Sometimes the question is asked: “How can we make God intelligible?”
You can make a chair intelligible by touching, by looking at it and seeing how it is made. You make a house intelligible by seeing how it is made. You can make a tree intelligible by seeing how is, its stem, fruits, leaves, appearance, and then what comes out of it. The word ‘intelligible’ means that through our senses we feel a thing, we know a thing, we have a conception of a thing; that is to make it intelligible; to make anything intelligible is to make a concrete conception of it.
And now the question is, how to make God intelligible? This is really impossible, to make God intelligible! But at the same time, it was in order to make God intelligible that the Egyptians made the Sphinx; it was in order to make God intelligible that the fire worshippers offered homage to the sun; it is in order to make God intelligible that the people have made idol-worship and it is also in order to make God intelligible that people esteemed their divine ideal with their devotion, as those worshippers of Jesus Christ. All these forms are attempts on the part of man to make God intelligible in the form that seems to him the best. That form must be seen by him, and must be imagined by him, and must be known by him. And he knows that form as a person, he calls it Christ, or some other name he gives to it. He makes him the King, because he thinks that the king is the greatest person. He gives him the throne and crown. He calls him the Master of the Day of Judgment, because he knows there is no justice in this world, so he thinks he must be the judge. He thinks of all that is beautiful, surrounds him with angels, conceives the form of angels as human beings. He pictures God in the form of man. There have been attempts of putting all sorts of things on one being. The Chinese used to make a dragon to which all things were attached–fish, lion, tiger, man, everything that existed–in order to make one form intelligible to serve as a symbol suggesting and teaching many things. Every effort is a failure, but every effort to make God intelligible is worthwhile.
Now we have two stages of making God intelligible. One stage was idol worship, and the other stage was ideal worship. One was the primitive stage, a stage in which God was made manifest in an unusual form, but at the same time intelligible. A further stage was that they made God an ideal. Instead of making him a God of forms, they made him a God of attributes. And then they said all the beauty, goodness, wisdom, justice belongs to Him. All things that we can conceive in our mind, we give those things to God and consider all those things in God in their perfection. That is the highest form of making God intelligible: that all that our intelligence, our mind, thinks as beautiful, as good, as valuable, to see all that in perfection, in one Being and to idealize that Being as the greatest and the highest of all beings.
That is what we call ‘to make God intelligible.’ But at the same time, that is the first step on the spiritual path. On the religious path that is the last step; on the spiritual path that is the first step.