Conceptions About the Divine Personality

When the individual considers the idea of “personality”, even a Divine Personality, he begins by relating it to what is already known to him. Therefore, the first conceptions of Divine Personality take on characteristics similar to those of the human personality. Sri Aurobindo observes: “Our personality is to us at first a separate creature, a limited mind, body, character which we conceive of as the person we are, a fixed quantity; for although in reality it is always changing, yet there is a sufficient element of stability to give a kind of practical justification to this notion of fixedness. We conceive of God as such a person, only without body, a separate person different from all others with a mind and character limited by certain qualities.”

Our limited experience of personality then attributes the same kind of characteristics as we see within ourselves to our personal idea of God. In some cases, God is seen as vindictive and vengeful; in others, lustful and jealous, and yet in others, subject to flattery and propitiation. And of course God also takes on characteristics of benign affection, goodwill and helpfulness at times.

As the human mind progresses in its conceptualisation of God, it begins to attribute unlimited qualities to God, such as omniscience, omnipotence, and all-loving, all-seeing goodwill. A problem then arises when we compare this conception with what we experience in the world. When we see evil, or suffering, we find it impossible to reconcile these things with our all-knowing, all-compassionate Divine Personality. It is at this point that we begin to propose alternatives such as the devil to be the embodiment of evil and the opposite or antagonist to God. Or we may try to distinguish between all-good in the form of God, versus an independent Nature that allows of weakness, limitation and suffering.

“At a higher pitch the attribution of mind and character to God becomes less anthropomorphic and we regard him as an infinite Spirit, but still a separate person, a spirit with certain fixed divine qualities as his attributes. So are conceived the ideas of the divine Personality, the personal God which vary so much in various religions.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, Part Three: The Yoga of Divine Love, Chapter 5, The Divine Personality, pp. 557-558

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