The Living God

The matter of God is one of the most important aspects of human life. Human relations can change during our time. This motif often appears in the philosophy of many existentialists, such as Søren Kierkegaard or Miguel de Unamuno. This problem is complex in Spanish philosophy: The first God, the rational God, is the projection to the outward infinite of man as he is by definition – that is to say, of the abstract man, of the man no-man; the other God, the God of feeling and volitation, is the projection to the inward infinite of man as he is by life, of the concrete man, the man of flesh and bone (Unamuno, 2005, 39).

We can say that, according to the way of cognition, two humans can have completely different visions of God. Unamuno distinguished God of reason and God of heart.

God of Reason

If we think about the official image of God in religion, we have the excellent and the greatest creation, controlling with mathematical and inhumane precision all the universe, and every event in social and public life. This God is a result of the intellectual interpretation of society. This God is a symbol of the order, and for this reason, the idea of a divine entity can be expressed in social life.

Unamuno noticed that this intellectual interpretation of God is connected with a monotheistic tradition of the Old Testament. It is fighting God of war who conducts his nation. Even the word “Israel” means God is fighting.

The individual and ethical character of God give prophets. They created an image of God, His idea. In this way, God as a feeling of divinity in a human being is transformed into an idea. But, the idea is a form of definition, which simplify some aspects of God.

Unamuno says:

Subsequently reason – that is, philosophy – took possession of this God who had arisen in the human consciousness as a consequence of the sense of divinity in man, and tended to define him and convert him into an idea. For to define a thing is to idealize it, a process which necessitas the abstraction from it of its incommensurable or irrational element, its vital essence. Thus the God of feeling, the divinity felt as a unique person and consciousness external to us, although at the same time enveloping and sustaining us, was converted into the idea of God (Unamuno, 2005, 229).

It means that the definition of God is only a pale shadow of the nature of real God. It is only a hypothesis of God. In Unamuno’s interpretation, defining God is killing Him in a human mentality.

God of Heart

Humans so strongly need an irrational image of God that they are ready to believe in everything that can help realize them an internal need of religion. In this meaning, even a horseshoe for good luck is a religion to people who declare themselves as atheists.

According to Spanish existentialist, a human being misses God. God of Heart is Internal God who is expressed by feelings. We can communicate with this divine entity, but it is unnecessary. This contact has a much more individual character and is based on the mystical experience, which realizes an issue of continuity of the spiritual life and solidarity among the people (Unamuno, 2005).

The Internal God is a companion of the whole human life from childhood to death. One shares one’s feelings with Him, especially in the existential crisis when the external or internal world of one is a source of suffering.  

That is why human experiences God in a moment of spiritual anguish. Unamuno says: To believe in God is, in the first instance, as we shall see, to which that there may be a God, to be unable to live without Him (Unamuno, 2005, 240). Furthermore, hunger for God is the essence of a tragedy of human fate.  

God lives in the social and collective imagination as a symbol of love – God Father’s love for people as His children. It is a conception of God from the New Testament. In Unamuno’s opinion, God is the most personal and the richest concept of humans. 

While the first vision of God gives an order in religious life, the second one gives depth and vitality of the religious experiences.

Ambush of Unconsciousness

God of Reason leads humans to nothingness in intellectual speculations, God of Heart to fullness in imagination and feelings.

Unamuno emphasizes:

 The rational God, therefore – that is to say, the God who is simply the Reason of the Universe and nothing more – consummates his own destruction, is destroyed in our mind in so far as he is such a God, and is only born again in us when we feel him in our heart as a living person, as Consciousness, and no longer merely as the impersonal and objective Reason of the Universe (Unamuno, 2005, 250).

In this way, feelings transform the existential content of human life and make it much more constructive.

Søren Kierkegaard goes even further in his considerations when he notices that more valuable is a fervent prayer to idol than dishonest prayer to real God. From the point of view of unconsciousness, the first of them is to real God, but not the second one. It turns out that belief in God has a subjective character and depends on the attitude of the praying one. It means that attitude is essential for the religious life of humans. God as an external object is only a projection screen for the inner spiritual needs of humans (Unamuno, 2005).

From a neuroscience point of view, religion has a positive influence on human mentality. Samuel Osbourne in the article What Believing in God Does to Your Brain says religious people are more empathic, and they have a low risk of anxiety and depression, and they have a stronger immune system.

Living God

God of Heart is Living Good or God of humans as a reflection of humanity. One can come to this divine entity only thanks to love or suffering. In addition, a reason even can block the religious experience of humans. According to Unamuno, it is impossible to recognize God and then start loving Him. In relation to internal God, a relation is always opposite.

Living God gives sense and aim of a human world and identifies the human dream of eternal persistence and contrast awareness. God in this meaning has always a subjective character, but He is also objectified subjectivity or universal personality because everyone can find Him in themselves.

Living God is both a deity of love and will. But in the theological tradition, feelings and affects were signs of limited personality. God’s personality is unlimited as a reason in metaphysical interpretation. For this reason, to keep the concept of Living God it is necessary to deny the achievements of the theological philosophy. God then becomes a personified symbol of an individual axiological order that goes beyond the rules of tradition and culture.

God as Savior

In this sense, God is a human creation, and in the opposite way.

According to Unamuno:

And if you believe in God, God believes in you, and believing in you He creates you continually. For in your essence you are nothing but the idea that God possesses you – but a living idea, because the idea of God who is living and conscious of Himself, of a God-Consciousness, and apart from what you are in the society of God you are nothing (Unamuno, 2005, 254). 

One asks God for saving of the soul and human purposefulness of the human world. It means that without God, human life has no meaning. This is a reason why one asks for God’s name which describes God’s nature. Humans, again and again, seek this name, because the theological or metaphysical name of God is not an answer. Humans look for God who can help them, Living God. In Unamuno’s interpretation, Living God is Jesus as God of love. He is closer to human feelings than God’s Father, who is a typical metaphysical God.   


Osborne S. (2016). What believing god does your brain, Independent

Unamuno M. de (2005). Tragic Sense of Life, Trans. J.E. Crawford Flitch, The Project Gutenberg EBook


I have gained an MA in philosophy at UKSW University in Warsaw. Philosophy is my passion, especially existentialism. My second fascination is the Theory of Positive Disintegration by Kazimierz Dabrowski as a connection of the psychological knowledge with a philosophical perspective.

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