Anthropomorphism, (anthropos, man, and morphe, form). A term used in its widest sense to signify the tendency of man to conceive the activities of the external world as the counterpart of his own. In religious thought it is the ascription to the Supreme Being of the form, organs, operations, and general characteristics of human nature. The justification for anthropomorphic expression in religious writings is found in the fact that truth can be conveyed to men only through the medium of human ideas and thoughts, and is to be expressed only in language suited to their comprehension.
The neurologist, Ramachandran (Reith lectures 2003), makes an attempt to define the bootstrapping in the brain that the metaphor gives us, to make us intelligence. Synaesthesia, the cross-wiring of two functional aspects of the brain, so that, for example, seeing a number means that number has a certain colour, is more prevelant among arty types. And arty types are good at metaphor. Synaesthesia is genetic. If it expresses generally in the brain you get greater hyperconnectivity throughout the brain making you more prone to metaphor, links seemingly unrelated things because after all concepts are also represented in brain maps. The connections between different parts of the brain in this way could also have lead to language.
Yet the Great educators made it explicit that the anthropomorphic expression was only a metaphor, a way of understanding. The reality of the Supreme Being was far different. “God, the unknowable Essence, the divine Being, is immensely exalted beyond every human attribute, such as corporeal existence, ascent and descent, egress and regress. Far be it from His glory that human tongue should adequately recount His praise, or that human heart comprehend His fathomless mystery” Baha’u’llah Kitab-i-Iqan p98.
So is it time to undo anthropormorphism. Can we do away with anthropomorphism without doing away with the metaphor on which our whole system of language and understanding is based?
If we realise that God is the Creator, and God is nothing like us, then maybe the existence (that which is created) is also nothing like we can understand. Well we can always understand something that our brain has bootstrapped, but it would be just another type of anthropomorphism to accept that this is much at all. If we destroy anthropomorphism, then, when we say God is Great, then we know we are not great. But maybe the only way to challenge our mindset about this is to use metaphor. Let us turn ourselves inside out and upside down. We are not at the centre of the galaxy, but on the outer edge of a sparsely populated neighbourhood far from the centre. And all our existence and understanding in relation to God is like that (new metaphor). God has created thousands of other systems, each with tens of worlds, each which we cannot travel, cannot understand.
But all of that galaxy is part of the bigger world that we are apart. It is the true driving force of our world. Without that galaxy we are destroyed, non-existent.
And so we use this metaphor to find an understanding that we are forms at the end of a galaxy of being. We see a model of existence in which our deaths mean nothing to the greater reality. Our lives may have other importance.