Does God exist? Are there more than one God? Is God a figment of human imagination? These questions have confounded humanity for aeons and, even today, they are hotly debated. Some believe there is only one God and that anyone who worships a different form or name of God is deluded. Some experience God in one form or another and believe that the form they see is the only true God. Some believe that all of the Gods are representations of specific Nature powers. Some believe that the various names and forms of Gods are simply aspects of one God. Some believe that there is no God and that the idea of God or Gods has been conjured up by the human mind to provide some explanation about our existence and the significance of our lives.

We observe powerful forces in the world and impacting our lives and we attribute to them both agency and specific powers. The sun, the moon, the lightning, fire, the wind, the rain and the oceans, among others, seem to have a primary action that is independent of other forces. The Upanishads remind us that there is “One without a second”, which implies that there is one Supreme Reality within which each of these apparently separate forms operates; at the same time, the Upanishads mention the individual Gods and their respective powers of action within this framework.. This aligns with the Judeo-Christian tradition of One God, but without the negative connotation that any specific Gods are somehow wrong or heretical. The Kena Upanishad takes up the theme of the individual Gods asserting more power than they have in reality. Each one boasts of his unique power to devour or burn, to move, etc. only to find that there is a greater Power that is beyond their scope. This is also a hint to human beings about our boasting about powers we utilize when they, in reality, come from a greater source and depend on that for their results. The powers are real and operate independently of us, and yet they are part of a unified, universal whole and move under the greater impulsion of the force behind the entire manifestation and which transcends it.

Whatever specific form they take for human beings, they exist independent of those specific forms, which explains how the Divine Mother Goddess can be seen and known in different cultures under a variety of names and forms, for example. A manifestation at a particular time and place, for a specific purpose may lead to humanity identifying a particular name and form with the Divine Presence.

Sri Aurobindo writes: “God is, but man’s conceptions of God are reflections in his own mentality, sometimes of the Divine, sometimes of other Beings and Powers and they are what his mentality can make of the suggestions that come to him, generally very partial and imperfect so long as they are still mental, so long as he has not arrived at a higher and truer, a spiritual or mystic knowledge. The Gods already exist, they are not created by man, even though he does seem to conceive of them in his own image; — fundamentally, he formulates as best he can what truth about them he receives from the cosmic Reality. An artist or a bhakta may have a vision of the Gods and it may get stabilised and generalised in the consciousness of the race and in that sense it may be true that man gives their forms to the Gods; but he does not invent these forms, he records what he sees; the forms that he gives are given to him.”

“As to the gods, man can build forms which they will accept but these forms too are inspired into man’s mind from the planes to which the god belongs. All creation has the two sides, the formed and the formless, — the gods too are formless and yet have forms, but a godhead can take many forms, here Maheshwari, there Pallas Athene. Maheshwari herself has many forms in her lesser manifestation, Durga, Uma, Parvati, Chandi, etc. The gods are not limited to human forms — man also has not always seen them in human forms only.” Sri Aurobindo, Integral Yoga: Sri Aurobindo’s Teaching and Method of Practice, Chapter 4 The Divine, the Gods and the Divine Force, The Gods pp. 82-85

Author's Bio: 

Santosh has been studying Sri Aurobindo's writings since 1971 and has a daily blog at He is author of 16 books and is editor-in-chief at Lotus Press. He is president of Institute for Wholistic Education, a non-profit focused on integrating spirituality into daily life.