Below is a sample article from the Ancient Rosae Crucis, ARC newsletter that is offered free of charge to members of ARC on a quarterly basis.
How do we know that God exists? And if we accept that God exists, then how do we define God?
The acceptance of God is a requisite to the mystic's path by the very definition of mysticism. That is, the belief that communion with God can be achieved through love and contemplation without the medium of reason. That God exists is the beginning point for the Mystic.
Reason on the other hand seeks to define God, and by doing so, definitions themselves set limitations to God. If God is abstract and unknowable to the reasoning mind, then reason itself must show that the intellect cannot know God as being exactly this or that. This is why the mystic's communion with God is an individual matter, realized in a personal way through the heart and is free from the interference of another person or their definitions.
However, since the beginning of time, humans have tried to define God. One of the monographs states that if God did not exist, we would invent God. We, humans, cannot tolerate too much emptiness or withstand the despair of too much "nothingness." Yet, "something" is felt within us, and we want to arrive at some understanding that is most compatible to our intuitive realization of God or that is compatible, at the very least, to our world view of life. The attempt to define and to understand that feeling or acceptance within us that there is something Supreme or Godly is what makes the human being unique.
Perhaps I don't have enough information, but I do not believe my cat contemplates the reality of a Supreme Being or questions his relationship to the great Cosmic scheme of things. My cat may get upset over an empty food bowl, but I doubt he experiences a great deal of anguish over the meaning and value of life. It is evident, however, that he does responds to love, affection and companionship. He gives. He asks.
We, however, have a long history behind us that indicates our desire to ascribe meaning, and it illustrates the development and evolution of our attempt to define, explain and to fill desolation with love and understanding. We want to come to some kind of peaceful arrangement with life and eternity. Hence, we have philosophies and religions.
Early in the Neophyte studies, there are several monographs that outline the different approaches to the definition of God, from pluralism, to monotheism, deism, pantheism etc. They are offered as examples of different approaches and how different cultures and times in history created definitions and came to terms with their experiences and hopes. They are not dictates to the Rosicrucian to accept one or the other.
The reason being is that one of the purposes of the Rosicrucian process is that the student develops their own personal ontology. We strive for our mystical union with God. We develop our intuition and strengthen our attunement process so that we may be receptive to spiritual or mystical revelations. We want to say, with confidence, "The God of my Heart, the God of my Realization." We do not say, "To the God your Heart or your Realization." To the Rosicrucian, it is a personal matter, and being a personal matter, we respect the opinions and devotions of others.
The delicacy of defining God by human standards is well stated by homas Hudson, and following is an extract from one of the Concurrences that quotes him:
"I submit that there can be no higher conception of divine knowledge-nay that there can exist no higher wisdom, than that which is indicated in the word `omniscience'; that there can be no broader conception of the all-pervasiveness of that wisdom and that power than is implied in the word `omnipresence'; and, finally, that the human mind can conceive of no quality or attribute of the divine personality of greater promise and potency than that implied in the words `infinite and universal love.' Moreover, I submit that this is a conception of immanence without pantheism and personality without anthropomorphism. It does not presume either to `limit' or `measure' the powers and attributes of God by setting up those of man as a standard of measurement."
Indeed, the philosophies of others, present or past, can be guidelines for us. An entire Degree is devoted to the very subject of Ancient Philosophers so that we see a continuity and stream of development in the history of human thought that developed into philosophies as we know today.
Religions also developed along this stream. Whether a philosophy or a religion, nonetheless, it is humanity's quest to understand an ultimate reality, God or simply "What's it all about." However, insofar as they are human attempts to understand, specific dogmas can be limited to the needs of a certain society, culture and perhaps even their economic realities.
