Naming the Unnamable

YAHWEH_blue_sm1Naming the Unnamable is a tricky proposition. Many ancient religions believed that if you knew the name of a god/goddess you could summon and or control that deity. Thankfully, the Unnamable, the One who created all that is, refuses to be pinned down like this. When Moses asked the Unnamable for an ID, the response was “I Am Who I Am”  (Ex 3:14). Jews call this the tetragrammaton and is composed of four Hebrew letters. They are transliterated into English as YHWH. Religiously observant Jews are forbidden to pronounce this “name” for the Unnamable. Most use either “Adonai” (Lord) of “Hashem” (The Name) in it’s place. I also have Jewish friends who write G-D as a way of conveying the same thing.

The beauty of this is that the One who created all that is, remains a mystery and cannot be limited by such a small, earthly thing as a name. Furthermore, a scan through the Old Testament reveals that YHWH never appears in full form because humans could not handle it. Instead, Hashem reveals a little glimpse of the Divine in forms such as a pillar of could and a pillar of fire (Ex 13:21), the hem of a robe (Is 6:1), glory (Ex 16:10), and Hashem’s backside (Ex 33:23).

One of the biggest misconceptions about Pagan religions has to do with polytheism. Gus DiZerega, in Pagans and Christians: The Personal Spiritual Experience, says “Often people believe that polytheism implies denying the existence of a single source from which everything comes. Historically, it rarely has. A great many Pagan faiths acknowledge that there is an ultimate source for all that is, even while acknowledging other spiritual entities and powers with whom it is appropriate to relate.”

The Sioux Indians called the Unnamable “Wakan Tanka” which many translate as “The Great Spirit,” but it really means “The Great Mystery.”  Some Wiccans refer to Drygthen which means “the original source of all things.“  In the Gardnerian Drygthen Blessing Prayer, the following opening words describe the Unnamable: “In the name of Dryghtyn, the Ancient Providence, who was from the beginning and is for eternity, Male and Female, the Original Source of all things; all-knowing, all-pervading, all-powerful; changeless, eternal.” This doesn’t sound too far from the characteristics attached to YHWH in Judaism. [NOTE: I personally view YHWH as beyond gender so attaching male and female characteristics to the Great Mystery seems unnecessary.]

When it comes to Christianity, we have a mixed bag of references. Many Christians are attracted to Jesus’ Aramaic name for YHWH, “Abba.” It is a paternal term, meaning “Father,” or “Daddy.”  Jehovah’s Witnesses prefer “Jehovah,” which is the Latinization of the Hebrew YHWH. It means “Self Existent” or “Eternal One.” Other Christians use “God,” “Creator,” and “Lord” which is used in many English Bibles for the Hebrew word YHWH.

So, we might be a bit closer to one another than we think! It seems like a spiritually healthy thing to keep the Unnamable unnamable. To think that we can grasp the Great Mystery who created everything that exists is pretty audacious on our part. The Unnamable is not going to be pigeonholed by even the smartest of us human beings. I wouldn’t have it any other way!

Copyright ©2016 by David Taliesin,

About David Taliesin

My name is David Taliesin. I'm an writer, teacher and retreat leader who explores the connections between Christian and Pagan Spirituality. E-mail me with any personal comments you'd like to share and I will do my best to answer them. You can also contact me through my Facebook page
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