeness and harmony, symbolised by the union of the sexes, was celebrated by means of ritual sex in ancient Canaan. By imitating the gods in this way, men and women would share their struggle against sterility and ensure the creativity and fertility of the world (11).

This is the religion of Abraham who travelled from Ur in Mesopotamia to Canaan (11).


There were several waves of Hebrew settlement (12).

Jacob is Abraham’s grandson whose sons emigrate from Egypt after a famine in Canaan. Those descendents come back from Egypt after being liberated from slavery by YHWH, the god of their leader Moses (12).

There are five books in the Pentateuch (12).

There are four distinct authors (12).

J focuses on ordinary time as opposed to prehistory (13) and doesn’t shy away from direct contact with God (16). E however distances God from Abraham through the proxy of angels (16).

Early hebrews like Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were probably pagan. Abraham’s God was probably El the Canaanite high God (14).

In Genesis, Abraham is commanded by YHWH to migrate to Canaan, and promised he will be father of a nation (13). In these days direct contact with the divine occurred regularly (15). For example, Abraham sees YHWH and prepares food for him (15), Jacob sees El in sleep and hears the promise made to Abraham (16), Jacob wrestles with El (17), and Abraham almost sacrifices Issac to please God (18).

In Exodus, God sends plagues to Egypt and leads out the Israelites. At this point YHWH has become a murderous god. This story may have been a mythical accout of peasant revolt in Egypt (19).

The narrative in Exodus established YHWH as the God of Abraham to Moses’ followers. He becomes a distance and terrifying figure, which is different from the times of Abraham (21). This opens up the distance between man and the divine. This is especially prevalent in the Mount Sinai incident (22) where Moses makes a covenant and YHWH becomes the only God that matters, but does not claim to be the only one that exists (23).

Israelites promise to make YHWH their elohim and would be destroyed if they did not (23). The covenant demands absolute loyalty. However, people forgot of the covenant (24) and the cult of YHWH was threatened by the more popular paganism (25). Elijah summons YHWH on Mt. Carmel and all proclaim YHWH to be God (26).

Axial Age

A new era brings forth a merchant class and new ideologies (27).

Hinduism starts when Aryans invade Indus valley. Rig-Veda becomes the enforced text, however, indigenous ideas like karma and yoga resurface later (28). Eventually Gods become less important than religous teachers (29).

It is impossible to generalize about the religion we call Hinduism because it eschews systems and denies that one exclusive interpretation can be adequate (29).

Central to Hinduism are the concepts of Brahman and Atman (30).

Additionally the Buddha starts his own ideology and preached it across India (31).

Instead of relying on a god, therefore, the Buddha urged his disciples to save themselves (32).

He claimed all existence is constant pain called dukkha. One can only be released from dukkha by living compassionately (32). When nirvana is reached, the cycle of pain and suffering ends (33).

The Greeks were interested in rationality (34). Pythagoras stated that the soul was a polluted deity confined to the body and could be liberated by ritual purities. Plato has his eternal forms as demonstrated by the myth of the cave (35).

Because human beings were fallen divinities, the forms of the divine world were within them and could be “touched” by reason (36).

Aristotle focused on the concrete in a departure from Plato’s forms (37). His metaphysics had a profound affect on future theologians (38).


All these ideologies agreed that human life contains a transcendent element, but this was interpreted differently by different cultures (39).

One God


Isaiah’s experience of YHWH can be described as mysterium terribile et fasacinans. YHWH now conveyed the sense that he was the god of everything not just war (41).

He warns the Israelites about their impending doom (43) and YHWH to be sickend by their pagan behavior (44).


Amos is sent by YHWH with another message of impending doom (45).

They has entriely misunderstood the naturl of the covenant, which meant responsibility, not privilege (46).

YHWH emphasized the importance of social justice and compassion (46).

God did not simply intervene in history to glorify Isarael but to secure social justice... he would use the Assyrian army to enforec justice in his own land (46).


YHWH demonstrates his anger with Israel to Hosea (47).

The loss of his wife had been a shattering experience, which gave Hosea an insight into the way YHWH must feel when his people deserted him and went whoring after deities like Baal (48).

Even though Gomer is unfaithful, he sees in himself a desire (48).

He saw his own desire to win Gomer back as a sign that YHWH was willing to give Israel another chance (48).

All the prophets “attributed their own human feelings and experiences to YHWH” and were “creating a god in their own image” (48).


The prophets were horrified by idolatry (48). Paganism was tolerant, but here we begin to see emergence of intolerance (49).

Meanwhile, women’s position in society was being reduced (50) while the masculine YHWH fought to obsolete the other Gods and Goddesses (51).


Deuteronomy was discovered or secretly written by Hilkiah under Josiah. It eagerly promoted YHWH as the only god (52). It was not yet monotheist, but YHWH was the only god that one was allowed to worship (53). Upon reading these new instructions Josiah destroys all other idols (53).

