Why would we be "destroyed" if we saw God?

I understand the truth that God is all-powerful, but I don’t get why it’s so universally accepted among the Abrahamic religions that a human being would be destroyed, annihiliated, or be otherwise unable to stand in the presence of God. To suggest that our automatic destruction would result is, in my opinion, imposing a limitation upon God Himself, in suggesting that he’s incapable of temporarily modifying whatever characteristic of His that has that effect on us.

Which brings me to my second point: what exactly is that characteristic? Why couldn’t was Moses and other OT figures instructed to turn away when God passed through their camp, while Adam & Eve freely walked with Him in the Garden of Eden? Was it their sins in the presence of God that caused the fatal effect? Even if so, that doesn’t change my first argument. God could surely will whatever He wants, and thus spare Moses or anyone else from death while in His presence if He so wanted.

Does anyone have any thoughts?

God does not destroy or annihilate. In Judaism, one would be nullified (cease to exist) if they were to see God face-to-face simply because there is nothing but God. In other words, we and our universe are 100% dependent on God – in a realistic sense, we and our universe do not really exist, all that exists is God.

On the other hand, our soul longs to cleave to God. In Judaism, after the World-to-Come there will come a time when our souls will actually cleave to God. This will be the most pleasurable experience that the soul will ever experience!

God the Father is some type of matter, we refer to Him as Spirit. Apparently, our human bodies aren’t capable of being next too or up close with His energy.

As in many other disciplines, and even in social banter, religious statements often have two or several levels of meaning or interpretation. The parable of the sower and the seed is a well known example. And Maurice Nicoll makes a good exposition of the levels of language in the parables of Jesus in his work The New Man.

Religion often has an exoteric, or common, face, and an esoteric, or hidden interior. The esoteric is often associated with the various stages of mysticism and their commensurate levels of insight, understanding, and wisdom, or perception, utilization, and fruit.

When it is said that we would be destroyed if we saw God, it doesn’t mean that there is an explosion and parts. It might mean something more along the lines of loosing the sense of what we thought we were as we experientially replace lesser understanding with deeper understanding. The more we identify with the ideas of Spirit, the less we identify with the ideas of matter. Now that doesn’t mean that matter disappears, or the world disappears. But as it says: “All shall be transformed in the twinkling of an eye.” There is a newness and transparency to all things, even to what thoughts we have about ourselves and the significance of those. That transparency renders things so new as to make the old appear to have been destroyed. The caterpillar goes into its seclusion and the magic of transformation happens. What happens to us is easily as profound and radical. Then we might know what it means to “Be in the world, but not of it.”

In essence I agree with this. There is no question of anything being destroyed because we are eternal beings. That is not to say that anthing does not change i.e. if we ‘see’ God; our spirit is separated from the body and is only re-joined as it were at the general resurrection.

I have NEVER heard that man would be destroyed in the presence of God. I came out of an Ultra Fundamentalist Protestant family and never heard such a thing in that church (my grandfather was a minister in that church for 55 years, with a University Education from their school, and he certainly never said such a thing.),

I converted to Catholicism as a 9 year old, went to Catholic Schools, Seminary for a time, and got my Doctorate at a Jesuit University and never heard such a thing in any Catholic Institution either.

Since at least one of the Prophets (Elias) was taken directly to heaven, and was not destroyed, this is obviously not a truism. And Mary is 100% human, and she was certainly not destroyed, even though her body was assumed directly to heaven, and I am certain she sees God on a regular basis, especially her son, who is flesh of her body!

I suspect that the concept come from a finite man not being able to totally and truly comprehend an infinite God.

Because God is a true plenum

@Buffalo: “a” or “the” true plenum?

I found this very moving and very probable. Right now, I “believe” I’m a solid organism. But in reality, science teaches us that we are really just a collection of microscopic neutrons, protons and electrons whirling in vast space. We are anything but solid.

I often feel I am alone on this world (that whole bit about we come into the world alone and leave alone business), but actually, all humans and all creation is intimately connected - organically through DNA and such, physically through fractals, and all created by one creator - all really imbued with “being” from one creator.

I walk down the street surrounded by people and they seem to be strangers to me, to look so very different, talk differently and I don’t know them. But actually we all come from the same mother and father. We are all relatives.

And when I’m alone physically, I feel alone. But actually, God is with me and in me and surrounding me all the time – but it takes an act of will to believe that. I don’t have any sense of walking through the garden with God walking alongside me. I have moments when I glimpse this for a bit, but in day to day life, I live inside my own head, alone.

I do think that coming face to face with the source, the absolute truth of all would be inescapable and it would be a crashing end to the ego, the “self”, and the world-myth that I and all of us create in our organic bodies. The scales would be lifted from my eyes, and it would be shocking, and my world realty would end.

This is a great thread!

What a remarkable and moving statement you have made yourself, Sojo! A man I have the greatest respect for once said that “The search for Reality is the most dangerous undertaking; it will destroy your world.” And it does that in exactly the sense you indicate.

And while I agree with you that it can take an act of will to practice the Divine Presence, it can also be a matter of curiosity, even intense curiosity. It can lead to what in the Messiah is called the Refiner’s Fire. Those flames are fanned by intense questioning that leads to levels of vision and understanding past the superficial.

That has a price, as the man said. But it also has a prize beyond price.

I am happy that you recorded what you did. Thanks.

