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.”
Many scholars, including myself, believe that the ancient Hebrew culture was henotheistic rather than specifically monotheistic. Henotheism was the belief in one Supreme God, separate, distinct, and more powerful than all others – but there were others. This Supreme God, who had to keep identifying himself as “the God of your ancestors” (Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob), and who had to command that there be “no other gods” before him, may be showing up in this verse in conversation with the gods of the spiritual and henotheistic realm. This henotheism did eventually evolve into the pure monotheism of the Judaic peoples. In other religions different gods are seen as different aspects of one God. Metaphysically, this plural reference to God can refer to the different attributes of God within us – such as wisdom and love, represented by the male and female.
The image of God is the Spirit of God in us, or Spiritual nature. It is the “I Am” that is our true identity, the Christ. The likeness of God is our personal expression of the inner Christ. When God created humankind, the image of God’s self was brought into expression through the likeness of the personal self. Our life’s journey is the process of merging the human likeness into the Divine image so that there is no more distinction between the two.
Also, when we see them as symbols of inner consciousness, fish and birds represent inspired ideas and spiritual thoughts; while cattle, and wild and creepy things represent worldly and survival driven thoughts and feelings.
Then God conveyed that humankind is made in the perfection and wholeness of Spirit and all its attributes (“our image”) for the expression of Spirit and all its attributes (“our likeness”). These attributes express as wisdom and love (“male and female”); and the purpose of giving expression to these attributes can guide and direct all spiritual and worldly ideas, concepts, and thoughts (“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”).
The reason we exist, and therefore our purpose in life, is to express the wisdom and love of God. When we focus on this purpose, all of our thoughts and feelings come under the guidance of God’s wisdom and love in us.