Merging with God

Brian Johnstonchrist, God, Mormon, plan of salvation, salvation, spiritual progression, Trinity 16 Comments

We talk all the time in our Church about returning to God some day. Everything we do in life is to gain experiences, and then to return. If we are pure and righteous, we can live with Him once more. What does this mean though? I think a lot of people picture us going from where we are to some distant place, like it is a separation by location, a journey from here to there. We go to the heaven. That is up in the sky somewhere right?

As I ponder this topic, a couple problems come to mind. We talk about seeing God again, that we will be able to visit him if we manage to get into the best kingdom. I can think of several instances in the scriptures where people have seen God from this natural, earthly state though. The story of Joseph Smith’s “First Vision” talks of being in physical location with God, yet we know Joseph was still alive and very human. So it doesn’t seem returning to God is merely seeing Him again and being able to interact.

The other issue that denies me satisfaction for my hunger to understand, is the “somewhere out in space” concept. I don’t think we will simply build a spaceship someday and travel to where God hangs out. I seem to recall some folks with a tower that tried that general idea, Babel was it? Yes. They thought they would just build a tower high enough and go see Him. It’s not an option.

What I find myself left with are simply Jesus Christ’s own words:

“I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me. And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one: I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me.”

-John 17:20-23, New King James Version

One option plainly before us is to take Jesus literally. It sounds to me like Jesus is saying we will merge with God through Him. He is the way, the truth and the life. We will become one, as they are one. That is indeed “returning” to God, when we merge back with Him/Her/They. It certainly creates a compelling reason for us to be pure from all sin. No unclean thing can dwell with God. How could it? We would introduce impurity through the incorporation of our essence into His.

My thoughts are far from a being new or original. It is woven into the religious traditions of all ages. Here’s just a sampling:

1. Theosis, a Christian concept developed extensively in the Eastern theologies.

2. Henosis, the Greek (and Egyptian) concept of attaining union with The Monad (The One, or Source).

3. Nonduality. This concept from ancient Hinduism explores the concept that all living things are pieces of God. You and I are God. I might be oversimplifying this idea, but that’s my basic understanding.

4. Bodhi, from Buddhist teachings, a state of enlightenment or awakening.

These are just a few quick references. The idea has been around a long time. I think we have this idea floating around in Mormonism too. The most disturbing notion is the thought of losing individual identity. Would we cease to exist if we merged with God? Do we share a common consciousness with Christ and God? It would seem so if we take Christ’s words at their face value.

What do you think?

Comments 16

  1. This makes me want to relisten to all of my old Live albums for the Eastern mysticism they contain. I’ll get back to you when I’ve listened to “The Distance to Here”.

  2. Blake Ostler ( argues for deification in a similar vein. The knowledge of personal identity is preserved while at the same time unity with God provides full access of hearts and thoughts to each other. It is intimacy in its most complete form, and I find the idea fully scriptural and beautiful.

  3. To interpret that scripture that way requires a very non-contemporary Jewish point of view. Sure many interpret things this way, but what does that mean? Personally, I think your interpretation is much stranger than the visiting God in a spaceship idea (Which is not at all what I necessarily believe either.) How about the Earth receiving its celestial glory and God coming here to rule and reign? How about a different concept of space and time to someone we call God.

    More importantly, your interpretation guts the meaning to me of one of the most important scriptures in the New Testament. It’s about Zion, receiving his image in our countenance, being born again and filled with his love. It has real application to us in the here and now, as we can come to know the only true God and Jesus Christ, whom he has sent by becoming like them right here in the present. It is about becoming something embodied and truly divine, not some personless ethereal ooze collective.

  4. I wrote a very short post a while ago that appeared today on my personal blog and another one that appears tomorrow. The timing is interesting, to say the least, as they deal with unity. They sum up my own feelings on this topic, so I simply will link the first one here.

    Perfect Unity

  5. One thought: many Mormons believe, as Eliza Snow asserts in one of our hymns, that in heaven, we “have a mother there.” I think Ostler finds that unscriptural and as any good Mormon would (heavy sarcasm) rejects the idea simply because it came from some prophetic statements and maybe is hinted at throughout our history and temple liturgy.

    So, given the whole eternal gender concept we have in the Church, how does merging with God sort out with women, if God is male?

  6. This post had related thoughts.

    I think the short version is that a merging with God is literal, but it is a merging/synchronizing/unifying of moral will. A complete oneness of moral will would mean there is exactly one “God” but many individuals that are part of God. (Not unlike the Trinity doctrine but minus the mysticism and contradictions. I’ve always claimed that the Trinity doctrine is close to true.)

    Thinking of God in this manner works for me because it does not violate the basis for monotheism but avoids the problems of loss of individuality because personal preference would never be an issue on in all situations outside of the “one moral will” concept. (i.e. I can enjoy fishing and you can enjoy football so long as I want you to enjoy football and you want me to enjoy fishing, etc. Thus you can be “one” and “individual” at the same time without a contradiction.)