Instead of making god a symobl to challenge our prejudice and force us to contemplate our own shortcomings, it can be used to endores our egotistic hatred and make it absolute (55).

Jeremiah experienced God as pain.

The prophetic experience of the mysterium terribile et fasacinans was at one and the same time rape and seduction (56).

Jerusalem is then conquered by the Babylonians (57).

Ezekiel the prophet was weird. He too was horrified at the pagan rituals (59). Second Isaiah preaches tranquility and claims Yawheh is the only God (60).


Pristly emphasizes the distinction between God and humanity and distanced interactions between the two (62).

While separate we could imitate God, imitatio dei, through the sabbath and temple building (64).

Priestly’s interpretation of Job puts down intellectual inquiry into the nature of God in favor of direct revelation (66).


Wisdom is seen as a symbol of God’s activity in the world (67).

Philo of Alexandria tries to bridge the gap between YHWH and the Greeks (68). He does this by making a distinction between essence and power (69).

Philo solved the problem by making an important distinction between God’s essence, which is entirely incomprehensible, and his activities in the world, which he called his powers or energies (69).

He also deveploed the idea of Logos or God’s master plan which corresponds to Plato’s forms (70).


After the destruction of the temple different sects sprung into existence (71).

The Pharisees were a progressive and charitable sect lead by Shammai the Elder and Rabbi Hillel the Elder. They believed that worship was not dependent on the existence of the temple (72).

Scholarly communities developed literature like the Mishnah and the Talmud (73).

The Mystery of God

The Rabbis developed the idea that God was experienced different by each individual and that no official doctrines could be formulated (74).

God is everywhere, in everyone in a way similar to atman (75).


Practicing spiritual rituals allowed one to be closer to God (76). This was frequently restricted to men (77).

A Light to the Gentiles


In the beginning Jesus is not seen as God, but as a Messiah (80). Jesus was a Jew and potentially Pharisees. His teachings and faith healings were not uncommon for holy men of the time (81).

After his death, his followers decided that Jesus had been divine. This did not happen immediately; as wel shall see, the doctrine that Jesus had been God in human form was not finalized until the fourth century (81).

He himself never claimed to be God (81). He also claimed that his divine powers were available to all who accepted God (82).

St. Paul believed that God was accessible to the goyim and like early Christians did not believe Jesus was divine (83).


Jews and Muslims give Christianity flak for the incarnation of God in Jesus, but they eventually develop similar theologies (83).

This is present in Buddhism in the form of bhakti (83) and bodhisattvas (84) which is comparable to the devotion to Jesus. Hindus had Shiva, Vishnu, and avatars (85).

By the first century CE, there had been a similar thirst for divine immanence in Judaism. The person of Jesus had seemed to answer that need (86).

Christianity Develops

Paul views Jesus as a messiah (86).

Like the bodhisattva, Christ had, in effect become a mediator between humnaity and the Absolute, the difference being that Christ was the only mediator (87)

It is not difficult to see how this could manifest itself as idolatry later (87).

There begins a split between Christianity and Judaism when Christians refuse to follow the Torah. They also attract different demographics (90).

This break was viewed unfavorably by the Roman empire (91). Gaius Suetonius calls Christianity a superstitioi nova et prava (92).

Religion served a ritualistic purpose whereas philosophy served an ideological one. Christianity was not exception (91).

Their religion [Christians] had no coherent “theology” but could more accurately be described as a carefully cultivated attitude of commitment (93).


The need to make Christianity approachable was taken up by pagan converts (94).

Justin of Caesarea believed that Christianity was fundamentally Platonic He saw Christanity as filling the divide between religion and philosophy (94).

The Gnostics developed a more mythological account of Christianity. It developed the Godhead as the incomprehensible reality. They developed a type of mythology not dissimilar to pagan mythology (94).

Marcion developed a dual notion of God, one of the Old Testament who created our world, and one of the New Testament who Jesus embodies. He focuses on the second and encourages to turn away from the world (97).

Tertuccian claimed Marcion’s was closer to Greek philosophy than Christanity and Celsus accused Christians of being to narrow in their view of God (97).

Clement believed in the equality between YHWH and the Greek gods and believed in apatheia. He believed that one should emulate Jesus and also believed Jesus was God (98). This creates problems for Christian theology (99).

Origen emphasized continuity with God over the impassable gulf view (99). He was a platonist and viewed the Bible symbolically (100).

when Origen and Clement were writing and teaching their Christian Platonism there was no official doctrine. Nobody knwe for certain if God had created the world or how a human being had been divine (100).

Plotinus viewed Christanity as objectionable (101) and believed in the One (101).

