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  • Writer's pictureChristina V. Mills

Who or What is God? | An Exploration of Om/YHWH/Allah/Brahman & More

The Love, the Light, the Creator, the Life Force.

Interpretations of God Across the World



Is God the Same as Allah/Brahman/Om/etc?

People across the world and throughout history have pondered this question. Some have come to similar conclusions - others have come to varying ideas on the topic. Having grown up in the Christian church and studied both Eastern and Western religions, I have come to an interfaith view on God that I would like to share as it may be helpful to anyone trying to make sense of spiritual traditions across the world and determine whether they actually believe in this God-thing.

First of All, What is God?

God is simply the Source or the Origin of all things. God is the intelligence behind creation, the spark that created the big bang.

God is the harmonizing principle, the thing that creates order out of chaos.

God is the entity that created the almost too-perfect ratios of the universe that science can measure.

God is the highest consciousness, the superbrain that humans get "bright ideas" from when we're super tapped in.

God is the light that illuminates our minds, the light in the darkness both literally and metaphorically.

God is that thing we can't put our finger on, that X-factor, that seems to hold everything together, including us.

God is the life force energy (which yogic traditions call prana or breath and Chinese traditions call chi) that runs through all of us.

God is love itself.

Interpretations of God Across the World



Hymn to Amen-Ra

17th Century BCE

Hail to thee, Amen-Ra, Lord of the thrones of the earth, the oldest existence, ancient of heaven, support of all things;

Chief of the gods, lord of truth; father of the gods, maker of men and beasts and herbs; maker of all things above and below;

Deliverer of the sufferer and oppressed, judging the poor;

Lord of wisdom, lord of mercy; most loving, opener of every eye, source of joy, in whose goodness the gods rejoice, thou whose name is hidden.

Thou art the one, maker of all that is, the one; the only one; maker of gods and men; giving food to all.

Hail to thee, thou one with many heads; sleepless when all others sleep, adoration to thee.

Hail to thee from all creatures from every land, from the height of heaven, from the depth of the sea.

The spirits thou hast made extol thee, saying, welcome to thee, father of the fathers of the gods; we worship thy spirit which is in us.

Amen-Ra and was considered to be the highest among the Egyptian gods was the god of the Sun, light, and all of creation. Amen-Ra was compared to a loving father who has many names but whose true name is ultimately hidden and whom all creatures worship. For this, Amen-Ra is also known as majestic, sustaining and taking care of humanity, helping the crops to grow, and providing beautiful jewels within the earth. Though there are other celestial beings or gods, all the gods worship Amen-Ra.




15th-13th Century BCE

But Moses said to God [Elohim], “If I come to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your ancestors has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?” 14 God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.”a He said further, “Thus you shall say to the Israelites, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’”

Exodus 3:13   

Then Ezra blessed the LORD [YHWH], the great God [Elohim], and all the people answered, “Amen, Amen,” lifting up their hands. Then they bowed their heads and worshiped the LORD with their faces to the ground.

Nehemiah 8:6

God in the Hebrew Scriptures, goes by a few names, Elohim is a plural masculine noun that is translated in the singular as God. The tetragrammaton, YHWH, indicates the name that cannot be said out loud and is redacted out of reverence so is often translated as the LORD. God also refers to Godself as simply I AM that I AM.

In the Hebrew understanding of God, God reveals that though there are many created gods and false, manmade idols that other cultures worship, that this entity is the one true God, the actual Creator of Heaven and Earth, and the only being worthy of worship. Over the centuries, Elohim/YHWH/I AM gives the Israelites rules to live by. Follow and be rewarded lavishly. Disobey and receive punishment. Ultimately, however, Elohim/YHWH/I Am is loving and comforting, often described as a good shepherd or a loving father, simply trying to take care of and guide humanity from our wickedness into the promised land. Though this is written in historical contexts, it can also be taken as a metaphor for going from dark to light, from hell to heaven, or from lower consciousness to higher consciousness.



Kena Upanishad 1

Mid 1st Century BCE

5. 'That which is not expressed by speech and by which speech is expressed, that alone know as Brahman, not that which people here adore.

6. 'That which does not think by mind, and by which, they say, mind is thought, that alone know as Brahman, not that which people here adore.

7. 'That which does not see by the eye, and by which one sees (the work of) the eyes, that alone know as Brahman, not that which people here adore.

8. 'That which does not hear by the ear, and by which the ear is heard, that alone know as Brahman, not that which people here adore.

9. 'That which does not breathe by breath, and by which breath is drawn, that alone know as Brahman, not that which people here adore.'