However, it becomes important for us to appreciate different points of view; to respect that religions base their beliefs on Divine revelations transmitted to a holy person or sacred writer, and to that religion their belief system is not purely of a cognitive nature. We might even accept a theological system for ourselves, if we are personally attuned to it, and it is compatible to our personal beliefs. Or, we might choose to accept a philosophical system of a non-religious nature. However, to demand that another person accept our concept, on whatever pain of punishment from the subtle to the harsh, is to lose sight of the fact that they are after all, our attempt and desire to understand.
It is also unfair to criticize another's personal belief because it is not our own. A religion is a belief system that contains certain fundamental premises. These premises are a matter of faith and conviction to some, a matter of theoretic debate to others and unacceptable to someone else. For a person to say, "That premise is incorrect," is questionable in its own correctness as well. However, to say, "I personally cannot accept that premise," is fine. The person you're talking with may not accept your premises either.
The fact that history shows a great deal of abuse in the name of a religion is evident. However, when it comes down to it, these abuses were and are very much economic, secular applications of a religion for gainful control. Sadly, ignorance and emotional fanaticism are used for fuel, but the real thinking behind the turmoils is quite pragmatic. If we didn't have a religion as an excuse for war, we would invent another excuse. A religion simply becomes a convenient flag to wave, and people willingly wave it to obscure the real reason hidden behind their back and rhetoric.
This type of misapplication and abuse is no more flattering than the counter fundamentalism that condemns all religious systems and their fundamental premises as the cause of all war or as philosophically sophomoric. It's easy to use history as an excuse, deleting the paragraph that human beings fight wars without or without a religious cause, and then to wave their own flag of philosophic "truth."
The misapplications of any system are a history of one group of humanity seeking power over another. This is an ongoing problem in human relationships, whether between countries or between individuals, and it continues to be the heaviest sight in the eyes of those who truly seek peace on earth and good will to all.
In its purest sense, the history of religions or philosophies is a history of humanity seeking to understand God. What we believe or don't believe does not alter the truth about God, it is simply the best way an individual or group comes to understand. Our ideas and imaginings of God may evolve and change with each generation based on different needs and everchanging attitudes. However, to say that our evolving ideas are the evolution of God is another matter. For example, to say that God has evolved over the centuries from an angry, bearded man, eight foot, three inches tall, sitting on a cloudy throne into a contempory forest of all-seeing female trees may indicate an unusual stroke of changing ideas, but does not necessarily prove that God evolves.
In the same way, human beings did not create a round world. We tried to keep it flat in our concepts for a long time, but when people failed to fall off the edge of the world, we had to accept the truth that existed from the beginning: the world is spherical.
Such is the quest to discover God. No matter how hard we try to define this unknowable abstraction, the mystic's quest in the end is to accept and commune with God as He was in the beginning and shall be in the end. The truth remains the truth, and our goal is to become more and more receptive to the intuitive revelations, of whatever truth there is, as possible.
This mystical approach has developed as well in the three most apparent monotheistic religions: Islam, Judaism and Christianity. These traditions developed respectively as Sufism, the Kabala and Christian Mysticism. The development of a mystical tradition as an off-shoot or in conjunction with these religious systems, perhaps were an attempt to deal with the criticisms of the religious premises or dogmas that take a beating with each generation's changing ideas.
In others words, if someone wants to criticize a premise in some religion as intellectually impossible, and thereby conveniently negate the whole system, then that concept may be best explained in the context of a mystical tradition.
As Rosicrucians, religious tolerance is essential, not only to the peace of the world, but also to our goal of unfoldment. We can hardly have an unrefracted communion with God -- who is the God of all -- while holding intolerance and hatred in our hearts. Nor can we rob another person's dignified search for the God of their hearts by demanding they believe as we do. Nor can we say that God is measurably such and such a definition to the exclusion of any other concept. We do, however, develop our own personal ontology, whether purely of a mystical or intellectual nature or in conjunction with a religion or religious philosophy that best unifies with those revelations found within our hearts, and that we have proven to ourselves to be true.
We can even say, "I am one who seeks to know God in my heart. In demonstrating to you, through my actions, the Love found within, do I prove the existence Love, and therefore God."