What does it mean to “know” God?
There’s a nice passage that we like to quote and send to people and post on our Facebook pages: “Be still, and know that I am God” (Psa 46:10 NIV)
But perhaps you’re like me and you’ve struggled with the concept of “knowing” God. Perhaps you were told that you ought to know God, but when you look around, you can’t see him, you can’t feel him, you can’t hear his voice; you can’t see any evidence of his existence.
That was pretty much my experience, so I embarked on a journey where I resolved that I would either end up being an atheist or I would find God and some days I don’t know whether I’m going mad or whether I’m busy attaining enlightenment and perhaps by the end of this article you’ll think I’m mad too. But I think perhaps it’s a little bit of both, hopefully more of the latter, but at this point I can relate a lot with something that the Sufi Mystic, Rumi said: “I looked in temples, churches and mosques, but I found the divine within my heart.”
I can relate with this because the more I’ve searched and read and pondered these things – all the while searching for the divine – the more I’ve turned inwards and discovered that the divine has been in me all along.
The concept of the divine indwelling isn’t foreign to Christian thought; Jesus himself said that “The kingdom of God is within you” (Luk 17:21 NIV) and Paul often referred to people, not buildings, as being the temple of God, but the way I always understood it in a Christian context is that God is something other than me, a being who somehow lives in me, but is still separate from me, but there’s more to it. In our vocabulary, the word “know” demands that there be a subject and an object – the knower and the known, in this case me, the “knower” and God, the “known”, but what if knowing in it’s truest sense means that any supposed boundary between the so-called knower and the known disappears and there is only the knowing?
This might be hard to grasp, so a good image to use here would be that of sex. As a father of two sons, I do worry about my sons growing up in a world where sex has become an object that can easily be attained via the click of a button and I’m not sitting on a high horse here, telling you not to watch porn; I’ve watched a truckload of porn in my life and I can tell you from my experience that when “I”, the subject begin to view “you” as the object, my perception of healthy sexuality becomes warped, because during sexual intercourse in it’s healthiest form, any supposed boundary between subject and object is supposed to disappear – the two become one; there is no longer an ego that separates, dominates or tries to possess the other as an object; we are completely naked and vulnerable – we “know” each other.
And so it is with God – the moment God becomes an object to be grasped, God ceases to be God. True union implies that there is no boundary between subject and object.