    Anyhow, this is how I picture it mentally.

  7. Post

    I can imagine the wall dropping between us and God. We would retain our identity, while sharing all thoughts and feelings in common (with God and all who attain this “kingdom”). The intimacy aspect speaks to some of the bride and bridegroom symbols (the intimacy of emotion and purpose, not so much the physical aspects).

    That would allow for different genders to remain the same. We would all share one mind, and have access to feminine and masculine without losing that characteristic.

    #3 Doc, How does this all gut the meaning of being born again, having His image in our countenance and being filled with God’s love? I think it supports those ideas. Those ideas could be describing this merger.

  8. Given how short it is, I decided to go ahead and paste the post I mentioned in #4. Here it is:

    “My mother used to be one of Pres. McKay’s secretary’s, and she can tell some fascinating stories of how the First Presdency at the time interacted. My wife and I are close to opposite personalities in many ways – which makes us perfect for each other as we try to become whole and complete as one. I also have been intrigued by the group dynamics that keep many Mormon group blogs generally more civil than most other sites I’ve visited.

    I view unity based on these experiences, but also based on the Sermon on the Mount – where “perfect” is defined as “complete” or “whole” – not as mistake free. In all seriousness, I believe there is an inherent conflict in the way that too many members view unity as an ideal. I prefer to think of it in terms that I think are taught in the Gospels and that formed the foundation of Joseph Smith’s efforts – by talking of communal unity [“community”] (a societal completeness and wholeness of unique but united individuals) as opposed to the “sameness” of most worldly definitions.”

  9. I guess I am getting caught up in the loss of identity idea. Clearly, when Christ prayed for the apostles to be one, he didn’t mean that they lost their identity and will entirely. We do teach that all mankind is born with the light of Christ. Clearly, it is being tuned into that moral law or light that is what being born again, receiving his image in his countenance is all about. The problem I was expressing was with an overliteral idea of what being one means, such as the Eastern Orthodox concept. I guess I mistook that for what you were saying, because you argued that a physical location doesn’t make sense. You seemed to be saying that a physical location and aligning moral will are mutually exclusive. It threw me off.

  10. I don’t think we literally melt into God. But I do think that when we achieve enlightenment (are filled with light in NT language), we are one with God. We no longer care about the same things. We no longer worry. We have “Godly” sorrow, which isn’t at all like human sorrow. And we probably are filled with the peace and joy of a person who has let go of all negativity. It’s freeing.

  11. I’m influenced by Eastern perspective in that I like to contemplate upon the unity of God more than the separateness, though not to go so far as Modalist thinking. And like Valoel appears to do, I also like to ponder upon Jesus’ prayer of unity (John 17).

    I like to see that God is distinct from us but our collective humanity is the best way to perceive and understand Him. His work, after all, is to redeem us ultimately in a new earth, a new humanity, a new Heaven, a new Jerusalem. I think theosis in Patristic tradition (and sounding similar to Ostler’s) is inspiring to ponder what human joint heirship with God could mean. I find the more exciting thought is to ponder why God would become Man.

    God’s masculine pronouns aside, I see the Father as the dominant personhood of God who is spirit and not of the human species, drawing humanity with both masculine and feminine natures. I see “female” and “male” predominant gender characteristics as something that is wholly unified and perfected in God’s nature — and not that feminine nature is beneath or apart from God or separately embodied in a not-to-be-discussed Goddess Mother. (This is influenced in part by Jewish mystic tradition and in part of my reading of the Genesis allegory.)

    I think the personhood of Jesus is the way through which God interrelates in predominant “masculine” action with humanity and the personhood of the Spirit interrelating in predominant “feminine” action with humanity. I see humanness — in its broader community, possibilities and hopes — as a tangible “entity” through which individuals can draw outward from themselves and also upward toward God.

    This somewhat abstracted intellectual commitment, yet very spiritual and emotional hope in a literal Triune God, is not Mormon nor completely mainstream Evangelical, either. But it’s not that original nor alien to Christian tradition.

  12. Eugene Seaich’s new book (posthumously published) “the Great Mystery: The Secret of the jerusalem temple, Embracing Cherubim and the At-One-Ment with the Divine” puts all of this in proper perspective. It is all tied with ritual embraces and the passing of the vitality from one being to another, to become one with the divine. The cherubim of the ark of the covenant were esssentially in an embrace, or Heiros Gamos, sacred marriage. The doctrine is literally the physical manifestation of God’s grace, lifting us up and making us divine by making us one with him. This is a physical transformation where he who is in the higher state lifts up he who is in the lower state to become one, and to become like him. It isn’t a loss of identity, nor is it merging physically. It is just as simple as transferrence of power from one electrode to another.

  13. All that anyone perceives is same. It is only our mind that differenciates one from the other. The mind is one’s identity and also cause of all the happiness and suffering, ofcourse everything only a feeling. Loss of identity does not exist at all as it is only perception of your conditioned mind.

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