Popular Christanity

Montanus claimed that he was an avatar (104) and advocated for an extremist and apocalyptic Christianity. It became popular (105).

Emperor Constantine becomes a Christian and it becomes the state religion (106).

Trinity: The Christian God


People begin to question how Jesus could have been God (107)

Arius provides an answer to this. He believed in ex nihilo a controversial doctrine which is non-Platonist (108).

Either Christ, the Word, belonged to the divine realm (which was now the domain of God alone) or he belonged to the fragile created order (108).

Athanasius took the position that Jesus belong to the divine realm and Arius took the opposite position (109).

Arius supported his view with textual evidence (109), but ultimately at Nicaea Athanasius convinces others to make ex nihilo and Jesus’s equality with God or homoousion. This was controversial and Marcellus proposed the terem homoiousion which was not adopted (112).

What is remarkable, however, is the tenacity with which Christians held on to their sense that the divinity of Christ was essential (112)

Cappadocian Fathers

Basil, Gregory of Nyssa, and Gregory of Nazianzus are known as the Cappadocian Fathers. They drew attention to the distinction between kerygma and dogma (114), and ousia and hypostases (115). They also advanced the Trinity doctrine (116).

Thus the Trinity must not be interpreted in a literal manner; it was not an abstruse “theory” but the result of theoria, contemplation (118).


He originally did not believe in the Incarnation (119), but is converted during a religious experience to this perspective (120). He develops pyschological Trinitarianism (121).

He also puts forth the idea of Original Sin (123) and other harsh views like the denigration of sexuality and a disdain for women (124).

Denys the Areopagite

Four treatises that were supposedly written by Denys were actually by an anonymous author we refer to as Pseudo-Denys (125).

He saw paradox as an important way of approaching God. He saw theurgy in the form of reading scripture as a way to go from kerygma to dogma (127).

Alternative Views

Maximus developed a more Buddhist view of the divinity (129) seeing Jesus more like Gautama (130).

Anselm argued that Jesus died for our sins (130).

Unity: The God of Islam


Muhammad is part of the Quraysh tribe which went from living in harsh conditions, tribal values, and collective ideology to being wealthy merchants, capitalist values, and individualistic ideology (132).

Muhammad was convinced that unless the Quraysh learned to put another transcendent value at the center of their lives and overcome their eogtism and greed, his tribe would tear itself apart morally and politically in internecine strife (133).

The original tribe values of murywah was necessarily brutal, egalitarian, and anti-capitalist was being replaced. Islam takes some of these values and reintroduces them (134).

Muhammad was convinced that al-Lah, the ancient Arabic high-god was equivalent to YHWH (135). He has his first revelation on Mt. Hira where an angel appears and commands him to “Recite!” (137). He also has a vision of Gabriel and is at this point terrified (138).


The Koran is the result of Muhammad’s continuous and piecemeal revelation from God. He found this difficult, like other prophets, and was sometimes in a trance-like state (139).

The Koran serves not so much as new information, but as a reminder of one’s duty to God (142). The Quraysh reacted unfavorably towards these duties such as the salat which they found demeaning (142).

The reaction of the Quraysh showed that Muhammad had diagnosed their spirit with unerring accuracy (142).

The Koran also served a moral function (142).

Muhammad preached an ethic that we might call socialist as a consequence of his worship of the one God (143).

Theological speculation like the Christian Trinity and Incarnation are called zanna and are discouraged (143). Al-Lah is more impersonal than YHWH (143). The Koran encourages intelligence and curiosity which may be why Arabs have a history of discoveries in the natural sciences (143).

The Koran is a book written for Arabic and no other language can convey it’s message. It is meant to be read aloud and give a sense of the divine (144).

Many were converted on the spot, believing that God alone could account for the extraordinary beauty of the language (145).

The Koran was an integral part of the success of Islam as a religion (146).


When Muhammad outlaws paganism, he loses almsot all his supporters and is persecuted (147).

He attempts to rectify this situation with the Satanic Verses which attempt to bring the banat al-Lah into the divine sphere. He later recants this explaining that Gabriel reveals this doctrine to be the influence of the devil. Shirk or paganism becomes the greatest sin of Islam (147).

He moves to Medina and adopts many of the traditions of Judaism. There certainly disagreements between the Jews of Medina and Muhammad. The Jews believed that the age of the prophets were over and ridiculed Muhammad for his lack of scriptural knowledge. There were also some underlying political motivations to this animosity (153). He eventually anounces qibla, the breaking off of Islam from all other religious systems (155).

Muhammad has often been presented as a warlord, who imposed Islam on a reluctant world by force of arms. The reality was quite different. Muhammad was fighting for his life, was evolving a theology of the just war in the Koran with which most Christians would agree, and never forced anybody to convert to his religion (156).


He adopts the pilgrimage called hajj from the original pagan traditions (156). Violence is forbidden there (157).

