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Does the concept of God transcend cultures?

Estro Felino

Believer in free will
Premium Member
I guess it does..or maybe not. Linguistics plays an essential role in determining what the word God really means. Also because thanks to Enlightenment, in Europe, we have created a universal and very rationalized vision of the deity as concept.
I wonder if that happened in non-European cultures too.
If there are different visions of the concept of God, religions will be different.

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De Diablo Del Fora
Premium Member
I think there are usually some cross-cultural similarities as well as differences in god-concepts.

Of more interest to me are the god-concepts of mystics. That is, people who claim to have had a certain kind of mystical experience that most of them -- but not all of them -- describe as an experience of god. They tend to show sometimes remarkable similarities across cultures, times, and places.

For instance, there seems to be near universal agreement among mystics -- even the relatively few mystics who do not describe their experiences as experiences of god -- that they experienced a sense of oneness or of all things being one.

Another very common claim of such mystics is that their experience felt overwhelmingly "real" in much the same sense as we have a feeling or a sense that the tree in our yard is real -- but a "thousand times" greater than that. "More real than real", I've sometimes heard.

There is nearly as much agreement among mystics about having a sense they were dealing with something infinite.

There is a bit less agreement that what was experienced was sentient. Some -- the mystics who claim to have experienced deity -- tend to say it was, but some -- those who either are not certain or who do not think it was actual deity -- tend to say it was not sentient.

Somewhat less often, that the deity was loving or identical with love, that they experienced unsurpassed beauty and/or bliss, and so forth.

It goes on and on.

Contrary to some early scholars on the subject, mystical accounts of an experience of oneness or of all things being One are sometimes, but seldom enough, "pure" -- That is, devoid of any specific cultural influences or interpretations. But why precisely that is so is still open to reasonable debate.


Well-Known Member
I think the "experience of oneness" is red herring. As you say, many regard that as a psychological experience rather than a religious one: Thomas Merton, Ramanuja, the Zen masters, etc.

The concept of the divine is universal, but that of "God" as a supreme being is not. Many people experience gods, and some believe they have experienced "God", but I don't know anyone who's been approached by a being who self-identified as "God". Around the world, the concept may be present (Africa) or absent (Australia), gained (Romans), or lost (Aztec). I suspect it's a product of philosophical speculation.