The topic of “God’s Name” in the Course is one that has baffled many Course students, myself included. The Course contains a number of references to the Name of God, telling us that we share this “ancient Name” (T-26.VII.20:1) with Him and with all our brothers. However, the Course is not very clear about just what this Name is. Workbook Lesson 183 asks us to repeat God’s Name as a spiritual practice, but never gives us any particular name to repeat. Lesson 184, which gives us the same practice, not only doesn’t give us a particular name to repeat, but adds to the confusion by telling us that “God has no name” (W-pI.184.12:1). What the heck are we supposed to repeat then?
At this point, we might conclude that God’s Name has nothing whatsoever to do with words, and therefore repeating it must be some sort of wordless mystical thing that we do deep in our right minds. But then, 98 lessons later in Lesson 282, Jesus throws us for a loop by asking us to say to God, “Father, Your Name is Love and so is mine” (W-pII.282.2:1). So, God apparently has a verbal Name — Love — after all! Putting all of this data about God’s Name together, we reach the following conclusion: God has a Name, an ancient Name that we share, and we should repeat it as a spiritual practice, but God doesn’t really have a name, and His Name is Love. Any questions?
This article is an attempt to clear up some of this confusion. In it, I will present a Course-based answer to the question “What is God’s Name?” To provide some context that hopefully will make that answer more meaningful, I will begin with a discussion of the significance of names and naming, both from the broad perspective of human culture and from the perspective of the Course. (This article will be largely theoretical; for those interested in learning the practice of repeating God’s Name, I recommend Robert’s piece entitled “Name of God Meditation,” which provides step-by-step instructions for that practice.)
I think exploration of this topic is valuable, because Jesus clearly considers God’s Name to be an important idea to grasp and embrace as our own. As we will see, fully embracing the Name of God leads to nothing less than the full restoration of the glorious inheritance that God our Father bestowed upon us as His holy Sons. Indeed, as the title of Lesson 184 reminds us, the Name of God is our inheritance.
What’s in a name?
What is the significance of having a name? This is something most of us don’t really think about, but in fact names and naming are an essential part of being human. Mircea Eliade’s Encyclopedia of Religion says the following on this topic:
Names and naming are central to human symbolic and communicative processes. To be human is to name, and be named, and thereby to possess full being and the ability to relate to the world in meaningful ways….In all human communities there is thought to be a close relationship between the name of a person or other phenomenon and its character, status, and very being.
We can see here that a name tells us a number of things about that which is named:
- The named has reality (“full being”). It has an identity.
- The named has a particular character (a particular nature with certain attributes) and status, a character and status that is defined by its name.
- The named has the ability to relate to the world in meaningful ways.
Thus having a name is very important — it confers reality, provides a definition of the named, and establishes relationships with other named things. If something is nameless, it therefore lacks these things:
- The nameless lacks reality or any authentic being. It has no identity.
- The nameless has no definition, no defining character or status.
- The nameless has no meaningful relationship to anything.
Traditionally, this idea has given human beings without names a very marginal status in various cultures. For instance, in traditional Catholicism, unbaptized (unnamed) children who die go to limbo instead of Heaven, because they have no identity. Conversely, in the Inuit (Eskimo) culture, where newborn female children were often killed if the group could not support them, it was absolutely forbidden to kill a female child once she was given a name, because she now had an identity. Thus we see that, traditionally, to be named is to be something; to be nameless is to be nothing.
The Course’s view of naming
In general terms, the Course is very much in agreement with the picture described above: A name does indeed confer reality to the named, define the character and status of the named, and establish meaningful relationships with other named things.
But the Course takes this concept of naming and applies it in a radical way that forces us to rethink our usual ideas about names. We place a great deal of importance on the verbal names we have been given, and the names we have given the things in our world. How could we live in this world without them? Our own names are so much a part of us that it is difficult to imagine an identity apart from them; the names for the things of the world make it possible for us to organize them, define them, manipulate them, and relate to them. These names give us nothing less than our place in the world. They tell us who and what we are, and who and what everyone and everything else is.