Muhammad himself is very progressive-minded with regard to equality of the sexes (158).

Unfortunately, as in Christianity, the religion was later hijacked by the men, who interpreted texts in a way that was negative for Muslim women (158).

Splits in Islam

After Muhammad’s death, a political dispute breaks Islam into two different groups. The Shiah who believe Ali is the Imam and develop and ideology concerning that, and the Sunnis (158).

The ummah has sacramental importance, as a “sign” that God has blessed this endeavor to redeem humanity from oppression and injustice; its political health holds much the same place in a Muslim’s spirituality as a particular theological optioin in the life of a Christian (159).

Shariah law develops which suggests that all should replicate Muhammad’s actions as close as possible to be closer to God (160). The Traditionalist group adopts this immitation ideology (166).

The Shiah develop the notion that only descendents of Muhammad possessed ilm. Eventually, Ali becomes an avatar (162).

The Shiah, however, gradually evolved ideas that seemed even closer to Christian Incarnation (162).

The Mutazilis are Shiah who attempt to apply rational methods to the Koran (163). They adopt a centrist ideology and defend free-will (164). Traditionalists adopt a predestination theology and emphasize the distinction between God’s essence and activities (164).

Hanbul, a Traditionalist, escapes the persecution of Mamum, a Mutazili. He argues against the entire rational method and adopts a position best described as bil irayf—without asking how (165).

Al-Ashari develops a compromise position between the two schools. He is a former Mutazili who uses logic to support the claimsof Hanbul.

Al-Ashari was trying to find a middle course between deliberate obscurantism and extreme rationalism (166).

He begins the tradition of Kalam or the Muslim equivalent of theology (167).

Al-Baqillani is a major theologian who believed that God could be proven by rational means and developed the “atomism” theory (167).

The God of the Philosophers


The Falsafahs believed in rationality, reason, and were influenced by the Greeks. They were involved in natural science, but eventually also Greek metaphysics. There was an attempt to marry the Greek God and al-Lah (170).

Instead of seeing God as a mystery, the Faylasufs believed that he was reason itself (171).

They chose the scientific perspective instead of the historic mythological account as the Asharis had done previous (172).

Al-Kindi is a Mutazili who applies the rational method to the Koran (173). He disagrees with Aristotle on some points like ex nihilo (174).

Al-Razi rejects Aristotle and parts of the Koran. He believes that science and religion are incompatible (174).

Al-Farabi is the founder of the Falsafah tradition. He considers Muhammad to be Aristotle’s ideal ruler as expressed in The Republic. He stayed quite true to Aristotle’s philosophy and believed in emmanation (175).

There were obvious differences from the Koranic vision of reality, but al-Farabi saw philosophy as a superior way of understanding truths which the prophets had expressed in a poetic, metaphorical way, in order to appeal to the people (176).

Emmanation was the view which was accepted by the Falsafah’s and of mystics as an alternative to ex nihilo (176).


The Ismailis are also known as the Seveners and believe in a different line of succession of Imams than the Twelvers (176). The Nestorians believe in Jesus similar to how the Shias believe in the Imam (177).

Shiis had come to believe that their Imams embodied God’s presence on earth in some mysterious way (177).

The Ismailis oppose Falsafah rationalist and used science as a means to develop the imagination (178).

Al-Sijistan advocates for speaking of God in double negative terms to convey the mystery of God (180).

Jewish and Islamic Philosophy

Ibn-Sina was a child prodigy who attempted to Islamize neoplatonism (181).

Ibn Sina saw it as a religious duty for thos who had the intellectual ability to discover God for themselves in this way to do so, because reason could refine the conception of God and free is of superstition and anthropomorphism (182).

He uses emanation to explain prophecy (183).

Ibn-Joseph attempts to understand God using reason even if it proved impossible (185).

Ibn-Gabriel rejects ex nihilo and modifies the emmanation perspective (186).

Bahya believed that the only people who worshipped God poreply were prophets and philosophers (186).

Al-Ghazzah is a major figure because of his dissatisfaction with the rational proofs of God (187). He mastered Falsafah thought and proclaimed the science could not connection with God. He has a breakdown because he cannot be certain in God through rational means (188). He realizes that only mystical revelation can prove God’s existence (189).

Some people possess a power that is higher than reason, however, which al-Ghazzali calls “the prophetic spirit.” People who lack this faculty should not deny that it exists simply because they have no expierence of it (189).

Halen believes that faith itself is not invalid, but just the logical proofs involving God. He claims that religious knowledge was possible for Jews alone as long as they observed mitzvot (191).

Ibn-Rushd sought to bring back Falsafah thought after Al-Ghazzah’s attacks (192).

Ibn Rushd believed that the acceptance of certain truths was essential to salvation (193)

Thus he constructs his creed of doctrines (193).