In Hindu philosophy, which is firmly polytheist, there are many gods. However, there is an Ultimate Reality known as Brahman. The Hindu idea of God considers the principles of the Universe, creation, preservation, and destruction, as three expressions of Brahman called, the trimurti, similar to the Christian trinity. In the trimurti, Brahma is the creator, Visnhu is the sustainer who incarnates comes to earth as Krishna, a savior type being, and Shiva is the destroyer. One can direct worship or attention toward any of them separately or as the Godhead Brahman together.



Tao de Ching 1

600 BCE

The Tao that can be trodden is not the enduring and

unchanging Tao. The name that can be named is not the enduring and

unchanging name.

(Conceived of as) having no name, it is the Originator of heaven

and earth; (conceived of as) having a name, it is the Mother of all


Always without desire we must be found,

If its deep mystery we would sound;

But if desire always within us be,

Its outer fringe is all that we shall see.

Under these two aspects, it is really the same; but as development

takes place, it receives the different names. Together we call them

the Mystery. Where the Mystery is the deepest is the gate of all that

is subtle and wonderful.

In ancient Chinese philosophy, the Tao, also often called The Way is the creating and sustaining principle of the universe. The difference in Taoism as compared to Hinduism and Western religions is that the Tao is more of a governing principle than an entity to be worshipped. While there is not a concept of reward and punishment in the same way as the Judeo-Christian context, harmony with the Tao and its principles lead to a prosperous, heavenly life, while living in disharmony or going against the principles of the Tao leads to a much more difficulty.



The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali

400 CE

I.21 Samprajnata is near for practitioners who are applying themselves with full effort.

I.22 Even among committed practitioners, some may practice with mild, moderate, or enthusiastic intensity.

I.23 This state can also come from devotion to God.

I.24 The Lord is a unique soul, untouched by the kleshas, karma, and the fruits of karmic action.

I.25 The seed of God's omniscience is unsurpassed.

I.26 And was the original guru to the ancients because The Lord is not limited by time.

I.27 The Lord's name is the mystical syllable Om.

I.28 Repeat this and contemplate its meaning.

I.29 From this comes the recognition of the inner consciousness and freedom from all disturbances.

In yoga philosophy, God, called Isvara, can be described as the ultimate or highest consciousness and is referred to by different names. The mystical syllable Om, which is chanted in many yoga classes is considered to be the divine sound, the sound of the universe, that we invoke to create harmony within our bodies and set the tone to tap into this higher consciousness and literally the name of Lord God.

Purusha is another word used for the divine or holy spirit, and it is used in two ways. First, lowercase purusha identifies the soul or spirit that each of us has as an individual being. Uppercase Purusha identifies the ultimate or highest Spirit or Consciousness, which can also be referred to as God. In this philosophy, each human being has its own purusha, but we are simply the eyes and ears of the highest Purusha, simply observing existence from every possible angle, in every possible physical form. Upon total enlightenment, some schools believe that we even rejoin with the Ultimate, or God.


Saudi Arabia


600 CE

1 In the Name of Allah—the Most Compassionate, Most Merciful.

2 All praise is for Allah—Lord of all worlds,

3 the Most Compassionate, Most Merciful,

4 Master of the Day of Judgment.

5 You alone we worship and You alone we ask for help.

6 Guide us along the Straight Path,

7 the Path of those You have blessed—not those You are displeased with, or those who are astray.

In the Islamic tradition, following the Judeo-Christian tradition, God, called Allah, is the creator and sustainer of the universe and a being to be worshipped. Just as the birds wake up and sing, it is believed that humans also were created to sing praises to Allah. Allah is the only and final judge of human actions and will separate the faithful from the unfaithful in the final judgement, so it is beneficial for humans to follow the Straight Path of righteous behavior.

Ik Onkar/Ek Ong Kar


Gugu Granth Sahib

1604 CE

Ek ong kar sat nam

There is one God/Essense whose name is truth

In the Sikh tradition, Siks recognize one entity as Ultimate Reality or Truth itself. If you have ever practiced Kundalini yoga, you may be familiar with the phrase "sat nam," which is used to convey something to the effect of "my name is truth," but it points to the Ultimate Truth beyond all of us.

Is God the Same as Allah/Brahman/Om/etc?

Humans have very limited understanding compared to the expanse of knowledge that is possible. Though we try, our minds are simply unable to totally comprehend the magnitude of the Creator of the Universe. It appears from the similarity of revelation across the world that the same God has attempted to convey the same concepts of love and concern for one another all over the world. Every culture across the world, throughout history, has attempted to comprehend this entity with their own name in their own language and through their own cultural lens. Though each culture has a slightly different interpretation of God, ultimately, we're all referring to the same thing.

