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Via Negativa


                                                                Men craving holiness
                                                                        use words
                                                        to create images of their gods,
                                                                      and confuse
                                                                        their pride
                                                              in their own inventions.
                                                                  The Taoist sage
                                                                    shuns words
                                                                    trusts silence,
                                                                knowung full well
                                                 the Tao is beyond the reach of concepts.

                                                                                                 -- Jos Stabbert.
                                                                                               "The Tao is Tao"

Also to be posted Saturday at daily_tao

I cannot criticize those who hold a catopathic theology
I can only say that i have never found a positive theology that i could commit.to.

I have, rather, come to feel that the value of any religious belief lies,
not in its unique features, but
in what it has in common with the other faiths.

Uniqueness is, to me, a warning sign
that somebody misunderstood
what the great teachers were trying to say.

I have been told by people of almost all religious faiths
that it is dangerous to approach the divin\e apopothically
without a firm grounding in positive theology.

I appreciate the warning, but what can i do?
Perhaps truth truly does have no name;
but it can still be expressed through compassion,
which, the Taoist says,
comes from silence and emptiness.


( 8 comments — Leave a comment )
Sep. 15th, 2016 11:22 am (UTC)
What is 'holiness'? Surely concepts and words are necessary even when where there is 'silence and emptiness'.
Sep. 15th, 2016 10:09 pm (UTC)
The word holiness did give me pause. I think it might have been used to avoid the use of other terms like "swami," "shaman," "priest," "imam," "rabbi," etc, etc.

I think holiness implies both "wholeness" and implication in the sacred. To the extent that none of us are "whole," none of us are holy; to the extent that we are all touched by the divine, each of us is holy.

I've dealt in concepts all my life and will probably have to do so until the end. Like all human inventions, language did not come without costs. I need to remind self that concepts are poor representations of the realities they are supposed to point to. "Emptiness" and "silence" are words which only dimly say what they mean.
Sep. 15th, 2016 01:35 pm (UTC)
"dangerous"? If so, you seem to be avoiding the pitfalls. I think the via negativa works very well for you, and anyway you've probably got a firmer grounding in positive theology than most people.
Sep. 15th, 2016 10:23 pm (UTC)
Huston Smith used the word dangerous to describe apopathic theology in an introduction to The Cloud of Unknowing. He did not explain, but the author of COU would have agreed and he tried to restrict his readership to one person, probably another monk for whom he served as spiritual director. I'm sure there must be people who find in emptiness and silence, a hell rather than a heaven.

I am probably the worst possible judge of my own spiritual state. But knowledge about something should not count as knowledge of it.
Sep. 18th, 2016 04:23 pm (UTC)
Thank you for this quote, and the healthy thoughts both it and your words provoke.
Sep. 18th, 2016 07:27 pm (UTC)
You are welcome.
Thank you for your comment.

btw, i like your profile
and your choice of friends.
I also consider myself
somewhat of an egalitarian

May i add you to my friends list?

Edited at 2016-09-18 07:40 pm (UTC)
Sep. 19th, 2016 02:41 pm (UTC)
Certainly, thank you for asking. May I add you as well?
Sep. 19th, 2016 10:19 pm (UTC)
( 8 comments — Leave a comment )



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