Maimon believed that the Falsafah road would lead to religious knowledg (194). He insisted though that God remained inaccessible even after proving his existence (195).

Christian Philosophy

The soldiers involved in the Crusades want to avenge Jesus’s death (197).

Christians in Europe regarded Jews and Muslimsas the enemies of God (197)

Erigena believes that religion and faith are compatible and brings back some of Denys the Areopagite’s ideas (198).

The East and West Christian churches separate (199) because of the filioque clause.

It is, therefore, poignant and ironic that Western Christians should have begun to get down to Falsafah at the precise moment when Greeks and Muslims were starting to lose faith in it (201).

Anselm believes that God could be proved rationally devises his eponymous ontological argument (202).

Abelard is also rational in his philosophy, but is condemned for this by Bernard (203).

Bernard was right to far a rationalism that attempted to explain the mystery of God and threatened to dilute the religious sense of awe and wonder, but unbridled subjectivity that fails to examine its prejudices critically can lead to the worst excesses of religion (204).

Aquinas tries to synthesize Austine and the newly available Greek philosophy (204). This attempt is put forth in the Summa Theologiae (205).

Bonaventure believed in rationality, but not at the expensive of spirituality (207).

The God of the Mystics

Mystical Experiences

All mystics stress the need for intelligence and mental stability (213).

Mystical experiences can be dangerous if one is not careful. This is explemplified in the Study of the Chariot (213). The unseen are not objective, only means by which religious experience is achieved (214).

Shius Qomah describes Ezekiel’s vision of God. He describes God’s dimensions which are inconceivable. Even describing God in such a way is seen as blasphemous (215).

Sefer Yezirah gives a symbolic account of God’s creation of the world by transforming language itself (216).

Mystical experiences like the theme of ascent are common. Muhammad’s experiences an ascent through heaven on a ladder (217). Augustine’s ascends heaven imagining Greek imagery present (217).

Pope Gregory disagreed with Augustus that the priviledged could see God in life. He believed God remote and painful to experience (219).

The path to God was beset with guilt, tears and exhaustion (220)


Hesychia turns away from symbolism and says that only God’s energies could be experienced, not his esse (220). Evagrius Pontus will have nothing to do with symbolism, but only the immediate experience of divine even if we know nothing of God himself (221).

Diodichius teaches a meditation-like method to get a sense of God (221).

John of Damasus, Theodore, and Nicephoras all defend symbolic depictions of Christ (223).

Instead of instructing the faithful in the dogmas of the Church and helping them to form lucid ideas about their faith, the icons held them in a sense of mystery (223).

Symeon believes that anyone can achieve a mystical experience of God as he himself had (224).

God was known and unknown, near and far (224).

Islamic Mysticism

The Sufis attempted to return to a simpler, ascetic life. Some sects were beginning to see Islam as the only true religion, but the Sufis stayed true to the original Koranic conception (225).

The drunken Sufis use different techniques, some which are bizarre, to know God. Bistami is the first drunken Sufi (226).

He believed that he should strive to please al-Lah as he would a woman in a human love affair, sacrificing his own needs and desires so as to become one with the Beloved (226).

The sober Sufis were less extravagant. Al-Junayd af Baghdad believed that Bistami was dangerous for this type of mysticism because it could yield a simplistic view of God (228).

Al-Hallaj was Junayd’s pupil and was even more extreme. He shouted the blasphemous “al-Haqq” to demonstrate his unity with God. He was put to death for it (228).

Suhrawardi sought to complete ibn-Sina’s work of combining Greek and Islamic thought (230).

Suhrawardi’s immensly complex system was an attempt to link all the religious insights of the world into a spiritual religion (230).

He believed that both philosophy and mysticism were necessary facets of religion (331).

Suhrawardi insisted that the visions of mystics and the symbols of scripture—such as Heaven, Hell and the Last Judgement—were as real as the phenomena we experience in this world, but not in the same way (233).

Reason alone was insufficient to know God. Imagination, mysticism, and creativity are all necessary (234).

Al-Arabi agreed that rationality alone wouldn’t cut it. This occurred to him in an epiphany at Kabah (234). His love of Nizam became a proxy for God as Beatrice did for Dante in The Divine Comedy (235).

Ibn al-Arabi did noteve that the God he knew had an objective experience (236).

Ibn al-Arabi is associated with Khidr (236) who becomes important to Ithe smailis (237). His doctrines were imaginative and highly tolerant I(238).

Rumi founds the Mawlawiyyah order and popularizes Sufi mysticism similar to al-Arabi in his Masnawi poem (240).

The Kabbalists attempted to give a mystical account of the God of Judaism through imagination (244).

Ensof means “without end” meaning that God is unknowable (244). Ensof manifests itself in different forms called Sefiroth (245). The influential Kabbalist text being The Zohar (247).

