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Does God Have a Name?

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Does God Have a Name?

A pilgrimage to Divine awakening.
Jonathan  Ellerby Ph.D.
Jonathan Ellerby Ph.D. More by this author
Jan 19, 2010 at 09:00 AM

We were on the road to Malinalco, Mexico, when we came upon clusters of people of all ages walking along the highway. It was surprising and mysterious to me. As we passed families, groups, and individuals, I felt as if I were looking through the car window into a world I couldn’t begin to comprehend.

Some of the people carried crosses, some carried flowers, and others carried bags of food and water. The people seemed intent, and the mood appeared committed but also content. Their dark faces were made more beautiful in contrast to the freshly laundered clothing they were wearing, as if dressed for a special occasion.

“Where are they going?” I asked. It had been miles since the last town, and it was a very small one. “Where have they all come from? Why?”

“Have you not seen people making a pilgrimage before?” my guide Raphael asked me.

“They are on the road to Chalma, a sacred place where there’s a cave with a very special altar. It’s the second most popular site for pilgrimages in Mexico. Hundreds of years ago, Native people would go there to honor and request help from Ozteotl.” Ozteotl was said to have great healing ability and people visited the cave in order to connect with his power to help and heal them. Since the time of the Spanish, the cave has been dedicated to St. Michael and is now known as a place where people travel to be in the presence of God through miracles and experiences of the Divine. Pilgrims come as an act of devotion, and they make the journey on foot to show their deep love and commitment to God.

At the time, I didn’t understand the devotional path, and it made me uncomfortable.

“Do you mean it’s similar to individuals who are in love saying to their beloved, ‘I’d walk a hundred miles on broken glass if only you’d be mine?’” I asked Raphael. “Or the way people will stand in line for three days to buy concert tickets to see their favorite rock group?”

“Well, in some ways, yes—it is like that,” Raphael replied. “I think those people say and do those things because they’ve found a connection to a force that helps them feel loved and understood. I’ve been to rock concerts like that! Everyone sings along as if the songs were about their own lives. They like to be understood and heard, experiencing a state of devotion. I think that the devotion itself feels good for them.”

“The experience is similar for these pilgrims. Unlike adoring a rock star, the force that they’re in love with has the power to work miracles in their lives. Their beloved offers grace and peace. I’ve traveled with pilgrims in the past. Thousands make the journey every year. Their worship is from the heart, and they want to show it. They want to feel it. For you and me, we feel God in nature. We’re comfortable with a faceless God who is expressed in the physical world as a force beyond ideas and words.”

I agreed and listened intently.

“For these people, God has a face, and a name. Even the saints have personalities, form, and preferences. These people feel and need a personal relationship to God. They call upon Jesus by name. They honor Mother Mary by name, and they pray to the saints for help by name. Love of God is their path. They’re not unsophisticated or foolish. I know great professors, scientists, lawyers, doctors, and other highly educated people who worship in this way. They connect to the Sacred through love. It’s no better or worse than what we are attracted to on mountaintops and in the call of the eagle.”

As my practice and experience have evolved in my life since that day, I’ve developed a very different relationship to the path of devotion. As my experience of the Sacred has deepened, I’ve felt compelled to relate to God—The Supreme Force and Divine Mystery—also as a friend and beloved. It somehow feels incomplete to restrict my connection to The Sacred to only my mind or body. It’s difficult to focus the feeling of love for something if it has no personal dimension. To think of God as Pure Consciousness may be accurate, but it’s awkward. The great Sufi spiritual teacher Hazrat Inayat Khan once said, “Mysticism without devotion is like uncooked food; it can never be assimilated.”

About Author
Jonathan  Ellerby Ph.D.
Jonathan Ellerby, Ph.D., is an important guide to inspired living in today’s hectic world, bridging cultures and professional disciplines to help people find what works. Featured as an expert in film, print, television, and radio, Jonathan is the aut Continue reading