In Thomas Merton’s journal “A Vow of Conversation”, he shares a meeting he had with Jewish scholar Abraham Heschel. They talked about what was the basic sin. Heschel said that the first commandment, “You shall have no other gods before me” was first because it was the most fundamental error that leads to all others.
Any image we have of “God” in our minds is exactly that: an image.
And “image” is the root word for the Latin “idol”.
The word is not the thing.
The idea is not the thing.
My ideas about God have gone through so many transformations over the years that I’ve learned not to trust my ideas about God nor serve these ideas as if they were God.
Not that these ideas and words can’t orbit or even approximate what they hope to point towards.
For, whether we believe in God or not, acknowledging that the elevation of our thoughts to the equivalent of a divine level where we adore and serve them without question is our most human tendency and our most fundamental error.
But that which is beyond these ideas and words is the crucial and necessary question that will keep us from the most fundamental error that leads to all others.