Abulafia focused on the practicalities of getting a sense of God (251).

One of his methods was the Hokhmah ha-Tseruf, which took the form of a meditation of the Name of God (251).

Christian Mysticism

Eckhart believes that paradox and metaphor are the ways to achieve a sense of God (253).

God could only be known by mystical experience (253).

He sought to remove anthropomorphic characterizations of God (254).

Palamas argued that any Christian could have direct contact with God (254). Barlaam challenges this assertion (254). No human could see God, only his indirect influence (255).

A God for Reformers

The Turks conquer the empire of Byzantine and Muslims are removed from Spain (258).

Shia Reform

Ibn Taymiyah extends and modernizes Shariah law. He attacks the Kalam and Falsafah traditions and instead focuses on getting back to the Koran (258). His disiple Al Jawzajah advocates for a literal interpretation of scripture and denounces the mysticism of the Sufis (259).

The Safarids are a new type of Twelver Shiaism. This group increases tensions between the Sunni and Shiah sects of Islam (259). This is seen in Shah Ismail who saw himself as an Imam and wanted to wipe of the Sunnis. Not all Shia took this attitude however (260).

Mir Damad founds the Shia Falsafah tradition. Mulla Sadra advocates for this new ideology. He emphasizes imitatio dei (261).

Union with God was not reserved for the next world. Like some of the kesychasts, Mulla Sadra believed that it could be realized in this life by meangs of knowledge (262).

Akbar was a Moghul emperor who was tolerant of all religions and was extremely cooperative (263). Sirihindi was his main opposition (264).

Christian Reform

Christianity becomes intolerant of both Judaism and Islam (264).

People longed for a more direct experience of God (265).

The Safed Kabbalists become prominent as a result (266).

Luria develops an astonishing new idea regarding God (266). He attempts to answer why there exists evil if God is all good. He introduces some new Kabbalist ideas like tsim tzun the vacated region in En Sof (267) and Adam Radmon the primoridal man (268).

After much unhappiness during the Dark Ages, Christians develop a dark theologyu (272).

There had been an upsurge of mysticism in Europe during the fourteenth century, as we have seen, and the people were beginning to appreciate that reason was inadequate to explain the mystery they called “God” (272).

Christianity became more focused on the human Jesus (272). This can be found in Bridget of Sweden, Julian of Norwich, and the work of Matthias Grunewald (273).

Valla argues that metaphysics and dogma are futile (273) and Petrarch suggests that theology is just poetry regarding God (274).

Nicholas of Cusa believed that the new sciences could solidfy our belief in God. He also developed the idea of the “coincidence of opposites” (274).

During this hideous persecution, thousands of men and women were cruelly tortured until they confessed to astonishing crimes (275).

The Summa Desiderates marked the start of anti-semitism, sexual fear, and the fear of Satan (275).

The witch craze also represented an unconscious but compulsive revolt against a repressive religion and an apparently inexorable God (275).

Protestantism and Calvinism

Martin Luther believed that a Christian’s life was a battle against Satan (275). The rise of Luther’s ideas is likely due to a new individualism and nationalism rather than Church corruption (276).

He develops the Theology of the Cross (277).

Where Luria had taught his Kabbalists that God could only be found in joy and tranquility, Luther claimed that “God can be found only in suffering and the Cross” (277).

He maintained that faith should be our approach to God, not logical proof (278).

Luther, however, was a rabid anti-Semite, a misogynist, was convulsed with a loathing and horror of sexuality and believed that all rebellious peasants should be killed (279).

John Calvin develops a highly influential theology that even affects secular thought (279). He wasn’t interested in abstruse theological dogma, but instead on the social, political, and economic affects of religion. He wants to return to a more simple scriptural-based piety (280).

The predestination idea is only made important after his death to distinguish Calvinism from Lutherans and Catholics. The Calvinists introduced logical consistency to the Bible and take it quite literally.

Once the Bible begins to be interpreted literally instead of symbolically, the idea of its God becomes impossible (283).


Ignitius warns against extreme emotions and false mysticism (284).

Relgion had increasingly become tarnished with a history of intolerance and killing. There was too many different interpretations and choices of theology (286). Alternative theology, but not full-blown atheism were beginning to emerge. Religion was ubiquitous for that to occur yet (287).

Mersene proclaims many like Carrin and Bruno non-believers even though they both did believe in God, just not his conception of Him (287).

Like “the witch”, “the atheist” was the projection of a buried anxiety (288).

This anxiety regarding atheism produces more intolerance like the Copernicus and Galileo affairs (289).

Lessius believes that God can deduced from science (291) and was simply just another object of scientific inquiry (291). This perception would soon change (291).


The new West was largely independent of agriculture. This change in subsistence affected the perception of God (294). There was a new spirit of progress in Society (295). The sciences broke off from relgious study and became a separate disipline (296).