But according to the Course, these names that we consider to be the building blocks of our world are not real names. Our real Name is not a verbal label at all. Our real Name is God’s Name: given to us by God when we were created, and shared by the entire Sonship. It is God’s Name that gives us our true place in His creation. It is God’s Name that tells us who and what we really are, and who and what everyone and everything else really is.
Let us, then, take a look at these two radically different views of naming: First, the Name God gave all creation; second, the names we have given everything — the names for namelessness.
The Name for all creation
The Course emphatically tells us that God’s Name is the one and only Name given to all He created. And since all that He created is the Sonship, which includes all living things, it must be our Name as well. The Course continually reminds us that God’s Name is our own. One example of this is in Lesson 183, where the analogy of an earthly father and his sons is used to illustrate all that this Name implies:
God’s Name is holy, but no holier than yours. To call upon His Name is but to call upon your own. A father gives his son his name, and thus identifies the son with him. His brothers share his name, and thus are they united in a bond to which they turn for their identity. (W-pI.183.1:1-4)
Not only is this Name the Name of the Father and the Son, but it is also the Name of all the Son’s creations as well (see W-pI.183.8:5), quoted below). Given the above analogy, this only makes sense: The family patriarch’s name is passed down through the generations, through the lineage of his sons. Thus what we have in Heaven is, in essence, one big family tree, in which each and every part shares the Name and characteristics of its Source, and extends that Name and everything it represents in the act of creation, “creating in His Name” (W-pI.183.8:2).
Therefore, God’s Name accomplishes all three of the purposes of naming discussed above.
- God’s Name gives reality, or identity, to all creation.
- God’s Name defines what His Sons are, and confers upon the Sons the character and status of the Father — they, like the Father, are holy and are creators as well.
- God’s Name establishes meaningful relationships between God the Creator, His Sons, and the Sons’ creations.
In short, the Course tells us, God’s Name encompasses all reality, which means that it encompasses literally everything: “There is one Name for all there is, and all that will ever be” (W-pI.183.8:5).
The names for namelessness
In contrast to God’s Name are the names we have given ourselves and everything in our world. These names, according to the Course, are not really names at all since they are simply attempts to give reality (which a real name would confer) to illusions. As such, they are simply names for the nameless.
This process of giving names to the nameless began with the separation. Early in the Text, the Course says, “God’s creations are given their true Authorship, but you prefer to be anonymous when you choose to separate yourself from your Author” (T-3.VI.8:7). This is a description of the authority problem: our rejection of God as our Creator, and our resulting belief that we are self-created. Though this line does not mention God’s Name, it does tell us a lot about naming. Just as an author puts her name on a book, thereby acknowledging the contents as her own creation, so God, our Author, acknowledged us as His creation. He did so in the same way an author does, as we saw above: by putting His Name on us. But when we rejected God as our Author, we rejected the Name He gave us as well; we chose instead to be nameless, or anonymous.
The material following this line goes on to tell us that choosing to be nameless has led to great “uncertainty” (T-3.VI.8:10), and given the purpose and power of a name, it is not hard to see why. We have already seen that to be nameless is, for all intents and purposes, to be without existence. And this, we are told, is exactly where the decision to be nameless has left us: We “may even doubt whether [we] really exist at all” (T-3.VI.8:10).
Imagine for a moment how insecure and unstable you would feel if you were such a nonentity that you didn’t even have a name. We all need to identify with something. But we rejected our true Identity as one Sonship unified in God, and chose to replace it with a myriad of separate ego identities which, precisely because they are not real, need constant validation and confirmation of their existence. And so, since it is a name that confers reality, we validate and confirm the “reality” of these identities by a constant process of naming: the naming of ourselves as separate entities, and the naming of the world that we as separate entities live in.
Lesson 184 has a fascinating discussion of this whole process (see W-pI.184.1). It tells us that this process of naming is “the means by which the world’s perception is achieved” (W-pI.184.2:1). It is the cause of our entire perception of separate entities with different attributes, making their way through a world of space and time. Imagine that! Our entire world of separate beings and separate things is produced by nothing more than an internal process of sticking different labels onto what is in truth a seamless, unified whole. “Each one becomes a separate entity, identified by its own name. By this you carve it out of unity” (W-pI.184.1:3-4).
