The Impersonal Divine and the Personal Divine

In our typical linear thought process we tend to fixate on either the Impersonal aspect of the Divine, or the Personal aspect, and we treat them as either mutually exclusive or in competition with each other, with some adherents favoring one and some the other. In reality, both aspects are part of an integral Truth of existence.

Those who practice the austerities of renunciation, focusing their consciousness on the Absolute, hold that only the Impersonal Divine is the truth, and those who follow any personal relationship with Divinity are simply ensnared by Maya, the illusion of the world. Yet, when we observe the universe and the detailed interaction of all its elements and beings, and the intricacy of the symbiotic relation of each to all, it becomes clear that this does not happen by random chance of an Impersonal machinery of some sort, but there must be a conscious intelligence driving the creation forward and developing all these forms of beauty, wonder and relationship.

In the West there is a similar debate about “evolution” versus “creationism”, with the one side essentially saying that there is no necessity for a God to exist as the mechanism of evolution can develop all of existence, while others deny the reality of evolution by indicating that God simply created everything “as is” and thus, there is only a truth of the Personal Deity. Yet there is a simple solution that incorporates both views, that the Divine put in place the mechanism of evolution, along with karma and rebirth to carry it forward, with a directed intention so that both the impersonal and the personal are part and parcel of the same integrated reality.

Sri Aurobindo observes: “There is always the personal and the impersonal side of the Divine and the Truth and it is a mistake to think the impersonal alone to be true or important, for that leads to a void incompleteness in part of the being, while only one side is given satisfaction. Impersonality belongs to the intellectual mind and the static self, personality to the soul and heart and dynamic being. Those who disregard the personal Divine ignore something which is profound and essential. … In following the heart in its purer impulses one follows something that is at least as precious as the mind’s loyalty to its own conceptions of what the Truth may be.”

Sri Aurobindo, Integral Yoga: Sri Aurobindo’s Teaching and Method of Practice, Chapter 6, Sadhana Through Love and Devotion, Divine Love, Bhakti, pp. 158-162

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