There was new optimism about humanity as control over the natural world, which had once held mankind in thrall, appeared to advance in leaps and bounds (296).

Scientific Thinkers

Pascal was a brilliant child prodigy. He had a profound mystical experience (297). This convinced him that there was no rational way to prove God’s existence (298).

Pascal was the first person to concede that, in this brave new world, belief in God coudl only be a matter of personal choice. In this, he was the first modern (298).

He develops his famous idea of the wager (299).

Descartes believed that reason alone could yield God (299). He reworks Anselm’s Ontological Proof with his cogito, ergo sum in Discourse on Method (300).

Mystery had become muddle, and the God whom previous rationalists had been careful to separate from all other phenomena had now been contained within a human system of thought (302).

Newton thought the natural world could be explained using God (302) and was convinced of God’s existence and presence in the natural world (303). He watned to purge mysticism from Christianity (206).

Rational Religion

Tardal and Tolud too wanted to get back to a rational religion without mystery (206).

Arnold and Moskein discover that the current orthodox teachings were not strictly in accordance with those of the primitive Church (306).

Reimarus attempts a biography of Jesus as a historical figure (307).

We should not revere Jesus as God, therefore, but as the teacher of a “remarkable, simple, exalted and practical religion.” (307)

Milton is a poet who is horrified by the Church’s intolerance (308). He writes Paradise Lost (308).

The new religion of reason would be known as Deism (310).

New Perspectives

Voltaire rejects the orthodox view of an angry God. This general idea develops into Deism (310).

Spinoza becomes discontented with the Toarh. He develops extremely unorthodox views of religion and is exiled from the Jewish community (311). His ideas develop into pantheism (313).

Mendelsohn establishes God on rational grounds (313).

Mendelsohn saw life without God as meaningless, but this was not a passionate faith: he was quite content with the knowledge of God attainable by reason (313).

Kant was dissatisfied with the logical proofs of God. He was not an atheist however (215).

Wesley preached a new form of religion which was heart, not head based (216). Zizerdorf also argued for this heart-based faith and was uninterested in theological matters like the Trinity (217).

A highly neurotic woman, who confessed to a loathing of the very idea of sex, suffered from an eating disorder and indulged in unhealthy masochistic acts to prove he “love” for the Sacred Heart, Marguerite-Marie shows how a religion of the heart alone can go awry (317).

The new religions of the heart were similar to rationalism in a few ways: modern, antiestablishment, humane, and philanthropic (318).

In England extremist Christians like the Quakers, Levelers and Ranters arrive almost at pantheism (319). The Ranters were especially radical as they broke Christian taboo and didn’t believe in orthodox doctrine (320).

William Franklin and John Robbins proclaim themselves as God (321).

Bauthumely rejects the Trinity (321) and develops the notion of the holiness of sin (322).

In the Americas there is a new religious revival charactersized by violent new religious fervor. This is the Great Awakening with figures like George Whitfield and Jonathan Edwards (323).


Zewi held himself to be a new Jewish messiah. He had what was would classify as manic-depression (326). His cult had a massive following, but eventually he converts to Islam under duress. This is hugely embarassing for his followers and the Jewish community (328).

Cardgo advocates for a return to a fatih based in the Bible. He deveploed dual notions of God, one for commoners and one for the prophets (330).

Frank thought he was God incarnate and preached a dark theology and nihilistic creed (332). Frankism lost most of its radical beliefs after his death (333).

Eliezer is a Polish-born faith healer who eventually proclaims himself to be a new messiah. Known as Besht in later life, he taught that God was present in every action of life (334).

This sense of God’s presence had brought them to a temulous, ecstatic joy (335).

This new Hasidism spread rapidly (335). Habad is created as a new form of Hasidism which combines both philosophy and spirituality (337).

Habad shared the Enlightenment confidence in the ability of the human mind to reach God but did so through the time-honored method of paradox and mystical concentration (339).


Walli-Ullah is an Indian who attempts to reconcile the Sunni and Shiah split (340). Wahhab attempts to restore Islam to its original ideas and is hostile to mysticism (340).

They attacked the oppression of the poor, indifference to the plight of widows and orphans, immorality and idolatry (341).

Beginnings of Atheism

Meslier is a priest who eventually becomes an atheist. This is completely new and radical. Hume takes empiricism to its logical conclusion and puts an end to arguments for God by the Universe’s design (341).

Diderot also questions and refutes God (343).

Diderot had taken Spinoza one step further. Instead of saying that there was no God but nature, Diderot had claimed that there was only nature and no God at all (343).

Holbach is a writes The System of Nature which rejects God from the system of nature (343) and Laplace removes him from physics (345).

It was not long before other scientists and philosophers triumphantly declared that God was dead (345).