The purpose of this process is explained as the discussion continues:
The nameless things were given names, and thus reality was given them as well. For what is named is given meaning and will be seen as meaningful; a cause of true effect, with consequences inherent in itself. (W-pI.184.3:1-4)
God did not give His Name to the illusory world we made. So, if we want that world to be real (or at least seem real), we must name it. This is the purpose of our process of naming: We name things in the illusory world we made in order to confer reality upon them. We name them to give them meaning, and to make them appear to be our cause instead of God. Naming thus fulfills our need for validation of our separate ego identities — our need to proclaim, as Jesse Jackson used have people proclaim at his rallies, “I am somebody!”
In essence, we name ourselves and the things of our world in order to establish our self-made illusions as our gods, replacing the true God Who created us. We turn away from our true Father and turn toward the things of the world, standing “before them worshipfully, naming them as gods” (W-pI.183.4:5). We exchange the Name of God for “names of idols cherished by the world” (W-pI.183.7:3). We reject our true relationship with God and our brothers and instead attempt to relate with our idols, praying to those idols to give us the validation, love, protection, and happiness we seek.
All of this may sound far-fetched when described in these terms, but in truth this is simply describing our everyday life. Our “idols” are all of the external things that we believe will make us happy, instead of God. We “pray” to these idols simply by desiring them: “The desire for them is the prayer” (S-1.III.6:3). So, all this talk of worshipping idols and praying to them is just a different way of depicting a perception of ourselves and the world that is so obvious to us that we rarely question it: “I am a separate entity in a separate world that is my source; because that world is my source, I must look to it to give me happiness.” And this entire perception of ourselves and the world is produced by our process of naming.
Thus we use the principle that a name confers reality to convince ourselves that we have succeeded in giving ourselves a whole new identity — the ultimate makeover, if you will. We do this by replacing God’s Name with namelessness, giving names to that namelessness, and then convincing ourselves that the names for namelessness are real names. Let’s look again at the three things that a name confers — reality, definition, and relationships — and see how God’s Name has been replaced:
- Our reality, the single true Identity of all creation, has been replaced by the illusion of multiple ego identities.
- The defining character and status of creation represented by the one Name for all creation has been replaced by the world of the ego — a world of separate entities with different characteristics and attributes, represented by “a thousand alien names, and thousands more” (W-pI.184.5:2).
- The true relationship between God, His Sons, and the Sons’ creations has been replaced by a jumble of “small, disconnected parts, without meaningful relationships and therefore without meaning” (T-11.V.13:5).
Remembering the Name of God
The above picture is pretty grim, like one of those Star Trek episodes where malevolent aliens erase the captain’s memory and imprint him with another identity that suits their evil purposes. But fortunately, the replacement of God’s Name with a thousand alien names can always be reversed. In truth, the Name God gave us is still ours. And our memory of this cannot really be erased:
Why should I perceive a thousand forms in what remains as one? Why should I give this one a thousand names, when only one suffices? For Your Son must bear Your Name, for You created him. (W-pII.262.1.4-6)
Why should we indeed? Perhaps now we can begin to get a sense of the significance of the “God’s Name” material in the Course, in particular the practice of repeating God’s Name. Its purpose is to enable us to replace the names we have given namelessness with the one Name for all creation, God’s Name, and so to remember our true Identity in God:
Your Father’s Name reminds you who you are, even within a world that does not know; even though you have not remembered it. (W-pI.183.1:5)
The effects of remembering the Name of God are nothing short of miraculous. This remembrance reverses our entire perception the world as a place of separate entities with different attributes, making their way through space and time:
All names are unified; all space is filled with truth’s reflection. Every gap is closed, and separation healed. (W-pI.184.12:3-4)
Remembering the Name of God enables us to turn away from our idols and acknowledge God as our true Creator. By remembering His Name, we “forget the names of all the gods [we] valued” (W-pI.183.4:3). We desire our true relationship with God and our brothers instead of desiring external things. We pray to our real Father instead of our idols, in recognition of the fact that His Love is the only true source of our happiness:
What can I seek for, Father, but Your Love? Perhaps I think I seek for something else; a something I have called by many names. Yet is Your Love the only thing I seek, or ever sought. (W-pII.231.1:1-3)
And when we pray to our Father in truth, when we forsake idols and call upon His and our true Name, He answers our prayer. He cannot answer the prayers we make to idols (W-pI.183.7:3), but He can and does answer the invitation we give to Him when we call upon His Name: “And God will come, and answer it Himself” (W-pI.183.7:2). He restores to us everything we think we have lost: our true Identity, our true definition as His holy Sons, and our true loving relationship with Him and with one another. In a word, He restores our entire inheritance, the inheritance to which our status as His Sons who share His Name entitles us: “Your Name unites us in the oneness which is our inheritance and peace. Amen” (W-pI.184.15:8-9).