We cannot “see” or grasp the infinite totality of Love so the question doesn’t arise… :slight_smile:

Doesn’t it? Considering such as the last days of St. Thomas Aquinas, and the experience of some others, eg Teresa of Avila, it seems to me that there are indications that it does. For my part I agree with the admonition that the Universe is not only stranger than we imagine, but stranger than we can imagine. And since the religious version of the fat lady hasn’t happened yet, I’m betting on the incalculable immensity of the inestimable.

Could it not be that we fail to understand the definition of “destroy”. I think that I lean more to the possibility that our spirit will “cleave to God”. I don’t think we could stand being in the presense of the Alpha and the Omega, and remain intact. It is not destroyed in the sense that we would be ripped apart, but perhaps a more logical explanation would be that we see a peace, and or Love and see it in pure perfect form. Perfection does not exsist except in God. Would we even know what perfection is if we saw it… or would the very concept of perfection leave us completely and utterly silent in His wake such that to anyone who did not see God, would see those who have as “destroyed”.

We should probably look at the Scriptural source for this idea.

Exodus 33:

18 And he said: Show me your glory. 19 He answered: I will show you all good, and I will proclaim in the name of the Lord before you: and I will have mercy on whom I will, and I will be merciful to whom it shall please me. 20 And again he said: You can not see my face: for man shall not see me, and live. 21 And again he said: Behold there is a place with me, and you shall stand upon the rock. 22 And when my glory shall pass, I will set you in a hole of the rock, and protect you with my righthand till I pass: 23 And I will take away my hand, and you shall see my back parts: but my face you can not see.

John 1:

In the beginning was the Word: and the Word was with God: and the Word was God. 2 The same was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made by him: and without him was made nothing that was made. 4 In him was life: and the life was the light of men. 5 And the light shines in darkness: and the darkness did not comprehend it. 6 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7 This man came for a witness, to give testimony of the light, that all men might believe through him. 8 He was not the light, but was to give testimony of the light. 9 That was the true light, which enlightens every man that comes into this world. 10 He was in the world: and the world was made by him: and the world knew him not. 11 He came unto his own: and his own received him not. 12 But as many as received him, he gave them power to be made the sons of God, to them that believe in his name. 13 Who are born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. 14 And the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us (and we saw his glory, the glory as it were of the only begotten of the Father), full of grace and truth. 15 John bears witness of him and cries out, saying: This was he of whom I spoke: He that shall come after me is preferred before me: because he was before me. 16 And of his fullness we all have received: and grace for grace. 17 For the law was given by Moses: grace and truth came by Jesus Christ. 18 No man has seen God at any time: the only begotten Son who is in the Bosom of the Father, he has declared him.

Philosophically, I’d think it’s got something to do with the fact that knowledge of anything is, or is like, the possession of that thing’s form in the intellect. (The passage probably means ‘seeing’ in the mind.) God’s “full form” is Himself, Whom is infinitely greater than our tiny minds. If we tried to fit all of God into our heads, then, well, they’d burst. Also, to know a thing is seemingly to, in a sense, become that thing, or to become indivisibly one with it.

One example might be when you “know her in the Biblical sense.” When a man “knows” a woman by uniting with her in the act of sex, the two become “un-divorcably” one, “two in one flesh,” – a new form, a “rebirth” of them in the offspring. For another (better) example, consider various passages from Aristotle’s De Anima:

-The thinking part of the soul must therefore be, while impassible, capable of receiving the form of an object; that is, must be potentially identical in character with its object without being the object. Mind must be related to what is thinkable, as sense is to what is sensible.
-Therefore, since everything is a possible object of thought, mind in order, as Anaxagoras says, to dominate, that is, to know, must be pure from all admixture;
-speculative knowledge and its object are identical;
-the soul is in a way all existing things;
-for existing things are either sensible or thinkable, and knowledge is in a way what is knowable;
-Within the soul the faculties of knowledge and sensation are potentially these objects, the one what is knowable, the other what is sensible. They must be either the things themselves or their forms. The former alternative is of course impossible: it is not the stone which is present in the soul but its form.

If so, man’s attempt to fully see and know God in all His infinite glory is insanely proud. It would be like a foolish grasp at His power, to overcome His throne and dominate Him – to be God himself. This is the greatest sin; it will destroy us. (If per impossibile it happened, we would literally become nothing, since we would then be what necessarily cannot exist, the impossible.)

Looks like Garrigou-Lagrange addresses the topic well here:

to say that created intelligence can, solely by its own natural powers, positively and properly know the divine essence, Deity in itself, can even see that essence without medium, is equivalent to saying that the created intellect has the same formal object as has the uncreated intellect. And that is the same thing as to say that the intellective creature has the same nature as uncreated intelligence, that is, is God Himself. But a created and finite God is an absurdity

this is a commonly held belif among many different faithsw not just abrahamic ones. for example the ancient greeks belived that the true form of zeus would incinerate anyone that wasnt a god or demi-god. God is so above us that to be before him would be impossible for our fragile human bodies to bear. in some faiths it is belived that God himself never appears before humans but sends his greatest angel as his substitute. i belive the name of this angel is Metatron but i may be wrong. this angel is the highest creature in all of creation second only to God and appears before us as him.

Don’t know about “Metatron” (fascinating!) but you might be interested in checking out “Ishwara” with or without the “h,” Caeco Corvus

thanks Tonitz :thumbsup:

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