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Consciousness and God-fear

What does it mean to be a 'God-fearing' person? 

God-fearing. A God-fearing person. What does that phrase mean? It may refer to the conscious anxiety of not-knowing.


If God is everything, then he/she/it is incomprehensible, unknowable, unknown as the totality of reality is unknowable.


In the early beginnings of human consciousness, a rustling in the bushes might be just the wind, or it might be something that wants to eat me. That not-knowing could be a dangerous situation. The anxiety evoked by that not-knowing could be an aid to survival by sharpening the senses. That useful anxiety of not-knowing was hard-wired into the reptilian brain because it had survival value. The later development of the fore-brain’s pattern-matching ability (which leads to language) gives me better ability to know about the rustling in the bushes. Increased knowledge about the world decreases not-knowing, which reduces anxiety, but the knowledge does not eliminate anxiety, because that anxiety of not-knowing has already been hard-wired into the foundational reptilian consciousness.


As individual consciousness evolved, we got more sophisticated relationships with reality, including fire, tools, group-culture, and agriculture. With those developments, the actual physical rustling in the bushes became less apt to be something that could eat me. The physical world became more apt to be known, and hence safer.


But the hard-wired anxiety of not-knowing doesn’t go away. It only becomes more mysterious. The evolution of individual consciousness also brings with it an increased sense of the complexity of reality. We can never know, comprehend, the fullness of everything. If ‘God’ is our name for ‘everything’, then God is unknowable. The unknowable will forever trigger the hard-wired anxiety of not-knowing. The person who attempts to be close to God, who wants to know God, will always encounter that unknowable mystery and with it, the anxiety of not-knowing. That person will be God-fearing.


So if the desire to know about reality evokes anxiety, where does the peace that the wise people talk about come from? It does not come from making the anxiety go away. The hard-wired anxiety is still there; it will always be there. But, that anxiety doesn’t have to be overwhelming. Peace comes in acknowledging the anxiety and recognizing both its origin and its permanent place in consciousness. The triumph of consciousness is to be large enough to contain the anxiety of not-knowing.

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