What is God’s Name?
Now we turn to the title question of this article. This can be a difficult question because the Course uses the idea of God’s Name in several different ways. The question itself can be seen in at least two different ways:
- What specific verbal Name does God have, if any?
- What exactly does God’s Name refer to, what does it symbolize, what does it represent?
To illustrate what I mean here using my own name, the answer to the first question would be “Greg Mackie,” and the answer to the second might be something like “a person who lives in Sedona, Arizona, who has brown hair and blue eyes, and who is a member of the Mackie family.”
The Course offers no single answer to the question “What is God’s Name?” But based on what the Course says about this topic, I think its position on this question can be boiled down to three distinct but interrelated answers. The first one is the answer to the first question posed above; the next two are answers to the second. God’s Name is:
- any single word, particularly a word used by the Course, that symbolically represents God and our shared Identity in Him
- a nonverbal (wordless) symbol of God and our shared Identity in Him, experienced via true perception
- God’s and our true Identity in Heaven, experienced only via knowledge
Let’s look at these answers one at a time.
1. A single word that symbolically represents God and our shared Identity in Him
While God’s Name is not ultimately a verbal name, verbal names can be used to represent or symbolize Him. This is an example, I think, of the Holy Spirit taking something we made for separation (in this case, verbal names) and using it for His purpose of salvation. And so God’s Name is, on the most mundane level, a word which represents God and our shared Identity with Him and with our brothers. It is the word we are asked to repeat in the Workbook lessons that ask us to repeat God’s Name. It is a word that brings to mind the transformative recognition that God’s Name is the only real Name for everything.
This, of course, leads to the question “Which word?” The course gives us several clues about this:
God’s Name is not one particular word
In Workbook Lesson 184, we read, “God has no name” (W-pI.184.12:1). I take this to mean that there is not one particular word that truly is God’s Name. Any particular word we use, in and of itself, is only a symbol, not the real thing. This is in contrast to many spiritual traditions in which it is believed that a particular verbal name or sound really is God’s Name, and thus carries real, inherent power when spoken. One example of this is “YHWH,” usually rendered “Yahweh” or “Jehovah,” the Jewish name for God which is considered so sacred and powerful that it is never to be uttered. Another example is the sacred sound “OM” of Hinduism and Buddhism. This is not, strictly speaking, regarded as God’s Name, but it is regarded as the “supreme syllable” of Brahman, the vibrations of which contain real creative power, and in fact created and continue to sustain the entire universe.
God’s Name is a single word or idea
In the lessons that ask us to repeat God’s Name, the idea that it is a single word is emphasized (see, for instance, W-pI.183.6:6). Combinations of more than one word can be used to symbolize God, of course — the Course itself uses expressions like “Divine Abstraction” (T-4.VII.5:4) to describe Him — but the basic point in those lessons is that God’s Name is a single idea, expressed in a very compact verbal signifier. All of the meaning of what God’s Name represents is poured into a single, impactful word that serves to bring all of that meaning to our minds.
