What’s in a Name?

While it is true that a rose by any other name would still be as beautiful, names exert a powerful influence on our minds. Think of how a beautiful name can create a good first impression. Think of the thought that goes into the naming of a child. And think of how it would feel to have no name. In one indigenous society in which female infants are often killed, they will not be killed once they have been named.

Naming something is more than just attaching a convenient label. It seems like a creative act, for by naming you appear to give something an identity. You also seem to give it a particular kind of identity, like the father who named his boy Sue in the old Johnny Cash song.

A Course in Miracles says that the psychological motives and consequences behind naming go far deeper than we would ever guess. A name identifies something as a separate entity, distinguishable from what is around it. “By this you carve it out of unity” (W-pI.184.1), says the Course. The very fact that each one of us has a different name, and that the space between us is not named, tells our minds that we are separate islands with an empty void lying between us.

Naming, then, is an unconscious attempt to prove to ourselves that separateness is the truth.

What, then, if separateness is not true? Many spiritual traditions teach that there is only One, and that we are all parts of that One. A Course in Miracles does as well. In its language, God is our Creator, but He created us as part of Him, at one with Him. Since there is only One, everything in truth has only one Name. To look at it another way, since God is our Father, He naturally gives us His Name, just as “a father gives his son his name, and thus identifies the son with him” (W-pI.183.1).

Consider for a moment the possibility that the names we carry are not our real Name. They refer to us as separate beings, and we are not that. Consider instead the possibility that our true Name is God’s, not because we are God, but because we are part of Him. All of this may sound rather abstract, but we can make it very practical. Think of someone in your life and silently speak the following lines to him or her:

Your name is not really _________, for you are not separate.
Your true Name is God [or Father or Source—use whatever word you like], for you are part of Him. 

How did that feel? Did it make the person look different in your eyes? Did the person suddenly seem elevated, even exalted? This, says the Course, is how we should think of each other. We should use the world’s names, but only for convenience, knowing all the while that in truth we all share the single Name of God.