Sure, there are some groups who want to affirm that their God is different than another, God, but often, I believe this is rooted in an attempt to make their religion superior to another. I would always ask someone who says this if they believe in multiple Gods, which generally the answer is no. Anyone who genuinely believes in one Source of all things instead of simply the superiority of their own religious practices, should be able to easily see the unity of God and that all who seek God are seeking the same thing, even if they call that entity by a different name.

When we speak about God in the West, the conversation is often loaded with presuppositions based on the Judeo-Christian Bible because it has become so widespread. Often, when we speak about God, people assume we are talking about the God of the Old Testament and/or of the New Testament, though there are many other writings and understandings of God from across the world, each of which we will explore below.

What is God's nature?

Across the world, different cultures consider God to be the organizing principle of the universe. Though there are differences when it comes to the details, overall, this entity or being has the ability to create and sustain. God is harmonious, can make something out of nothing, beauty out of chaos, light out of total darkness.

Understandings across the world and even science also seem to agree that God has created principles of the universe, such as the principles of gravity and the law of cause and effect. Living in harmony with these principles, or following The Way as the Tao would put it, leads to a smoother life, while going against them creates problems for oneself. How far this concept goes into karma or reward and punishment depends on the tradition.

In Taoism, there is no idea of reward, punishment, or final judgement like that in Judaism/Christianity/Islam, but the law of cause in effect seems to stand - following the Tao benefits the individual, while not following it may bring self-harm the so it's best to just follow it.

In the Hindu/yoga traditions, God is the Ultimate Reality guiding us to enlightenment and truth. This would indicate that God is a benevolent entity or consciousness that one can tap into or connect with and that doing so through various yogic practices such as chanting the Lord's name, Om, is beneficial for the individual to create harmony within oneself, harmony with other beings and harmony with the divine or the Lord/Isvara/Om.

Able to create something out of nothing

Welcoming, draws us closer

Sustains & nourishes the Universe


Makes Light out of Darkness

Established principles that govern the Universe

Harmony out of Chaos

Ultimate Reality and Truth, the greatest Teacher

Radiates Energy that we can tap into

Pure Love

Is God male?

The Spirit/Energy/Consciousness that created all things does not have a physical body and so God cannot be a man. God is neither male nor female. God is also not both male and female. God is pure spirit, a form of energy, through which all things were created and are maintained, therefore God is beyond biological sex or gender preferences in the way humans view those things. While both male and female can emanate from this one Source, the Source, which we call God is totally beyond such animalistic characteristics, in the same way the wind is outside of gender or sex.

Often, many with a Judeo-Christian background will give God male attributes. There is reference for this in the Bible, with God referred to as Father. Jesus, in particular, called God his Father in Heaven. Christians extrapolated this to mean that God is male, though I believe that this is a misunderstanding and is simply an example of our limited human minds anthropomorphizing God in order to talk about God in terms everyone can understand.

God is not a human being, that he should lie,

or a mortal, that he should change his mind.

Has he promised, and will he not do it?

Has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it?

Numbers 23:19

Amen-Ra, the sun god and the highest god of ancient Egypt was also compared to a caring father. However, in the Tao te Ching, the Tao is referred to as female, the Mother of all things.

While it may be a helpful example to refer to God as a loving Father or Mother, this metaphor can be deeply confusing as it infers that God has a body with genitalia. To me, this greatly diminishes God's grandeur, especially as the only uncreated being.

While, again, this may be a helpful metaphor to understand the birth of creation, ultimately the Source of all things, which we call God has no body and so it is inappropriate to gender God as male or female. I find it most appropriate to use no pronouns when referring to God.

The only beings that have physical bodies and male/female attributes are created beings, such as lower celestial beings, angels, animals, and humans.

Are there many gods?

Yes and no. It depends on what you mean by god/God.

It appears to me that there is one God, one uncreated Creator, one Source of all things. And then, there appear to be many other celestial and physical beings who were created by this Originator.

The Tao produced One;

One produced Two;

Two produced Three;

Three produced All things.

Tao Te Ching 42

God clearly doesn't exist alone. Pretty much every spiritual text that refers to God also refers to other celestial beings. These other beings seem to fit into the categories of angels (positive celestial beings), demons (negative celestial beings), ancestors (humans who have passed on), and lesser gods, though the lines seem to blur between these depending on the culture.

