The great medieval mystic Meister Eckhart challenges us when he declares: “The highest and loftiest thing that a person can let go of is to let go of God for the sake of God.”

How God was once envisioned… 19th-century French postcard, scanned and photoshopped by Ted Van Pelt. On Flickr

How many names for God have humans come up with?  And which ones might serve us best today and what new ones beckon us?  One answer to that question is a simple one: There are as many names for “God” as there are languages in the world, for each language calls God by a different word.  Examples: God (English); Gott (German); Dieu (French); Dios (Spanish); Dio (Italian); Allah (Arabic); Gut (Norwegian); Theos (Greek); Deus (Portuguese); bog (Russian); Dia (Irish); Elohim (Hebrew); Marta (Polish); Kalou (Fijian), etc. etc.

But that is by no means the whole story.  For one thing, each language may well have multiple words for “God.”  For example in English we can talk of Divinity; Spirit; Creator; Deity; Godhead; Goddess; and much more.  If this is true in English no doubt it is true in other languages as well.

“ANCIENT MOTHER” – chanting the names of the Goddess. Produced by Robert Gass, uploaded by Aquariel Charm

Every religion offers its name for the Divine: Brahmin; Krishna; Tao; Buddha; Tara; Allah; Yahweh; Adonai; Tagashala; Wankan Tanka; Oshun; Isis; Christ, to name a few.

So where else do we come up with alternative names or images of God?  The Sacred Scriptures of the world are one such place; and the mystics of the world are another; and science is another.  The Muslim tradition offers a powerful practice of reciting the “99 Most Beautiful Names” of God and I am grateful for that Muslim practice to which I am indebted and which I have often prayed myself (see yesterday’s video DM).

Adapted from Matthew Fox,Naming the Unnameable: 89 Wonderful and Useful Names for God…Including the Unnameable God, pp. xiv-xxvi, 155-157.

Also see Matthew Fox, One River, Many Wells: Wisdom Springing from Global Faiths

To read the transcript of Matthew Fox’s video teaching, click HERE.

Banner Image: Dawning Light. Photo by Syahirah Salleh on Unsplash

Queries for Contemplation

Have you “Let go of God for the sake of God” in your lifetime?  What prompted that deep letting go?  What was the result?  Eckhart says, “God’s exit is her entrance.”  Have you experienced that?

Responses are welcomed. To add your comment, please click HERE or scroll to the bottom of the page.

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15 thoughts on “Multiple Names for God”

  1. Avatar

    Today’s meditation speaking/chanting the names of ‘God’ and ‘Goddess’ reminded me of Hagar in the wilderness. Hagar names God ‘El Roi’, the God who sees. By God’s inspiration she names her son ‘Ishmael’, the God who hears. Hagar was a woman totally abandoned by the culture of the time. Yesterday, hearing Matthew speak the many names of God spoken by Hagar’s offspring was both astonishing and revelatory.

    1. Richard Reich-Kuykendall
      Richard Reich-Kuykendall

      Gwen, God does see and hear, “he is not like dumb idols who cannot see or hear or walk or talk…”

  2. Avatar

    This essay on the many names of God reminded me of my time in Germany with my daughter, Kristine. People greeted us with “Gruss Gott.” Grüß Gott is a shortened form of Grüße dich Gott. Some say it is simply a greeting. I prefer the essential meaning of grüß Gott – God bless you. This type of religious greeting is a rare but delightful treasure.

  3. Avatar

    Years ago, I helped lead a study group at Foothills Congregational Church in Los Altos, California. The group listed all the names of God that we could come up with ourselves. Because I was going through a divorce and needed a comforting God, thinking about barnyard animals I came up with “Divine, Brooding Mother Hen.” I felt very comforted, nestling under the warm, enclosing wings of God as mother hen.

  4. Avatar

    The video clip Ancient Mother Calling, the images, but most moving for me was the chanting song in particular, that really touched me in today’s DM. Whom is this beautiful chant being sung by? The Ancient names of the Mother being chanted, seemed to awaken within me some forgotten memory. Thank you for sharing this.

    1. Avatar

      Hello Jeanette,
      “Ancient Mother” was sung by the women’s chorus “On Wings of Song,” which has worked with Robert Gass on a number of albums. This particular performance was on the album “Ancient Mother,” which includes wonderful chants to the Goddess from a number of traditions and cultures.

  5. Avatar

    Meister Eckhart challenges us when he declares: “The highest and loftiest thing that a person can let go of is to let go of God for the sake of God.”

    What Eckhart meant is the concept of God, which may vary with each person. In 1959 I was introduced to mysticism by Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar, Nobel astrophysicist at the University of Chicago’s Yerkes Observatory. Chandra once wrote: “God is man’s greatest invention.”

    1. Richard Reich-Kuykendall
      Richard Reich-Kuykendall

      Ron, you write, “Chandra once wrote: “God is man’s greatest invention.” It reminds me of the reverrsal of scripture that says, “And Man made god in his own image and likeness…”

        1. Richard Reich-Kuykendall
          Richard Reich-Kuykendall

          Ron, you are right on that, when it comes to Paul Tillich. I am pretty sure that he would agree with both Matthew and Eckhart…

  6. Avatar

    Another ‘understanding’ of the Mystery of the Godhead — A quaternity of four ‘Divine Persons’
    in Loving Communion/Oneness — Father-Mother-Holy Spirit-Body of Cosmic Christ….

    1. Richard Reich-Kuykendall
      Richard Reich-Kuykendall

      Damian, Among other things I am a painter, and I have made a symbolic painting of the “quaternity of the Divine…

    1. Richard Reich-Kuykendall
      Richard Reich-Kuykendall

      Damian, Unfortunately, I no longer have that painting–but since you’ve mentioned it I just might try my hand at another! We have however, posted other paintings I have done in the Daily Meditations…

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