Sunday Bike Ride Up the Sacred Mountain
One of the central tenets of Orthodox Christianity is that one cannot know God in his essence, only in his energies. Most of the great Christian fathers were apophatic to the core, meaning that the only unqualifiably true things that can be said of God have to do with what he is not.
In this regard, Christianity is perfectly in accord not only with perhaps the greatest Jewish theologian, Moses Maimonides, but with the Upanishads as well. The Upanishads say that ultimate reality, or brahman, has two faces, one that we can see, the other that we cannot. Nirguna brahman refers to God with attributes, while saguna brahman is the apophatic God beyond name and form, which no tongue has soiled and about which we can say nothing in the affirmative sense. It is jodo, the Pure Land of Zen, or ain sof, the ainsoferable gnosis all of Judaism--yes, old what's his G-D name.
In the esoteric approach to Christianity, there is the unknown Godhead that is beyond creation, beyond conception, and beyond being. It is this aspect of God that I attempted to convey as a sort of invocation at the beginning of my book, rendered here in a more poetic form:
a formless void without mind or life,
a shadow spinning before the beginning over a silent static sea,
unlit altar of eternity, fathomless vortex of the Infinite Zero.
Darkest night, dreamless sleep:
Outside in. Spacetimematterenergy.
No beforeafter, nobodaddy, no mamafestation, nothing but neti.
One brahman deathless breathing breathless,
darkness visible the boundless all.
Unknown origin prior to time and space,
fount of all being, unborn thus undying,
beginning and end of all impossibility,
empty plenum and inexhaustible void.
Some people say that you cannot prove the existence of God, but this is not so. It is not as if God is on a continuum of probability. Rather, God either is or cannot be. Since God is the one thing that cannot not be, he obviously is. On the other hand, our existence is indeed problematic. How is it possible for us to exist? Now that is a mystery. Inexplicable, really. In the absence of He Who Is, it is frankly impossible.
Anyway, the God that absolutely is cannot be known discursively. He does not exist, and we are his children. And since he doesn’t exist, only He knows it. But to the extent that He does exist, He knows nothing about it. Anything short of this divine unKnowing, no matter how sublime, is the sage’s prison.
Continuing with my little invocation, I next tried to capture the emergence of God-with-attributes, as the primordial I is given birth from the primary matrix and patrix of Godlessness-without-attributes:
Yes, we have it on excellent authority that God has a highly developed sense of humor, and, as it so happens, is a big Seinfeld fan. You might say that God is the ultimate guffah-ha! experience.
In philosophy, the “noumena” is Kant’s term for the unknowable ultimate reality behind appearances (actually, it should be “noumenon,” since by definition it cannot be plural). The world that we can know with our senses and categories is the phenomenal world. Thus, what we call “the world” is actually a form of our sensibility. That is not to say that it is unreal or just an idea in our head. However, it is to say that all we know about it consists of ideas in our head. Whatever it is outside our knowledge is by definition unknown to us. It is the unmapped land of the noumenon, hallowed be its namelessness.
Christianity speaks of a trinitarian God: father, son and holy ghost. This is not to say that Christianity is not monotheistic. Obviously it is. For one thing, most Christian mystics, such as Meister Eckhart, speak of a Godhead that is beyond the trinity. Thus, I would regard the trinity as saguna brahman, perhaps the last thing we can know about God before we surpass that mystery and know nothing at all in the pregnant silence of higher bewilderment.
Vedanta also speaks of a primordial trinity within the heart of saguna brahman: sat-chit-ananda, or Being, Consciousness (sometimes translated as “knowledge”), and Bliss. Interestingly, St. Augustine as well as certain Greek fathers designate the Christian trinity in a similar manner, as Being-Wisdom-Life.
In other words, it seems that as we ascend into the knowable God on this side of creation, we eventually come to a place of unalloyed being, pure consciousness, and boundless joy. Or so we have heard from the wise.
Here we are at the threshold of the unknowable God, the uncreated realm beyond being, “blissfully floating before the fleeting flickering universe, stork naked in brahma daynight, worshiping in oneder in a weecosmic womb with a pew.” Careful--take one more step and we are back to NOTHING, pure emptiness, a formless void without mind or life, a shadow spinning before the beginning....
Ahh, talk me back taddy, talk me way back, talk me way way way back, back to the beginning, back ones again by oursophs, back before our bigending, back before old nobodaddy commuted wholly matterimany, back before exhaling into a world of sorrow and ignorance, back where eternity pierces our presence, back where we always are, back at the still point of the churning whirl, way way back again, back unborn to the infinite father shore.
Hello, new man!