This is to say that what one culture such as Christianity might call an angel, Hinduism might call a god. Either way, that entity would be some type of celestial being that was created and is not the Creator.

Some traditions, such as Judaism and Islam, take a hardline monotheistic stance on this issue and say that there is one God and nothing else. And yet, even in the Hebrew Scriptures, when God hovers over the water and makes creation in Genesis 1, God is referred to as Elohim, which in Hebrew is a masculine noun in the plural, similar to words like cherubim and nephilim, and could be accurately translated as "the gods," though it is always translated in the singular. And yet, when creating humankind, the plural is used again as God says,

Then God said, “Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals of the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.” Genesis 1:26 (Torah/Bible)

Whether this "us" is the royal we or perhaps referring to angels and other celestial beings that God created before humans is open to interpretation. Though later on in other books we find Satan the Accuser and other celestial beings such as angels in God's company and interacting with humans. However, it is clear that in the Judeo-Christian/Muslim traditions that though God is one, there are other celestial beings, whom some other traditions might call gods.

Christians, while also believing in one God, consider God to exist in a triune sense, considering God to exist in three persons, the Father, the Son (Jesus), and the Holy Spirit. Jesus, called the Word in the Gospel According to John, is said to have been with God in the beginning. Upon his death and resurrection, Jesus indicates that a Spirit would come down in his absence, and at the Pentecost the Holy Spirit appears. However, Muslims, would say this is affirming three Gods.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being 4 in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it. John 1:1

When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. 2 And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. 3 Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. 4 All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability. Acts 2:1

Throughout the Old Testament, there are multiple references to angels interacting with humans and singing praises to God, the highest being. In the New Testament, there are also multiple stories of people possessed with demons and Jesus and the disciples removing demons from people's bodies. These demons would also be examples of negative celestial beings who do not, themselves, have physical bodies. The Quran also refers to these types of beings, referring to angels and jinn.

Hindus, though firmly polytheistic with a pantheon of gods, also affirm the highest God in a triune sense, considering God to exist in three persons, Brahma (the Creator), Vishnu (the sustainer, who incarnates comes to earth as Krishna, a savior type being), and Shiva (the destroyer).

African spirituality also considers there to be multiple celestial beings including gods and ancestors, though there is often a concept of a highest god, who is often the creator. As in the other traditions, there is a combination of benevolent and malevolent spirits.


The Creator of all things, the Source, Ultimate Consciousness

Lesser gods

Created celestial beings that can impact human events, may be negative or positive


Created celestial beings that are positive, helpful, altruistic, makes miracles


Created celestial beings that are negative, creates chaos, harm, negative thoughts


Created human beings that have passed on - may be negative or positive


Created life form with a physical body, consciousness, ability to reason, override instincts


Created life form with a physical body, consciousness, bound by instinct

Plants & Fungi

Created life forms with a physical body, limited consciousness, can interact with environment


Created elements that are physical, can be combined in different ways, no consciousness

What does God want from us?

Depending on tradition this answer can vary widely, though generally concepts of God's expectations of humanity include positive things such as personal improvement, following a certain path that will lead to positive benefits while avoiding paths that lead to negative results, diminishing the ego in some way, and sharing loving, positive energy with other beings.

In Taoism, though the Tao can be considered to be God, the Tao is not a being that demands obedience. The Tao is a set of principles called The Way that set the order of the Universe. Following the way leads to positive results, rebelling against the way leads to negative results.

In Hinduism, God is the Source of all things, the Ultimate Reality and truth that helps us along the path of evolution through our various births. In Hindu philosophy, we are born into samsara, a state of existence where beings die and are reborn multiple times through various lives, and one's karmic debt, or the result of their past unresolved actions determines the circumstances of their birth and the events they will experience. As we go through each life, we are to follow our dharma or life purpose, so that we can learn the lessons needed and evolve to new levels of samsara. God and the various gods are available to help with the process.

In Judaism and Islam God is a conscious being who wants to teach humanity the ways of righteousness, asking humanity to follow laws prescribed as closely as possible as an expression of devotion and worship. Because we stray from God's will and find ourselves in a negative place with negative consequences, we must repent and ask God for forgiveness in various ways. God blesses obedience in this life and in the future if one makes it to join God in Heaven.

For the most part, Christianity believes in all of this with one exception. Instead of the burden being on ourselves, the belief is that Jesus came as an intercessor or savior to help humanity with its incessant sin problem. Within Christianity, God wants us to repent, forgive and have total love and trust in God so that we can tap into our maximum potential. As an expression of God's radical love for us, we should extend love toward each other.


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