God’s Name is any word the Course uses to define Him
If God’s Name is a single word, but not one particular word, then which words can be used as God’s Name? The Course gives us at least a couple of clues. The first is in Lesson 67, “Love created me like Itself.” The title of the lesson gives us the word “Love,” one of the two words most commonly associated with God’s Name in the Course (“Father” is the other). The lesson then goes on to give us four more examples of words that can be used as defining labels for Him and for ourselves: Holiness, Kindness, Helpfulness, and Perfection (see W-pI.67.2:3-6). Then it gives us a standard by which we can decide which words for Him are appropriate: “Any attribute which is in accord with God as He defines Himself is appropriate for use” (W-pI.67.2:8).
Holiness, Kindness, Helpfulness, and Perfection are used here as one-word symbols for God. Clearly, then, they could all be used as God’s Name, as could any word that meets the above standard. How do we know which words meet this standard? We are not told explicitly here, but Jesus’ implicit assumption, I think, is that we will use the words the Course uses to define God. By Lesson 67 of the Workbook, he assumes that we have studied the Text and done the first 66 lessons of the Workbook; by this time, we would know better than to use words like “Fear” or “Wrath.” The Course tells us how God defines Himself.
This leads us to the second clue, from the Clarification of Terms, which speaks of the many names of God’s Helpers, who are given us by God to help us remember our true Identity: “Their names are legion, but we will not go beyond the names the course itself employs” (C-5.1:6). I think that this standard can be more broadly applied to the names used for God. This is not to deny the validity of the names for God used by other spiritual traditions, nor is it intended to suggest that Course students may not use names for God from those traditions. But I do think that sticking to the Course’s names is a good rule of thumb, especially for those who have chosen the Course as their path. The names the Course uses for God have been filled with the Course’s radical new meaning; it has taken great care to remove all traces of fearful connotations from them. This makes them particularly useful in facilitating an experience of God that is in harmony with the Course’s own view of God.
When we put our two clues together, this is what we get: Any word the Course uses to define God — which would definitely be in accord with how God defines Himself — is appropriate to use as the Name of God.
Two words closely associated with God’s Name: “Father” and “Love”
Although it is clear that no one word perfectly represents the Name of God, there are two words, already referred to above, that are so often linked with the idea of God’s Name that they are worthy of special mention. The first word is “Father.” This is by far the Course’s favorite term for the direct address of God: It is used to address God in close to 150 prayers, including almost all of the prayers in Part II of the Workbook.
What is the significance of addressing God as “Father”? I think it emphasizes the nature of His cause-effect relationship with us, placing a greater emphasis on the difference between us: He is our Father, and we are His Son. Of course, we are intimately related to our Father, sharing His Name and His Identity, yet at the same time we are not exactly the same as Him, since God’s Fatherhood of us is the one thing we do not share with Him (see T-7.I.1). Our Father is greater than us, since He is higher in the chain of causation.
Thus “Father,” since it emphasizes the difference between us and God in our relationship with Him, is meant to bring about in us a magnificent experience of awe, the awe experienced when “one of a lesser order stands before his Creator” (T-1.II.3:2). This experience of awe in the presence of the Father is promised in the first chapter of the Text; in Part II of the Workbook, where the vast majority of the “Father” addresses occur, it is given to us.
