One Unitarian's view of God

Unitarians are not all the same. They certainly have different thoughts and ideas about God. My personal views have changed and been reshaped over the years. I long since gave up the old traditional view of God as "someone" outside his creation - whether in the form of a revered grandfather figure, or a cosmic policeman, or a clockmaker who initially wound everything up but has now left it to run all on its own. Such views no longer have any appeal for me.

These days my view of God is as a Spirit, or Power, or Essence, active within creation. I find support for such views from a surprising source - that of some of the leading psychologists from the first half of the 20th century. Both Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung were led by their researches to conclude that there is, deep within the human make-up, a non-human element. Freud viewed this unfathomed and unfathomable power as an elementary life form. Jung came to the same conclusion, but held that this life form was not just a blind life-force, but one that served an integrating function aimed at bringing about a balanced and whole personality. This mysterious, unknown and ultimately unknowable element within us, that is not wholly of ourselves, and which seeks our good, seems to me not so far from the attributes given of old to the idea of God. It certainly enables me to accept the standard Christian view that God was in Jesus. However I part company with so many of my Christian friends because I cannot limit this experience of incarnation just to Jesus. For me, influenced by the idea of James Martineau, a great thinker of the 19th century, the incarnation is also true, even if in a more limited degree, of Gandhi and St. Francis and Schweitzer and Siddhartha Gautama (the Buddha) and Mother Theresa and so many other great spiritual personalities of all times and countries. And, for me, the same potential is there within each one of us, waiting to be discovered, to be freed, and to be allowed to take control of our lives. This view of an indwelling power or presence within us, and within creation as a whole, is what I think of as God.

Such a view helps me to understand the way and effectiveness of Prayer. I no longer offer petitionery prayers, as if seeking to change the mind or will of some "God out there". Prayer for me is now about opening myself to an awareness of the presence of the Divine within me, within the great ones of the ages, and within all around me. It is seeking a sense of at-oneness with the Divine. Out of such moments I hope to receive direction and strength for the living of life, recognising that such moments may, on occasions, be more of a challenge to me than a comfort.

These then are my thoughts and views of God at present. No doubt they will change, be reshaped and continue to evolve, in the days still to come.

Derek Smith 1999