Mystical Languages of Unsaying: A Vocation by the Infinite Sea
Suffice it to say that this language cannot be understood in the absence of certain other modes such as faith, sincerity and sanctity. Mystical languages will not yield their secrets to the cynical, the power hungry, the profane, the tenured, or some engineers. To quote Meister Eckhart, "For I say to you in everlasting Truth that if you are unlike this Truth of which we want to speak, you cannot understand me."
Do you see the challenge? In order to know this Truth, you must first become like it; in short, ontology precedes epistemology, or essence precedes existence. O is anterior to (k), or being to knowing. This is why such virtues as purity, serenity, humility, sincerity, and childlikeness (not childishness) must be cultivated lest your knowledge be too contaminated by worldly dross.
Elsewhere Eckhart distinguishes between truths that are worthy of belief (i.e., philosophy and theology), those that are probable (i.e., science), and Truth itself (e.g., Christ). These are all aspects of the one Truth, for all truths converge on the central Truth to which our minds are naturally -- or supernaturally -- attracted.
Science is none other than the reduction of multiplicity to unity, so it eventually shades off into mysticism as it approaches the penumbra of the One. Science grasps truth from the outside in, while mysticism does so from the inside out; the former gropes from the manifestation toward the Principle, while the latter flows from the Principle to the manifestation. The mystic reverses the vector flow that takes the river of existence to the terminal moraine of the senses, and abides at the oceanic center where he eternally waves and laps at all his friends on the shore.
Well I went to the water one day to pray
Don't you know that
God's gonna trouble the water
And my soul got happy and I stayed all day
Don't you know that
God's gonna trouble the water
Eckhart also contrasts the "pagan masters who knew only in a natural light" with "the words of the sacred masters who knew in a much higher light," adding that "those who considered the soul's nobility on the basis of their 'natural intelligence' were never able to enter into or know the ground of the soul which is attainable only by unknowing" (McGinn).
Insuffice it to unsay that no machine will ever achieve artificial intelligence, much less artificial unknowing, which is the quintessence of human thought: "Concerning the ground of the soul... the natural light of reason needs the assistance of a higher illumination, which is really a form of not-knowing, or learned ignorance" (McGinn) -- or what Petey calls being lost in the higher bewilderness, for it goes without saying that you cannot be found unless you are first lost. But in the absence of divine assistance this would be a hopeless inquest, for we would truly be up chit creek without a kenosis.
This all goes to the issue of the various layers of scripture, which (obviously) mirror the layers of the soul. This is why it is necessary to know thyself in order to know scripture, and vice versa, for the two are mirrors held against one another, each revealing the bottomless depth of the other. To understand God at all is to fundamentally make oneself deep in any dimension and then ask how this is even possible.
Eckhart did not deny the literal sense of the biblical text, but felt that it was "only the starting point for grasping the inner meaning of what God wants to say to humans" (McGinn) -- which is so much more than words can say! As Eckhart wrote, "I am amazed that scripture is so rich that no one has ever penetrated to the ground of the least word of it," for it contains "an inexhaustible fecundity of truths" (McGinn). In one homily, Eckhart compares it to "a deep sea in which lambs (i.e., humble people) touch bottom, cows (the coarse-grained) swim, and elephants (clever people) plunge in over their heads."
A book is necessarily linear, but surely the Divine effulgence is not ultimately located in time, but "beneath" or "above" it. As such, Eckhart tried to comprehend all things -- including scripture -- "from the divine perspective, the 'now' of eternity in which all words and expressions are one in the eternal Divine Word" (McGinn). This is not a con-fusion, but rather, the reverse; it is the prior fusion from which truth breaks out like sparks from a central fire.
The most basic opposition in scripture -- again, a necessary one -- is that between the inner and outer meaning, or spirit and letter. The former is like an "explosion," while the latter is more like a bullet shot from a gun. But as Eckhart points out, the explosion also explodes upon itself; Eckhart felt that only by "breaking through" to the inner core of scripture could one experience its explosive power spilling out into the creation. One must plunge heartlong into the infinite in order to be shot out a new man, you son of a gun.
Remarkably, Eckhart attempted in his sermons to demonstrate in real timelessness the reality of that which he was speaking; he was not attempting to use language to designate but in a performative sense to actualize the living mystery in his listeners. Again, he is reversing the vector flow of language, and using it not to "point out" but to draw "up and in," so to speak, into the very realm from which his words boil over.
In turn, this parallels the eternal utterance of the Word by the Father in the divine ground beyond being. As such, this mirrors the fiat lux of the first day of creation. "The very act of his preaching" was like "the creation of the word to be heard by others," in such a way that "they too may find the source from whence the word is formed mirrors the 'event character' of... the God-world relation" (Schurman, in McGinn).
In order to accomplish this, Eckhart employed all manner of subtle and sophisticated verbal techniques to bypass the lumitations of language. Remember our analogy from the other day, of trying to capture the three dimensional sphere within the two-dimensional plane -- or the sheer imagineer in a mere engineer. How queer!
Eckhart was always mindful of the same obstacle in using language to disclose the hyperdimensional Subject. If you do not appreciate the boundaries of language, you can't possibly use speech to overcome speech. Thus he used paradox, oxymoron, puns, and a general playfulness that should never be confused with frivolousness for, like Petey, he always speaks with the utmost levitas. For example,
Were it the case that a fly had reason and could rationally seek out the eternal abyss of divine being, from which it came forth, we say that God, insofar as he is God, could not satisfy the fly. Therefore pray God that we may be free of God.
Either that, or pray to be Superfly.
The man of the hour
Has an air of great power
The dudes have envied him for so long
I realize that my posts are rather longish and possibly require an unreasonable level of commitment, so I think I'll work at making them a bit more brief. Therefore, I will stop now. To be continued...