The second word is “Love.” And if the word “Father” emphasizes the difference between us and God, the word “Love” emphasizes our sameness. He is not just the awesome Father; He is our daddy. In many passages that discuss God’s Name, again especially in Part II of the Workbook, the word “Love,” and our shared Identity with God in that Love, is often closely associated with God’s Name. Here are a few examples, with references to Love and God’s Name bolded (see also W-pI.192.1:1 and W-pII.244.1:2):
For Love must give, and what is given in His Name takes on the form most useful in a world of form. (W-pI.186.13:5)
Instead of words, we need but feel His Love. Instead of prayers, we need but call His Name. (W-pII.In.10:3-4)
This day we enter into Paradise, calling upon God’s Name and on our own, acknowledging our Self in each of us; united in the holy Love of God. (W-pII.266.2:1)
The close association between God’s Name and the word “Love” is also revealed by examining the occurrences of the phrase “God is” in the Course. Whatever follows this phrase defines or identifies God, and so can give us a clue as to what names the Course uses for Him. The Course does give God many different labels — everything from the “Holy One” (T-4.III.7:2) to the “Prime Creator” (T-7.I.7:6) to “Formlessness Itself” (W-pI.186.14:1). But when we look up all the occurrences of some form of “God is (noun identifying Him) ,” the results are startling: While various other words appear only a handful of times each, the word “Love” appears no less than 48 times. A number of these occurrences appear in Review V of the Workbook, where the thought used in our practicing for the next ten lessons is “God is but Love, and therefore so am I” (first occurrence: W-pI.rV.4:3). This thought is echoed later in the Workbook, in the only sentence in the Course that specifically gives us a verbal name for God: “Father, Your Name is Love and so is mine” (W-pII.282.2:1).
Of course, I am not proposing that “Father” or “Love” is the Name of God in the Course. We have seen that other verbal names can certainly be used for Him. But it is clear that “Father” and “Love” are by far the Course’s favorite verbal signifiers for God, its favorite versions of His Name. And this should not be too surprising for, taken together, these words convey a powerfully attractive image. Who would not want to have a loving father? A father in whom is both perfect security and kindly affection, a father who is both an awesome power and a loving daddy, a father in whose loving arms you could safely rest? And who would not want to remember his real Name if he knew that this is the Father Who awaits his return from the far off country of alien names?
2. A nonverbal (wordless) symbol of our shared Identity in God, experienced via true perception
What exactly does God’s Name refer to, what does it represent? We saw above that God’s Name as a verbal symbol points to the transformative recognition that God’s Name is the only real Name for everything. This recognition opens us up to a mystical experience of God’s Name as nonverbal symbol of our shared Identity with God and our brothers. The experience of this symbol occurs in holy instants of true perception (and in moments of revelation), and deepens as we progress on the path. This is the purpose of repeating God’s Name: Repeating a word that represents God’s Name leads to wordless experience of the Name and all it represents, of Identity with our Father and with the Sonship.
This idea of God’s Name as a nonverbal symbol is similar to what the Course says about “God’s Word.” In fact, there are places in the Course where God’s Name is closely identified with God’s Word:
Here [in the “sunlight” of the holy instant] you understand the Word, the Name Which God has given you; the one Identity Which all things share. (W-pI.184.10:2)
This Word, this Name, like the verbal one, is a symbol. But it is a Word that is paradoxically beyond words, a wordless symbol which “symbolizes that which has no human symbols at all” (M-21.3:10). What does this symbol represent? While there is clearly no adequate verbal answer to that question, we’ve already seen that it basically represents our shared Identity with God and our brothers, and everything that is our inheritance as a result of this Identity.
As I’ve mentioned, this experience of the Name of God is essentially an experience of true perception. Lesson 184, another place in which the Name of God and the Word of God are equated (W-pI.184.13:2), uses descriptive phrases that are highly suggestive of true perception. It describes the Name of God as “truth’s reflection” (W-pI.184.12:3), a Name that will “unify our sight” (W-pI.184.13:5), a Name that heals the separation (W-pI.184.12:4) and is “the final lesson that all things are one” (W-pI.184.12:2). All of these phrases point to an experience of true perception, the ultimate symbolic experience of shared Identity, the vision of Christ with which we see “truth’s reflection” everywhere. At its deepest, the experience of God’s Name as a nonverbal symbol is such a pure and perfect reflection of Him that the dawning of His Reality upon our minds cannot be far behind.