The Death of God?


Scientists pushed forward without the notioin of God while artists, writers, and philosophers were wary of this new rationalism (346).

Writers like Keats and Wordsworth write regarding religion (347) and Blake comes to regard God as dead (349).

Hegel develops a Kabbalah-like philosophy and expresses contempt at the Jewish God of History, even though he had an inaccurate conception of it (352). Advocated for reason over imagination (353).

Schopenhauer opposes Hegel and declares there is not God, only the will to live (353).

Kierkegaard criticises religions for allowing the creeds and doctrines to become like idols (354).

Feuerbach and Comte both welcome the decline of God. Marx considers God irrelevant in the modern age (354).

Similarly, the literal understanding of God and scripture made the faith of many Christians vulnerable to the scientific discoveries of the period (355).

Nietzsche believed that new science made God very difficult to accept.

Nietzsche proclaimed the birth of the Superman who would replace God (356)

Writers like Tennyson and Dystoyevsky also reject the idea of God (358).

Modernizing Islam

Colonization causes splits within Muslim communites between those who have accepted Western ideals and those who have not (360). Ataturk forces Westernization and secularism on to Turkey (361). This understandably angers Muslims (362).

Al-Afghani is an activist is an exponent for the Westernization of Islam. Abduh focused more specifically on education in Egypt (363).

The Shariah Law must be reformed to enable Msulims to get the intellectual freedom they required (364).

Iqbal attemts reform in India (364). He is interested in an individualist and progressive ideology based in empricism (335).

Islam has been humiliated by Western colonization (366).

Now, however, something seemed to have gone radically wrong with Muslim history, and this inevitably affected the perception of God (366).

Modernizing Judaism

Formstecha writes Relgion of the Spirit as a Heglian intrepretation of Jewish scripture (368). Krochmal writes Guide for the Perplexed of Our Time which argues that the achievements of the Jews are not due to God (369).

Antisemitism spreads especially in Russian and Eastern Europe (370).

Cohen denies the external God (370).

God was simply an idea formed by the human mind, a symbol of the ethical ideal (370).

Rozenweig offers a different conception of God. He is one of the first existentialists (370). He says that one meets the God through the symbolic actions of the mitzvah (371).

Zionism is a secular ideology that develops, but is still influenced by Judaism (372). Kook is a Zionist with more traditional Kabbalist ideology (374).

This type of spirituality could be dangerous. The devotion to the Holy Land would give birth to the idolatry of Jewish fundamentalism in our own day (375).

The Holocaust occurs and causes a questioning of God (376).

There is a story that one day in Auschwitz, a group of Jews put God on trial. They charged him with cruelty and betrayal. Like Job, they found no consolation in the usual answers to the problem of evil and suffering in the midst of this current obscenity. They could find no excuse for God, no extenuating circumstances, so they found him guilty and, presumably, worthy of death. The Rabbi pronounced the verdict. Then he looked up and said that the trial was over: it was time for the evening prayer (376).

Does God Have a Future?

Western Rejection

For 4000 years it has constantly adapted to meet the demands of the present, but in our own century, more and more people have found that it no longer works for them, and when religious ideas cease to be effective they fade away (377).

Sartre rejects God as he limits personal freedom. Merleau-Ponty suggests that God negates one’s sense of wonder and Camus believes that the demise of God will make mankind’s bond stronger (378).

Positivists question if God has any meaning now whatsoever (378).

Like Freud, the Postivists believed that relgious belief represented an immaturity which science would overcome (379).

Altizer believed that we had been freed from the slavery of God (380).

Rubenstein says that the old Judaic God of History died during the Holocaust. He preferred a mystical God (381). Hans Jonas suggests that the omnipotence of God is no longer viable (381).

Barth suggests that God no longer exists in nature, but only in the Bible (382).

Tillich suggests that the personal God is gone, but God is still necessary for humanity (382). This God is higher than the old personal God (383).

Whitehead’s idea of God is that he is bound to the world. This influences William’s Process theology (384).

Islam’s Reaction

Azad says that Islam too should seek new modern idea of God (385). Shariati writes a book called Hajj, but is persectued for his ideas (386).

Jewish Reaction

Buber comes up with the idea of the I-It and I-Thou realm (386). Heschel looks to the spirit of the Rabbis and the Talmud. He thought the mitzvot would reinstate God in people’s lives.

Heidegger develops idea similar to those of the Neoplatonists (388).

Bloch regards God as natural to humanity. Horkheimer regards God’s actual existence as unimportant, but that God’s purpose is to solidify our belief in ethics (389).


Fundamentalism as literal interpertation of scripture and intolerance has been found in all religions and is dangerous (390).

This type of belligerent righteousness has been a constant temptation to monotheists throughout the long history of God. It must be rejected as inauthentic (391).