3. God’s and our true Identity in Heaven, experienced only via knowledge
Ultimately, God’s Name is God. It is His Identity, the Identity He gave all creation by the very act of creating. The full reality of God’s Name can only be experienced in Heaven itself through knowledge (or briefly on earth in moments of direct revelation). This meaning of God’s Name is especially suggested in those passages discussing God’s creation and our act of creating in God’s Name — things that exist only in Heaven:
Creation has one Name, one Meaning, and a single Source which unifies all things within Itself. (W-pI.184.11:3)
God gives thanks to His extension in His Son. His Son gives thanks for his creation, in the song of his creating in his Father’s Name. (S-1.In.1:5-6)
What a beautiful picture of the joy of Heaven this last quote paints for us: the Father extending His Love and gratitude to the Son He created; the Son returning it to his Father in the song of creating in his Father’s Name; a communion of everlasting Love in which all things are unified under one glorious Name. This is the ultimate meaning of God’s Name.
What is God’s Name then? It is a verbal symbol used to call Him to mind, which becomes a wordless symbol of His and our shared Identity, and is finally revealed as the very Name of all that lives in the Kingdom of Heaven, the very reality of God and His eternal, infinite creation.
From many words to one to none
We have seen that God’s Name is a significant idea in the Course. I myself have benefited immensely from learning more about it, and especially from the practice of repeating God’s Name. Its importance in the Course should come as no surprise, since God’s Name is our Identity, and, as Jesus tells us, “this course will teach you how to remember what you are, restoring to you your Identity” (T-14.X.12:4). But it is also significant, I believe, because the idea of God’s Name in the Course is a perfect reflection of the very way the Course is written, of Jesus’ transformative methodology.
In the Course, Jesus radically redefines words and then places them into a densely woven web of meaning, in which each word is connected with every other. As we progress in reading the Course, key words are repeated in order to bring to mind previous discussions in which those words were used. In this way, certain words become packed with meaning.
This is exactly what Jesus does with God’s Name. The primary function of God’s Name as a verbal symbol for God is to pack the meaning of all the Course’s words describing God — His reality, His nature, His attributes, His relationship to us, His Identity with us – into a single word, a word which can then lead us to the wordless experience of God. It is a progression from many words to one word to no words at all (to paraphrase M-16.10:7).
It is not surprising, then, that the practice of repeating God’s Name does not appear until relatively late in the Course (Lesson 183 of the Workbook). As the final paragraph of Chapter 1 of the Text reminds us, we need preparation before we are ready to approach our Father. Before God’s Name can be helpful to us, all fearful connotations associated with it must be removed. The old meanings must be poured out, and the Course’s radical new meanings, meanings purified of fear and full of love, must be poured in. And this takes time, time spent in careful study of the Text and dedicated practice of the earlier lessons of the Workbook.
Finally, it is not surprising that the words most closely associated with God’s Name are “Father” and “Love.” For it is perhaps these words which are in most dire need of redefining. God the Father is a fearful figure indeed to those of us in the West who have been browbeaten with images of a wrathful God who dooms us to the pits of hell. And the word “love,” as the Course tells us, has lost virtually all meaning in a world in which “love” means special relationships — relationships in which the hatred and attack of the ego maintain the illusion of separation in love’s name. In short, if these words can be transformed from dark symbols of fear to bright symbols of our very Identity, our entire world will be undone, and the remembrance of our Father’s Love will dawn again on our grateful minds. And in the Name of God, it shall be done.
The communion of Heaven
Where does remembrance of God’s Name ultimately take us? To the place we never left, of course. One of the ways the Course material pictures Heaven is as a state in which the unified Son joyously calls His Father’s Name and his Father joyously answers: an eternal song of Love sung by creation and Creator. And we experience a taste of this joyous communion every time we wholeheartedly call upon the Name of God. Let us conclude with a passage we touched on in brief earlier, a passage that beautifully describes the communion of Heaven — the song of prayer the Son sings to the Father as he creates in His Father’s Name, and the Father’s grateful response:
Endless the harmony, and endless, too, the joyous concord of the Love They give forever to Each Other. And in this, creation is extended. God gives thanks for His extension in His Son. His Son gives thanks for his creation, in the song of his creating in his Father’s Name. The Love They share is what all prayer will be throughout eternity, when time is done. For such it was before time seemed to be. (S-1.In.1:3-8)
[Please note: ACIM passages quoted in this article reference the Foundation for Inner Peace (FIP) Edition.]
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